LibertyIII YH361: the career of a wooden crab boat. An exhibition of illustrations and photos at Sheringham Youth Hostel’s annual Open Day. Saturday 5th September 11am-4pm.Sheringham’s wooden fishing boats were captured in posters and postcards. The most iconic 20th century posters associated with Sheringham beach are by Thomas W Armes (1940-1949) and are on display in the Mo Museum on the East-End.Take a walk around Sheringham and see the flint-napped fishermen’s cottages on Beach Road, Westcliff, Gun Street and Beeston Road. These streets are next to the beach; look closely for evidence of the old fishing industry.
David Hewitt, from Rescue Wooden Boats, is restoring the 20th century traditional wooden crab boat LibertyIII YH361 with the aim of making her sea-worthy again.
Currently in storage, at David’s workshop in Skiffkey, Liberty is rusty and rotting. Glyn Knowles, retired fisherman and Liberty’s last owner, has been taking photos to document her restoration.Glyn Knowles is my dad and it is his collection of photographs that has inspired me to illustrate and record his memories of LibertyIII YH361. He told me that every wooden fishing boat is a unique build and that fishermen recognise each others’ boats by name and colour. LibertyIII YH361 is 6.04 metres long, 1.21 metres deep, 2.43 metres wide and weighs 2.85 tonnes. She was hand-built by Billy Mayes in a boat yard in Potter Heigham in 1961. The hull is painted black with tar. The gunwales are larch planks, painted grey with red lines. The ribs of the boat are oak timbers. The frame and planks are held together with copper nails and the keel is fastened with an iron clamp.
Glyn partnered Mr Edward Craske, who had LibertyIII built with his brother William (Billy Cutty Craske). When William died, my dad went to sea with Teddy (Lux) Craske for three years, until he retired and my dad bought the boat from him. Billy and Edward came from a long line of fishing families and were very well respected by the other fishermen.
My dad was a fisherman on the North Norfolk coat from the 1960s-1990s. The main catch was crabs but he also fished for herring, cod and lobsters. The herring were caught at dusk and the boats used to go out to sea with lamps mounted on tall crosses. The herring would rise from the bottom and swim into the drift-nets along the coast. Herring fishing season was from September-November. All the crab pots and marker buoys had to be cleared from the grounds to make way from herring catching, otherwise the nets would get caught on the marker buoys. Sometimes, herring catching was done in daytime: ‘Daylighters’. In the early 1980s herring fishing was banned.
When the easterly wind was particularly destructive my dad remembers the boats, which would normally launch from the West-End, would have to move to the East-End. The beach would get scoured out and leave a gap between the West-End slipway and sand, making it impossible to launch there.
Liberty was mainly kept on the West-End throughout her career. As a girl I remember watching the fishermen bringing their boats ashore, and carrying their catch up the gangway. It was only in the 1980s that Liberty moved to the East-End and fished there for the remainder of her time.
She was laid-up and put into storage at Blakney for some time before being sold, but she was unable to go to sea anymore. Then she was acquired by George and David Hewitt and moved to Stiffkey, where she is awaiting renovation by Rescue Wooden Boats. David and his apprentice Tom Gathercole will be restoring her this year.
Rescue Wooden Boats restores traditional wooden boats and collects oral histories, video footage and photographs from me who worked at sea.LibertyIII YH361 as she is now, awaiting restoration at Rescue Wooden Boats’ workshop, with David Hewitt who will be restoring her.
There will be an exhibition of illustrations and photos Saturday 5th September 2015 11am-4pm, as part of Sheringham YHA’s annual Open Day.