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On the slipway: Tom Curtis at Pin Mill

East Coast Gaffer, Ian Clarke, brings us reports on interesting restoration and rebuild projects. In this article, he meets Tom Curtis at Pin Mill on the River Orwell.

On a raw early March morning, I went to look at the work going on in Tom Curtis’ sheds at Pin Mil on the River Orwell. Tom is a young boatbuilder, who spent much of his training at the Pioneer Trust at Brightlingsea. Over the last couple of years he has been building wooden smacks boats, the third of which is almost complete. These are beautifully constructed craft and the latest is one plank lower, which tends to emphasise the sheer to a greater extent. She is planked in khaya mahogany on an oak and iroko backbone. Tom is keen to build more in the future. 

Also in his shed is the oyster smack ‘Fairy’ MN1 and as can be seen from the photograph, she will be very much a new boat when completed. One of the issues I asked Tom is about timber suppliers. He said this can be a problem, particularly getting timber at the right time and sometimes he had complete trunks, rather than that required for the current project.

Tom Curtis with oyster smack ‘Fairy’, MN1 Photo: Ian Clarke

Tom has been working with Shaun White at St Oysth on the restoration of ‘Shamrock’, CK200, a 45ft Aldous oyster smack. Alongside his sheds is the smack ‘Hyacinth’, which Tom maintains for the owner but gets to sail her too. Inside his shed was a very early Brian Kennell 12’ GRP smacks boat, tender to ‘Hyacinth’, now having a restoration. Another interesting craft is a 12’ Norwegian sailing dinghy Tom has had for many years. There was even a Mersea Duck Punt having it’s bottom painted. 

Away from the Pin Mill yard, Tom has continued the rebuilding of the clinker bawley ‘Lilian’ and also an East Coast Gaffers favourite, ‘Deva’, the Crossfields of Arnside prawner, converted to a yacht and raced for many years by the late Jon Wainwright. Out on the pontoon was the bawley ‘Saxonia’ which Tom has been restoring. I had an invite from the owner to look over her, but the tide was so high access onto the pontoon was impossible.

Further information can be found on Tom’s website.
If you know of some interesting ongoing East Coast restoration project, or interesting boat awaiting a rebuild, contact Ian by email.

Words and pictures: Ian Clarke