Soundings - - Contents - —Steve Knauth

Wind and waves set a dou­ble-ended, lug-rigged fish­ing boat to plung­ing through the white­capped rollers off the coast of north­ern Eng­land and Scot­land. Soon, the crew will be set­ting their net and work­ing the tide, re­sum­ing the an­cient dance of fish and fish­er­men.

Marine artist Christo­pher Blos­som takes us back to the late 1800s, when boats of this type — called zu­lus — dom­i­nated the fish­ing scene. Run­ning about 40 feet long, the boats car­ried a dou­ble lug-sail rig. The main mast was gen­er­ally as long as the keel, and the main­sail was big, ex­tend­ing well aft; the smaller mizzen was used pri­mar­ily for steady­ing.

The zulu, Blos­som says, com­bined qual­i­ties of two older types: the scaffi, with its short keel and raked stern, and the fi­fie, which had a plum bow and deep fore­foot for weatherly per­for­mance and a longer wa­ter­line for speed. With the ad­vent of steam-pow­ered cap­stans, the zulu grew as long as 70 feet.

It was a boat made for hard work. Be­gin­ning at the turn of the tide, the crew set out nets as long as a mile. As the boat drifted in the tidal flow, the crew slowly drew in the nets, tak­ing out the fish and flak­ing the net for its next use.

“Drifters worked out of Yar­mouth and Low­est­oft,” Blos­som says. “They were sailed by men of ex­tra­or­di­nary skill, by any mea­sure. I en­vi­sioned these drifters head­ing out in a fairly stiff evening breeze to set their nets. Since there is a good breeze, they would most likely set down­wind ... you can see that the dis­tant boats have al­ready turned off the wind.”

The dra­matic bursts of white spray and the foam on the waves are eye-catch­ing con­trasts to the deep blue of the water.

“I use [foam] as a method of defin­ing the planes of the water’s sur­face as well as a de­sign el­e­ment to lead you into the paint­ing,” the artist says. “Not too sub­tle in this case.”

But ef­fec­tive.

To view this and other works by Christo­pher Blos­som, visit the J. Rus­sell Jin­ishian Gallery web­site at jrus­selljin­ishi­an­gallery.com or visit the gallery at 1899 Bron­son Road in Fair­field, Con­necti­cut. Call ahead for gallery hours, (203) 521-1099.

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