Kalk Bay Memories: The Man Who Built Boats
By Cherry Swinford
This is such a joy for me to tell you what I recall of these happenings in my youth.
I have moved to Beachcomber Bay Complex, Kommetjie after living on a farm in Douglas for 40 years.
I am 75 years old now and happy living in this area where I grew up.
I have a twin sister, Mary & a brother Bob. We grew up in 6 Ave Fish Hoek during the war.
We had to use black-out curtains at night.
My Dad – Ernest Blain worked in Simonstown at the docks repairing warships. Noone but residents were allowed into Simonstown during the war. My Dad knew Nuisance very well.when he visited the docks with his sailor friends.
In 1943 the family moved to Diep River & my Dad started building boats on Kalk Bay Harbour.
His contract was with a Mr Jameson of Rondebosch area & the purpose of the boats was to catch sharks to remove the livers to use for making liver oil for soldiers to prevent night blindness. A smaller shark about 1 m long.
These boats were built on the same pattern as fishing boats, but much bigger. They were all made of wood with caulked seams.
They all had names of buck – Bontebok, Rheebok, Steenbok, Blesbok, Waterbok.
The early boats were built & launched off the slipway next to the café (which was quite small still)
The hull & deck were completed & then the finishing off done after the launching.
Then my Dad built an all-steel welded boat. The first in this country – also on Kalk Bay harbour.
It was built on a space above the pier and Dad had an office & workshop on the harbpour just below where he was building. This steel boat could not be launched on the small slipway so it was towed to the edge of the harbour wall where Dad did the finishing touches on the boat. It stood on girders.
For the launching longer girders were put underneath & extended over the water. With many cranes & cables the girders were tilted & the boat slid into the water. What a cheering there was !!
One of the jokes was that many of the workers then went & celebrated !
Later the girders overlapping the edge of the harbour had to be sawn off to let them fall into the sea. One of the workers went to do the job with a welding torch & he happily sat on the outside of the girder. Dad & many others saw what was happening but wanted to see the result. Lo & Behold the man fell into the sea with the girder but came up laughing at his own stupidity !
We three children were privileged to spend many hours on the Kalk Bay Harbour. When we moved to Diep River we were moved to Wynberg High School. A couple of years later the family moved to Noordhoek. Mary & I travelled to Wynberg by train each day. When we stayed for sport we used to get off at Kalk Bay walk across the beach to the harbour & wait to go home with Dad.
It was fun watching the boats coming in with their catches, walking along the pier & doing homework in Dad’s office. We also met the coloured folk – the fishermen , those who washed the decks down & the women who cleaned the fish – with their characteristic language. eg “Ek wat Elizabeth Cole is…”
Dad built his first boat in Gordons Bay when Mary & I were 6 yrs old. We moved there when Dad was commissioned to build a pontoon at Gordons Bay Harbour. He built the boat in his spare time. Mom, Mary & I spent many afternoons picking up the most beautiful shells on the beach.e.g. Nautilus
When we were at Diep River he built a boat for a Rhodesian man. I used to spend hours under the hull playing with hammers & nails.
For my 13 birthday I got a toolbox with tools. Today I am still a wood worker.