Picton Clinker & Classic Boat Club
In Picton there are a group of dedicated clinker dinghy lovers who have formed the Picton Clinker & Classic Boating Club. Numbering about 70, they meet at least once a month to take their craft for runs around the Sounds or up rivers, in fact anywhere small boats are able.
This group, mostly retired, are passionate about sustaining their Clinker craft alive and well, building, salvaging or restoring these lovely often very old boats but not just as museum pieces. They get out and enjoy the boating at every opportunity they can, perhaps reminiscent of a time gone by, meeting, launching and motoring to a suitable beach picnicking or a BBQ but generally, just to socialise.
They come from all walks of life yet there is no class or status involved, many are very wealthy, some have large launches as well as their dinghy's, but each acknowledge that they have as much fun and pleasure in their clinkers as they do in their larger craft.
Something similar to a vintage car rally, each knows it's possible to go boating in far more comfort, go faster and in more style, but appreciate that doing so would not convey the satisfaction or contentment achieved in the classic style they preserve.
As an example, they have a curious trophy: The Stuffed Goblet Trophy. One couple began the tradition on the runs, of drinking wine from a pair of lovely silver wine goblets stored in a special velvet lined and dovetailed box. During a BBQ one goblet was misplaced and accidently run over and crushed by a car. It was subsequently found and mounted on a plaque, presented back to the owner next trip. It is presented annually to anyone who makes the greatest blunder whilst out Clinker boating.
The evolution of Clinker construction may be traced back to approximately 793 AD and the Vikings of Scandinavia.
Prior to then, boats of any construction were generally very basic and probably covered in hides or skins. However the Viking people revolutionised maritime expansion by developing an extremely sophisticated and advanced method of construction that enabled ocean going craft to cover huge distances in planned voyages rather than accidental discoveries. The strength and flexibility provided by this form of construction has been proved by the test of time having been in productions for over 1200 years, only being superseded (if one can call it that) during the last 60 years by aluminium and fiberglass.
Can there be any comparison between the graceful sweep in the sheer of a clinker craft and a chunkiness of mass produced fibreglass runabouts or aluminium dinghies?
Similarly, the sea keeping qualities of a 3 - 4 metre plastic or metal craft cannot be compared to a similar sized clinker dinghy. In the pursuit of mass production we have compromised beauty and sea keeping competence to enable fast and therefore economical construction.
Wrapping a pre-cut sheet of aluminium around a mold and welding in place is a task of minutes not days but the real price we pay is when we try to row that craft or expect it to behave safely in wind or choppy sea..
Why is it you will rarely see an ugly clinker craft? Perhaps the builder has invested too much time to build ugly.
A clinker dinghy has to be exceptionally poorly constructed for it not to survive at least half a century if not longer, a good one will last 80 - 100 years. Why is that?
A clinker hull is not a simple procedure to construct, although the early boat-builders made it look so.
It requires time, experience, not only in the fastening of pieces of wood together but in having been at sea in deteriorating conditions and appreciating the forces of nature the craft has to cope with.
When a builder sets to and creates a clinker craft he puts more than just wood, nails & screws into the hull.... he incorporates into it all his experience & knowledge plus some of his personality and character.
He is an artist just as surely as a painter, sculptor or writer.
Beautiful old clinker craft are all about us and quietly slipping away into history while parked under sheds & hedges. The skills of our ancestors are silently being lost and we aren’t noticing their disappearance. When next you see an old clinker or classic hull in danger of being wasted, consider what we are losing with it's demise, many are beyond salvage but some merely need a person who's soul isn't entirely a desert!