Sunday, 16 July 2017

Repair Preparations

Preparations for Shamrock's forthcoming repairs and engine fitting have started with the replacement of two missing planks from the bulkhead (dividing wall) between the after cabin, which is due to become the engine room and her cargo hold. As the engine room will need to be secured the bulkhead access hatch has had a door fitted and this will also serve as an escape hatch. Vent holes will need to be drilled in the bulkhead to assist in the airflow through Shamrock.

Cargo hold bulkhead before
and after.
Removing her anchor and chain was made a lot easer than normal by taking advantage of a mid morning high tide and floating Shamrock to the head of her dock allowing the anchor to be dropped onto the dock and the chain flaked almost straight into the cart. Although once loaded the cart was not exactly easy to move!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Evolving Mainsheet

After her restoration Shamrock's running rigging mainsheet consisted of 4 cm (1.5 in) manila rope with a 23 cm (9 in) double block and a 23 cm (9 in) single block with becket and a bulls-eye.

Original layout.
During the 1980s’ this was changed to two 23 cm (9 in) triple blocks, one with a becket and the bulls-eye resulting in more rope being required and such a complicated layout that the crew would have to use a model of the blocks to assist in the mainsheet reeving procedure. When not in use long bights of mainsheet rope were draped over the mizzen sail cover.

Shamrock rigged with triple blocks.
Model triple block.
As the manila running rigging ropes are in the process of being replaced with Polyhemp, the opportunity is being taken to simplify the mainsheet by using only two 23 cm (9 in) double blocks, one with a becket and no bulls-eye which also means one of the deck eyebolts can be removed and a lot less rope is required. This layout also enables greater control of the main sheet with the bight running from the lower block and making it easier to deploy the mainsail to starboard or port. Replacement blocks have already been selected and are in the process of being renovated.
Renovated double block with becket.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Shamrock's Slipway

With the delivery of the new rails for Shamrock's slipway due, the crew has used the time preparing the old rail chairs ready for re-use. This has mainly consisted of removing the old rusted-in securing screws with the aid of a large hammer and the clearing of any rust from the seat area. Replacement “Coach Bolts” are also being cut ready for the securing of the chairs to the sleepers.


After  two years of failing to raise any young, the pair of swans that normally nest in the mill creek gave Cotehele a miss this year. With their recent reappearance, along with five cygnets, the new nesting site they used, believed to be between Cotehele and Halton Quay, has obviously been a success.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Limber Holes

To enable water to be pumped out of Shamrock the frame floors have draining channels (limber holes) cut out of their under sides, to port and starboard of the centre line, to enable water to flow freely on each side of the keelson to the pump well. Some vessels have a light chain run­ning through the limber holes from forward to aft. These chains, when pulled back and forth occasionally, keep the ’Limber’ holes free of any blockage. Any blockages on Shamrock have to be cleared by hand by the crew. To allow ac­cess to the limber holes the thick limber planks are bolted parallel to and 150 mm (6 in) out from the keelson, thus leaving a gap on each side of it. When the hold is empty it is a good policy to leave the gaps uncovered to allow air to circulate and ventilate the frame spaces. Note: due to the number of visitors this is not practical on Shamrock as they would be a hazard. When cargo is to be loaded, the gaps are covered with portable limber boards, which seat on to spacing blocks placed on the frames so that they lie flush with the surface of the limber planks. The thick limber planks, like the Beamshelf, provide extra longitudinal strength within the hull. In Shamrock the planks are of 100 mm (4 in) thick Douglas Fir and just under 254 mm (10 in) wide. Their outer edges are bevel­led along their length to match up with the ceil­ing planks in the bottom of the hold.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Shamrock Repairs

Second hand railway line with all the bits required to replace Shamrock's slipway tracks have been obtained from Bodmin & Wenford Railway. As the line is in 18m (60ft) lengths it needs to be cut in half for transporting and physically lifting into place, also new bolt holes need to be drilled in the cut ends. This is going to delay putting the line down until the beginning of August with the major repairs to Shamrock now scheduled for the autumn.

Shamrock is Not so Lonely

On Sunday 7th May after 13 years inside Mashfords boatyard the Lynher barge floated on the Tamar meaning that Shamrock is no longer the 'only fully restored Tamar Sailing Barge in the world'. The crew hopes that the two barges can meet up at an event sometime in the future.

Shamrock's Workboat

With the painting and salting of Shamrock's workboat completed she is finally ready to be rowed to her river mooring for the summer.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

River Survey

With the fitting of sonar to Nancy Belle and the approach of the first of this year’s river trips, the opportunity has been taken to survey the river Tamar on both spring and neap tides from Cotehele Quay up-river to past Eel island, which is just a bit further up the river from Morwellham. The purpose of the survey being to check for any fallen trees or signs of the river silting up. Along with finding the exact location of a large submerged tree that was known to be in the river, it was also found that the river bed has been eroded by about 1 meter (3 ft.) between the pillars of the Calstock railway viaduct.

Calstock viaduct dip
Submerged tree spring tide.
Navigational hazard! Submerged branch neap tide.
Now where is that tree?
It’s not been all river trips as the crew have been giving Shamrock's workboat a fresh coat of paint and she is now just about ready to go back on her mooring for the summer. The boat shed has also been cleared and all machinery checked ready for Shamrock's repairs.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Naked Shamrock

Regular visitor to Cotehele Quay will have noticed that Shamrock has not been fully rigged and looks a bit sparse with only her main and mizzen masts showing. This is the result of a hole being found in one of her hull planks, just above the water line amidships on the starboard side, caused by a mooring rope rubbing on a section of rot during a period of high winds. Shamrock will now need to be completely de rigged and hauled out once her slipway rails have been renewed. When she is high and dry on the dockside, the offending plank will be renewed, her keelson repaired, at least one other hull plank that is known to be rotten renewed, the renewal of any other planks found to be rotten and finally, once back in the dock, fit her engine.

The damaged plank.
Visitor access to Shamrock has been improved with the manufacture of a ramp that fits under the end of the gangway and gently sloops down onto the cargo hatch boards, thus allowing the not quite so nimble to go on board her. Shamrock's 'Meet and Greet' volunteers are also being pampered with the addition of an all-weather shelter in the form of a hut complete with veranda.  

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Change of Running Rigging

Due to safety concerns Shamrock's natural fibre rigging ropes are in the process of being renewed using man made ‘Polyhemp’ rope. Polyhemp looks like natural fibre and has the advantages of being stronger, impervious to water, longer lasting and doesn't rot or shrink when wet. To the crew his means that once she is rigged the running rigging blocks won't jam nor will there be the need to slacken everything off when it starts raining and subsequently take up the slack once the weather improves. Rotting sections of rope where found during the recent renewal of the main peak halyard that had only been in use for two years.

In 1981 one of Capt. J. F. Joint’s conclusions, in the report from Second Sailing trials of “Shamrock, stated:  “Natural fibre ropes are subject to rot if left wet. This is bound to happen with Shamrock as a static exhibit”, how right he was.
Old and new peak halyard. 
Completed peak halyard and to be done mainsheet.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

New Crew Member

Over the last few weeks the boat shed has had a regular visitor in the form of a Wren which seems to have made the shed his personal larder. This search for food is achieved by working down the south side windows stopping at each one checking for flies and it even checks out the crews coats for any morsels while flitting along the coat rack. Initially the bird appeared to be a bit camera shy disappearing whenever attempts were made at getting a photo but finally seemed to pose for a few shots.


Checking for flies
This week the early morning spring tide was used to float Shamrock from her dock to the slipway for a day while her dock was re profiled. She is now back in the dock waiting to be re-rigged for the coming visitor season.

Shamrock high and dry

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Life Jackets

While Nancy Belle is receiving a fresh coat of paint, in preparation for her 2017 river trips, the life jackets that have to be worn by passengers and crew have been taken away to be checked and serviced. These will also be needed by the members of the crew manning Shamrock on any of her trips. Shamrock's main and mizzen boom crutches that were starting to look a little tatty have been stripped of all their old varnish and are in the process of being painted. Shaune must be losing his preference for varnish!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Busy January

January has been a busy month for Shamrock's crew with the heat from the wood burner allowing painting and varnishing to be completed to a high standard and harden up ready to be returned to the elements. Jobs finished include the deckhouse, forward companionway, bowsprit, mizzen mast, main plus mizzen booms and gaffs. Nancy Belle has also been rubbed down and any damaged sections of paint primed ready for a new coat of paint. Her deck boards have been removed and are being coated with anti slip paint. The star job of the month has been the design and building of a 'movable engine control housing' from pine, old bits of marine plywood and then veneered with recycled teak. The criteria being that anyone watching when Shamrock is sailing will not be able to see the controls, the housing will not look out of place and will be easily stowed out of sight, in the after cabin, when not in use. Well done Shaune.

Lots of varnish.
Paint and varnish.
Spotty Nancy Belle
Just add combined engine and gear control lever.
Matching roof lines.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Shamrock's 'Pirates of Penzance'

Shamrock's crew has recently obtained a copy of a 1983 letter sent from Fred Easton to John Stengelhofen relating to the history of Shamrock while she was being used as a salvage vessel. John being the owner of Shamrock obviously wasn't very happy with skipper Silas Oates and his crew.

Pirates of Penzance

Fred Easton
“Sunny  Villa”

John Stengelhofen
National Maritime Museum
Cotehele Quay
St. Dominick

Dear Mr Stengelhofen,

Re:”SHAMROCK  the PIRATES of  PENZANCE” SEA SALVAGE BARGE that led its owner nearly behind bars.

I thank you for your letter of 14th December 1983 and note that you require some history about the “SHAMROCK”.   Well I give you all the information I can remember of it from the time I purchased it on Hayle Causeway Sands.  I went to see it when it was in the hands of a mining company who were using it for dredging under the sea bed off St.Ives.
It was experimenting with their searches to see how much tin was in St. Ives Bay and when they laid it up I purchased same but it was in a bit of a rough state and it had been fitted with Twin Perkins Diesel Engines, twin screw. I bought it for my new Company, set up known  - as CORNWALL SEA SALVAGE Company, me being the owner and Company Director.  But I called in a PILOT who joined me, i.e. was CAPTAIN SILAS OATES, a well-known  character in the Plymouth area today in boats etc.  When we started after buying  it for a few Hundreds of pounds, it was given odd repairs, and was PAINTED.  We had thought it was something out of this world because of its age being STAMPED on one of the STRUCTURE BEAMS its 1890’s date region, but did not realise it was ever worth what’s its worth today, or before we sold it for your MUSEUM. We had it sooner or later working off PENZANCE and went out SALVAGING for WRECKS, or scattered parts of wrecks, looking for Propellers of bronze or any METALS of value in the main, plus GUNS or ancient items or COINS or whatever we may come up against.  As I am not a sea going person I left it all in the hands of the Captain but I carried often the DYNAMITE to the Boat so to blast off the VALUABLE METALS when found off the PENZANCE COAST LINES to LIZARD, off the LIGHTHOUSES, to LANDS END and around to PENDEEN, ZENNOR, ST.IVES areas.  Our crew were a mighty rough lot, they use to be sitting around the Fire with the HIGH DANGER DYNAMITE around them.  So I stood at home and waited for the rewards to be landed at Penzance Quay, but I had such a bunch of DIVERS that they knew more about cheating than they knew about honesty. And because I never went out to see what was going on and on, they were bringing home the REWARDS, but they never came in until dark often, and when they came in they had a TRUCK on hand to unload it and carry it away to some places unknown to me and having had to believe them.  It was sooner or later learnt that they were seeing me off and the VALUABLE METALS etc. were being handled off  “SHAMROCK”  when I was in bed, but  I sooner or later caught up with them, and they again beaten me, they took it up to PLYMOUTH out of me reach.  As I was in other and other Business’s so I had not any control over them for I could not pilot any boat, not even a Punt.  However this crew were no other than PIRATES, they were PIRATES OF PENZANCE and they got in trouble here, there and everywhere, all beyond my control.  I could not see any other than facing all the bills, the SHIP/”SHAMROCK” began to be one of a LIABILITY to me, never knew next when the POLICE were coming for me, caused by the PIRATES.  They were acting LIVING LIKE PIRATES; they really believed they were “THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE”.  They were like me, rather UNEDUCATED, but my HONESTY was overpowered.  My honesty did not fit in and so I got NOTHING OUT OF that set UP SEA SALVAGE COMPANY Business.  Poor old “SHAMROCK” led me into trouble. I cannot blame “SHAMROCK” , it was the Crew acting like “PIRATES OF PENZANCE”   they got involved in Court cases and they got away with most of their cases being PIRATES. How on earth they never got drowned, I cannot tell, for I have seen them DRAGGING IN from LANDS END, huge PROPELLERS strapped up on the side of this little sailing barge.  It was HAMMERED TO DEATH, and they ran up bills here, there and everywhere that I had to be liable for.  It began to be one hell of a mass burden and it was pointless to sue them because they had nothing, or you just cannot get blood out of a stone, or get blood out of these “PIRATES OF PENZANCE”.  So, sooner or later whilst it was at Plymouth, when they ran it to DEATH, it was in Plymouth Harbour running up harbour fees, and I ordered it to be towed to Loo Lake somewhere off Plymouth, and it was then unfit to be taken to Falmouth and so I was DOOMED.  It was a DOOMED COMPANY from the time I engaged the DIVERS of DISHONESTY until I was FORCED to see it be SOLD for as low as £100 region, there was no alternative for me.  But this is, was “SHAMROCK’S” history of its SLAVERY WORK it carried on whilst I owned it, was WORKED SLAVED TO DEATH, and I really sold it for SCRAP, but the buyer seen more value in it than I could see at the time when today it’s PRICELESS.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Shamrock's Christmas Present

On returning from the Christmas break the crew was able to admire Shamrock's new engine that had arrived in the boat shed.
Shamrock's Christmas Present
One Shiny Engine 
Outline plans for its fitting have been drawn up and they are; Remove the starboard bunk, remove the ceiling planks from the area where the engine is to be fitted, remove the ceiling planks along the line of the shaft, and mark out where the stern gland is to be fitted. The intention then is to float Shamrock over to the slipway. At low water the frame and hull will be drilled out and then fit the stern gland. Once this is completed, line up the shaft, fit a P bracket, fit and secure the propeller. All this needs to be completed before the tide rises! Shamrock will then be floated back to her berth. The next stage is to measure up, fabricate and fit an engine bed before finally dropping the engine in place. Cooling water, exhaust and electrical systems will also need to be fitted before venturing out on the river. Shamrock will then finally be able to finally manoeuvre under her own engine power.