„Here are the seas, the winds, and the waves of all the world. Here is ferocious environment. And here is difficult adjustment, the achievement of which is a delight to the small quivering vanity that is I.“ Jack London
|Betty on the canals in the Netherlands, Alphen aan den Rijn, summer voyage 2012
One topic you will read quite a lot about on these pages is fishing and the men, who were in that trade for a living. Of their boats, the sails and nets, their methods of fishing and the fruits of their labour. Also an important role fishermen played for more than two centuries, was as mediators across borders, cultures and languages for developments in boat building and yacht construction. This function of nation binding seafaring is one historically interesting example of the transfer of technology between distant coasts - of which the Essex oyster smack Betty CK145 is a very good representation.
In 1906 the Essex oyster
smack Betty CK145 was built at Aldous in Brightlingsea in the southeast
of England for Mr. French from Mersea for one hundred pound sterling.
Essex smacks are cutter rigged fishing vessels with varying kinds of
deployment. The smaller sized smacks of up to 35 feet length were mainly
employed in the coastal waters of the Thames Estuary - tidal shallows
comprised of mud-flats, sandbanks and narrow creeks. There Betty with
her shallow draught was predominantly used for oyster dredging. The
construction of the Essex smacks was strongly influenced by the yacht
design of Victorian times, since their owners and crews sailed the large
racing yachts of the wealthy aristocrats and industrial barons on a
regular basis during the summer months. Surely the relatively complex
gaff rig with its large sail area and the slender topmast comes from
this tradition. This was not the only reason though, that the pretty
transom stern with its far overhanging counter was popular, but also
for the additional work space on the small ships.
CK145 is the original fishery
registration number of Betty for her home port Colchester (CK), England.
Betty CK145 (background left) dredging oysters in 1935
Overfishing and water pollution
resulting from the growing industrialization lead to a drastic reduction
of the local oyster population. Today the 40 or so remaining Essex smacks
are solely sailed as traditional working boats or as pleasure crafts
- very popular are the numerous races during the summer months.
Conversion to a Yacht
Up to the early 1960s Betty
is used for cockling by Mr. Roy Leslie, a shellfish merchant from Southend
- now with an engine and without mast or sails - until the boat is laid
up in the mud of Barling Creek, where she is destined to be forgotten,
like countless other fishing boats in those years. Here in 1965 Mr.
Ray Riley from Wivenhoe finds the dilapidated hull and purchases it
for 165 pounds. Over the next three years he rebuilds Betty to a cruising
smack in the style of the 1920s, following a tradition of the years
before the war to convert former working boats to pleasure yachts.
In 1979 Betty is sold to
a German owner. Again a lot has to be restored and repaired. There remains
enough time though, to win a few trophies besides. After a change in
ownership in September of 2002 Betty goes on a year-long journey to
England by way of the Netherlands, for an enthusiastic homecoming in
the Thames Estuary. Betty is kept in the water all year round: During
the winter months the ship was berthed at the Gaff Consortium in Hamburg Finkenwerder,
she was sailed on the river Elbe and the Baltic Sea during the summer
and has her berth at the museum port of Lübeck.
Voyage to Holland and England
In the spring of 2009 Betty again sets out to a longer journey: in the first year to Tholen, Zeeland in the South of Holland. Then in 2010 across the Channel to the Thames Estuary, where she has a mudberth for the second winter. Betty stays in the water all year round: During the winter months of 2011-2012 the ship is berthed at the Buurthaven de Levant in Amsterdam, in the spring she will sail in dutch waters..
of ship: Essex oyster smack
Yard: Aldous, Brightlingsea, Essex, England
Materials: Pitch-pine on oak frames
Restorations: 1965 -1968,1979 -1980, 1999, 2010 -
Length: 34' 8''
Beam: 9' 7''
Draught: 4' 6''
Displacement: 9,7 to
rigging: Gaff cutter
Sail area: 1.020 sq. feet
Engine: 35 hp Volvo Diesel
Home port: Colchester
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