is either of two types of traditional inshore sail fishing boats, the Lancashire nobby and the Manx nobby. The Lancashire nobby originated in Morecambe Bay
about 1840 and around Southport
. It subsequently came into widespread use down the north west coast of England
. The Manx nobby first appeared in the 1880s and was used around the Isle of Man
Many localities on the coast of Great Britain
developed their own type of fishing boat adapted to local fishing
and sea conditions, and the nobbies are examples of this.
The Lancashire nobby was primarily a shrimp trawler
towing beam trawls
sized for common brown shrimp
), pink shrimp
or Aesop prawn
), or flatfish
. The nobby ranged in size from about 25 foot up to 32 foot for single handed boats and from 36 to 45 foot for two man boats. They were all pole masted cutters
with gaff topsail
In the north west of England the Morecambe Bay nobby emerged about 1840 as the local type. Houldsworth illustrated them as a sloop rigged craft with a square tuck stern
A report in the Lancaster Gazette of 7th November 1840 indicates that Southport smacks were also fishing in Morecambe Bay, providing another progenitor of the nobby.
The design evolved from earlier straight stemmed, long keel boats into a beamy shallow hull with a pronounced reverse curve in the midship section and a cut away forefoot. The square tuck stern changed into an immersed elliptical counter, either by evolution or adoption of the Soutport form, the change being complete before 1880. All of the boats had wide side decks and a long cockpit, about a third of the beam in width, with low freeboard and a low rail to facilitate lifting the gear on board. These shrimp boats, about 32ft long, were fast and handy in the shallow waters of Morecambe Bay. The larger boats were called “prawners”, though they were actually used to catch pink shrimps (Pandalus montagui). In addition to the larger prawner (called "sprawner" at Morecambe) a subtype called "bay boat" developed for the holiday trade. The bay boat had a shallow draft so it could operate around Grange-over-Sands at the head of Morecambe Bay.
Crossfields of Arnside were the most prolific builders with two yards working. Later branches of the family started yards at Conway and took over a yard at Hoylake. Many were constructed by Gibson at Fleetwood, later taken over by Liver and Wilding. In particular, William Stoba (1855–1931), a foreman shipwright with Fleetwood builders, developed the design and experimented with centreboards. Other builders were working at Annan, Millom, Crossens and Marshside near Southport.
The type was adopted by fishermen from the Solway down to Cardigan Bay, and hundreds of nobbies were built. The demand for boats was driven by the English taste for shrimps, which in its turn was driven by the English sea side holiday trade, which came to prominence with the railways in the 1850's. There was no standard design of nobby, alterations were made to suit the ideas of the original owners. Two racing classes, the Royal Mersey Rivers class and the Fleetwood Jewel Class, were built by Crosfields on nobby lines. The difference between the two was that the Jewels were cutter rigged like a nobby and the Rivers had a single headsail.
Period of decline
Fishermen at Fleetwood
returning from World War I
preferred to ship with steam trawlers rather than go back to uncertain life in the nobbies. During this period of decline, engines were fitted to the remaining nobbies and the midship section was filled out. Trawling was permitted with these engines from 1922 until 1925, but by 1938 new building had all but stopped. The engines drove through the quarter in most boats, to keep the propeller well away from the net during shooting and hauling. There were a small number of motor nobbys built at Annan
after 1925, but these were purely motor boats with a center line installation and a stump mast for a derrick to handle the net.
At other nobby ports the changing economics of fishing with engines meant that fewer new nobbys were built, so that most of the nobby builders retired from trade during the Second World war. The nobbies went into gradual decline, and were eventually sold cheaply and converted to yachts
Over the last 20 years the Liverpool Nobby Association has restored to sail some 20 nobbies, which are basically Morecambe Bay inshore sail fishing boats, associated with the North West coast of England and which evolved to their present graceful form through the 19th century.
nobby was a double ended standing lug
rigged herring drifter
. It was preceded by the "nickey", which had a dipping lug rigging. Standing lugs have yards
that remain on one side of the mast
and the tack
is set close to the mast, while dipping lugs have yards that dip around the mast when going about so that the sail draws away from the mast on each tack. The Nickeys were copies of Cornish
herring drifters that visited Man. The Manx Nickey was so called as Nicholas was a common Christian name amongst the Cornish crews whose boats they copied. The change to standing lug was driven by a shortage of experienced crew. This type of craft were then commissioned by The Congested Districts Board to provide a decked fishing craft to be used in Connemara
in the 1890s.
The vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx dialect quotes the first Manx nobby in 1884 receiving its name because it was “a rale nobby little thing”. Other nobbies may have received their name in the same way, as smart sail fishing boats.
- Holdsworth E W H (1874), Deep Sea Fishing and Fishing Boats. London, Edward Stanford.
- March, E J (1969) Sailing Drifters. David & Charles Publications. ISBN 978-0715346792
- March E J (1970) Inshore Craft, Volume II Newton Abbot, David & Charles. ISBN 0 7153 4918 3
- Scott,Richard J (1983) The Galway Hooker. Ward River Press. ISBN 0 907085 58 X