Thursday, 23 September 2010

A mystery yacht

My friend Jim Robb came across this photo some years ago on the East coast, but it seems equally possible that it was taken on either the Clyde or the Forth. In any event it is a rare shot of one of the old racers in action, at a time when it would have been very difficult to keep a camera operational at sea.

Years ago in a pub at Bowling I met an old fellow who in his youth during the Great Depression had made a little money hauling a yacht through the Forth and Clyde canal after Clyde Fortnight. The job took two days and in addition to his fee he was given the fare back West, but of course just walked home. He told me that the Grangemouth boys did similar work at the start of the Fortnight.

Looking carefully at the background we can just see some substantial buildings of a seaside town to starboard and a similar, more distant, row ahead, in each case with a backdrop of low-lying hills. My bet is that this picture was taken off Gourock with the yacht reaching in a good South-westerly breeze.

The rig suggests one of the old Clyde classes from the turn of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Perhaps she is a Clyde 30, which were gaff-rigged originally and about fortytwo feet overall, thirty on the waterline.

The iron tiller was a hallmark of William Fife III, so perhaps she is one of his creations.

She is flying the owner's racing flag, but in a race on the Clyde surely the owner would have been at the helm? The powerful chap on the helm, wearing a heavy fisherman's smock, is clearly a paid hand. The fellow balancing on the whisker pole, who also wears a smock and rubber wellies, may be a second hand. He must have been confident that the pole wouldn't break. The chap sitting to leeward is certainly the owner, with his nice oilskin jacket and yachting cap. The girl standing in the weather rigging is also sensibly dressed. Has she gone up to pose for the photo, or is she concerned about the second hand's heroics?

The yacht is bigger than an Islander, but the image gives a feel for what a typical day on the water was like about a hundred years ago. The normal Islander crew comprised owner, friend and one other, who was often a paid hand.

Answers or polite suggestions on a comment, please.

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