A Fine Little Dinghy – TTG

I found this gentleman’s YouTube channel a few days ago and have been fascinated by his videos ever since. He’s been doing these videos for years, so there’s plenty to watch. Roger Barnes is a rural architect living, until recently, in Somerset in southwest England. He seems to have recently moved to a flat somewhere in Brittany, France. Whether this is a permanent move or a second home, I don’t know.

In these videos, he’s working on his wooden Ilur dinghy, the Avel Dro, during “lock-down” in early 2020 due to the pestilence, as Roger calls Covid-19. I found the details of his boat’s design and how he fitted her out to be fascinating. And the pine tar. Oh how I long for the smell of pine tar. I haven’t used it since I last tarred the base of my touring skis. Roger also goes on about the countryside, old things and simple things. There’s a bit of Thoreau in him. He talks of the need to pull together for each other in this time of pestilence rather than whining about the loss of his freedom to sail the Avel Dro wherever he pleases. I like the man. I like the sailor and I like his boat. I hope you find his videos as enjoyable and soothing as I have.


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11 Responses to A Fine Little Dinghy – TTG

  1. Barbara Ann says:

    TTG, re your reference to Thoreau:

    In the era of the pestilence I’ve repeatedly seen in the Lügenpresse Thoreau’s example held up as something to be admired. The benefits of abstinence from societal concerns facilitating quiet contemplation of one’s relationship with the State. Even his self-imposed isolation at Walden pond as analogous to State imposed ‘quarantine’ and a model of ‘social distancing’. All such portrayals are obscene and an utter travesty of Thoreau’s core message; the paramount importance of “freer and less desponding spirits” resisting curbs on their liberty at all costs.

    Were he alive today, I am certain Thoreau would be appalled by the imminent threat of the ‘unvaxxed’ being “put out and locked out of the State by her own act” for having the temerity to stick to their principals. As it is, I am increasingly starting to think that my own “proper place” may be a prison.

    Roger’s fondness for an older and simpler life may have echoes of Thoreau, but “..the need to pull together for each other in this time of pestilence rather than whining about the loss of his freedom..” has none that I recognize.

    • TTG says:

      True, Roger’s recognition of a duty to pull together for each other is certainly not in consonance with Thoreau’s penchant for anarchism. At least Thoreau stayed true to his anarchist convictions and went to jail for refusing to pay his back taxes in opposition to the Mexican-American War, the Fugitive Slave Act and slavery. He would have stayed there if someone did not pay his taxes for him. On the other hand, he was instrumental in turning John Brown into an abolitionist martyr, an act which ignited a moral spark, a duty to pull together for each other, which contributed to the Civil War. So perhaps Thoreau tempered his anarchist convictions with his moral convictions.

      I did learn today that Roger performed his own act of civil disobedience. Rather than being a dutiful Englishman, he has permanently moved to Brittany in disgust over how things are changing in the UK. However, he still pulls together for his new neighbors without the whining.

      • Barbara Ann says:


        I owe you an apology, it was rude of me to nit pick your post. Having seen Thoreau thoroughly misused elsewhere in the recent recent past I guess I was triggered.

        I can see why you find Roger’s videos therapeutic. I admire his advocacy of traditional methods, both in farming and boating. He is clearly addressing a predominantly urbanized audience and I hope his videos give pause to some of them re how their shopping habits impact our landscape. Sadly, when I read that the biggest owner of farmland in the US is now Bill Gates, I have to think that people like Roger are p*****g into a hurricane.

        The gybe system on Avel Dro is, what I would call “exciting”, not come across that before. The soft shackles are something I’ve come across, this year in fact, when I started crewing for a friend on his traditional 30′ gaff cutter. This guy is a recently retired professional fisherman with passion for the sea and everything associated with it. It is a privilege to sail and race his beautiful boat, though I’m pleased the maintenance is not my responsibility.

        Happy sailing TTG, I hope you talk yourself into doing the Everglades Challenge next year.

  2. Fred says:


    You might find this up your alley as well. Antique furniture repair from a gentleman up in Maine.

    • TTG says:

      I enjoyed that Fred. I’ve done some repairs like that, but I never used hide glue. I like his techniques. I have an old drop leaf mahogany (probably) table in the cellar that I’ll get around to some day. I’ll be watching more of this guy before I tackle that table.

      That nylon faced hammer he used is similar to one my younger son made in his intro engineering class at RIT. It was a metal shop class on steroids. His hammer has set screwed replaceable nylon and brass faces and a knurled metal handle rather than wood. A hardened tip metal punch is stored in the handle. It’s pretty slick.

  3. Deap says:

    My own favorite quote I would always look for in the back of a Unitarian hymnal:

    Thoreau, Henry David. Walden; or Life in the Woods. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1854.

    I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary.

    I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. —

  4. mcaohen says:

    Great find.thanks for the link.
    The rope with the loop and knot to hold the sail is a good idea.

  5. English Outsider says:

    Nice bloke, TTG. Tried to guess where he came from. Probably originally from the North, or had spent some time there. Am I right in thinking you’d have to be pretty skilful to sail that boat in anything like rough seas?

    How he got the boat righted in the incident he spoke of I can’t imagine. If the old tub I used to sail had done that it’d have been swim for the shore and that’s that. Or cling on and hope to get washed in. There’d have been no righting it. It was a little longer than his, clinker built, and very much heavier. Maybe I should have put in some airbags too.

    Are you going to adopt those “soft shackles”? Must say, they looked appealing – but I’d rather clip something on and know it was there to stay.

    • TTG says:

      I thought of you and your Gransfors axe when I started watching Roger’s videos. With the right amount of buoyancy, even a small open boat can handle some rough seas. Grand Banks dorymen handled some truly rough conditions in their open dory boats. A load of cod actually often served as stabilizing ballast.

      Roger seems to err on the side of prudence, but his boat did survive two complete swampings in one crossing betwixt the beach and a bar in angry winds and confused waves. His ample buoyancy along with a bailing crew member kept the Avel Dro afloat. His electric pump also worked overtime. It must be one hell of a pump.

      I like the soft shackles for two reasons. I do not relish getting cracked in the head by a sturdy bronze shackle or wooden block. Roger’s boomless lug sail interests me for the same reason. And I’m also a cheap bastard. I much prefer making something rather than buying it. I have the plans for a sailing canoe designed by Iain Oughtred. He’s a great advocate for simple solutions eschewing bronze or stainless steel fittings whenever possible. He even provides patterns for various cleats to be carved from a suitable wood. It’s almost like the man knows me.

  6. Mark Logan says:

    He brought to mind Saint-Exupery, every pilot’s favorite author, with the possible exception of Ernest Gann. A kindred spirit. When approached about getting into the newer models of airplanes coming down the pike, the old open-cockpit pioneer penned::

    “The future anthill appalls me and I hate the robot virtues. I prefer to be a gardener.”


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