The crafti­est clink­ers

For the past decade the Tino Rawa Trust has been re­spon­si­ble for mount­ing an an­nual ex­hi­bi­tion cel­e­brat­ing some as­pect of New Zealand’s mar­itime her­itage, be it a par­tic­u­lar de­signer, boat class or era.

Boating NZ - - Boat Brief -

This year, the 10th such ex­hi­bi­tion in Auck­land fo­cused on clinker dinghies and more than 30 ex­am­ples of the type drew ap­pre­ci­a­tion from ca­sual ad­mir­ers to builders with first-hand knowl­edge of how chal­leng­ing these labour-in­ten­sive boats are to craft. New Zealand has many ex­am­ples of the type, from row­ing skiffs, to de­light­ful sail­ing dinghies such as the M-class, Frost­bites, X-class and Silver Ferns. In the early days of boat­build­ing ap­pren­tice­ships in New Zealand, you did not get your pa­pers un­til you had com­pleted a clinker dinghy.

Robert Brooke, who served his ap­pren­tice­ship with Percy Vos, has built “many, many” clinker boats since his first Frost­bite, which he built as a 16-year-old – no doubt care­fully scru­ti­nised by his fa­ther, Jack, who de­signed the class.

“When you build a clinker dinghy, a lot of the time is spent look­ing at them,” says Robert. “You put on the first plank and step back to check, is it right? The sec­ond one. Is it right? And so you go on.

“You are not just look­ing at the sheer of the boats. You are look­ing at the sheer of the planks. All they way from the bow to the stern, the planks are chang­ing shape. As they nar­row and bed into the bow, that all makes for some­thing very im­por­tant.”

Among the ex­hi­bi­tion ad­mir­ers was boat­builder Lloyd Steven­son. “I was the first ap­pren­tice in New Zealand who did not have to build a clinker dinghy,” he re­calls. “I have never built one – but it is def­i­nitely on my bucket list.”

He might get use­ful ad­vice from Jack Tay­lor, 96, who re­mem­bers hav­ing to build a clinker dinghy in a sin­gle day while serv­ing his ap­pren­tice­ship with Lidgard Broth­ers. Sure enough, when the cus­tomer ar­rived at 5pm, Jack was just putting in the fin­ish­ing touches.

Apart from the el­e­gance of a well-built clinker boat, there is ro­mance too. “There is noth­ing nicer than sail­ing a clinker dinghy on a beau­ti­ful day, or row­ing around a quiet bay and lis­ten­ing to the lovely sound clinker dinghies make,” de­clares Robert Brooke. BNZ

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