Amy Howson – Society History – 1990’s

1990 – New Foresail, Shanties and Race Revival

During winter maintenance Charlie and Cyril had great difficulty unbolting the shuts to needle gun and wire brush the frames and floors. New cement was laid where it had crumbled during work to the outside of the hull and all the metalwork well painted. To avoid a struggle next time, Cyril bolted hardwood battens soaked in preservative and tarred each nut and bolt as they fastened them along the frames. Then he and Charlie replaced each board and screwed them to the battens with bronze screws and a dab of tallow.

While this work was being carried out Alan dismantled the top of the engine. A few years ago Cyril acquired new pistons, rings and liners for a modest sum and the time was right to renew the existing ones. Alan had to take the blocks and new parts to a specialist firm as the old liners had been welded in. The engine was then soon reassembled and ready for work again.

This year, Cyril’s aim was a new foresail, one a bit fuller than the existing one, and when he found out that funds were available sent for Jimmy Lawrence the sailmaker who duly paid a visit and measured up. Once made and fitted AMY was taken out for a shakedown sail and immediately justified the expense. The improvement in her windward ability and increased flow to the mainsail meant that AMY picks up speed rapidly after going through stays.

Other work included rudder restoration, full paint job, mast and rigging down, oiled and back up plus new gaff jaws were made from oak before AMY returned to South Ferriby for the first sailing trip.

A Shanty evening and barbecue was held on board AMY HOWSON and COMRADE on the Ancholme at South Ferriby on Saturday June 30.

AMY HOWSON, COMRADE and the Sobriety Project vessel AUDREY were invited to attend the Hull Sea Shanty Festival over the weekend of September 8/9 and the Whitaker Group sponsored our ships to the tune of £100 each to cover expenses. AMY was the star of the show being utilised as a floating stage from which successive teams of performers sang and wise-cracked for hours on end. There were one or two snags which will need to be ironed out, the sight of twenty burly Dutchmen on the hatches jumping up and down in time to the music caused some anxiety to the crew, though there was no truth in the rumour that Cyril was down below holding them up!

To coincide with the festival “Shanty Jack” (Pete Hayselden) asked if we would race COMRADE against AMY HOWSON. After finding a trophy sponsor, Eric Hammond who builds steel fishing boats at Barton, both crews agreed along with the Billy Boy AUDREY and the ” scale Sprits” l Barge ROSIE PROBERT.

1991 – Sheffield Trip and Barge Race Victory

Winter maintenance involved removing, refurbishing and replacing the stern tube bush and propeller shaft. It sounded easy enough but circumstances, in the form of cement around the tube, meant chiselling out the bush was a crude but simpler alternative.

While the parts were away Charlie turfed out the ballast, which had become blathered in grease from the tube, cleaned out the old engine beds, painted throughout, cleaned and re-stowed the ballast elsewhere. The new bush and rebuilt shaft were collected and refitted by Cyril with a bit of a struggle but all seems OK.

The second major job was the fitting of a “Baby Blake” sea toilet. Once the decision had been taken as to where to put it a new plywood compartment was built complete with fastening door, where the “Baby Blake” was suitably plumbed in and the old Elsan fitted in its own cabinet … accommodation will soon be five star!

AMY attended the IWA Rally of Boats at Tinsley Locks, Sheffield on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 June. On the previous Wednesday she left the Ancholme and motored up to Goole where the leeboards were lifted ashore with the Sobriety Project’s hand crane, lowered the mast to hatch level and lashed the rigging together.

During Thursday and Friday AMY gradually made her way to Sheffield in weather varying from steaming hot and sunny to thunder, lightening and pouring with rain. They saw the ex-keel ETHEL hunched sadly on the bank at Rotherham Lock, but happily the ex-keel THOMAS PORTER was in splendid trim for haulage work by Alan Oliver when seen moored at Ickles Lock. AMY is a tight fit in the Tinsley flight of locks and this coupled with a gradual failure of the gearbox made it hard work for the crew. At Sheffield the allotted berth was silted up and, even after the BWB dredger cleared some of it, AMY could not moor up closer than four feet from the towpath.

The weekend was excellent with upwards of 2000 visitors making their way over the makeshift access to board AMY. The sales table ran out of badges and most other small items eventually taking as much as a sailing weekend.

Work was carried out on the gearbox over the weekend and on Sunday evening, with mast and rigging back down, she set off for Tinsley top lock where reverse gear could not be selected again and the crew avoided a collision by a whisker. Alan ended up in the gearbox up to his elbows and fixed the problem.

Monday morning saw AMY battling with Tinsley flight of locks along with countless narrowboats, eventually making it through and up to Barnby Dun swing bridge by 1700. Next morning they set off for Goole where they picked up the leeboards, hove the mast setting the boom and gaff in position, then penned out of Ocean Lock and two hours later were back at Ferriby Sluice.

The second Hull Sea Shanty Festival was held over the weekend of Friday 13 to Sunday 15 September when the second ‘Humber Barge Race’ was held between COMRADE, AMY HOWSON, JUNE and the Sobriety Project vessel AUDREY.

A couple of weeks before this year’s event, Cyril, Charlie and Dave beached AMY HOWSON on Barton Checkers to scrape off marine growth and thrash a coat of black varnish on – race preparation! Equally enthusiastically Colin and his crew painted COMRADE while in the Marina before the Shanty/Race weekend.

High water on Sunday, race day, was at 11.23, the course was from Admirals Steps upriver under the Humber Bridge round Buoy 27 and back to the Steps. Diana on COMRADE counted down the start. All four ships found differing courses, the first two boards on AMY established their routine, Cyril at the helm, Charlie and Alan at the leeboards, Brian and Dave the bowline. JUNE, without leeboards, was obliged to sail broader than the other three contenders. AUDREY sailed her own race off the south bank out of the tide. COMRADE, thwarted by the wind direction doggedly pursued AMY. The mob on the Humber Bridge gave AMY a great cheer as she passed below, they must have all been from Barton!

Rounding the buoy Brian decided their lead was enough to go below and mash up. The wind direction on the return downriver favoured COMRADE and JUNE, who both began to draw AMY in, while AUDREY was still on the south bank, but AMY’s outward lead was enough to give her the win. The crew celebrated over a few pints in the Green Bricks. The shanty singing was briefly halted while COMRADE’s Colin handed AMY’s Cyril the “Barge Race Trophy”. A crew member from WINSTON CHURCHILL presented inscribed cut-glass goblets to the winner and runner up, a nice gesture.

1992 – Wakefield Trip, New Cog-boat and Leeboards

Back on her winter mooring at Barton Haven, Cyril and Charles needle-gunned the fore and aft decks to bare metal, applied a rust inhibitor and a quick coat of paint before the weather changed. Towards the end of the previous sailing season the voltage regulator stopped working so Alan replaced it with a modern unit and at the same time rationalised the engine room electrics.

Cyril, Charlie and Peter took over Dave Robinson’s lawn to build a cogboat (see Archive article) which was later transferred to AMY’s hold for completion. Cyril adzed down and shortened an old telegraph pole to make it into a proper derricking pole. Charles and he rigged it with a strop and gin wheel and tried it out lifting the cogboat from the hold.

Once the hold was cleared of boat and boatbuilders, Cyril and Brian had a good “mucking out” session ready for the open day at Easter.

Dave Robinson made up a strong beam to fit tight up under the hatches, so the shanty singers can dance about on top to their hearts content. Talking of hatches, a new set of hatch covers are being made by sailmaker Tom Humphries of Grimsby, as well as looking good this will help protect the hold and its contents.

The season commenced with a motor trip in early May, up the Ancholme to Brigg and back, with school children and three staff members from South Ferriby School and, following requests from some of the regular guests, several trips were made up to Goole and Keadby, these being fitted in-between the regular trips down the Humber.

More than ten years of use had taken its toll on AMY’s leeboards, and during the middle of this years extra busy sailing season the starboard leeboard “became as floppy as a spaniel’s lug”. Repairs would be difficult, and could have resulted in lost sailings, so the decision was made to make a new pair of boards and have them ready as soon as possible. Manufactured and assembled by Cyril, Dave and the crew (details in Archive section). They were about two feet longer and broader than the “old” boards, which were not quite enough at times.

AMY was invited to attend the National Waterways Festival at Wakefield on the August Bank Holiday weekend, her crew, being Cyril, Charlie, Brian and Dave Robinson, penned out of South Ferriby on the Thursday evening tide, COMRADE also penned out to head for Hull Marina for some fettling prior to the Shanty Weekend. The rain came down, once again, as AMY HOWSON sailed up the Humber and Ouse to Goole, where the mast was lowered in preparation for the canal trip. She laid up for the night at Rawcliffe Bridge, near to the ex-keel SOBRIETY. A 6 a.m. departure meant they had a quiet run up to Stanley Ferry, where the numbers of moving and moored narrow boats radically increased. Squeezing through the three and four abreast moored vessels AMY found her way to her mooring at the far end just before the flood lock, unfortunately there was only about two feet of water and they had to settle for a stern on mooring with a “giant’s stride” step off.

On Friday morning Cyril and Charlie poked around with a pole and found eight feet of water on the opposite side of the cut. A “sharpish flit” had AMY HOWSON moored on that bank and set up ready for the expected visitors, while Andy from the IWA risked a dunking to nail the “VISIT AMY HOWSON” banner to the far side of the canal bridge to attract the boat people.

Tom and Alice Humphries arrived to reinforce their efforts as a steady flow of people came, saw and went. The cash box rattled merrily and, all told, it was a very good day. Just as well because on the Sunday wind and rain arrived in force, the site turned into a porridge of straw, clay and water. However, every cloud…  as they say, during the heavier showers the crowds gathered in the hold and were captive customers for Brian on the sales desk, who gleefully reported he would soon sell out of stock.

Monday morning dawned calm and dry, which prompted the skipper to order the mast lowered and a start made for Barton Haven. A short pause at KAMA’s berth to unshackle the “old” leeboards, her owner intends to rig her for sail again, then onward to Goole where AMY moored up for a short while at 4.30 p.m.

The mast was raised and sailing gear replaced while waiting at Lowther Bridge for a pen out into the Ouse just before 9 p.m. AMY punched the tide nearly to Blacktoft where at 11 p.m. on the ebb she made a swift run down to Barton. Unfortunately the bow grounded about two feet from the jetty ladder and the crew turned in, half an hour into Tuesday!

On the Tuesday morning after returning from Wakefield, the new leeboards were shackled aboard with the help of the boatyard’s forklift. Then on the Thursday came the proof of the pudding when AMY sailed upriver in a fierce westerly as far as the green float past the Humber Bridge, before turning to run down to Hull Marina to take part in the 3rd Shanty Festival.

Saturday saw a bright sunny day and the shanty singers aboard AMY were going great-guns. Her own shanty-man, name of Charlie, had his own spot on the programme this year and collected a lot of fans. We were told, on good authority, that the price of his autograph has gone up from half a bitter to a pint! The evening was spent in the company of COMRADE’s crew and their guests Robert Simper and wife Pearl; Robert is the author of books on traditional sailing vessels.

Sunday heralded a totally different day; the wind played a marina melody amongst the rigging of the yachts, which was only drowned with the onset of heavy rain. The wind was a steady force 5, gusting 6 and forecast 7 later so, after a lot of walking about on the lockhead and dark discussions in AMY’s hold, the decision to cancel the race was taken.

As the morning progressed the rain continued to fall, the Sloop’s hold very quickly became a refuge for a considerable number of would-be chorus singers along with the professional shanty group. This proved to be a roaring success and it must be an awful long time since shanties were sung aboard an 80-year old sailing vessel in a Hull dock.



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