Vivid 24ft Gravesend built 1882

A photograph exists of her when she was a working bawley. Sometime between the two World Wars she became a yacht and was given a canoe stern, rigged as a yawl and her lands filled in so she was apparently carvel built. During that time she sailed from Gravesend.

In about 1956 she was acquired by Peter Brooks who rebuilt her on her original lines replacing every timber except her keel. She was afterwards taken to Falmouth by Peter Brooks where she was purchased by John Cann. Rigged as a traditional Bawley without a topmast.

This lively article by John Cann was originally published in Gaffers Log, March 2007.

‘Vivid’ has had a long and varied career that started with her construction on the sea wall at Gravesend c1860. It is not known who built her, but local bawley men tell me that she would have been launched by the simple expedient of pushing her over the seawall into the river Thames on a high spring tide.

‘Vivid’ is a bawley-rigged gaff cutter having a tall boomless mainsail which can be brailed up like a stage curtain when moored up, or if I get in a panic! She is of clinker construction, with the top two planks laid carvel fashion, to avoid snagging the gear. Employed mainly in the shrimping trade, ‘Vivid’ worked to meet the ever growing demands of the Victorian trippers who came downriver to Gravesend for their ‘day out’ and a shrimp tea.

In some small way our taking part in a recent ‘Oyster Match’ attempts to continue that tradition, with me trying to supply sustenance for the hungry masses. Alas, if they depended on me, they would be sorely disappointed. So a few pointers on how, or perhaps ‘how not’ to do it.

Have in your ownership, or sign on with, a traditional working boat prepared for a day’s ‘hard labour’.

Borrow a dredge and look bewildered. Someone will take pity on you and demonstrate how to use it.

Proceed to the oyster grounds with all sail set and line up outside the marker buoys. Examine what everyone else is doing and ‘crib’ mercilessly.

In the absence of any wind, drift about aimlessly and get unwisely tangled up with other larger craft.

Exchange details for later insurance claim.

Charge around deck trying to catch the crabs that escaped the rubbish sort.

Continue in this manner until end of run, then sail back up wind and start the whole business again.

This meaningless activity continues all day until time is signalled. This signal consists of the match master hoisting his old clothes out on a long oar dangled over the stern of his boat.

Prepare a large bucket of seawater for the catch. Lob out dredge to windward, remembering to tie end to boat.

Attempt to match speed of boat to speed of dredge over the grounds. How the devil do you do that?

When boredom reaches unbearable threshold, haul harvest of the sea on deck.

Sort oysters from assorted rubbish and tip back into sea (the whole contents of the dredge in our case).

Examine bucket. What only six oysters? All that effort for six oysters? Discount the idea of becoming a full time dredgerman.

Load crew and oyster bucket into inflatable dinghy and head for shore and official count.

Notice port buoyancy tube is going soggy. Order crew to sit on other side and put finger over hole.

Humiliating official count by representative of the oyster company who disputes my calculations.

Head for restaurant and note that the winner caught 80 oysters. They must have cheated. Crestfallen, seek solace in suitable libations of alcohol.

Return to ‘Vivid’ in almost totally deflated dinghy, a bit like our pride really.