Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Shamrock's 2015 Review & 2016 Look Ahead


Started with Shamrock's main and mizzen masts being removed to the boat shed where they were stripped back to bare wood, dried out, patched up, painted, varnished and finally stepped (put up) in March. After being rigged and a period of general maintenance (painting) her first trip of the year was completed in June with a trip to Saltash Regatta. The end of July saw Shamrock attend the Plymouth Classic Boat Rally with both the outward and return journeys completed in wet weather. Augusts 'Shamrock Day' was a success and with the increasing number of visitors during the year a new gangway was purchased in September to make access easier and more robust. The rest of the year was taken up with yet more painting. Finally, after years of hint dropping by the crew, planning and fundraising to fit an engine in Shamrock has started. This will make trips to Plymouth, and perhaps beyond, a lot less fraught with the added bonus of, when away for a weekend, being able to easily take her out into Plymouth Sound and actually sail her.


Is the year the National Trust becomes the sole owners of Shamrock and some form of celebration is being planned, (party time). This will also be the ‘year of the engine’ with Shaune and Joe searching out the correct engine for her and Shaune working out how and where to fit it. The annual trips to Saltash Regatta and Plymouth Classic Boat Rally are planned with maybe some bonus trips.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Nancy Belle Update

As the Nancy Belle 2016 river trips are scheduled to start on the 29th April she is currently getting most of the crew's attention, not to mention the fact that it is dry in the boat shed. The foredeck has now joined the afterdeck and been ripped out due to a wet patch, discovered when the forward bulkhead was removed, failing to dry out. Deck support stringers plus cross members have been manufactured, checked for size, removed and are now ready to be painted. With the removal of her after deck and bulkhead, access to the after section of inner hull and transom is a lot easier. This section is being slowly scraped and sanded back to bare wood.

At present the only activities happening on Shamrock are the occasional pumping out and salting.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

All Go

After being washed out, Nancy Belle is now stored in the boat shed where she is starting to look a different boat. All her seats, the after deck, forward and after bulkheads have been removed, painting her will now be a lot easier. Any patches of wet wood are being allowed to dry out before the decision is taken on exactly what is to be replaced, this will be in addition to the couple of ribs already known about. After someone mentioned the word 'varnish’ to Shaune, her gunwales are being striped back to bare wood in preparation for a coat of varnish, that’s in addition to some of Shamrock's blocks already in the process of being varnished.

Nancy Belle view forward
View aft

Monday, 16 November 2015

Preparing For Winter


With the days drawing in Shamrock's winter preparations have continued with the main and mizzen sails, booms, gaffs and some blocks removed. Removal of the mast blocks has been delayed until the wind dies down. The most physical job to date involved removing the anchor and all the 61 plus meters (200ft) of anchor chain.

Boat Shed

Most of the gear removed from Shamrock has been stowed in the boat shed, due to a rip in the sail cover the mizzen sail did need to be dried before being folded and stowed. The anchor chain has been flaked out on the floor and the anchor placed on top. A section of workbench has been set-aside as a block cleaning and varnishing area. Items that have not got a stowage space and are not in need of immediate maintenance have been moved to the wood store. The shed has also been tided and rearranged ready for Nancy Belle.

Anchor and chain.
Ready for Nancy Belle

Nancy Belle

As the first winter storms have arrived Nancy Belle has been moved from her river mooring onto Shamrock's slipway. When the tide is right and the crew available she will be hauled onto the boat shed slipway. Finally after she has been washed out she will be moved into the boat shed ready for a few repairs and another coat of paint. Shaune has also been muttering something about moving the waterline down as it has been to high since the new lighter engine was fitted.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

End of Season

Life in the boat shed is now beginning to return to normal after a week of being used for the Halloween activities on the quay. It looked a bit of a mess after all the pumpkin carving, mask and broom making, The crew is not sure who enjoyed it the most, adults or children. These activities, being so close, resulted in a large number of visitors on board during that week.

Abandoned broomsticks. 
Winter working has started with the removal of Shamrock's life rings, navigation sidelight boards, cabin furniture and anything else that is easily removed. The cargo hatch vents have been fitted and a temporary winter gangway manufactured. Due to the recent wet weather the sails have been left for a dryer day.

Temporary gangway.
One of the winter tasks is to list what is required to fit an engine in Shamrock. It is planned to install one either: early in the 2016 season, or during the winter of 2016-17. A decision also has to be made as to where the work is to be carried out. If the work is to be done on the slipway at Cotehele Quay then either, new slipway rails need to be fitted or the old sleepers removed, which is proving harder than expected, and the holes filled with concrete. If this option is taken then a new set of different style wheels will need to be purchased for the cradle.

Working on Shamrock's slipway.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Cargo Hatch

To enable easy access to Shamrock's hold the 22ft (6.7m) long by 11ft (3.3m) cargo hatch is sub-divided into nine sections starting with two 'drop in' beams with there ends resting in wooden shoe cleats bolted into the hatch coamings. The beams and head ledges are fitted with similar shoe cleats for the the six fore and aft timbers which fit between the hatch beams. Each of these six timbers, along with the side hatch combings have rebates in their upper faces for the edges of the hatch-covers. Each of the twenty seven individual hatch boards are a slightly different size and are marked with their positions to save time when refitting them. Visitors to Shamrock are advised that the easiest way to view below deck is via the ladder located under the forward starboard corner hatch board, little do they realise that when she was a working boat there would have been no ladder. Access to the hold was achieved via the forward or after cabins. 

Ladder and four hatch boards removed.
Hatch board starboard three.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Hanging Knees

Shamrock's wrought-iron hanging knees support the main beams that carry the forward and after end of the cargo hatch coaming. They are also used on the smaller sections of beam that support the side coamings along with the deck planks that run between the hull and cargo hatch. As these knees have become corroded the crew has started on the task of stripping off the old paint and corrosion followed with a coat of fresh paint.

One freshly painted knee. 
Shamrock's Staysail has been aired off and stowed away for the winter.

Visiting steam Launch Halcyon used Cotehele Quays slipway for launching and recovery during a recent river trip.  A certain member of the crew was getting quite nostalgic when the smell of burning coal mixed with steam wafted over the quay.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Autumn Sun

While Shamrock has been bathing in the autumn sun the fire pump has once again been put into service clearing her slipway of a few months accumulation of mud, visitors where warned to stand clear as hoses have been known to end up pointing in the wrong direction. The boat shed is also being tided up and a space cleared ready to house Nancy Belle for the winter. She needs a few broken ribs replaced and a good coat of paint before next spring.

Little Charly's mast has now been returned to her as it had been stowed in the boat shed while she was away on her European waterways tour, something about it being to tall for the bridges.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

GRP Pram Dingy Update

The abandoned pram dingy first appeared in the boat shed in late August 2014. Since then she has been cleaned up, had a large hole in her keel repaired, wooden gunnels replaced, hull resealed, varnished, painted and finally polished. She now looks like new and is in regular service as Nancy Belle's tender and being easy to launch is also used when quick access to the river is required.


Thursday, 10 September 2015

Sunny Weather

On Wednesday the crew took advantage of the glorious weather and dressed Shamrock overall chiefly to air out the flags before they are stowed for the winter months. Also it was a tribute from one old lady to another old lady on her historic day.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

New Gangway

When discussing this seasons plan to open Shamrock for visitors on the days that Cotehele House is open it was realised that visitor numbers would be up and the existing gangway needed to be upgraded. The predictions on visitor numbers proved correct so a new longer and wider aluminium gangway was commissioned. The first reaction on it's arrival was 'it looks big' and 'will it look out of place on Shamrock'? After a bit of adjustment to the old gangways bulwark protecting saddle, involving a wood saw and chisel, and the fitting of wheels to the shore end of the new gangway, it is now in use and defiantly looks the part and it does the job.

Nancy Belle

With the decrease in the amount rain falling and the river Tamar's flow returning to normal Nancy Belle has been returned to her river mooring.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Nancy Belle Beached

The removal of Shamrock's slipways rails has resulted in the slipway being a lot more usable and as the river Tamar has been in full flood, due to a period of unseasonal heavy rain, Nancy Belle has been beached at the top of the slipway to get her out of the river and away from all the driftwood (Tamar crocodiles). The time on the slipway has not been wasted as she has had a bit of a clean up, a new battery and the fitting of a non return valve in her exhaust system, not that she is ever likely be taken out in conditions when this would be needed.

High and dry.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Shamrock Day

A successful Shamrock Day on Sunday had a combination of dry weather and an afternoon tide resulting in the star attraction being afloat, all the right ingredients for inviting visitors to explore her, discover her history and plans for the future. Due to squally winds, plans to set and strike Shamrocks sails had to be dropped. Other attractions included ‘Smite’, a skittle like game played on grass, a display of model boats by the City of Plymouth Model Boat Club, and information on the river Tamar from the West Country River Trust. There was also ‘Get Knotted’, a chance to learn and practice you knots, Treasure Map and lots more spread over the quay and boat shed. On the river the Cotehele Quay Gig Club was giving taster rowing sessions and there was even the sighting of an odd radio controlled model boat.

A rare quiet moment.
City of Plymouth Model Boat Club.
Torpedo boat spotted off Cotehele Quay!

Nancy Belle

Nancy Belle has had her seaworthiness inspection that turned out to be a bit more than expected. She was first checked structurally and mechanically on the slipway, then after being launched back into the river came the unexpected load and stability checks. Plastic dustbins full of water were used for most of the load with crew members making up the rest and also acting as a moving load to check her stability. The crew is happy to report that despite being sixty plus years old she passed all the checks with flying colours, well done Shaune.

Preparing for the load test.


A lot of visitors to the National Trusts Cotehele Quay only ever see Shamrock sat on the mud and here is the answer to one of the most common questions 'does she ever float'?

Friday, 7 August 2015

Maintanance Delayed

The opening up of Shamrock to visitors during the weekdays has proved very popular and has helped to increase her profile but has had the knock on effect of reducing the time available to maintain her during the current peak visitor period. Any jobs undertaken need to be completed before eleven o’clock as, after that, any time spent onboard is taken up answering visitors questions. This week has seen any spare time available being used to haul Nancy Belle out onto the boat shed slipway. This enabled the chance to give her a good scrub down, mainly to remove seagull droppings, but also check everything is in working order. Once she is back on her river mooring the crew plan to rig some flags to try and discourage the seagulls.

Shamrock from the boat shed window.

Nancy Belle after her wash and brush up.

Shamrock Day Sunday 9th

Plans for Sundays Shamrock Day (9th August) are starting to come together and it is even rumoured that, if the weather forecast of light winds is correct, there will be demonstrations of raising and lowering her sails using visitors (willing not pressed) as the manpower.

Getting ready for the weekend.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Plymouth Classic Boat Rally

Shamrock had a successful weekend at the Plymouth Classic Boat Rally with a steady stream of visitors on the bright and sunny Saturday and a rush of visitors in the dry part of the afternoon on what was a mainly wet Sunday. Shaune was even spotted doing a couple of interviews!

Return Trip Delayed

Due to high winds Shamrock's return trip was delayed until the afternoon of Tuesday 28th. Even then unseasonably high winds made for a difficult trip with the ruder having to be held over to try and keep her traveling on a straight course. With Nancy Belle pushing and a north westerly wind all the way the trip back to Cotehele was completed in about three hours with the biggest problem being the boats moored in the river at Weir Quay. With some of the boats lying into the wind across the river and some with the tide Shamrock was required to complete a bit of a slalom course to pick her way through them. Shamrock's rudder is made of large oak sections pivoted at the forward end resulting in no balancing forces when turning making the helming of her hard work. Skipper Shaune was exhausted by the end of the trip. On arrival back at Cotehele Shamrock was secured alongside “Steps Quay” to await the full tide and from there was roped around into her usual berth. A task which attracted considerable interest from the visitors on the quayside at that time.

Friday, 24 July 2015

At Plymouth

After a extremely wet four hour journey Shamrock is now safely berthed at Sutton Harbour and once dressed overall will be open for visitors during the weekends Plymouth Classic Boat Rally 2015.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Temporary Crew

Shamrock has had a temporary crew member when Henry a pupil from Callington Community Collage spent his work experience week working both on Shamrock and in the boat shed. Henry impressed the crew as he completed every job he was asked to do well and with enthusiasm. The jobs tackled ranged from reeving the mizzen throat halyard blocks, (interesting), to scraping the old bitumen paint from the edge of the combined covering board and waterway*, (not so interesting). He also had an unusual method of transport as one day he appeared on an off road unicycle and ended up doing the odd demonstration ride around the quay. The only job that he did not tackle was making the crews tea! (A very specialised job in the Boat shed)

* Combined covering and waterway is the outermost strake of shaped deck planks. Shamrock's are made from 2in (50mm) elm.

His transport.

Shamrock news

With Shamrock back on her river mooring, in preparation this weekend’s trip to Plymouth, the river is starting to look a little crowded.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Plymouth Classic Boat Rally

With some last minute painting and general preparations Shamrock is being prepared for her trip to Sutton Harbour Plymouth Classic Boat Rally 2015. As the tides will be dropping off Shamrock is due to be put on her river mooring about 10 am on Wednesday 22nd July and should depart for Plymouth approximately 10 am on Friday 24th and is due back at Cotehele on the afternoon tide on Monday 27th. She is scheduled to be open for visitors at Plymouth on the Saturday and Sunday. As normal with Shamrock trips bad weather can result in a last minute change of plans.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Back Home

After a weekend of two halves, Saturday dry and sunny, Sunday a bit damp Shamrock has now returned to Cotehele Quay and is safely back in her dock. The weekend witnessed some different uses of Shamrock's deck, first the musical section of "Wreckers Border Morris" using her as a bandstand while the rest of the Morris danced on the pontoon. Next came “Western Approach” a close harmony group who used her as a stage for several of their renditions and finally she was used as a viewing platform for the start of the afternoons dingy race.

In keeping with the one wet and one dry theme the journey back to Cotehele was made in glorious sunshine as opposed to the wet trip to Saltash. The combination of Nancy Belle pushing, a good tail wind and going with the tide resulted in a record braking trip of one and a half hours meaning she arrived back earlier than expected and had to go alongside crane quay as there was insufficient water for her to go straight into the dock. The waiting did allow the crew time to grab a quick cup of tea before finally roping Shamrock back into her dock. One thing this trip has proved is that Nancy Belle, with her new engine and propeller, is quite capable of pushing Shamrock if the conditions are right.  

Wreckers Border Morris
Western Approach
Getting a push

River wildlife

Alongside crane quay

Friday, 26 June 2015

At Saltash

After a wet trip form Cotehele Shamrock's soggy crew finally left Shamrock berthed at Saltash Sailing Club's pontoon ready for this weekends regatta. Nancy Belle, with her new engine, was used to push her and proved to be up to the job with Shaun's boat 'Arab' standing by just in case.

A new coat of paint.

Advantage was taken of the time between Shamrock being moored mid river and departing for Saltash to paint her hull above the water line. She is now looking a lot smarter.

Half a paint job!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Neap Tides

As Shamrock is due to depart for Saltash on Friday 26th and there is some doubt if there will be enough water to get her out of her dock at high tide, due to the tide hight's falling off towards neap tides, Shamrock has now been moved to her mooring in the middle of the river. This means that she will not be open for visitors until the weekend at Saltash Regatta. On her return to Cotehele Quay on Monday 29th she may also need to be left on her mooring until the tides build sufficiently to get her into her dock. Shamrock's crew will also be ferrying equipment to her throughout the week.

Slipway track

After the third washing down of Shamrock's slipway the final peaces of the old slipway track have been removed. Now the decision is do we renew the track or fit wheels with solid rubber tyres to the existing cradle.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Saltash Regatta Agenda

Weather permitting Shamrock is due to depart for Saltash from Cotehele Quay at 11:00 on Friday 26th June and should arrive at Saltash Sailing Club pontoon a couple of hours later. She will be open to the public on the Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th, with the start of her return journey scheduled for midday on Monday 29th. In preparation for this the crew is currently busy touching up her bulwarks paint.  

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Tamar Crocodile Hunt

The weather was calm, the tide was falling, so out came the fire pump, [on its new set of wheels], ready for dock and slip washing duties. As the pump was being prepared a large Tamar crocodile was sighted floating down the river. This resulted in a flurry of activity from Shaune, the pram dingy was quickly launched and he went hunting. The log turned out to be larger than first thought and by the time it was secured to the dingy it had drifted to the bottom end of Cotehele Quay heading in the direction of Plymouth therefore requiring a bit of power rowing to get back across the main river flow. Once in calmer waters it was a gentle row back to the boat shed slipway where the log was beached cut up and stowed ready to fuel the boat sheds log burner. After the successful hunt it was then back to the job of clearing the slipway and getting as much mud out of Shamrock's dock as possible with her still sat on the mud. She did manage to slip back about 6 in (15 cm).

Returning from a successful hunt. 
The remaining sections of slipway track are now visible. 
Tamar crocodiles are tree trunks or large logs that float down the river almost completely submerged. 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Shamrock's Slipway Track

During the preparation for the start of Shamrock's restoration in 1974 the current 100 ft (30.5 m) slipway was dugout, wooden railway sleepers bedded 4 in (10 cm) deep at 4 ft (1.2 m) centres and then two 4 in x 4in (10 cm x 10 cm) timber guides were coach-screwed to each sleeper for the length of the slipway to act as rails for Shamrock's wooden restoration cradle. At sometime between the end of the restoration in 1979 and 1982 the wooden rails where replaced with steel railway rails and have remained in place ever since. These rails have gradually distorted over the years to the point where Shamrock's current metal cradle jams during the hauling out and lowering operations so the decision has been made to renew them. With the aid of some large 'Birmingham screwdrivers' (hammers), spanners and chisels this job has now started with the removal of the first couple of sections of track. All the crew can say is that its going to be a long hard job.

One down, lots to go!