"Baldhu" & an Association with Terry and Martin Heard

Written By: 
Malcolm Goram
Posted on: 
13 Jan 2014

My family moved from Banstead in Surrey to Devoran, Cornwall in 1972. Dad

is a mining engineer and had spent most of his working life in Peru and

Bolivia in hardrock mining. After a short spell in London he was offered a

job at South Crofty tin mine in Tuckingmill, Cornwall and thus we moved as

a family to Devoran Creek.

 

Having owned racing dinghies on the gravel pits near the Thames, one of my

first priorities was to find myself a fishing / sailing boat to explore the

area. A marvellous man who I met early on was Bob Pizey of Penpol Boatyard.

He had a huge and leading influence in my life at that time with wise words

and generously helpful to all those who showed enthusiasm for the sea. He

knew of several vessels available in my meagre price-range and after a

short call to Terry Heard I rode over to Mylor to view a possible purchase.

 

Terry greeted me with a dismissive grunt and directed me to his son Martin

who was ragging and joking with the boatyard staff. I had (and still have)

a bland and blatant London accent and these lads were speaking loudly and

quickly in a dialect that was slowly making some sense - but I could not

understand all that was spoken. All I could do was smile stupidly and nod

where I thought appropriate and necessary. This led to the all too familiar

quizzical looks at the lack of comprehension and natural assumption that I

was some kind of fool from 'Up Country' - and they were probably right..

 

I seemed to pour cold water on their fun when I asked for Martin. He

introduced himself and we shook hands as I explained that Bob had mentioned

a boat that he had for sale. Martin beamed a smile and proudly pointed to

the waterside. At the same time his Dad's booming voice stated from behind

me "Bloody fool you sellin'-on old "Baldhu", Boy ....... she's a proper

little ship y'know! Proper 'Andsome!". It turns out to be that Martin was

selling "Baldhu" to fund his first moped, directly against his Dad's will.

"Baldhu" means 'Black Mine' in Cornish. Terry had converted this old, open

18' clinker built, double ended ship's lifeboat for his son and he was

obviously more attached to her than Martin!

 

I can not remember how much "Baldhu" was up for sale, but I eventually paid

£80 in two instalments over a number of weeks. She was gaff cutter rigged

with a Stuart Turner 8HP auxiliary, roughly offset from the boat's

centreline and fitted to port, She also sported two emense sweeps, which I

would imagine would have been from the original lifeboat equipment. The

large, substantial rudder gave over-adequate control and for the keel Terry

had caste two keel-length concrete blocks through-bolted horizontally

drilled into the keel itself. As you can imagine, this was rather like a

tank in construction beneath the waterline and well practical to run up

onto a beach. Her manoeuvrability was dire and whenever the Stuart Turner

failed (often) the hull would continue underway for a considerable distance!

 

The engine turned out to be from a portable firepump and the centrifugal

clutch drove a thick shaft and good sized three-bladed propeller though the

sterntube which was set aft to the hull in more concrete. For all this,

"Baldhu" turned out to be a good sea boat that sailed well off the wind

with her heavy cotton mainsail coming from the spanker off a fishing boat

and the foresails 'fitting where they touched'.

 

Martin and Terry Heard were full of tips and advice and I felt very

comfortable in their presence, even being invited to partake of 'Croust'

(Cornish for a break between meals) at one time which was a part of

Martin;s pasty and a cup of tea. I felt very privileged in the company of

such good people.

 

On my first trip onboard "Baldhu" one of Bob Pizey's boat builders (Peter

George) brought the boat back to Penpol with me and spent most of the time

'tickling' the carburettor to keep the Stuart running. I learnt some

interesting Cornish expressions that day from Peter.

 

Once back at Penpol there followed several months of work to strip out the

flaking tar from the bilges and removing the stringers and some frames that

were hopelessly rotten. Bob and his boatyard crew steered me through the

problems and looking back at the situation several items were sent my way

for very little money and quite a few hours of help donated including

sistering-up and replacing oak frames and showing me how to re-nail and

rove where necessary. I am now convinced that they all wanted to make sure

the boat went to sea as a reasonably sound vessel, but at the time, as a

youngster, I thought there may have been an element of restricting me to

the shoreside.

 

Where the stringers had to be replaced, Dad sourced some shaft runners from

the Robertson shaft, which guided the cage up and down the shaft at South

Crofty. These could well have been underground for 70 to 80 years before

they needed replacing. When Bob inspected the pitch pine I had been given

his eyebrows shot up and he was genuinely delighted to see the quality of

the wood. He really didn't think that he could source wood of that quality

in the seventies. I was able to use some of the wood for the replacement

stringers but was then delighted to donate the rest back into the hands of

the craftsmen at the yard. A little bit of payback for their wonderful

generosity of time, knowledge and bits and bobs that went to make "Baldhu"

a good boat.

 

The Stuart Turner never really worked properly and insisted on failing at

inappropriate times (is there ever an appropriate time for an engine to

fail on you?!) but I had many good trips out as far as the Manacles and up

the rivers and creeks sailing and fishing an abundance of mackerel, conger

and pollack. On the downside, the only true incident was whilst taking my

sister out on the water for the very first time, the forestay came adrift

and the mast tumbled out of the inadequate tabernacle and we ended up

covered in sail and running rigging. It was an easy fix re-shackling the

forestay to re-erect the mast and bringing the boat back to a sense of

order. We were soon sailing back towards Falmouth, but my sister still

recalls the time at sea when we were (in her eyes) in distress! There was

further excitement on another occasion when I had temporarily moored in

'The Gut' at Restronguet waiting for the flood tide to access Penpol; I was

idly watching a father and young son on the water's edge and my attention

was drawn further to them as I saw the son moving further into the creek.

As the water reached nearly to his knees, the tide took him off his feet

and off he went upstream and away from the shore. As I rushed to start the

Stuart Turner, he sensibly realised he could not safely battle the tide

back to the shore and so swam to the nearest buoy and intercepted it

perfectly, hanging on to the chain with his body almost horizontal out of

the water seeming to be surfing along on the buoy with the strength of the

current. The Stuart spluttered into life and I was able to come up to the

lad and swing him into "Baldhu". It took the engine all its 8HP to run us

back to a sensible place to drop off. The boy was cold and shivering,

despite it being summer. He had certainly been shocked by his experience.

As I dropped him off, all the father could do was rage at the boy for being

so foolish. I had no time to discuss the father's lack of appreciation for

the danger he had allowed his son to involve himself with, as me and the

tide where fighting a battle of strength at the time to keep her heading

into the fierce tidal stream. Anybody who knows this piece of water should

recognise what I am talking about. I finally made my way up the creek as

the tide reached its peak an hour or so later.

 

Having enjoyed my time with Terry and Martin Heard buying and preparing the

boat for the short sail round from Mylor to Penpol, I decided one day to

sail her back round to the boatyard to show them her new paint job and

modifications. Martin wasn't there. His mum informed me that the moped had

taken its toll and he and the bike had recently parted company on the

Cornish roads somewhere and he was back to the bus for transport. When

Martin and I met after that he would always ask about "Baldhu" and I would

sense his disappointment in selling her. Despite that he would never let on

and I would never gloat. We often spoke of sailing her together, but it

wasn't to be. I regret that.

 

In 1975 I left Devoran and the adventures of Carrick Roads and Penpol to

join the Royal Navy. My decision to join was quite strongly influenced by

Bob Pizey and his WWII stories in the RNVR. With moving away "Baldhu" lay

on the beach at Penpol for months on end and a burden to my parents who

ensured timely bail-outs when they received calls from the boatyard.

Finally Bob realised that I wouldn't be home often enough and he suggested

I sell her while she was in good shape. He also found a good buyer for her

and we finally parted company for good.

 

Now I am back with open gaff rigged boats and could not be happier.

Comments

Aeolus FWB28's picture

Malcolm, that was a great article thanks for posting.

What boat are you sailing now?

Regards, Steve

Malcolm Goram's picture

Many thanks, Steve,
The truth is I have too many boats at the moment! A 1920's clinker built gaff yawl "Plugger" restored in 2007 fitted with a 5HP Stuart Turner (descibed as a 'Gentleman's Dayboat'), a Conrad Natzio Oystercatcher 16 (under repair), and a Den Aston Longboat (to be refurbished). My long-term partner is "Norwegian Girl" a Skanner 19 which I've owned since 1996, again an open dayboat, heavily constructed, gaff rigged cutter with a Bukh 10hp diesel inboard (we've taken her to Morbihan in Brittany for 'La Sumaine du Golfe Du Morbihan' and the Brest and Douarnanez traditional boat festivals). But I recently found "Mallard" (CP6), which had been lovingly restored to a high standard of workmanship and imagination. Her details have been submitted at the back end of last year and some photos in the last few weeks of my first sail with her at Porthleven and Falmouth on 1st of December 13, but the bits and pieces haven't turned up on the boat register as yet. She is extraordinary for her length and does feel like a good and safe vessel. I intend to trail "Mallard" to the OGA (Trailer Section) events around the country this year, the first will be SeaFair Haven in Pembrokshire, which I can highly recommend. We also gather at Beale Park Traditional Boat Show, Ulleswater, Clywedog, Holyhead, Lechlade and are looking forward to visiting a new venue on the Broads this year if possible.
All the best,

Malcolm


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