Peter Boat to Edwin's Boat: Dark Age boat still floats
An unexpected message from history
In Smylie's Book "Fishing Boats" (Traditional Fishing Boats of Britain and Ireland- Michael Smylie, Waterline Books, ISBN 1840370351) is a description of a boat once used on the Thames which might well have been a survivor from a thousand years ago or even earlier. This boat type was the Peter Boat whose legendary origins were the ferrying of passengers between the Saxon London cathedrals of St Paul's and St Peters by what is now Westminster. Latterly in the second half of the Millenium they were handy twelve-foot boats used mainly for fishing.
Being double-ended they were supposed to be very handy under oars in the tidal waters of the River Thames on the unembanked waters and amongst the many creeks. Clinker built of that length and looking as they did from old prints:
Peter Boat images taken from the NMM collection
They looked for all the world like an older version of my own boat:
If it is possible to get modern boats that seem very similar to older types which no longer exist then several questions about handling, capacity and possible function could be answered to some extent without the expense of building a reconstruction. Provided that minimal interpretation caveats are followed and the need to float something seaworthy is fulfilled then modern boats can work in this role. Certainly when I row or even sail my own dinghy, especially if I fish from it, I am experiencing something, no matter how transient, of what it was like to be out there on the water three hundred or even 1200 years ago.
Just to stretch coincidence even further. My paternal family seem to have lived in County Cork for many years before coming to London in about 1848 and settling in Lambeth. I like to toy with the thought that they might have been currach and galley sailors in Ireland and maybe found work in the alien environment of London as boatmen on the Thames where at least navigation and fishing would have been familiar.
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