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.
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