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Saturday, 28 May 2011

The lerret - purpose built for fishing in Dorset

The lerret is a fishing boat that dates back to 1615 or earlier. Lerrets were built for launching from the steep shingle of Chesil Beach on the Dorset coast and some of their features are very specific and very interesting.

The boats are double ended and, therefore, do not have a transom at the rear as a standard fishing or rowing boat would have. "Why?" you may ask. Well, when launched down the steeply shelving shingle bank, the bow enters the sea at speed and is quickly in deep water. As the bow is forced up, the stern goes down and a boat with a transom stern would immediately become waterlogged and possibly even sink.

If you look at the picture of the lerret above (incidentally, this shows the stern of the boat) you will see the four oars, each of which was manned. What you can see is not the oar's blade; it is the end held by the crew. The blade is much, much thinner. Again, you may ask "Why?". Lerrets do not have rowlocks to hold the oars in position for rowing. They have 'hole-pins'. On the oars, you can see the 'holes' through which the 'hole-pins' pass. The thick section of the oar, the 'copse', acts as a counter balance and the crew are able to just let go of the oars without any fear that they will be lost; a very valuable capability whilst fishing or beaching. The copses, the pins and their method of use can clearly be seen on the picture below

Sunday 22nd May was Lerret Day in Lyme Regis. To learn more about the events of that day, lerrets and their history click here.

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