Cygnet was the name of the boat my father built for me. I was very young – about 7 – and far too young to be allowed to go anywhere in it. That was a major problem because she was too small (only 7 feet long or possibly less) to leave any room for anyone to accompany me. By the time I might have been allowed to venture out in her alone she would have been too small for me. But she was a lovely boat after her teething problems had been sorted out. On its first ‘sea’ trials, on Rockland Broad, it leaked rather badly, and I had to be rushed back along the dyke before it sank. Luckily my parents accompanied me rowing in another boat. It was repaired and made waterproof by glueing a calico sheet over her underwater part, and was more successful at the second attempt, at Blakeney. This occasion is recorded here.

There is a group of four people standing on the quayside in the middle distance. These are David Moody, a friend of the Andersons; my father and mother with our dog Jet on a lead; the lady facing them is Diana (née Harrod) about the time she married my cousin David Anderson. The Andersons rented a holiday cottage in Blakeney during summer and sailed their Graduate dinghy. Andrew Anderson now lives in Beverley in Yorkshire and Diana lives with her second husband on the Welsh coast. David Anderson died aged 50 in 1984.

Cygnet was made of marine ply, at the time quite a novel material. Plywood an older product but  no use for boatbuilding because being put together with old-fashioned animal glue it was not waterproof. Marine ply was manufactured using the new resin glue which enabled all sorts of exterior uses which had previously been unavailable. This was an advance that had been made during the war, when plywood was used most memorably for making the Mosquito wooden aircraft.

The sight of plywood delaminating on the first hint of damp has become a thing of the past, but so too have plywood itself very largely. We do have laminated wooden floors in our house and this too is made with non-waterproof glue. I trust it will never be wet enough to delaminate. Nowadays we have mdf for cheap furniture and fibre glass for boats.

Me in Cygnet

Cygnet in her first incarnation was double ended. This made her rather unstable and she was rebuilt with a transom stern.  She was all my father’s design, and also his own work. It is rather a shame that she was left to rot away, but typical of his approach to life. Before many years were up he was building a canoe called Red Squirrel; again originally double ended and unusually (for a canoe) also converted to a transom stern. Red Squirrel was a much more useful boat, and I had many good times in her.




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