Eela Boat "Columba" Lying Essex
Classic Boat Magazine (No 111)
THE SLIM, SPEEDY working boats of the Shetlands have long inspired modem designers ----- But the master of Shetland spin-offs must be lain Oughtred.
Norfolk boatbuilder Frank Schofield has long been a fan of Oughtred's. and his first venture on returning to wooden boatbuilding was with a modified version of Iain's 19ft 4in (5.89m) epoxy-ply Caledonian yawl (see CB79).
The new 16ft (4.9m) Eela Boat is a development from the Caledonian yawl, but Frank has re-incorporated some of the features of the original boats to produce a recreational craft with traditional working boat features.
Striking a balance between the Oughtred design philosophy of a fast, maneuverable and easily-rigged boat built using the latest construction methods, while at the same time retaining much of the flavour of the original Shetland model, is what the Eela Boat is all about. Indeed, the name 'eela' was the old Shetland word for the stone anchor used by a small boat when fishing inshore.
Oughtred, a dinghy racing champion, maximised speed in the Caledonian Yawl by fuller ends and flatter rise of floor than the old sixareens and foureens, and by putting the bulk of the lateral resistance into a centreboard. Frank has followed suit with the Eela Boat and this makes her fast - with a powerful 90sqft (8.36m2) balanced lug rig, she will pick up to hull speed in a Force 3-4 like a sports car. As well as being speedy, this hull shape makes her highly manoeuvrable. As with most single-sailed luggers, she does need to be reefed early - three rows of reefs are provided -and goes much faster when not overpowered.
The Eela Boat's low-speed manoeuvring is good, though like all luggers she loses way rapidly if sailed too tight on the wind. In the quest for speed, Frank has put in plenty of ways to control the shape of the sail: a down-haul for luff tension, clew outhaul to control sail camber, and a bowline to control the twist.
So much for the sailing rig, but what about when the wind dies? When long-lining for herring the men of the north used what they had - muscle - and the Eela Boat pays due tribute to this aspect of her ancestry. She can comfortably be rowed by one or - by removing the mast and replacing it with a second oarsman on the fore thwart - two. In sheltered waters under oars, four will fit when all the spars are removed. Oars and other fittings stow easily within the length of the boat, making the transfer from sail to oars swift.
Frank has dispensed with rowlocks and opted for the traditional ruth, kabe and humbliband i.e. thole pin, sacrificial oak strip and retaining twine, just as found on the gunwales of the old boats.
A small outboard motor can be fitted in a fixed position to the Eela Boat on the starboard side. Steering with the tiller, she can be operated by a man standing, in good working boat fashion. The outboard stows alongside the centreplate housing so as not to affect trim.
The EeIa Boat was easily launched and recovered and - though we were three -anyone with a winch on their trailer can do the job alone. Once ashore, she can be lifted and carried by two men without any problems.
Columba is a sweetie! Superbly built and maintained, she is in excellent condition and draws admirers whenever she is launched.
With her easily handled rig, centreplate and oars she is ideal for ditch crawling - and would almost float on wet grass with the centreplate up.
Her retired owner is no longer as agile as he was when he commissioned her and is now going to concentrate other forms of enjoyment.