I’ve gone into how we ended up with Gwen in stomach-curdling detail, but for some time I’ve wanted to write a bit about her origins. Lord knows, one of the two readers of this thing actually cares about boats.
The thing is, I don’t know much. Most of the information we have comes from Eliot who owned her before us, odd pub anecdotes and the (amazingly still functional) web page that was made for her when El put her on sale. All the photos in this post are also from that site.
Gwen was started the same year as me, launched the same year as my sister, and she has a big ass. There the family resemblance ends. She was made from ferro cement only a short walk from where she currently floats, using a process in which both the inside and outside go on to the frame at once. This is very good for some technical reasons, but I am the wrong person to explain them, clearly.
Rich once got chatting to Nick Skeets(sp?), some sort of sailing superhero and the only person we’ve met who’s ever sailed on her. I thought Rich was just doing his usual trick of engaging the nearest bearded sea dog for in-depth geekery, but afterwards he tried to describe it to me in terms I could understand – imagine if you just had a conversation about music with Jarvis Cocker, Trish. That’s what it was like. Nick assured him that Gwen sails, contrary to rumours that the boat is dangerously tender (oh, I didn’t mention the dangerously tender, did I? Cue risk assessment addendum number 3).
The guy who built Gwen (then called “Downalong”) apparently sailed her quite a bit around here but never took her further than Falmouth, or maybe Fowey – this is the joy of getting your information third or fourth hand via the pub via your boyfriend who doesn’t have the greatest of memories. Then this boatbuilder chap apparently got horribly seasick (and/or she was dangerously tender) and she has been abandoned to houseboatery ever since.
When Rich bought the boat the inside was fully fitted with a kitchen and saloon, but we’ve destroyed a lot to fix the many many leaks and to lay her out as we want. Eliot told us that he had always called the boat “Gwendoline” after a female relative (a grandmother perhaps? My memory isn’t great either) and even though he never registered the boat as that we thought that was nice. “Downalong” sucks as a name, anyway, and we like Eliot and thought we’d keep the name in his honour. Alas, we can’t agree on how you spell it. Rich, his android phone and the Welsh think it’s Gwendolyn, but iPads, yanks and I are more familiar with Gwendoline. Either way, we call her Gwen.
If I find out anything else, I’ll let you know.