Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Matthew's Coracle

My Coracle

Matthew Rusbatch

In 2006 John Baster came to my school (Weston) and told our class that he was organising a boat race. However, he explained, it was not a typical boat race but an ancient British coracle race. He assured us they were simple to build.

Our teacher suggested we build them in pairs at school but I decided to build mine at home by myself because I like a challenge. John had told us how to build one the simplest way possible so I went home and did some searching on the Internet for coracles – it didn’t come up with much, so I decided to design one myself.

The next spare weekend I had my parents and I went out to Robbs Crossing and gathered young willow. Using the dimensions John had given us, my coracle began to take shape in our back lawn. Once the basic frame was complete I left it to dry in the ground for about two weeks. I was a wee bit nervous the day we took it out of the ground in case the whole thing fell apart on me!

It sat on the back lawn for another few days before we started covering it in a lightweight canvas. This had to be pulled tight and hand stitched (Mum was good at that). About a dozen coats of old house paint later and it was almost ready for its maiden voyage. Placing of the seat was crucial for balance and a suitable paddle had to be found.

My first try out was on a calm evening at Friendly Bay – a complete disaster. The only good thing was that it was waterproof and at least it floated. Paddling was near impossible and the seat was in completely the wrong place – whose idea was this!

We quickly sorted out the problems – moved the seat forward and higher up and made a shorter paddle, then braved the strong Easterly wind at Kakanui Estuary one Sunday morning for tryout number two. Things went better this time. I was getting the hang of paddling and the balance had improved a lot with moving the seat.

After a few more touch ups and a fiery Welsh dragon painted on the stern, the day of the race had finally arrived and I was very nervous. I did not fancy the prospect of trying to get across the harbour. Other coracles began to arrive and I felt proud of my effort, it didn’t look like a walnut shell so much after all! With scrutinering complete we all took our places and the race began. I got ten metres out and the wind caught me, I was blown sideways at what seemed like 100 miles an hour and ended up on the rocks (along with some other local identities!) it was a laugh and a great day out.

After we dried off and packed up, we joined all the other sodden sailors and hearty support crews at the whiskey distillery for some welcome food and the prize giving. It was a great experience and a challenge to build and attempt to race in my coracle. It would like to thank everyone who helped me, especially my granddad and John Baster for his inspiration, to my parents and sister and all those on the day who made it a fun and safe event and to Lee-Ann for her follow-up. It would be great to have more people my age to race against next year, so give it a go, build a coracle.

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