I wasn't sure what to expect when I got a phone call asking whether we sold skiffs and similar boats. Obviously a lot depends on condition and value, whether a boat would appeal to our client base etc. However with Willow XX we were clearly dealing with something rather special, built for a boating enthusiast who was originally based on the Thames at Bray where the family also had a slipper stern launch. Once they moved house they kept just the one boat, a rather attractive, roomy Thames gig which had been specially built by David Winspear of Whitby in North Yorkshire.
He worked by eye. This lovely Thames-style skiff was made without plans or much by way of power tools, which to the layman is jolly close to magic. "Where I was apprenticed we used to get orders for a dozen or so skiffs for boating lakes in parks and so on, so I have had lots of practice," he said.
And David made it from the tree - he bought a trunk of European larch and had it sawn into planks by a friend. The frames are made of oak. Traditional copper boat nails hold it all together, though David did come around to using some stainless steel screws in his latter years as a boatbuilder.
Willow XX comes complete with two sets of oars (though three oarsmen can row by moving a thwart) and the longest boat hook I have seen in a while. The latticed seat back is a joy to behold and will keep two non rowing passengers very comfortable while two or three oarsmen (of women) keep the gig moving along.
At the bow and the stern are two areas with canvas covers under which to stow one's tent and other items necessary for a camping trip. A full length cover keeps the boat dry and dust free when not in use and there is even a net for hanging the gig from rafters to keep it off the floor in storage as well as a wheeled trolley both items being included in the sale. Two sets of sculls are included and three sets of brass rowlocks as well as replacement aluminium rowlocks.
David has made an enormous variety of boats, including a replica Viking ship, a Saxon boat with raised ends, and local traditional boats such as cobles and double enders, though the demand for commercial vessels in wood has dropped off in the last few years. He also builds 27ft gigs for both local rowing clubs, Scarborough and Whitby Fishermen, which is a tribute to his skills as they are deadly rivals.
We have evidence of a Thames licence for 2010 but it appears not to have been placed on the boat at all and it is hard to say whether the boat was ever really used. To view ashore at our Beale park boat store in West Berkshire please call the office on 01491 578870.