Amazing People / Culture / St Helena

Time-lapse: The St Helena Boat Builder

CHARLIE GEORGE, 68, JAMESTOWN | Sharon Henry

Time-Lapse on the blog is a series of short story features designed to capture segments of time, life and culture through stories told by the people of St Helena

“I used to be a mason first, building houses.  Then I got into carpentry, got to like it and been doing it for over 30 years now.  The only teaching I had was at school with Dover Thomas.  The kind of carpentry I do is classed as joinery.

“It was ‘round about the late 70s, early 80’s, me and my brother Pat branched out and built boats.  That came ‘bout because one Maundy Thursday night (I won’t say his name) we asked this man if we could go fishing with him.  At first he was telling us he wanted to go fishing but he had nobody to go with him.  So we said we’d go.  But he turned us down because he said we wasn’t boatmen.

“So the next day we thought we’d build our own boat!”

A Boat Called ‘Me Ansum

“And that’s how we started off.  We built a small one first, her name was Fairy and we used to go fishing out in the deep water right down the ‘Shovel’ all ‘bout.  It was 14ft long.

“We made it out of what was called, ‘ship wood,’ wood that was used for dunnage for oil drums.  It was placed on ship decks and the oil drums were stored on top.  It was good wood some was even oak.

One of the boats Charlie built about 40 years ago, the 'Me Ansum’ currently on the wharf in Jamestown for maintenance but still an active fishing boat. Time-Lapse: The St Helena Boat Builder
One of the boats Charlie built about 40 years ago, the ‘Me Ansum’ currently on the wharf in Jamestown for maintenance but still an active fishing boat.
Time-Lapse: The St Helena Boat Builder
One of the boats Charlie built about 40 years ago, the 'Me Ansum’ still in great condition. Pictured here on the wharf in Jamestown for maintenance with its current owner (top left) Robin Moyce, aka 'Bimboo.' Time-Lapse: The St Helena Boat Builder
One of the boats Charlie built about 40 years ago, the ‘Me Ansum’ still in great condition. Pictured here on the wharf in Jamestown for maintenance with its current owner (top left) Robin Moyce, aka ‘Bimboo.’
Time-Lapse: The St Helena Boat Builder

 

“Then after we made one for Mr Norris, then we build another one for ourselves and then we built one for Mr Heseltine.  They used them mostly for pleasure boats.  The one we built for Norris, Me Ansum, Bimboo [Robin Moyce] one of the fishermen uses now to go fishing in.  We built that one with wood that came down on the first RMS when it brought a load of wood from Canada.

“Heseltine’s one the Cambria, was made out iroko, it got sent to Ascension after.”

When The St Helena Boat Builder Wants To Go Fishing

“Our second boat the Sea Rider is still down there [in the harbour] and get used for fishing, we made it out of island wood, cape yew plank and iroko.  The Fairy we lost, it broke away went adrift and we don’t know what happened to it.

“We still go out fishing sometimes even though we don’t have boats anymore.  But, nobody turns us down now when we ask to go fishing with them!”

Boat builder and all round carpenter, Charlie George, in his home workshop in Jamestown, St Helena. Time-Lapse: The St Helena Boat Builder
Boat builder and all round carpenter, Charlie George, in his home workshop in Jamestown, St Helena.
Time-Lapse: The St Helena Boat Builder

 

23 Comments

  1. Well done Charlie and Pat, sadly I am not aware of any one with the skills keeping the local Boat Building trade alive.

  2. Well done Charlie and Pat, sadly I am not aware of any one with the skills keeping the local Boat Building trade alive.

    1. We think you’re right Brian – We’ve asked around and no one makes boats anymore. Like the saying goes, ‘they don’t make ’em like they used to.’ 🙂

  3. Charlie is my brother and I’m very proud of him, a few years ago I went to St Helena on holiday and WHILE I was there he built me a chest of drawers which I bought to the UK and now the chest of drawers is with me in Spain I’very been here for eighteen years.

    1. Wow – thanks for sharing Hazel. sounds like you have a little bit of St Helena with you, something to remind you of home and family. 🙂

  4. Another lovely profile of a Saint. Thank you. How proud Charlie must be to have a boat he built 40 years ago still going strong!

  5. Love the story about Charlie George boat building. iT must be in the trade Charlie. My Dad as you know him also was a Mason ( vemo Johnson) he built my Brother freddy a boat, he could put his hand to many jobs and what a boat he built for my brother.
    Charlie you know me as we had played many games of checkers and Snooker On ascension Island and also I used to tend you with cement and concrete blocks etc etc..
    It is really great to hear that you and Pat had gone into something that turn out to be a brilliant job over all. well done. Ronnie Johnson

    1. Hi Ronnie – Must have been a lovely surprise to see an old friend pop up on your screen this morning! We’ll pass your message on to Charlie – hopefully he’ll remember you from his ‘Cension days. 🙂

  6. Brilliant article and pics as usual….and so lovely to see my cousin, Charlie George (youngest of auntie Joanna’s children) x

    1. thanks Joan – glad you liked the article. Poor, Charlie he didn’t know what was about to hit him the other day when I was walking down the Run! Amazing story though and so funny. 🙂

    1. Glad to have given you a high scoring word for Scrabble – think of us next time you play! The dreaded white ant, who lives of a diet of untreated wood has made Iroko wood popular and necessary on St Helena. Iroko has a natural resistance. 🙂

  7. So amazing, St Helena had so many high mental ability people who has gone before us and there’s no history recorded. in those days one may be couldn’t apply for a Grant not like today. As always another amazing story by WTSDN.

    1. Thanks Patrick – there must be 100’s of stories like these woven through our St Helena tapestry. We’ve playing catch-up trying to record them. 🙂

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