The Coracle Files (1)
The Lonely Hearts Coracle Club!


It's finished, I think. The coracle that is, except that I haven't got a paddle so can't try it out. Had the workbench arrived ten days ago as it should have done, I'd no doubt have made myself a paddle as well by now, but I'm still waiting.

The coracle's looking quite shipshape, though I say it myself. I'm reasonably confident that it will float, but I'm not too sure for how long! Should I really have used water-soluble bitumastic paint?

It's ended up as about 60" long by 40" wide and 14" deep. I think that's about right for a one-person coracle, but not having much to go on other than some photocopied plans, it was all a bit tentative. The next one ought to be much better!

It all started at the National Trail Boat Festival at Wootton Bassett. In between bouts of manning the Cotswold Canals Trust stand, I wandered down the canal to see the various boats and exhibits.

Avoiding the desperately unstable-looking 'floating bicycle' that David Bellamy had demonstrated with such aplomb, I found myself down by the bridge where 'Peter Faulkner Coracles' were showing some lovely woven hazel and cowhide coracles. They were being paddled around the canal most proficiently by some quite small children.

It occurred to me that a coracle would be nicer than an inflatable as a tender to Saros (our 58' nb) but at about £500, these 'genuine articles' were a bit out of reach financially, so I put the thought 'on the back burner' until our lottery numbers come up (frustrating if they do as we rarely enter them!) or that rich uncle dies (what rich uncle?).

Anyway, I happened to show Barbara (SWMBO) the 'Peter Faulkner Coracles' flyer, and said how nice the coracles were, and thought no more about it. The next day we were both at Braunston, for 'The Show', me working again on the Cotswold Canals Trust stand and Barbara wandering round enjoying Jeff Dennison & Benny Graham singing songs from "they're coming back to the Water".

She came back after a while and said that I must come and see something. So leaving the stalwarts to man the stand (as they'd done for most of the weekend already) I was led to the marquee near the entrance where a friendly bearded chap was enthusing about coracles.

His coracles looked far less 'professional' but far more affordable so I started asking questions. It turned out that he, Graham Fisher, wasn't trying to sell anybody anything, just the idea that coracles are nice eco-friendly little boats that have been around for millenia and that they're easy to build and use.

I was hooked! Especially when he said that the ones he was showing cost about £18 in materials! I didn't need to win the lottery to make one of these it seemed. "Just soak a few bits of green ash in water for a few days" he said, "screw some legs to a seat, nail the ash to the legs, bend them up to the gunwale, cover in calico and paint".

Even I could do that I reckoned - okay so my last carpentry experience was at primary school in about 1950-something, hammering two lengths of dowel onto three lumps of PAR pine to make a steam roller - but if primitive men have been making coracles with their bare teeth for thousands of years, I can't possibly go wrong with my trusty Black & Decker can I?

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