Salford-born Sue has the cv of a supreme bonne vivante. She has PR’ed for Peter Stringfellow,
DJ’ed on the Costa Brava, croupiered at Manchester’s Playboy Club and run her own
restaurant where she once cooked for Dire Straits and their people — all 45 of them.
She is also the most qualified of the NMW guides: a Fellow of the Institute of Travel
and Tourism and a London Blue Badge guide.
The Manchester Ship Canal was one of the Victorian era’s greatest engineering feats. Known affectionately as the “Big Ditch”, it was built by 17,000 navvies, opened in 1894, and stretches 35½ miles from the Mersey estuary coast near Liverpool across Lancashire to Salford.
The Port of Manchester that opened soon after became the fourth busiest in the country during the 20th century, despite its inland location. Huge cargo ships brought raw materials, particularly cotton, to fuel the mills and factories of Manchester while machinery and goods manufactured here in the world’s first modern industrial city were exported through the docks to around the world.
The Manchester Ship Canal with Sue Grimditch
Recalling some 2012 Meetings…
In 2006 the idea was conceived to enhance our Cornish maritime heritage by adopting
the principle used in Brittany of building a new boat on traditional lines rather
than perpetuating the expensive system of attempting to preserve old boats with their
associated museum state of preciousness. In this way more use would be made of the
boat and youngsters in particular would have the opportunity to experience first-
hand the sailing methods and boat-handling techniques of their forefathers.
The boat chosen was based on the lines of a nineteenth century Gorran Haven Crabber, the Ellen, which for many years had been based at Fowey.
The Elizabeth Ann, as she was to become, is a seventeen foot open sailing boat with a spritsail yawl rig. She is similar to many of the hundreds of small inshore fishing boats which would have operated around our shores in the past. She was launched at Fowey Classics 2007 with live television coverage, on a beautiful August day with appropriate celebrations. Soon after that she was out sailing and has proved to be exactly what had been expected, a handy stable workable vessel with all the potential for teaching many of the long lost skills of handling such a boat.
Traditionally these crabbers operated out of the scarcely sheltered tiny harbour of Gorran Haven about 7 miles from Fowey, across St Austell Bay. They were worked under sail and oar in the strong tidal currents and rough seas close to the rocky shores of the Dodman Head, notorious amongst sailors as a particularly challenging sailing area.
Particular thanks go to Mike for travelling up to Manchester from his beautiful Cornwall. His account left nobody in doubt that the project hugely benefitted from his own enthusiasm and dedication. He had gathered many local people in his team which showed how excellently the project worked within a very spirited close-knit Cornish community.
GM. & RC.
The Building of
(a Goran Haven Cornish Crabber)
a talk by Mike Prettejohn
Building & Maintaining
The American novelist F Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote in 1925: “Let me tell you
about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” If you have any doubt about
that then you clearly didn't come to Tristan Rowe's talk about superyachts. That
is to say motor or sailing yachts over about 30m long, finished and furnished to
the owners' exacting tastes. It's an industry in which Pendennis shipyard has a leading
position. Set up in 1988 by the entrepreneur Peter de Savary in Falmouth and subsequently
bought out by its management, the company has refitted and built a dozen or more
steel and aluminium yachts up to 55metres as well as knocking out a couple of ferries.
With their unrivalled expertise in aluminium work on a grand scale they constructed
the iconic Lords Media Centre that broods over the cricket ground like some monstrous
ET. They have also built a shop doorway for the Comme des Garcons store in New York
which is a glorious shimmering trumpet. But mainly it has been unspeakably glamorous
yachts: Taramba, Adela, Ilona, MITSeaAH, Adix, M5, Akalam, Hemisphere... Terrible
names some of them you may think but each one a marvel of mirror paint hulls and
smooth teak, where a paint job on the topsides will cost you the thick end of £1M.
You need to Google them.
If you do you'll see the interiors, which are works of the craftsman's art built to the most exacting specification. Glowing varnished wood surrounds as you slump on the plump but precise cushions, a Negrita cocktail to hand perhaps, with your Sebagos buried in the zebra skin carpets and gaze out through the panoramic windows at some palm-fringed beach. The doorknobs cost £250 each and the styles were not to everyone's taste of course but then they didn't have to be: the interiors were custom made for just one billionaire – or, more likely, one wife or girlfriend. Some members were appalled by the scale of the expense and the opulence but everyone I spoke to was astounded to find a British company in such a leading position in such a demanding field. That it was in Falmouth and brought so much skilled employment with such a commitment to apprenticeships was gratifying too. And it was, incidentally, a great performance by Tristan making it one of the best talks I've seen for a long time.
Old Angus was hovering in the lamplight, beside his Rover, and he reminded me of the Fitzgerald quotation. He reminded me too of Ernest Hemingway's famous riposte: “Yes, they have more money!” He and Elspeth were briefly a part of that golden literary circle that met at the Lilas in Paris before some unpleasantness between Elspeth and Ford Madox Ford made them leave and settle in Wilmslow. I was left to reflect that Angus looked good for his years and that Hemingway certainly had a point.
by Tristan Rowe
They say that the two most fraught times in your life are getting married and buying
a house. They, whoever they are, have obviously never tried to buy a boat. Frequently
more of a long-term commitment these days than marriage and something you could owe
your very life to, boat purchase poses awesomely more of a challenge to sanity than
either of these. Jerry Armitage showed it is possible to purchase without complete
loss of your mind. The secrets are organisation, extensive travel and a lorry.
He and Sue seem to have set their minds on a Westerly Griffon, a universally-acknowledged good choice. They settled on one example quite quickly (through good organisation with clear, explicit criteria), excellent in all respects except that it was in Dover while they live in Manchester and sail out of North Wales. The extensive travel came in in the number of trips they made to secure it, rattling up and down the motorways like the shuttle in Arkwright's Water Frame with a rush order to satisfy — just assuming that it did actually have a shuttle. The lorry came in handy to transport the vessel up to North Wales without getting it wet and soon it was installed in their coveted marina berth at Caernarfon. It all seemed so simple. It was a lively and very informative presentation and the audience really enjoyed it. But then things took a frankly embarrassing turn when Jerry showed us the contents of his toolbox.
No good can come of a chap exposing such a personal thing as that. It leads to invidious comparisons. He had fewer screwdrivers than I do but they were larger. His collection of pliers was, on the other hand, much more extensive than mine with exotic species I had never even conceived of, some with bright-coloured handles. In this dazzling display of toolbox treasure he was, to his credit, shame-faced about his adjustable spanners, those abominations of engineering. Then, having stunned us with his collection (and I have only hinted at its breadth here), he revealed that this was just one of his toolboxes — and not the biggest at that.
Afterwards Ian Noble talked about that child of ours, like so many conceived on a chill and dark evening after a few pints of warm porter, that is Budworth Sailing Club. It sprang from our loins many years ago (the story is well-told in Roger Cleland's forthcoming history) and it is pleasing to hear that it is doing so well. A myriad dinghies of many classes throng the beautiful lake, racing about and tipping their contents into its benign waters on a regular basis. One fact that not many people know is that the water is not too deep. If you capsize in some places the top of your mast can get stuck in the mud; Ian had his burgee ripped off three times in one day (but looked none the worse for it). So, the club is thriving, with plenty of fun being had and some very successful young sailors being produced. And what a beautiful spot to sail, a far cry from those grim half-empty reservoirs that some clubs squeeze their enjoyment from.
SEPTEMBER 2012 - MEMBERS' TALKS
A new Boat & a Cruiser’s Toolbox - Jerry Armitage
Budworth Sailing Club - Ian Noble
Shipwreck, Small Boats & High Latitudes
We don't get that many near-death experiences at MCA meetings. Well, not many described
by speakers anyway. Older members will remember how one speaker in a submersible
several miles down, creeping round the wreck of the Titanic, hit another one coming
the other way with a loud clang. That must have been bad.
Roger Taylor had his on the deck of a replica square rigger. He had signed on in Aus for a trip to New Zealand and beyond but they became embayed off the north west coast of NZ in a northwesterly gale — a poor decision by the skipper. They fought for days to keep off the lee shore but eventually ran into a sandbank. Howling wind, wild seas breaking over them and white water all around, the only possible way out was over the side. Roger stood on the deck and thought the end was nigh. Not just nigh but already with a cold arm around his shoulder. And then he jumped. Just as well you thought when you saw the heap of timber on the beach that had been the beautiful replica just a few hours before. After that he decided the sea was the place for him provided he controlled his own destiny. So he took up single-handed ocean sailing. Seems obvious really.
The first boat he built himself; 19 foot LOA in ferro with a beautifully crafted wooden superstructure. He sailed her between Aus and NZ several times, first in 1974 when the boat was rolled during a violent 4 day storm. He was caught out again in a later crossing and read an account of how his body had been washed up on a Queensland beach – a near death experience from the other direction.
Then he came back to the UK and sailed on the east coast for a decade before somehow he became involved in work and family and sailing slipped away for a while. His interest was rejuvenated by the 2005 Jester Challenge. Small boats, no sponsorship, no rules, no committees and an emphasis on personal responsibility. So he bought a 20-foot Corribee and set about oceanifying her. Lots of buoyancy, strong watertight bulkheads, junk rig. He did away with the washboards and sliding cover and replaced them with solid timber and a watertight hatch on the top. He could seal himself in if it got bad; he arranged it so that he could stand in the hatch and control the boat, hardly ever needing to emerge onto deck. He called her Ming Ming — and she doesn't have an engine.
In the last few years he has sailed Ming Ming on epic single-handed adventures to the Azores(twice), up to Iceland via the Faeroes, to Jan Mayen Land and up round the top of Iceland, to the west coast of Greenland and, last year, to Spitsbergen. He has suffered a few knockdowns without real harm but the Greenland trip was cut a little short when he was thrown from his bunk and broke a rib.
He says he thrives on remoteness and has a love for the high Arctic. This year he's hoping to go to Franz Josefs Land and the Barents Sea. He's planning to abandon Ming Ming for a larger faster boat and has settled on an Achilles 24 for the extra half knot he should get.
This is not everyone's cup of tea (or even mug of bouillon, which is Roger's tipple). Many members are more into the comfortable sails between tavernas. But not all. And even the less adventurous are pleased that there is somebody out there crossing watery wildernesses, snug but slightly vulnerable, in a small boat. They wouldn't want to be there — too much like a near-death experience perhaps — but are delighted when someone like Roger can give them such a clear idea of how and why he does it.
Old Angus for once sought me out in the car park afterwards. He was ablaze with an idea. The old Mirror dinghy in the garage. He could oceanify her and set off on lone adventures to remote corners of the planet, scan savage coasts, cut off from civilisation. Elspeth would have to stay at home of course – perhaps sending him on his way with a good supply of her delicious twice-baked bara brith. They wouldn't be able to communicate with one another for months on end but, after such a long marriage, he somehow felt he could cope with that.
THE 2012 ANNUAL DINNER
This was an experimental, even innovative, dinner dance in the sense that, in the
(planned) absence of a band, there was no encouragement to dance. The meal was all
that we expected except that some diners found that they were down for a main course
called “Alepie”. This sounded more like a skin condition than a dish and at best,
were it to be food, could be expected to be some exotic variation of Quorn or tofu.
One irritated diner was about to explain that he had ordered “Ale Pie” when the penny
After the toasts and coffee we had a quiz. This was the usual rancorous affair with disputes about where Eyemouth is, the height of Mount Everest in miles and whether Leningrad counted as a valid answer. The answer to the Coronation Street question (we always have to have one for some reason) brought a quiet murmur of nostalgia (Can you still get those hairnets?). I was appalled to find that my wife knew Engelbert Humperdinck's real name. And did you know that the first women in the world to be enfranchised were New Zealanders?
The stand-up bingo was organised and run from the table I will call the Petrolheads and both cards were won by Petrolheads. The expected insinuations muttered their way around the room.
Then the more physical games started. The first of these was Weighing the Anchor which involved remotely recovering an anchor (a real folding grapnel one) from an imaginary seabed (the redundant dance floor) using provided poles that were too short, string, a bit of wire and some foam. Without dragging it. This was important because damaging the floor with this spiky, rusting object would have set us back more than cleaning up after the polar bear did. So, five times the dangling load wavered above the precious floor as lashed pole bent and string strained. But happily finances survived and the anchor was placed each time gently on the carpet that was the imaginary boat that had lost it.
Then we had to guess the weight of the anchor and then it was time for the boat race.
This involved half-a-dozen people from each table climbing in turn into a boat. The was not quite an imaginary boat but consisted of a broadly boat-shaped frame that the crew had to climb into and hold up around themselves. With a skipper in the back, the construction had to be guided up a channel marked according to the IALA Region A Lateral Buoyage Convention and then be docked against a quay (represented by the stage that would have carried the band if there had been one). And here's the thing. Everyone in the boat except the skipper was blindfold; the boat was steered by him or her shouting Commands.
It was frankly hilarious because it was frankly realistic. The crew, who had little idea of what was what, shuffled forwards helplessly while the megalomaniac in a funny hat at the back screamed commands. Where have we seen that before? The all-woman team was guided to a precise and gentle berthing with quiet confident commands (I've been instructed by management to make that point). While most tables regarded this as a light-hearted diversion of a game, one bunch of elderly gentlemen had a team talk before their go, looking very serious. The skipper even called for hush from the crowd so his commands could be better heard; it was like asking the Southern Ocean to calm down dear.
Quite who won all this I have already forgotten (and there were mutterings about the scoring system anyway) but it did bring to an end an extraordinary and very enjoyable evening.
Old Angus was in the car park attending to his Rover and Elspeth was presumably somewhere nearby, perhaps hiding. The congealed lumps of Sikflex in his beard glittered in the lamplight as he told me this was the best MCA Dinner since the celebrated 1948 one. Then, Elspeth had taken just a little to much sherry and spent the latter part of the evening swinging through the rafters like a gibbon, taunting the upturned faces below.
But at least, he insisted, she didn't disgrace herself.
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105 Years - Established 1913