Pilot Gig

The next model on the stocks was an Isles of Scilly Pilot Gig.

These boats were renowned for their seaworthiness and were often to be found a hundred miles or so out in the Atlantic looking for ships to pilot up the English Channel. Pulling six oars they are very fast boats. I believe originally they pulled eight oars and were on occasion used for smuggling and could outrun the Customs Revenue cutters. An Act of Parliament later restricted them to six oars.

The boats are of very light weight and can readily be carried to the water by the crew.

Gig racing is a very serious sport to this day in the Isles of Scilly with both mens and ladies crews representing the individual Islands,and the competition is very fierce. Racing of these boats also takes place off the Cornish Coast from the from the Lizard Point round to St Ives.Among some of the older ones I saw still racing on my cruise to the Scillies in 1979 were :- "Slippen" Built 1830, "Golden Eagle" Built 1879 out of Bryher, "Shah" Built 1873 out of St Agnes.

The boat I chose to build was "Bonnet".

She was originally built in 1830 and hails from St Martins and is still raced to day.She is 28ft long with a beam of 4ft 8ins. During her life she has twice had her beam taken in and the figures quoted are as she is today.She is short by modern boats as 32ft seams to be the favoured length but still with a 4ft 8ins beam.

I have also built a model of "Czar" another 28ft boat built in 1879 which hails from Bryher. This was built for a friend and crew member when we cruised the Scillies in 1997 who on presenting me with a drawing of a Gig said "Here John I wouldn't want to see you idle over the winter".

The boats are of Clinker construction planked with narrow leaf Cornish Elm on American Elm frames and keel. The Thole pins are of English split Oak. They all have a 3 inch rocker in the keel at either end. The boats are very flexible which I have heard said gives them there remarkable sea keeping qualities. Before the days of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution they were often used by the Scillonians as a lifeboat and their local knowledge of their notorius waters, being a graveyard for ships has helped save many a seamans life.

The models were constructed over a mould of 6mm ply frames infilled with Balsa wood and shaped to the frames to make a solid plug, A slot for the keel was cut along the length and the bow and stern were slotted to take the stem and stern post. The stem,keel and stern post were cut in one piece from 4mm Marine ply from plans which I had redrawn to a scale of 5/8th inches to one foot giving a scale length of 18 inches.

The keel was fitted into the slot as a light push fit. There are twelve planks to each side of the boat and the stations were then divided in to 12 equal divisions between the keel and the gunwale to give the profile of the planks. Before I started planking I removed the keel and gave the plug about six coats of marine varnish and when hard built up a layer of beeswax to prevent any glue sticking the planks to the plug.

Strips of 1mm ply were cut and formed over the stations on the plug and the plank marks transferred the strips. The planks were made from 0.5mm ply obtained from a model shop. The ply in sheet form had the stations marked on it in a series of parallel lines from stem to stern. A horizontal line representing the keel was drawn at right angles to the stations and this line would represent the keel side edge of the garboard strake. Each strip was laid at its station and plank width transfered,and the marks faired in thus giving the required profile of the planks. Two sheets were marked out so that each side could be planked up together to keep the model symmetrical. The next plank up had 1mm added to the width to allow for the overlap of the clinker construction. when the hull was completely planked the hull was lifted off of the plug.

The hull was the pulled in to the correct width and secured with one or two strips of sellotape to ensure it kept its form. The Frames were made up of four narrow strips of 0.5mm ply and laminated up using super glue at the same time holding to shape over the corresponding station on the plug. Again two frames were made for each station. The edges of the frame were the sanded to width. I started with the centre frames as these were the easiest ones to position square to the keel. Two small bits of ply were cut to the width between the frames to ensure that subsequent frames were correctly stationed. The frames were super glued into position.

The transom was cut to pattern and glued to the stern post. The gunwales were made from 1/8th square spruce strip and glued in place. From the same material the risings were fitted. Care had to be taken here as the thwarts rest upon them so they had to be the same height both sides of the model. The bottom boards, thwarts, knees, breast hook etc. were all made from 0.5 or 1mm ply. The Thole pin strengtheners were made from small section Spruce and sanded to shape before gluing. the thole pins were made from cocktail sticks and sanded down to size in a power drill.

Because of the intricate detail of the inside of the boat I decided than the best way to paint it would be to use spray cans of car paint. The areas not to be painted were masked of and the whole of the model sprayed with white primer followed by white top coat. Enough coats were given to give sufficient density to the paint.

The masking tape was removed from inside of the boat and then sprayed with several coats of clear lacquer.

The outside of the boat was painted in a similar manner. The final act was to mount it on a plinth of varnished Mahogany.

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