Martha Primrose –
My name is Georgie Hare. A mother, artist, teacher and sailor living in Cornwall on a traditional wooden boat with my four daughters.
What's in a name? Martha and Primrose are the middle names of my two eldest daughters who are a continuous source of inspiration and admiration for me. The vessel, Martha Primrose, is a spectacular 50ft gaff yawl and is under refit ready for sailing season 2021. Designed by Ashley Butler and myself as a cruising yacht, her keel was laid on a cold December day in 2009. Over the course of three years she was built by the many skilled hands of Butler and Co at their former premises at Old Mill Boatyard, Dartmouth, Devon, a quaint yard nestled into the banks of a creek between the overhanging oaks.
Anyone who has had the slightest involvement of building a new wooden boat, or indeed restoring an old classic, can appreciate how all encompassing the process is. It is a task which eclipses the ability to concentrate on anything else, a dedication, sacrifice of time and finances to the point of obsession. The organic emergence of the shape and lines of the vessel at her early stages do not appear through practical craftsmanship alone, from a manual or computer programme. They are a tapestry of experiences and the result of years of amassing knowledge and absorbing the fraternity of wooden boats. Having “Salt in ya bones” does not just relate to sailing the seas, but also an inherent, ancestral understanding of what makes an attractive, well proportioned and practically excellent sailing vessel.
At times I wish I could have recorded some of the hours of conversations about boats,boat building and sailing that I have listened to or overheard throughout my lifetime in workshops, saloon and kitchen tables – the language, lexicon and details, the lilts and dialects. The oral artefacts of skills that are as old as the hills. A heritage of maritime boat building passed on by family, friends, boat builders, sailors and all the characters in between that contribute towards creating and restoring wooden boats.
Martha Primrose is a hybrid, a collective synthesis of experiences. She successfully crosses genres and styles. She is influenced by the simplicity and raw beauty of east coast of England working sail, demonstrated in her traditional ergonomic rig. The ways of the smack and barge men and their ability to handle sailing vessels short handed and often engine less in a part of the world where the “magic of the swatch ways” is powerful; the iconic image of brown sails drifting silently over the marshes, the oyster catcher calling, wistful gentleness of the creeks and expanse of big skies. There are references to Gannon and Benjamin, the well know American shipwrights from Martha's vineyard as well as the honouring of classic yachts and designers such as Claude Worth. She is not self-congratulatory or pretentious, overtly fancy or glamorous but she has an honesty and purposefulness, elegance and lines that are appealing and graceful. She is also a modern classic, celebrating classic sail from the golden era of yachting. Her attention to detail in her cherry joinery, bronze fittings and handmade Colin Frake blocks, swept laid decks, varnished deckhouse and skylights, her natural English Braid running rigging all give a head turning finish. These details together with her counter stern and elegant lines mean she would fit in at any boat festival whether traditional sail or Antigua classics.
Martha Primrose has a quality and an essence of a quality about her, she has like the Greeks, (some of the greatest sailors), might say, a strength and beauty that stands proud like a goddess. Together with her appearance, a blue ocean passage making yacht she has already proven herself to be. Her maiden voyage in 2012, from Dartmouth to St Mawes, was as though she had been on the waves before. She has sailed comfortably and safely to the Isle of Scilly several times, France, across to Spain, Portugal and into the Mediterranean and back home to Cornwall. Her 50ft length makes her a fast passage maker, with a comfortable motion in rough seas and a spaciousness below decks for staying on board and voyaging. Most remarkable of all is that for her length she is easy to manage single handed or short handed, very easy to manoeuvre and her gear is light and workable.
A wooden boat is like a tonic in our digital modern era. It almost seems astonishing, that in our times of consumerism, plastic gadgets and upgrades, a vessel like Martha Primrose can sail alongside wooden boats a hundred years old. That like the trees from which she is constructed she can endure the weather and seasons, and with care last with a durability and longevity that transcends time. The tactile natural material of wood somehow sings with the sea and the wind in harmony.
Standing on a foredeck, gazing out across the horizon, full sails set, feeling the motion of a sailing boat through your body with spray and salt in your hair is unmistakable and unforgettable. It is these pure mindful moments of meditative freedom of convention and material treadmill that can be the thrill and enjoyment of sailing. There is also the ability to feel in a home, at home whist travelling. A pride at being responsible for a thing of beauty, admired by others who appreciate craftsmanship. A sense of belonging in a sailing fraternity. A proximity to nature and the elements. A wooden boat by a pier can stand for the possibility of freedom, solitude and space set apart from restrictions of life on the land, and a light that entrances far more than a flickering iPhone.
Martha Primrose can be the facilitator of new experiences and emotions. Boats have an autonomy, independence and destiny. They provide an opportunity to seek adventure and spirit, to expand horizons and challenge senses. Martha Primrose is now lying in Gweek, at the upper reaches of the idyllic Helford River in Cornwall, a last bastion of peace and tranquillity. On a quiet spring morning it would just be possible for someone to silently slip her lines and sail down river, unnoticed, witnessed only by the magical shrill cry of the curlews, unchanged for centuries. Like many of us thinking of our lives in post covid lock down, she is patiently waiting for a new owner who is dreaming of her as their own.