I read with interest the Sail Review article by Robert Simper in the May 2016 edition of Sea Breezes, in particular the later paragraphs regarding sailing cobles, and with this in mind, I write the following.
A Sailing Coble Festival is being organised at Bridlington in a joint venture by the Bridlington Sailing Coble Preservation Society and The Coble and Keelboat Society, in co-operation with the Bridlington Harbour Commissioners, over the weekend of 13th-14th August this year. The Festival will bring together the largest gathering of sailing cobles anywhere in the British Isles in recent years. As the tides are favourable over the weekend, high water being 1331hrs on the Saturday, sailing will take place on both days of the Festival - weather permitting - and advantage taken of the ideal sailing conditions in the beautiful Bridlington Bay.
The four locally based sailing cobles regularly moored in Bridlington harbour during the summer months; Three Brothers, Imperialist, Madeleine Isabella, Gratitude; will be joined by the two new cobles built by John Clarkson and Joe Gelsthorpe in 2014; Free Spirit and Misnomer. In addition, Christina from Mevagissey and Grace from Staithes have been confirmed as attending, along with the doubleender Mavis from Henley on Thames. Three further coble owners have also expressed an interest in bringing their craft to Bridlington and confirmation is expected within the next few weeks. There is also a possibility that the North East Maritime Trust (South Shields) may attend with the sailing coble Royal Diadem II and one of the 40 foot restored seine net keelboats, which would be an added attraction.
All the cobles will be moored alongside the Harbour Road at Bridlington, down by the Harbour Heritage Museum; which of course will be open to visitors with free admission as usual and will be on full view from one of the busiest areas for visitors around the harbour. So, as one can see, there will hopefully be a good turnout of these traditional inshore craft for coblemen, enthusiasts and visitors alike to view. There has, in fact, been a good response to the Festival from right along the ‘coble coast’; many fishermen have spoken about travelling to the resort to savour the atmosphere and nostalgia of seeing so many sailing cobles in one place.
Once a familiar sight at all coastal villages and ports from the Humber to the Tweed, the sailing coble was the mainstay of the inshore fishing industry; also being used for piloting and foying during the 1800s and through to the early 1900s until engines were fitted just after the First World War. Many sailing cobles were converted to motor and continued to work for further years. These were the forerunners of the motor cobles built in more recent times by the specialist coble builders such as Clarkson (Whitby), Dawson (Seahouses), Goodall (Sandsend), Hopwood (Flamborough), Harrison’s (Amble), Lowther (Whitby).
Sadly, the decline of the coble for fishing and potting in recent years has resulted in the virtual loss of this traditional type of working boat. Due to a number of cobles being restored to former glory by enthusiasts, the opportunity to see once again fine examples of one of the classic inshore working boats of the British Isles will be a sight not to be missed.
Obviously, there is still time for any sailing coble owner who would like to be part of this spectacular event to make their interest known to the organisers and come along to Bridlington. It has the makings of a fantastic weekend.
PAUL L ARRO