I first saw a ‘Solent Galley’ in 1994 when I took part in the Amateur Rowing Association ‘Thames Tour’. These elegant coxed fours were of clench timberconstruction (clinker) with fixed seats and the oar gates mounted on the sheer strakes. They were built in 1935 and at least five of them remain in service.
In 1994 the leader of the Solent Galley party was Pat Sherwen, a great enthusiast and supporter of rowing who has since passed away. However, the ‘Pat Sherwen Rowing Trust’ was formed and the Solent Galleys are maintained in good condition with the trust members touring the waterways of Britain in good fellowship.
Two crews of the Trust members (nine men and one lady) calling themselves the ‘Southsea Shovellers’ stayed at my pub as their base for rowing the Suffolk estuaries and it was the turn for the Deben on Mayday.
Mayday eve party at the Blaxhall Ship was made merry by the excellent ‘Booze Brothers’ (50s/60s rock & roll and blues) and the DRC members who attended had a good time with John and Chris Churcher pleased to meet friends from their time at Southsea Rowing Club.
Dawn on Mayday Morn was glorious with the sun rising out of a calm sea. DRC had mustered a crew of five to scull an Explore quad to Felixstowe and we were launched and away by 07.30. The last of the ebb assisted our passage to Felixstowe in 90 minutes. Winkles Cafe provided first class bacon sandwiches and ‘full English’ for the more hearty appetites. Breakfast was enjoyed as we watched the new tide become a strong flow in our favour for the return journey.
The Shovellers boated from the Bawdsey side and our boats met in the middle at 10.00am as scheduled. Sadly, the glorious morning had become grey and overcast with slight rain. However, this did not dampen anyone’s spirit and the trip to Waldringfield in company on the calm Deben was much enjoyed.
The heavy rain of Mayday on the Deben conveniently coincided with our crews sampling the ale in the shelter of the ‘Maybush’. We emerged at the end of the rain to complete the last leg of our cruise. Sue Stockton and Niall Higby accepted invitations to swap places with Shovellers and by their accounts the fixed seat sweeping was much enjoyed. The fast rising tide bore us up to Woodbridge with little effort where celebrations took place at the Anchor.
The Shovellers caught the first of the ebb for their return to Bawdsey and the end of their week of adventures.