By Alan Simkins
Our brief Cornwall break continues…
As regular readers will be aware, I’ve visited the National Maritime Museum a couple of times since last Spring, to check on the progress of their reconstruction of a Bronze Age boat, based upon the design of a boat uncovered at Ferriby in East Yorkshire. This is true experimental archaeology, using only hand tools that would have been available at the time.
The original plan was for the boat, started in April, to be launched sometime in October, but several delays meant that this deadline was missed. On my last visit in October, a possible date in November was mentioned for the launch, but this was always overly ambitious, given the work left to do. A new date of early spring this year has now been set for the flotation.
And so, on the last day of 2012 I visited again (the museum having a policy of limitless revisits in a 12 month period) to gauge the state of play. Luckily, although the group was on a Christmas break, one of the volunteers had popped in to finish off his last paddle, and after a brief discussion invited me behind the barriers to take a close up look, for which I’m very grateful.
At first glance, it didn’t look as if much real progress had been made, but on closer inspection a great deal has been accomplished. The second of three layers of planks have been added to the sides, and much of the yew stitching to hold the planks together has been completed, including the caulking. This has been done using a mixture of moss, wood shavings and sheep fat, and looks to be very effective.
The completed vessel will be just over 49 feet long, and weigh approx 5 tons. There are 7 struts along its length, and it will be powered by 16-18 rowers, using 5′ paddles made of ash. A total of 20 paddles have been prepared.
The project has been managed by professional boatbuilder Brian Cumby, under the control of Exeter University, and with a team of 15 volunteers. Month by month time lapse videos of the build are available via YouTube.