Saturday, 19 July 2014

My guest blogger has returned ;-)

Do you believe in time travel? How would you set about doing it?

Are you a modern day genius who fully understands quantum physics and can hold ones own, debating the intricacies of wormholes with Carl Sagan or Professor Stephen Hawkins?

Or perhaps you are more likely to be inspired by the machinations revealed by HG Wells
in his novel The Time Machine (written 119 years ago, standing the test of time, if not travelling through it in any true sense.)

In either case, you will need a super brain, you will need to be imaginative, as well as being masterly in mechanics.

Personally, I believe in time travel and I do so, quite frequently.
I am no Albert E and can just about sharpen a pencil or boil an egg but I have cracked it. 
No, not the egg but time travel.
I have always been able to do it but have never really taken the time to explain my methods or my journeys.

Yesterday, however, was a special day. Not only was I sharing a delightful day with the 
LOML  but something quite unexpectedly jumped out at me from a gallery window in 
Topsham. It was a limited print of two sailing trawlers, titled, "Providence and Vigilance off 
Berry Head" by Tony Isham. 

We entered the gallery and had a very enjoyable conversation with the owner
and the very accomplished artist himself, Tony Isham.

I just had to have it and so, having exchanged coin of the realm, I carried the
precious piece back to my car.

'What has this to do with time travel?' I hear you ask.

Well, it became, there and then, quite evident to me, that this was not only a masterful demonstration of brushwork but a vessel to demonstrate time travel.
How so?

As soon as I saw the print, I recognised these beautiful vessels as trawlers from my home town Brixham, a top and historic, fishing port on the south coast of Devon, at the western edge of Torbay.

I was immediately taken back in time to my earliest memories as a small boy growing up there. How I enjoyed my father's stories of his service in the Royal Navy; submarines, frigates, destroyers and aircraft carriers to mention a few. These, then were all state of the art with all the advances of modern technology. But my family were also trawlermen with sophisticated vessels too, boasting radar, plotters, and radio etc.

But often the tales told would turn to our grandfathers and great grandfathers and their peers. These men were true fishermen. They had to have knowledge of the seas, weather and associated dangers. They had to know where the best fishing grounds were to be found. Everything they did, was by hand.

I was transported back in time and evocative images of two men in particular came to mind. My great grandfather Manny (Emanuel) Maddick and my best friend's grandfather Pop Ansell. Two men different in facial appearance but their bodies, reflecting the ravages of time and arduous work, very similar. Although old they were stocky, barrel chested, bright of eye and wit. They were still powerful men in their old age with powerful and muscular arms that would make Popeye's look like Olive Oyl's. They wore dark serge trousers and navy guernseys.

These men sailed similar vessels to Provident and Vigilance. I was gob smacked then at such tender years as I am today some fifty years on when I hear of how on occasions, if they were becalmed off Start Point, they would lower a boat and row back to the fish market at Brixham (a Herculean task for us today I can tell you, but they knowing no different took it all in their stride) with the pick of the catch in order to get at least some money to live on. 
There was no social benefits in those days.

Of all the tales I would learn things such as, she was a ketch or a mule, maybe a bee. She was gaff rigged and so on.

Of all the names Provident reigned supreme. My dad loved her as do I. I was blessed to see her at Brixham when I journeyed back home and fortunate, too, to have lived in the South Hams for many years and worked at Salcombe where I saw her plying her trade.

'Provident' BM28 was built at the yard of J Sanders in Galmpton in 1924. I believe that she was one of the last sailing trawlers to be commissioned. She was a medium sized "Mule" class having a gaff ketch rig. This meant she had two masts and the sails were hoisted using a gaff, a spar attached to the top of the sails. Having two masts meant that more sails could be hoisted, thus taking advantage of the wind conditions. They were easier to handle, especially by a small crew and more flexible as there were many permutations of sails of varying sizes that could be used. Up to eight different sails could be deployed, think of it as a car having eight gears when the competition only had four. More responsive and ultimately so much more powerful and quicker.

These Brixham style trawlers could not only race across the seas but they could also tow heavy fish laden nets at the same time, something the competition would later have to wise up to.

In 1930 Provident became a private yacht and in 1952 the ICC (Island Cruising Club) at Salcombe acquired her as a sail training vessel, a purpose to which she has been put to this very day. She is the green hulled vessel to the left of the picture (seafarers are superstitious and say that it is unlucky to paint a boat green as it will always look to land, run aground, hopefully just a silly superstition) Her dimensions are 90' in length with 70' desk space, 18' in the beam (wide) and a draft of 8'6" (depth in the water) She displaces 80 tons with all her sailing trim.

'Vigilance' BM76, the grey hulled vessel to the right of the picture, is bigger. She was built two years later at Upham's shipyard Brixham. The yard no longer exists as the coastal path way leading from the quay to the breakwater runs over the former site. During the last war she was used as a barrage mooring vessel. She is what is described as a beam trawler or a 'Smack'. She is 101' in length with 78' of deck space, 19' in the beam and has a draft of 10'. Heavier at 90 tons. A beam trawler hauls two trawls from outriggers spread to her sides as opposed to one trawl hauled from the stern. She is used today as a charter sailing vessel out of Brixham.

Leader, Pilgrim and Golden Vanity are also names that I fondly remember. But the two proudly displayed on my lounge wall, will always remain my favourites.


Pennyblossoms said...

Beautiful painting, stunning photographs and a wonderful, heartfelt story.
Thank you!
Z xx

galant said...

Great story!
Margaret P