Extracts Winter 2019

 

Olympics, shipwrecks, sail training, the High Seas Fleet...

 Hamish Hardie sails in the 1948 Olympics:

Life in the UK in 1948 was still much affected by the War. There was food and clothes rationing, and travel abroad was virtually impossible. There were no gap years for students.

     There were other differences. The Official Report of the Games was sponsored by Abdulla cigarettes, and it is interesting to see how many officials smoked. Horlicks was made available to every competitor in London, but I do not think much of it filtered down to Torquay. Nor do I remember getting the sponsored two pairs of Y-fronts.

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Lord Dufferin heads north:

Down went the heavy hawsers into the sea, up fluttered the staysail, then, poising for a moment on the waves with the startled hesitation of a bird suddenly set free, the little creature spread her wings, thrice dipped her ensign n token of adieu and glided like a phantom into the north. Ten minutes more, and we were the only denizens of that misty sea. It was with the deepest regret I watched the fog close round the magnificent corvette, and bury her and all whom she contained-within its bosom.

     Our own situation, too, was not altogether without causing me a little anxiety. We had not seen the sun for two days; it was very thick, with a heavy sea, and dodging about as we had been among the ice, our dead reckoning was not very much to be depended upon. The best plan I thought, would be to stretch away at once clear of the ice, then run up into the latitude of Jan Mayen.

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The life of a far from simple sailor:

The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava was born Frederick Temple Blackwood in 1826. When he was fifteen his father died and the boy inherited the title of Baron Dufferin and the 18,000-acre family estate in Ulster.  He was now one of the major landowners in Ireland, and grew up strikingly handsome, immaculately dressed and with a carefully-cultivated charm.  One of his mother’s influential friends arranged for him to become a courtier to Queen Victoria, who enjoyed his company, commenting that he was 'much too goodlooking and captivating'.  It was the start of a lifelong friendship. 

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A storm and a shipwreck:

At the moment of waking, the boards under his shoulder twitched like a thrower's arm and flung him out of the bunk. He brought up with a crash against a bulkhead. There was shouting on deck, the frenzied rattle of canvas. The Edward and Rose gave a sort of struggling wallow and fell sideways off a wave. Jones crawled up the companion ladder, hauled the hatch open and clambered out. 'Shut that!' yelled a voice in the dark. A wall of icy water smacked him in the chops. The hatch slammed.

The lugger's deck was a pale leaf writhing in the grip of the black sea. Up she went; up, up, a long hill of water. As she came to the summit, Jones heard a rumble and saw a gleam of white. The crest burst like a bomb against the lugger's windward bow, and another wall of water came down the deck. She shuddered, and shook herself, and started down the long slope into the trough. A body crashed into Jones. The hatch opened, sang a brief bottleneck note in the wind, then slammed. In a moment of quiet he heard the rattle of the bolt. 'Oh Denzil, you bastard!' roared Pembarra. 'Come back, wait'll I tells your mother on you!'

But the hatch stayed mute and closed.

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Peter Cardy writes a brief history of sail training:

Twenty-first century sail training is a form of seafaring where the voyage is more important than the destination, the crew is also the high-value cargo, training is less important than living the experience, the sailors know little about sailing, effort is more prized than efficiency, labour-saving devices are studiously ignored, language is archaic, obsolete ship designs are prized, rope is everywhere, sails are the main propulsion, and every voyage makes a loss.

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Samson Evans sails on a Thames barge:

Essex, innit. Girls with rococo nail jobs and lads on the run from the law after a little contretemps with a cash machine, a roundabout and some pills. So at the end of the road from, well, Billericay, home of Dicky, the town of Maldon comes as a bit of a shock. There is a charming High Street crowded with jettied buildings. At the bottom of the hill, past the church with an odd little fleche growing out of its tower, the river Chelmer flows, a crowd of curlews yodelling on the polished chocolate mud running down to the water. Along the southern bank of the river runs Hythe Quay. Alongside the quay the barges lie, gigantic, tied up two and three deep.

     These are not your boring old Dutch barges, with wheelhouses and the skipper's Daihatsu on the wheelhouse roof. These are proper spritsail barges, around a hundred feet long, displacing some hundred tons, crammed together in the muddy creek like whale-sized sardines in a gigantic tin. Their masts and sprits scratch the drifting Essex clouds. They have beautiful champagne-glass sterns, names in gold: Kitty, Xylonite, Hydrogen, and on one, bright, beautiful, brand-new, Blue Mermaid.

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Alan Stoney remembers an old boathouse:

     In January, after the oyster dredging season had finished and the boat had been cleaned of the sand and mud that in spite of our best efforts had made its way into every crevice of the bilge, it was time to turn attention to the overhaul of the lobster gear. The light for this work came through the open doorway in the end gable of the boathouse, from which a modest concrete slip faced across the strand that at half tide dried out between the inner islands further to the east. When chill easterly winds blew unchecked across the strand they made the shed almost uninhabitable. An old cooking-oil can had been converted into a sort of brazier in which smouldered a handful of turf sods. It drove out the worst of the cold, but filled the boathouse with a bitter smoke.

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Nicholas Jellicoe follows a group of schoolchildren on an excursion in Scapa Flow:

Saturday, 21 June was the summer solstice, a perfect Orkney day, blue skies, light breeze.

To the Imperial Defence Minister, 21st June

In the English papers, I have today perceived that... the Government intends to use the interned ships as an object of trade... my feelings of patriotism and honour cannot accommodate themselves to such treatment of the interned German Fleet. In this view of the matter I am assured of the support of all the officers of the Squadron.

Rear Admiral von Reuter.

 In the Flow, only a few British ships were left behind. Moving among the German ships were a number of guard trawlers, plus the two Admiralty tugs and the water tender Flying Kestrel. On this Saturday, Flying Kestrel was picking up a group of Stromness schoolchildren for an outing on the Flow.

     At around 1000 the final signal was hoisted on Emden:

To all Commanding officers and the Leader of Torpedo Boats. Paragraph eleven. Confirm.

The hoist looked innocent enough. But behind the signal lay its meaning: to execute the scuttle.

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Andrew Linington examines the Costa Concordia affair:

The capsize of the cruise ship Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy in January 2012 resulted in the deaths of thirty-two people. In the scramble to attribute blame for the accident, the media found a convenient pantomime villain in Captain Francesco Schettino, the ship’s master, who was repeatedly dubbed ‘Captain Coward’ and ‘Captain Calamity’ in the acres of headlines that followed the disaster.

     Captain Schettino effectively took the sole legal responsibility for the incident, which occurred a century after the Titanic disaster and echoed many of its features. He is now more than two years into a sixteen-year sentence, which was upheld by an Italian appeals court in May 2016.

     Important questions continue to be raised, however, about the fairness of the trial that saw Schettino convicted of multiple manslaughter.

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Jon Tucker meditates on animals at sea:

Arthur Ransome’s Sinbad captured generations of young hearts when as a feeble kitten he was scooped from a floating crate in the North Sea. Fiction often parallels fact, and during our years of wandering oceans, we have met many a ship’s cat which has managed to endear itself to a boating family as a scrawny waif, mewing feebly on the dockside. Each one is a tale in itself - not always with a happy ending, as nine lives tend to get used up rapidly at sea.

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Ian Nicolson reminisces about a good client:

As Joe watched he saw a seaman tilt a wooden box in the middle of the boat to reveal a six-cylinder Leyland diesel - a marinised version of the engines in his lorries. Immediately he was down the quay steps and in the launch, discussing the quirks of Leyland diesels. The conversation turned to money, and Joe asked how much the launchman made on a good day. The launchman told him. Joe added twenty-five per cent to the sum, and asked if that would charter the boat for the whole of the next day for him and his family and no-one else.

      The launchman agreed. Next day the sun shone, the wind was never over F2, and the mackerel committed suicide in quantities. As the launch headed back to harbour Joe chartered the launch for his family for the rest of the week. The boat owner was thrilled. The remainder of the week was spent exploring Salcombe and nearby harbours, and the fishing continued excellent.

     Early on the first day back in the office Joe phoned a friend who was a member of the Royal Gourock Yacht Club. ‘I want a yacht,’ Joe said.

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Emily Painter describes the private life of the gannet:

Up, up, with hardly a flap, the sea blue and crawling with a long Atlantic swell, the white rock shrinking below. Tilt the wings and slide down a long slope of air. Over to landward lies the island people call Skokholm. Up ahead are the Bishops and Clerks, little brown and green patches fringed with white surf, and the whorls of tide sweeping out of Ramsey Sound. None of this means anything in gannet world, of course. He knows where he is without charts, because somewhere in his pea-sized brain is an atlas of the planet drawn not with coastlines but with an infinitely complex mesh of smells.

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…. and of course there are Flotsam and Jetsam, books, sage advice and the deeply unreliable thoughts of Ray Doggett, tugboat skipper and Golden Virginia entrepreneur. Welcome aboard!

Extracts Summer 2019

Folkboats, Belloc, submarines, typhoons…..

Harry Ricciardi and 'Tösen' visit Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos:

Tösen doesn’t have an engine. Tösen doesn’t have a head. Tösen doesn’t have an electrical system you can plug into a dock. Tösen is a handsome Danish Folkboat I rebuilt over seven years, in the dirt, in the corner of the yard, in front of the schooner shed at the Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway in Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard. Tösen resembles herself most when she is alone, on her anchor, with blue water in the distance.

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The Nicolson children buy 'Finetta':

My sister was 22, three years older than me. We had each recently come into a small inheritance, and being sensible, we put the two sums together to buy Finetta. She was cheap because she was outclassed by newer International 6-Metre yachts. She had been converted to cruising by adding a cabin top over the forward end of her long, narrow cockpit. This lid was three feet long, and the resulting cabin was little better than a dog-kennel – not that any self-respecting hound would have put up with its discomforts.

     In this less than capacious interior there were low battened seats each side, with folding cots over them, which were normally stowed up against the topsides. To go to sleep a crew member would hinge the cot down and suspend it horizontally from a pair of ropes to hooks on the cabin top. Only someone absolutely exhausted and very young could conceivably fall asleep on such an inhospitable surface.

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 Martin Woolls brings home the 'Cromarty Rose':

The winter of 2009/10 was the worst for a hundred years. The cobbled quayside at Cromarty was covered with an inch of solid ice, and so was the ship. Her aft saloon was not much more than a 20ft square steel box; trying to sleep in that was out. I bought a 22ft-long motorhome, drove it aboard from the Cromarty ferry slipway and chained its chassis down to the deck. After many months of fiddling about we were given our passage certificate, and were cleared to begin the voyage.

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Hamish Hardie goes shopping for a windjammer:

By 1992 the three-masted barque Glenlee was owned by the Spanish Navy and named the Galatea. We knew they intended to scrap her, and we knew that we had to do something quickly if she was to be saved. We found out just how quickly on the 18th of February, when the British Naval Attaché at the Embassy in Madrid telephoned to say that the Navy was to sell her at auction just eight days later in the Arsenal de la Carraca, near San Fernando, about ten miles from Cadiz. He added that there was a Dutch company very interested in buying h

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 Ian Tew gets through a typhoon in Hong Kong:

The bosun and his crew were lounging on the forecastle waiting to weigh anchor. After about twenty minutes I went down to the new captain's cabin and knocked on the door. There was no answer, but I could hear him retching in the bathroom. I went in and knocked on the bathroom door. 'Are you all right?' I asked, looking at the arched back bending over the basin. He turned with a very red face, highlighted by the black hair, and said, 'Be okay in a minute. Always the same before stations.' He turned again and retched.

     'We will be late at the buoy if we don't move now,' I said. 'Shall I weigh anchor, sir?'

     'Yes. Be up in a minute. Damn it.'

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Charles Warlow goes in search of Hilaire Belloc:

Belloc wrote several essays about sailing, but only one book — The Cruise of the Nona. In it he described his cruise from Holyhead to Cornwall in his much-loved Nona, just before the outbreak of war in 1914 and a few weeks after his wife had died, together with earlier and later cruises, mostly along the south coast of England. The Nona was built in about 1870. She was a little more than 36ft overall, nine tons, cutter-rigged, and drew six feet. ‘Four men were happy on board her, five men she could carry, six men quarreled’. She definitely did not have ‘the abomination of an engine’. Like many of his generation, he had never ‘fallen so low as to put a motor into the Nona...I would rather die of thirst, ten miles off the headlands in a brazen calm, having lost my dinghy in the previous storm, than have on board what is monstrously called to-day an auxiliary’.

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James Taylor explains how he became a navigator:

‘You are now the Navigating Officer.’

     ‘Yessir.’

     ‘But be in no doubt: I navigate this submarine, not you.’

     'Yessir.’

     It was 1967. I was twenty years old, a Sub-Lieutenant on the Royal Navy’s Supplementary List.  Our professional career options were limited – Submariner, Clearance Diver, Hydrographer or Aircraft Direction. A mere five ‘O’ levels was the requirement, though one distinguished submariner of my term joined on the premise that he had four ‘O’ levels and a note from his headmaster to the effect that had he turned up for the History ‘O’ level he certainly would have passed.

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 Philip K Allen traces the development of figureheads:

The origin of figureheads is ancient. As soon as men went to sea in ships, about 3000 BC, there is evidence that they decorated the bows of their vessels. Seafaring has always been a hazardous business, and the protection of deities seems to have been one of the prime motivations. The Ancient Egyptians placed statues of sacred birds on the prows of their ships, and both the Greeks and Phoenicians painted large eyes on the front of their galleys to reassure the sailors, then, as now, a superstitious breed, that the eyes would permit the vessel to see its way home. From these simple beginnings more elaborate carved figures developed. The Phoenicians favoured carved horses, to indicate their vessel’s swiftness. Greek war galleys fighting off the might of the Persian Empire displayed a carved wild boar, perhaps to invoke its stubborn ferocity. Early Roman warships often wore the figure of a wooden centurion above their rams as a symbol of military order and discipline.

     In the years after the fall of Rome, the practice of carrying a carved figurehead spread from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coasts of Europe.

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 The 'Red, White and Blue' crosses the Atlantic in 1866:

A few days ago a brief newspaper paragraph made known to the British public that a miniature full-rigged ship, of something less than 2 1/2 tons register, with a crew of two men and a dog, had been spoken in the English Channel, off Hastings, after making an excellent passage, in point of time, from New York. It is not necessary to analyse the motives which have induced two young American seamen to risk their lives in so perilous an undertaking as crossing the stormy Atlantic in a little craft about the size of a ship's jolly-boat. In a logbook that bears very unmistakeable evidence of what boat life is on the Atlantic, we find it stated, ‘That the object of this expedition is to be at the world's fair in Paris.’ The Paris Exhibition, however, opens in April, 1867. To have reached it in time would have involved sailing from New York in February. Probably no one knows better than the adventurers themselves by this time that the chance of weathering an Atlantic equinoctial gale in a two-and-a-half ton boat, was rather too remote to be undertaken by any but a properly-qualified candidate for a lunatic asylum.

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 Jonathon Green considers food in Patrick O'Brian:

If there are such main courses as ‘Little Balls of Tripe a Man Might Eat Forever’ and the somewhat more exotic ‘Squirrels in Madeira’ and ‘Goose and Truffle Pie’, and such venerated steamed puddings as ‘Dog’s Body’, ‘Drowned Baby’ and ‘A Long Grey Pudding, Made with Sea-Elephant Suet & Studded with Juan Fernandez Berries’, there are also such horrors as ‘Boiled Sh***’: the bird guano, extracted from puddles of sun-warmed sea-water, on which Maturin is forced to survive when in pursuit of nondescript flora and fauna he finds himself abandoned on St Paul's Rocks.

 

And as usual there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, laughs, extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

 

 

Extracts Spring 2019

Deliveries, windjammers, coasters and tuna

Jon Tucker advises on yacht deliveries:

For those of us who spend time wandering oceans, there is some comfort in the old adage that God does not deduct from a man’s allotted span the time spent sailing. After due consideration, however, I am convinced that this adage does not include yacht deliveries, and that indeed the opposite may well be true.

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 Tom Cunliffe discusses health and safety at sea:

Health and Safety has ballooned from one or two official regulations, which everyone understood and managed on a commonsense basis, into a global industry. Setting aside the outcome of the Titanic disaster, the work of men like Samuel Plimsoll and the arrival of ship-to-shore radio, when I first let go my shorelines in the late 1960s any changes in personal safety equipment made since the time of Noah were of little significance.

     Reading the unimpeachable Book of Genesis, chapters 7 and 8, one finds that the Almighty handed Noah a specific design brief for his ark. Nothing but gopherwood would do, although the choice of fastenings was up to the builder...

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 The windjammer 'Pamir' is caught in a hurricane:

Some ships are full of expression, responsive to the slightest change of wind and weather, conveying in their own peculiar way just how they feel. Much of this ability to respond in this way depends upon conditions. A vessel which is taut and tuned like a violin is loud in her discordant notes and sweet in harmony. The Pamir is such a ship, the product of man's skill and ingenuity handed down from generation to generation, inanimate yet full of living quality, a vibrant personality, wise in the ways of the sea to whom wind alone is the breath of life.

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 Peter Davies skippers a superyacht across the Pacific:

I was on the twentieth floor of a skyscraper building in Panama City collecting $150,000 in cash from a bank. I loaded the money into my briefcase and turned to leave. Who knew I had all this cash? Certainly all the staff in the cashiers' section, and possibly all their dodgy relatives, taxi-driving cousins and enforcer boyfriends. This was not a consoling thought. I took the lift down ten floors, dived into a stairwell, walked down two floors, caught another lift to the second floor and walked to the ground floor. One exit led to a side street where taxis were queueing. Not for me. I walked out of the air-conditioning and across the hot street, went into a large hotel lobby, took the lift up to the second floor, walked to the third floor, took another lift to the ground floor. Then I jumped into the second taxi waiting outside (never take the first, I knew from John le Carré) and spent the rest of the afternoon in various taxis until it seemed safe to instruct a driver to take me to the yacht club.

 The Harbourmaster of Wells-next-the-Sea goes longshoring:

It was a journey in itself just to walk out to the cockle grounds. The women would head out from Stiffkey on foot, crossing the muddy creeks as the tide ebbed and taking the tracks they knew over the marshes. Some of the women worked in gangs and, if they were lucky, the gang leader would ride them out on a small horse-drawn cart. The cart would be also used to carry the sacks of cockles back to the village.

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 Richard Crockatt examines the life of Humphrey Barton:

A glance at the profiles of leading small boat voyagers will show that there is no fixed nautical type. There are dreamers, pragmatists, driven competitors, no-nonsense military types or various combinations of these. Humphrey Barton - ‘Hum,’ as he was almost universally known - described himself as ‘highly strung’ with an over-developed imagination. He confessed that he detested bad weather, but his sailing is associated above all with heavy weather and a hard-driving approach to passage-making. Best known for his 1950 east-west Atlantic crossing in the twenty-five foot Vertue XXXV, he sailed countless craft over a long career, showing an almost limitless appetite for taking yet another boat to sea.

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 George Hamilton tells the story of a Clyde shipping company:

About 1821 our Grandfather ordered the Packet from Fife’s of Fairlie. She was built as a smack of about 45ft and went on the packet business from Saltcoats to Arran immediately with another man from Lamlash, I think Nicol was his name. Aye, and they sailed carrying mails and all goods from Saltcoats to Brodick for 35 or 36 years until the steamers came on from Glasgow and the Clyde and run them off.

     By 1857 there wasn’t a living to be made and my father and grandfather and my uncle Bob they hauled her up at the Strathwhillan burn. Her bowsprit was so high that the carts and horses and everything was going underneath it and the bowsprit was over the road. Then father cut her through the middle, and put back the stern, and put everything level, got a new keel and filled up and made her about sixty feet long.

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 Coasting voyages in the 1920s:

The vessel itself is about the dirtiest and most dangerously neglected steamer I have ever clapped eyes upon. The ancient peeling paintwork fails to hide the mass of rust she has become; one of the masts is as rotten as an overripe pear with most of the ratlines carried away and not renewed; the fairleads for the mooring ropes appear as if they might come bodily away from the deck; and the bridge rails are hardly safe to lean against.

     A month’s stores would fit into an empty soap box, and the navigational gear consists of a few out-of-date blueback charts, a tiny pair of warped parallel rulers, some broken dividers, and a barometer always pointing to ‘very dry’. There’s not even a ship’s clock.

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 Martin Thomas looks at surgery during the Napoleonic Wars:

Surgery is brutal. At the time of Trafalgar, before anaesthesia and antibiotics, surgeons were denied the sobriquet of doctor. They had only recently separated themselves from the barbers, many were still bonesetters, and few had a university education. Fractures were set with splints, but if the broken bone ends were exposed - a compound fracture - death was almost certain. An abscess could be drained, skin lumps, cysts and some superficial tumours including breast cancers could be removed; but no attempt was made to open the abdomen, chest or head. A bullet deep in a body cavity was left; the victim stood a better chance of survival carrying it around within him than allowing a surgeon to delve for it.

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 Peter Cardy reminisces about his time running the MCA:

There is no Haynes Manual for the incoming CEO of the MCA. Not even a lifetime of obsessive interest in ships and the sea prepares you for a job that deals with almost every aspect of things that float and the medium in which they operate. I thought I knew that HM Coastguard, part of the MCA, rescues people, though there were also the Lifeboats, wherever they fitted in. I was vague about the certification of seafarers, the International Maritime Organisation, the MCA’s relationship with the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, Trinity House, the Port of London Authority, the Chamber of Shipping, the RYA, the Merchant Navy Training Board, the Met Office, UKHO and dozens more organizations. I had yet to learn about ship registries, flags of convenience and the Red Ensign Group. I listened, read, and asked questions.

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 Emily Painter gets inside the head of a bluefin tuna:

The huge shoulders tear through the water. It streams ocean-cool past the great barred flanks, spun away by the sickle tail. To the lateral fierce hot fish-mind comes a distant hum and chatter and squeak that might be noise, but it is not noise, but electricity or something like it. This vibration or current comse from a dark patch high above and far ahead in the shifting mirror of the surface. Under such dark patches animalculae swarm, food for small fish, which are food for bigger fish, which are food for bluefin.

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 And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, laughs, extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

 

 

 

Extracts Winter 2018

Winter 2018 - Greenland, superyachts, eccentrics and krill....

 Emma Beynon sails from Iceland to Greenland:

‘Capps, Capps!’ Pavel is standing by our bunk. ‘We are taking in water!’ Silence. Capps leaves the warmth of the bunk. I pretend I am asleep, I wish I was not so warm. I wish I had not taken off my clothes; drowning north of the Arctic Circle naked at my age might seem inappropriately racy. I concentrate on holding my stomach down. I can just about make out the conversation above the clatter of the winches on the deck and the flogging of the rope. ‘We are going to have to go back.’

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 Fog paralyses the Port of London:

A grey mist, more formidable than the previous haze, was stealing over the water, and the narrowing estuary seemed suddenly to fill up with ships, anchored all along the edges of the channel - coasting steamers, schooners and barges.

[p]It was not too bad yet. From the inner end of the Sea Reach they could see the oil tanks below the Mucking, with a large tanker moored alongside the wharf. Still, there was a hot tide running behind the Anglian, rushing her up the river far faster than the most casual and reckless man on board now wanted her to go. ‘Bring her to an anchor, pilot, for heaven’s sake!’ the now thoroughly anxious captain cried.

     ‘I’m looking for a berth, captain; with this tide we’ll require a lot of room before we get her turned round.’ The pilot’s voice quavered, and the captain looked at him sharply. He was staring ahead with wild eyes, gripping the bridge rail as if in desperation, his face grey, drawn and haggard.

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Superyacht owners do their stuff:

There’s a break in the clouds for a few hours. This coincides perfectly with the first visit of the Owner and his Wife post-refit. They arrive in a cerulean blue F-Type that snarls to a halt at the entrance to the deserted port car park. The barrier refuses to open. After stabbing the ‘help’ button repeatedly and shrieking, the Owner’s Wife (for it is she behind the wheel) leaves the car where it stands and walks on her Blahnik heels the short distance to the passerelle, where Pienaar and the crew are gathered on the quay. She rakes them all with a glare and marches on board. Pienaar leads the tour of the new features of the yacht: the raised hangar; the new cinema under the Owner’s suite with 11.2 surround sound; the last word in steam rooms in the gym; the new custom-built Italian furniture on the main deck; and, of course, the cushions. When she sees them, the Owner’s Wife stops abruptly. ‘Is wrong!’ she barks.

     Pienaar’s smile becomes a little more wooden. ‘Madam?’

     ‘My new cushions, they are laid wrong out.’

     Melanie, the chief stewardess, steps forward. ‘Madam?’

     ‘How much times I need say it?’ snarls the Owner’s Wife. ‘Someone puts my cushions wrong way around.

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 ‘Carina' comes out of a North Sea storm and finds herself embroiled in world affairs:

Carina was a 31-foot gunter sloop, designed by Alfred Mylne, built as an open one-design in 1903 by John Hilditch at Carrickfergus on the north shore of Belfast Lough. They’d decked her over in the thirties and fitted her out with three berths. A Stuart Turner inboard had been added later, giving her five to six knots in a calm sea. That summer we spent most weekends sailing. I was a novice, but in time I got the hang of it. Carina was to be our escape route to adventure. We would sail up the west coast the next season, 1962, through the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness to Inverness. Three hundred and seventy miles to the northeast lay Stavanger.

May 1962. Far to the south, Havana is receiving a Soviet agricultural delegation with another team embedded in its midst: Colonel General Semyon Ivanov, chief of the General Staff’s chief operations directorate and the man in overall charge of the trip; several missile construction specialists; and other military experts.

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 Mike Golding tells David Chance how to sail an IMOCA Open 60:

There she is at the end of the pontoon: a great black carbon beast with a hundred feet of mast, house flags rippling on her forestay, people toiling like ants on her honeycomb-pattern decks. Step off the finger pontoon, across the broad sidedeck and down into the cockpit. It is a neat, minimal space, with a coffee grinder and half-a-dozen winches bestowed three a side, the two big ones the size of oil drums. There are racks of jammers spewing lines like wires in an old-fashioned telephone exchange, neatly flaked now and probably never again.

     The house flags come down. Start the engine, twenty-odd horsepower, about as much use as an eggwhisk to a boat with as much windage as this. The breeze is out of the west, so the team rib puts its nose against the bow to push it round and point it at the marina entrance. And off she whirrs, seven and a half tons, sixty feet long, nineteen feet wide, a few inches inside the maximum dimensions permitted by the imoca rule.

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 Roger Taylor explains a great voyage:

I am back at my writing table. The sea loch is still there, and the sheer cliffs of Creag Mhaol and Creag an Duilisg, and the islands, and the herring gulls staring seawards with unseeing eyes. Everything is as it was, yet everything has changed, for the voyage has been made. I feel a deep and radiant peace. The waves rolling in from the Inner Minch no longer call or challenge or taunt. I look at them with a benign eye, for the account is now balanced, squared, closed. I have done what I had to do.

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 Richard Crockatt chronicles the bravery and eccentricity of the Nova Espero and her crew:

There is something especially stirring about accounts of small-boat voyages in the first decades after the Second World War. It was the swansong of centuries-old maritime traditions: boats were made of wood, navigation was by compass and sextant, many boats were engineless, speed was measured by trailing logs and depth by lead line. Radios were limited in range, if they were carried at all, and safety equipment was primitive. Independence and self-sufficiency were a minimum requirement, not a matter of bravado.

     Among the many notable voyages of that period, those of Nova Espero in the late 1940s and early 1950s stand out not only because of the small size of the boat - she was twenty feet overall and just under sixteen feet on the waterline - but because of the sheer ambition of the challenges she met.

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 Captain Smith recounts some incidents of a voyage:

In the year 1850 I left London in command of the ship Parland for Cape Town and Calcutta with a mixed cargo, besides having about a dozen intermediate passengers and three or four cabin. We were not long at sea before I could perceive that the cargo had been badly stowed in the hold, there being much freight in the lower hold and comparatively little in the tweendecks, which had the effect of causing the ship to roll so tremendously that from the very first I had serious fears she would roll all her masts away. However everything stood fast until we had crossed the Equator, when one fine morning between one and two o’clock I was called by the chief mate to be informed that the foremast had gone overboard with all its rigging sails and spars.

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 Bob Comlay pays tribute to his friend Bill Tilman:

Exploring the relationship between H W Tilman and his crew members can help to shed light on the compassionate side of his character, a trait that the popular yachting press has often found convenient to ignore.

     At home with his sister Adeline, in the company of his niece Pam, or aboard ship with a good crew when things were going well, Tilman’s impeccably-timed and mischievous wit kept spirits high, the humour as often as not turned on himself. In unfamiliar surroundings however, his natural reticence could easily be misinterpreted by those who had not had the privilege of personal acquaintance.

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Steve Nicol makes astonishing revelations about the relationship between krill, whales and ocean currents:

In the early twentieth century there was no attempt to systematically monitor the Antarctic ecosystem to see if any of its components were changing radically in response to the reduced whale populations and the increase in krill abundance that many suggested would have resulted. Prior to the 1970s there was no methodical approach to estimating krill abundance, and the data we have has many drawbacks. Measuring the abundance of a mobile marine animal that occupies an area of some nineteen million square kilometres that is ice covered for half the year is not a simple task.

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 Willie Wilson tells the story of the modern pilot book:

In a publishing world populated by independent individuals of powerful mind, relationships between authors and their publishers could become strained, sometimes to breaking-point. The London Boat Show at Earl’s Court in January was traditionally the forum where trade and authors met, and where deals of varying significance were brokered. There were distinct publishing camps, and while there was sometimes a caginess about revealing plans for new titles or new authors signed up there was generally a happy atmosphere between rivals. There was entertaining damning-with-faint-praise of the type in which Phoebe Mason of Stanford Maritime was a specialist: ‘the format of Brandon’s South England Pilot is large enough to be a genoa but I imagine that the text is sound’.

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 And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, laughs, extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

 

Extracts Autumn 2018

Autumn 2018 - Iceland, Darwin, lobsters and whales.....

Emma Beynon heads north:

I sail on Dolphin, a Bristol Channel pilot cutter. She weighs 20 tonnes, is 38.6 ft long on deck and was built in Porthleven in 1909. With her gaff rig she cuts a fine romantic figure on the horizon. The skipper and owner, Roger Capps, developed a taste for taking Dolphin north. I fell in love with him when she sailed in more temperate climes: Brittany, the Baltic, Northern Norway. When Capps suggested Svalbard I did not think to check the map, I just bought the air ticket, and was surprised to find the airport in Longyearbyen was no more than a corrugated-iron barn at the foot of a snowy mountain, and that it was recommended that everyone carry a rifle when walking through the snowy landscape to deal with polar bears. There was no chance of a return flight.

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Billy 'Scratch' Hitchen finds triumph and near-tragedy in his pots:

In late March 1979 we sailed from Salcombe bound for Rockall, loaded with 550 pots, 2000 gallons of fuel and enough bait, provisions and booze to last about twenty-one days. It was my first visit back to these northern waters since we last fished up there in '75, so I was quite excited by the prospect of around two weeks fishing before we would have to land.     

     An 85-hour steam saw us about 800 miles north of Salcombe, just southwest of the Flannan Isles. I decided to start fishing here and move south as we fished. This was far enough north at this time of year. Fishing was good but patchy.

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Vito Dumas sets off to sail around the world on the 40º south line of latitude:

It was midwinter, and there was a war on. There were German and British warships and submarines in the south Atlantic. It was hardly a safe place for a yacht on a private venture. But Dumas felt time was running out, and that the war might go on for ever.On 27 June 1942, after an emotional farewell from his mother and brother, Dumas set off.

     By the standards of today he was woefully underequipped. He had no radio, no liferaft, no lifejacket, safety harness or flares, precious few tools (he claims in his book that he had only one screwdriver on board) and not even a bilge pump, on the basis that his boat made no water. He had no engine, instruments, winches or other mechanical aids. He did, however, have bulletproof sails, and he lashed a heavy tarpaulin over the cabin top to stop leaks and damage from large seas. The tarpaulin remained for the whole voyage, and as a result the cabin below was in perpetual darkness.

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Harry Ricciardi puts in at St George's, Bermuda:

The first night in Bermuda I got to leave Tösen, my dear twenty-five foot carvel Folkboat, tied up along the quay. Guys working in the kitchen and bussing tables at the restaurant there saw me come in.

    ‘You alone?’ a guy asked, he and a buddy having a cigarette next to the kitchen’s open door.  They must have been closing up.

    ‘Yeah.’

    ‘You by yourself?’

     My legs were really wobbly. I was altogether kind of fuzzy and lightheaded. I had probably been on the water for thirteen days, and I probably hadn’t eaten that well.  ‘Yeah,’ I told him.

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'Taffrail' to the rescue!

The night came down very dark, with a young moon all but obscured by the wisps of wind-flung cloud streaming across the sky. When full darkness came, the fury of the gale seemed to have increased. It boomed and screeched and howled, until we had to shout to make ourselves heard. We continued on our weary patrol, up and down, to and fro, rolling and pitching, longing only for the time when we could return to harbour.

 It was soon after nine o'clock, when we had nearly reached the southern end of our beat, that we sighted a flickering glare reflected on the undersides of the low clouds far away to the southward. Sometimes it shone redly like a blazing bonfire, sometimes ebbed away to an orange glow. It was a ship on fire; it could be nothing else.

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Richard Crockatt on the Beagle's boats:

The voyage of the Beagle (1831-36) is remembered primarily for its connection with Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. The association between Darwin and the Beagle had, however, been assured long before the appearance of The Origin of Species in 1859. Darwin’s own account of the voyage, published in 1839 and later given the title The Voyage of the Beagle, was a bestseller, considerably outshining in style and verve the record published simultaneously by the Beagle’s captain, Robert Fitzroy. It is no surprise, therefore, that Darwin’s story has overshadowed the main purpose of the voyage, which was to complete the survey of the South American coast with the aim of producing accurate charts of the region with a view to ensuring Britain’s continuing naval pre-eminence.

     Maritime historians have laboured with good effect to give the Beagle’s survey work its due, but even they have missed an important dimension of the voyage: namely, the role of the ship’s boats in carrying out the Beagle’s mission.

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Nick Walker, Puffer skipper, shares the accumulated wisdom of years:

Burns: learn how to read the Address to the Haggis from the book in the bookshelf and perform it, with appropriate actions.

     On a more serious note, learn how to use the cold-water hose on the starboard side of the engine room adjacent to the door. If anybody, most likely an engineer, is severely burnt, hose the affected area copiously and continue for at least ten minutes. Make sure, if it is a facial burn, you hose all the crevices, under the nose, behind the ears, etc. We have had two burn injuries, both caused by the same act. If an engineer has an oil spillage in the engine room it is very tempting to open the furnace door and throw the oily rag he has mopped up with on to the hot coals. He will not have assumed that the resulting mini-explosion will come straight back at him.

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Martin Woolls, excursion steamer deckhand, reveals the underbelly of a day trip:

The MV Balmoral was berthed on the Swansea ferry wharf. At around 0630 I was slumbering in my bunk when our peace was rudely disturbed by the manic screaming of our South African Bosun Barry: ALL HANDS ON DECK! ALL HANDS ON DECK! Barry had a veritable obsession with hosing and scrubbing Balmoral's decks, and this, allied to a general creepiness around the officers, had made hims somewhat unpopular with the majority of the ship's company.

     It is important to keep ships' decks properly maintained, but you can overdo it.

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Jo Stanley accompanies two women on a famous voyage:

Two footloose white women are the focus. Their voyages began separately, in Barbados, in late April three years after the end of the Second World War. On an island nicknamed ‘Bimshire’ and ‘Little England’ Freya Stark, the famous travel writer, had exhausted her capacity to play the diplomat’s wife, and wanted to escape to her home in Asolo. Her cabinmate, the scandalous writer-publisher and black rights activist Nancy Cunard, was similarly bored with the bridge-playing world at her cousin Edward’s  beachside house in Glitter Bay.

     Around Easter 1948, Caribbean newspapers offered a batch of cheap one-way passages to Britain, the shipping company wanting to avoid loss by filling up berths. The women each booked a ticket.

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Julia Jones sympathises with Jane Austen, faced with two brothers who became admirals:

Fanny Price, heroine of Jane Austen’s third published novel, Mansfield Park (1814), has returned to her parents’ home in Portsmouth with her older brother William, recently commissioned second lieutenant of the Thrush, after an absence of nine years. All that interests her long-lost family is HM sloop Thrush:

'Ha welcome back my boy. Glad to see you. Have you heard the news? The Thrush went out of harbour this morning. […] I should not wonder if you had your orders tomorrow; but you cannot sail with this wind if you are to cruise to the westward; and Captain Walsh thinks you will certainly have a cruise to the westward with the Elephant. By G—-- I wish you may....'

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David Levy and Stephen Eades examine the true state of British fisheries:

The decline in the health and diversity of life in British seas is a subject much reported.  But is this decline real, or is it simply another example of the human tendency to lament change and believe things were better in the past?

     In The Unnatural History of the Sea, (Island Books, 2007) Professor Callum Roberts presents not only documentary evidence of this decline, but also a key concept in our assessment and appreciation of it: the changing baseline. This rests on the idea that each generation evaluates change on the basis of what it encounters when first coming into contact with a subject. If something is common or abundant when first encountered, then this is perceived as the norm.  If the reverse is true, then that is the norm. So if you were born into a world where computers are used by everyone, that seems normal.  Whereas if you were born into a world where they had not yet been used, then the change they have created is profound.

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Emily Painter shares the private life of the minke whale:

The sea by Coll is like grey glass. Ardnamurchan hangs jagged across the northeastern horizon. There are porpoises out here, rolling, and flocks of Manx shearwaters waiting for the breeze that will bring them the updraughts they use for their low-level aerobatics. Beyond the raft of birds a long black back comes up, and rolls, and keeps on rolling, as long as Old Man River. Then there is a little hooked fin, and the back plunges down and away with scarcely a swirl, and the sea is grey glass again....

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity, extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

 

Extracts Summer 2018

Summer 2018 - the Baltic, harpoons, and mysterious doings in the South Seas

John Webster voyages to the Baltic and back:

In the summer of 1960 I was 22 and at University.  For the previous three years I had been sailing for most of the long vacations, and too much of term time with JG, three years older than me, in business, and the owner of Fiara, a Milne-designed 46’ yawl built in 1911, fast, wet and with a comprehensive inventory of deep-sea gear, much of which may have dated from the year of her birth.  This summer JG wanted to spend his limited holiday time in the Baltic, so asked me to find a crew to deliver her to Copenhagen. I agreed, of course, though I had no formal qualifications.

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 Arthur Ransome's cruise comes to an abrupt end:

The cruise has ended or is on the point of death. I am alone in Racundra, or rather not quite alone. I am alone with a mouse, which has sent the whole six foot three of the Cook, undaunted hitherto by anything but calms, in headlong flight to Riga. The discovery was made this morning. I woke at five and heard what I thought was unmistakeable mouse, but, believing it rather good luck, besides being a miracle, I said nothing about it, did not wake the Cook and went fishing. When I came back I mentioned it and got into rather a row for even pretending such a thing.

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 Nigel Sharp charts the progress of circumnavigator-to-shore communications:

Soon after Ellen MacArthur completed her record-breaking circumnavigation in her trimaran B&Q, BT put an advertisement in the national press. ‘We made sure she was never on her own,’ it read. ‘BT was proud to provide Ellen and her management team with the vital communication solutions they needed.’

Throughout her seventy-one-and-a-bit day voyage, MacArthur was constantly in touch with the outside world. She regularly communicated with her shore team, which was able to provide continuous technical support for B&Q and its skipper's personal morale and well-being. Information about rigging loads and other factors affecting the state of the boat was regularly transmitted back to base. MacArthur herself was fitted with sensors to monitor her sleep patterns, blood pressure and heart rate, the information from which was sent to a small medical team, including a doctor specialising in sleep deprivation.

 She also spoke regularly to her family, so they knew what problems she was experiencing – bad weather, breakages, lack of sleep - but were helpless to solve them. All they could do was wait for further news. It is hard to escape the conclusion that however smug BT may have been about its technology, it was blinded by its greed for PR, and that this constant communication often made things harder for everyone.

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 Rev. Edgar Hughes sails round Britain:

The earliest well-known circumnavigation of Britain is the voyage of Richard McMullen, which took place in 1863. There is, however, no doubt that other small yachts had already completed the trip before McMullen. One largely overlooked circumnavigation was made in 1852 by the Reverend Edgar Hughes. We know about it thanks to the articles he wrote for Hunt’s Yachting Magazine, the first magazine devoted to yachting, which had started publication that year.

Like other amateur small-boat enthusiasts of the day, Hughes waxed lyrical about ‘the sense of responsibility arising from the sole command of a tiny little boat’. Compared to sailing with a professional crew on a large yacht, ‘it makes all the difference between driving a tandem and being driven in a cab’

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An extract from Sam Llewellyn's new sea thriller:

The tide took us round a headland, and we were away. Traditionally at this point I should have taken stock of the situation, analysed alternative courses of action, felt quietly smug and perhaps smoked a pipe while considering a range of options. I did none of these things. I was wet to the waist, the wind was moaning, the tide was carting me out into the Minch, and I did not smoke a pipe or anything else. It was time to get some sail on. So I put the rudder into its slot, and kicked at the centreboard, and pulled out the mizzen, and hoisted the mainsail with a couple of reefs in, and hauled on the jib sheet until the jib unrolled, bang. And there I was, sailing. Sailing, in fact, too damn much. A squall tumbled out of the black land, and the side of the boat went down, and I saw a torrent of black water come over it before I could let go of the mainsheet and the thing came back on an even keel.

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 Graeme Stones explores the life of Tex Geddes:

Tucked away in a corner of the island of Eigg in the Inner Hebrides the original harbour is crumbling, silted up and obscured behind the unlovely barricade of CalMac’s new ro-ro pier. One vessel still leans against the stonework of the old harbour wall, an ex-Admiralty launch retired long ago from any form of active service. Drawn up to the top of the tideline nearby is a ferro-cement hulk that was  the last boat belonging to Tex Geddes - bayonet-fencer, boxer, commando and, along with much else rumoured or proven, Hebridean harpooneer.

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Martin Woolls recalls past times in the Bristol Channel:

.Methods of fishing here were by trammel nets, used to fish for ground feeders such as dabs and the odd plaice or Dover sole if you were lucky. Special boats called Weston flatners were built for this. Then there were longlines, several hundred yards long with a baited hook every 15ft or so, with which you would hope to catch cod or skate, but would often end up with dogfish or conger eel.  We also used stall nets, staked out along a short manmade sort of causeway made of boulders and stones jutting out at roughly at right angles to the tide parallel to Weston’s Old Pier about 100ft off the end of the boating slip at Anchor Head. The target catch here was shrimps. These sorts of nets were in earlier days staked out along the ‘cassy’, a shingle spit connecting the Old Pier’s Birnbeck Island and the mainland, and at Steep Holm and Flat Holm Islands. When I was a youngster I used to help Alfred ‘Juicy’ Payne to fish these nets. (He was nicknamed Juicy when a boy because he always had a runny nose). We would sometimes catch a good dustbin full of shrimps, which we would take back to Juicy’s base, an old stable round the back of Palmer Street.

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 Peter King sails the South Seas:

My path to command in the Gilbert Islands had an inexorable quality. At the age of six I gave up a promising career as a train driver in favour of becoming a pirate. Two years later my ambition refined itself somewhat to becoming a master mariner. An interlude at a minor public school was  something of a necessary evil – scouts were far more useful and practical. But the senior geography master would read us as an end of term treat chapters from Sir Arthur Grimble’s A Pattern of Islands. The spell was cast.

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 Heinz Schaffer torpedoes a merchantman:

The Iceland Passage was behind us and we entered the area designated for operations by U-boat Command. 'Mast-top on starboard bow!' The lookout had very sharp eyesight; we could only make it out vaguely even through our excellent binoculars, but when the commander arrived at the bridge he saw it at once. His eyes were more practised than ours. A good lookout is the result of experience and long practice. Not every man can become one, not even if he is gifted with excellent eyesight. Novices wouldn't credit it at first, but on their first voyage it was very seldom that they saw something before the 'veterans' did.

The commander told the watchkeeping officer that he wanted to bring the boat closer. 'Hard to port, half ahead both.'

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 Tom Colville follows the travels of 'Eduardo':

Following the Anzio landings in the summer of 1943, the Allied offensive to liberate Italy had almost reached stalemate in the mountains. A fresh landing that might outflank Axis forces became necessary. To support planning for the main force, the island of Ischia, off Naples, had been selected for a clandestine base. Covert missions to insert and recover agents, beach reconnaissance teams and Commando sabotage missions, were needed.  A small flotilla was acquired. Operated under Special Royal Naval command, three fast motor torpedo boats were taken over from the Italian navy.  Their capability was supplemented by “country craft” - local fishing boats and coastal trading vessels - which did not resemble fighting ships.  One of these was the large deep-sea trawler Eduardo, lying idle in Ischia harbour.

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 Mike Bender visits early Yacht Clubs:

Yachting in the United Kingdom is sometimes thought to have taken off in the nineteenth century. But its foundations, with ownership, building, broking and fitted out, are in fact to be found a century earlier, and not in Britain but in Ireland.

     By the early eighteenth century Cork harbour had been a stopping-off point for Royal Naval and merchant ships. The first yacht club in the whole of Britain and Ireland was the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork, was created in 1720, postdating by a mere two years Peter the Great's founding of the Neva Yacht Club of St Petersburg, the first yacht club in the world.

 

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity, extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

 

 

 

 

 

Extracts Spring 2018

Spring 2018 - leaky boats, Erskine Childers and Ming dockyard skulduggery.

 Farley Mowat goes to sea in a boat that wouldn't float:

We had no charts of the east coast of Newfoundland. The lack of charts, combined with a misleading compass and the dead certainty of running into fog, suggested we would do well to ship a pilot until we could make a port where charts could be bought and the compass adjusted.

The obvious choice for a pilot was Enos. Like most Newfoundland seamen he possessed, we presumed, special senses which are lost to modern man. He had sailed these waters all his life, often without a compass and usually without charts. When you asked him how he managed to find his way to some distant place he would look baffled and reply: 'Well, me son, I knows where it's at.'

We needed somebody like that. However, when we broached the matter to Enos he showed no enthusiasm. For a man who was usually as garrulous as an entire pack of politicians, his response was spectacularly succinct. 'No!' he grunted, and for emphasis spat a gob of tobacco juice on our newly painted cabin top.

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Erskine Childers heads for the Baltic:

It seemed hopeless to wait for suitable weather for going west, so we regretfully pulled out the North Sea charts and prepared to run east before the prevailing winds. We left Boulogne on August 24, a dirty south-west windy day. The weather was now hopelessly demoralized, and the North Sea was out of the question. A study of the charts showed us the long line of the Dutch and German Frisian Islands, stretching away for a hundred sea miles, and separated from the mainland by from five to eight miles of sand in great patches which are mostly dry at low water and intersected by well-marked channels of varying depth, but themselves dry in certain places at low ·water.

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Adrian Morgan explores the lives of Sir Thomas Sopwith:

To call Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith a keen yachtsman is not unlike suggesting that his contemporary Winston Churchill was a talented painter; for Sopwith was first and foremost a pioneer aviator. He obtained the 31st British Aviator’s Certificate in 1910, after ten hours flying and became an innovative aircraft constructor. He originated a series of successful aircraft, from the Camel biplane to the jump-jet Harrier; but he will perhaps be chiefly remembered as the man whose 1936 decision to tool up at his own expense for 1,000 Hurricane fighters gave his country the wherewithal to face the Luftwaffe. (Contrary to popular belief it was the simple and rugged  Hurricane, not the more complex but beautiful Spitfire, that shot down the overwhelming majority of enemy planes in the desperate summer of 1940).

         In spite of his achievements in aviation, what Sopwith most regretted when asked much later (he died in 1989 at the age of 101) was 'that I didn’t bring home the America’s Cup. I really might have done and I ought to have been allowed to do it.’

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Arthur John Lucas narrates a chapter of accidents:

I sat in the club room of the old London Corinthian Sailing Club in Hammersmith on the evening of the 20th October 1921 washing my sins with ‘Club Barrel’ and patiently awaiting the arrival of the skipper of the Capel. The whole idea of this voyage was to set off down the Thames Estuary, making our way via the river Crouch to Fambridge. Here we were to collect and bring back the Lottie and her skipper Joe and also my Dreadnought, and sail or tow these back home to the Club.

  Having put all necessary stores aboard I slid down the causeway in the mud to get the Capel off her moorings. The skipper (whom I will refer to as 'Sam' during this narrative) arrived at last, looking worn, tired and ill, carrying a lunch bag resembling a pantechnicon which contained various articles of apparel and some accumulators which weighed nearly a hundredweight. We had a parting drink to start us on our voyage and our adventures commenced at 9.30 p.m.

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Jo Stanley tells the story of the Boats' Crew Wrens:

If you were a young woman avid for adventure afloat in WW2 then there was only one thing to do: become a boats’ crew Wren. Joining this gang of 573 ‘musketeers’ in the Women's Royal Naval Service meant you could spend your war messing about in boats, visiting every sort of ship, meeting endless sailors and being more directly part of the Navy than any other woman in Britain.

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Stan Grayson tries to understand the last voyage of Joshua Slocum:

Slocum’s demeanor changed dramatically when his visitors, all experienced yachtsmen, asked if they could go for a sail by paying a dollar each. Slocum assented after the young men agreed they wouldn’t mind anchoring at New Bedford on the way back so Slocum could row ashore to fetch some supplies. Perking up, Slocum ‘stayed by the wheel and gave his orders in a very crisp, sharp fashion without shouting - a far cry from his earlier hesitant mumbling.’

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Jim Ring explains who really won WWI:

On 24 November 1918, within a fortnight of the Armistice, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet was piped on board his old flagship, the great battle-scared 26,000 tonne battlecruiser HMS Lion. To the ship’s company Admiral Sir David Beatty set out the decisive role he felt they had played in victory.

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Humphrey Barton goes open-boat sailing in the Hebrides:

The first time I saw Foula was from the bridge of an 800-ton cargo steamer bound from Stromness in the Orkneys to Lerwick in the Shetlands. It was getting dusk and we had just left Fair Island a mile or two to starboard, and were rolling heavily to a long swell, when I sighted away to the northwest a small high island, jet black against a pale violet sky. I could not for the life of me think of any island that lay right out there in the Atlantic, so mysterious and so lonely. Finally I asked the captain.

‘That is Foula,’ he replied. ‘It lies twenty-six miles west of Scalloway and it is the most western of the Shetlands.’

         This sounded interesting....

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Ian Dear tells the story of a vital but under-reported service:

Tugs do not immediately spring to mind as fighting vessels; yet during two world wars the Admiralty's armed Rescue Tug Service saved many lives, nearly three million tons of merchant shipping, and a lot of valuable cargo. It also assisted scores of damaged warships - one of which was the destroyer HMS Javelin, Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten, when German destroyers blew off her bow and stern sections in the southwest approaches in November 1940. Only 155ft of her original length of 335ft remained to be towed into Plymouth by the rescue tug Caroline Moller. The mission took over thirty hours, and was continuously harassed by enemy aircraft, which the tug helped repel with her 12-pounder dual-purpose gun.

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Dr Sally K Church, Ming expert, explains that there is nothing new under the sun:

There is an established rule of thumb that there should be three nails for every foot of board. But the workshop foremen are unable to prevent the temporary unskilled workers from stealing nails. When they are worried about running out of [nails], there is a simple solution: use fewer nails. However, they are afraid of being caught by the inspectors. So they drill the right number of holes, and just insert fewer nails. This is what is called 'drilling the holes close together, while inserting the nails far apart'. Once [the holes] have all been caulked over, [the inspectors] cannot tell the difference.

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Annie Hill is caught on the horns of a dilemma:

I was in Nova Scotia, staying in Halifax. My old friend Jim wanted me to go and see a boat he had seen for sale and had made an offer on, subject to further consideration. They weren’t queuing up to buy, so the owner, who was also the builder, had said yes. The boat in question was a smaller sister of the Perfect Boat, that I had lived aboard and loved for many years. She had been sold, and I really hadn’t got over her loss. Seeing her little sister might be twisting the knife; on the other hand my curiosity was piqued....

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Peter Willis discusses Arthur Ransome's greatest book:

In 1935, Arthur Ransome was having a classic mid-life crisis - not that he was aware of it, as the condition was not identified or named until 1965; but all the symptoms were there. There was dissatisfaction with things as they were, a tendency to take his achievements for granted, an inclination for impulsive, radical change, and an attempt to revisit his youth by buying a big toy.

 

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity, extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

 

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Extracts Winter 2017

Winter 2017 - Racing schooners, crossing oceans, and the light and dark side of submarines.

 

Racing schooners with Sterling Hayden

High water. A schooner lies to a wharf. Her sheer is proud as it runs up to her bows from a low point amidships. Old men lounge in late September sunshine, fiddling with pipes and knives, admiring the look of the vessel, spitting and scanning the sky.

            Against this sky is a man at work on the mainmast head. He wears a checked wool shirt, one sleeve ragged. Ninety feet from the deck he works, wearing a rigger's knife - homemade from the blade of a file - with a bucket of tar dangling near his hands.

            Gloucester somnolent and warm. He basks in the glow of the scene - in the crowding of masts, the wheeling of gulls, the lift of a sail in the distance. His world begins and ends with just such things as these. The ship is the Gertrude L Thebaud, fitting out now for a challenge match against the Canadian Bluenose (best three out of five races, no handicap, no shifting of ballast, plenty of good hard feelings). His job is that of mastheadsman - he on the main, Jack Hackett aloft on the fore. What more could a sailorman ask?

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Bill and Laurel Cooper make an alarming passage:

‘June - too soon’ says the rhyme about hurricanes in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic. We should have paid attention on 2 June 1982 as we rocked in harbour in Bermuda while Hurricane Alberto got ready to lay waste to Cuba and cause tribulation in Florida. A couple of weeks later, however, things had calmed down. On 16 June we set sail for Rhode Island in good weather and light winds, hoping for an enjoyable run in our stoutly-built 58ft steel ketch Fare Well.

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Donald Patience catches more than he bargained for:

We decided to go fishing on the West Coast for ground fish and the more lucrative hake. Hake always congregated in the deepest holes in the Minch and were a much sought-after fish, fetching about six times the price of cod, skate and other white fish. Before calling at Stornoway for ice and fuel we anchored our nets in Loch Shell on a herring mark and a few hours later hauled them for five cran of herring which we iced down.

            We then made our first attempt at line fishing. I decided to shoot the lines in the deep water around the Shiant Bank and hauled them for less than a ton of mixed fish, as well as the odd large skate which were breaking our snoods. It was obvious to all the crew that the great-lines had seen better days, but rather than admit defeat I decided to go further afield, and set sail for the Horseshoe Light forty-five miles west of the Butt of Lewis, in search if halibut. As we were approaching the Butt the weather deteriorated to a westerly gale.

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Neil Munro admires efficient policing:

It wass the time when Tarbert herrin'-trawlers wass at their best and money goin'. It wass then, my laads, there wass Life in Tarbert! The whole o' Scotland Yaird and a regiment o' arteelery couldna have kept the Tarbert fishermen in order, but Wully Crawford held them in the hollow o' his hand...

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Janet Verasanso remembers the Med in the 50s:

In 1951 we stowed many tins of spam and snoek aboard our 10-ton cutter and set off across the Channel, inspired by tales of the legendary wonders of French cuisine and a strong desire to say goodbye to the horrors of food rationing. The severe currency restrictions prevailing at the time required careful forethought, as our proposed journey through the French canal system would involve substantial expenditure in fuel costs. On reaching France, however, we found to our delight that fruit and vegetables (and wine) were so cheap that the grim tins stayed where they had been stowed until we forgot they were there.

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Roger Crowley explains the Venetian Empire:

Probably no state in history has enjoyed a closer relationship with the sea than Venice. The city was literally in the water, threatened by continuous destruction from the waves and without any natural resources. It depended totally on maritime trade. Everything that people bought, sold, built, ate or made came on ships that relied in turn on seafaring skills of the very highest order and control of trade routes. Over five hundred years, the Venetians constructed a maritime empire that was the marvel of the world and a prototype for later European sea powers.

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Erling Tambs sets out on his honeymoon:

We sailed only in the daytime and hove-to at night. Backing the staysail and hoisting a trysail abaft the mast, our little ship practically stayed on the same spot until we resumed our course.

            When crossing the ocean, we did not carry sidelights. Confident in the knowledge that steamers hardly ever come to those parts of the Atlantic which we were traversing, we went to sleep, as good people should do at night, quite undisturbed by any anxiety about being run down.

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Sam Jefferson goes commerce raiding under sail:

In the early January of 1917 the collier Gladys Royle was in the latitude of the Azores. The mood on board was light, for the ship had slipped through the net of u-boats and mines at that time menacing British shipping in the Western Approaches. Few on board gave any thought to the windjammer which had gradually been closing on them throughout the day. As she drew near, she revealed herself as a Norwegian merchantman, and respectfully asked for a time check to ensure that her chronometer was functioning correctly. Captain Shewan of the Gladys Royle was a conscientious sailor, and promptly hove-to in order to lend a hand to the oldtimer.

            It was at this point that things stopped making sense. The Norwegian flag came tumbling down, to be replaced by a German ensign.

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Tom Cunliffe discusses trends in navigation:

On a 60-mile passage across the central English Channel on a breezy springtide day, a landfall could easily be five miles adrift. A sensible small-boat navigator accepted this unpalatable truth, and laid a course up-tide of the hoped-for destination. Unsure of his DR, he compensated for the worst-case scenario and dealt at a stroke with the two simple questions on which all navigation still turns: Question 1: 'Where am I?' and Question 2: 'How do I get from here to where I plan to go?'

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Victoria Drummond qualifies as a marine engineer:

One morning I found a 2-inch cube of steel and a new file on my bench. This was the works test and I had to file each face of the cube to exactly 2 inches with the sides dead level. I might only use file, rule and square.

            As can be imagined, I tried to make a perfect job and put my very best into the work. When complete both my bench mate and the foreman looked at it, after which it was handed to the shop manager.

            He sent for me the next morning and told me I had passed top. It was under two thousandths out with micrometer on all sides. I was delighted.

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Nelson Troubridge meets a man in a pub:

Used to be in a submarine. Hunter-killer. Nuclear. Bloody marvellous Christmas tree. About a foot high. Under the ice, we were. About six hundred feet down. Black as your hat outside, humming along, what, twenty knots and the loudest thing you could hear was the ticking of the clock. We had been hanging around off Murmansk, horrible place, been to Murmansk? Thought not, cold, dark. We had picked up one of theirs, a big one, off on patrol six hundred feet under the ice.

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Keith Read explores the Custom of the Service:

It was the mid-Sixties. The new co had joined the boat, an Oberon class conventional diesel-electric submarine, some weeks before. He was young, goodlooking, self-assured, and determined to stamp his own personality and style on the boat, which was his first command.

            Two weeks out from hms Dolphin, her home base at Gosport, the boat was visiting Gibraltar before continuing to Malta and the Eastern Mediterranean.

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Stranger than fiction from Caroline Rochford:

As he was donning some fresh underwear the ship suddenly capsized, and the captain found himself standing on the ceiling of his cabin. Though the sea had flooded the vessel and the rest of the crew had perished, the captain's cabin had become hermetically sealed, providing him with enough air to survive and the ship with enough buoyancy to stay afloat.

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Emily Painter on the Arctic Tern:

Beat, beat, go the wings. Below, the green marshes and the serpent creeks slide by. Away, over the wide estuary plumed with mud from the banks and the red buoys flashing in the night. Now the coasts are steeper-to, white walls reflecting the moon as the wings push along, beat, beat, a powerful, high-geared beat. It needs to be powerful. There is a long way to go.

            Beat, beat, go the wings.

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Charles Warlow reviews circumnavigations of Britain:

The ambition of cruising around Britain in one’s own yacht emerged during the last half of the 19th century. The Channel was safe, as we were no longer at war with France. Scotland, at least the west coast, was not the terra incognita it had been before Boswell and Johnson’s celebrated 1773 tour; English was replacing Gaelic; and in the wake of Queen Victoria and her Balmoral Castle the Highlands were fast becoming a fashionable tourist destination. Furthermore, Murdoch Mackenzie and his successors had properly charted the entire British coastline.

            By the 1870s, cruising yachts were being built for a professional class which now had enough money and time go to sea, but without the expensive appurtenances of a skipper and an immaculately turned-out crew. This trend produced the so-called Corinthian sailors - people who could manage a small yacht singlehanded or with the help of a few other amateurs.

 

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity, extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extracts

Autumn 2017 - cruising with Uffa Fox, Baltic icebreaking, a rare William Faulkner short story, and reflections on voyaging and naval disaster

 

Uffa Fox crosses the Atlantic in luxury, and returns in squalor:

Day after day passed peacefully by; Bobby reading for an hour every evening out loud to us all in the cockpit, Miss Ann (as we called the skipper's wife) mixing Mint Juleps about 2.00 p.m. every afternoon, a Virginian drink, which first of all produces smiles, then a great feeling of energy, then a powerful desire for sleep, while, as my trick at the wheel generally started soon after sundown, I used to sing for half an hour with Bill as a helpmate, and Bobby would lead us in 'Green Grow the Rushes O'.

And so time passed, and we bent south until the sun was plumb overhead; and after that we bent our way north again for Bermuda, all of which time the squaresail lifted Diablesse over the seas, while the mainsail prevented her from rolling.

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William Faulkner goes on two missions with a hero of the First World War:

A marine with a bayoneted rifle passed Bogard on to the wharf and directed him to the boat. The wharf was empty, and he didn't even see the boat until he approached the edge of the wharf and looked directly down into it and upon the backs of two stooping men in greasy dungarees, who rose and glanced briefly at him and stooped again.

It was about thirty feet long and about three feet wide. It was painted with gray-green camouflage. It was quarterdecked forward, with two blunt, raked exhaust stacks. ‘Good Lord,’ Bogard thought, ‘if all that deck is engine...’ Just aft the deck was the control seat; he saw a big wheel, an instrument panel. Rising to a height of about a foot above the freeboard, and running from the stern forward to where the deck began, and continuing on across the after edge of the deck and thence back down the other gunwale to the stern, was a solid screen, also camouflaged, which inclosed the boat save for the width of the stern, which was open.

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Horatio Clare goes icebreaking in the Baltic:

The first icebreakers were invented in the twelfth century by the Pomor people of the White Sea region. The Pomors came from Novgorod and Karelia; their koches were flush-planked sailing vessels with rounded keels, designed to be squeezed. When the ice pressed in on either side of the hull the koche popped upwards undamaged. The koche's most recent descendant is the 125 million euro Polaris, owned and operated by the Finnish government, displacing ten thousand tons and running partly on liquid natural gas.

                  I first saw Polaris, her array of searchlights blazing like a fallen star as she rumbled towards us across the frozen Bay of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland.

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Roger Taylor plans a new voyage:

I sit now where once ice towered, graunching its way seawards. The deeply riven landscape still speaks of its weight and power. Sometimes I fancy I can hear the glacier at its murmuring.

    Across the loch, left and right, stand the two high sentinels that shouldered the ice aside: Creag Mhaol – Bare Crag, and Creag an Duilisg – Crag of the Dulse. Between the two, the hills stretch away and up to the peak of Beinn Conchra, a faint curve defining the limit of the southern landscape.

    The ebb tide sweeps past, carrying my thoughts to the sea.

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Max Liberson reflects on the art of anchoring:

The more you know about anchoring, the more you realise how much more there is to know. My first forays into this murky world were successful, mostly because in the Thames estuary the holding is very good, and the biggest problem is getting the mud off the anchor.

                  The first time things got difficult was on a trip from Nieuwport in Belgium....

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A survivor of disaster in the Falklands goes open-boat cruising in Scotland:

The sun is trying to break through. Away to the west, showers move lazily across the sea before wiping their wet hands across the hills of Ardnamurchan. Below, the boats tug impatiently at their mooring lines. We break camp and stow the damp gear. One reef in the sail and cast off. A short tack across the sheltered loch, then out through the narrow entrance to the open sea. Clear of the anchorage the full force of the wind hits us. Too much sail. Another reef, then a long wet beat out to the west. Three small boats dwarfed by the hills of Morven and Mull. The seas grey and steep, the motion violent. Two miles to the point of Auliston and the sound of Mull.

 

I climb up onto the bridge. The sun shining through the windows is harsh after the red night lights below. Broadsword lies close astern, Pebble island five miles to the south. The sea is calm and blue. Giant Petrels wheel effortlessly across the water, their wings never quite catching the waves. The watch changes and the bridge settles down again. Ops room chatter sounds over the speakers, routine reports tracking the unfolding drama of the day.

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Graeme Stones tells the story of an agonising decision:

We called our skipper Tiger because he was fearless. In every other way the nickname was unsuitable, for he was amiable, fun-loving and relaxed. We made him walk the plank once, on his birthday. Took him down to the aft deck, blindfolded him, hoisted him up on to a broad board over the gunwale and poked him with poles until he fell off into the chill North Sea. He swam round to the stern ramp and clambered out on the steps, puffing and blowing and as he stood there, catching his breath we tipped cold porridge and galley scraps onto his head. He just roared with laughter and chased us off the deck.

                  Tiger’s command was a little under 200 feet long, an ex-Arctic trawler now converted to a Dive Support Vessel...

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Tom Cunliffe takes a relaxed look at Lecky's 'Wrinkles':

Ask any serious sailor born before the electronic revolution if the name 'Lecky' rings a bell and the answer will be, 'Lecky's Wrinkles, of course.' What he or she would mean is a book that first appeared in 1881 and had by 1908 run on to a fifteenth luxury edition 'with photogravure portrait', containing the distillation of more hints and tips for the navigator than anything published before or since.

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Henry McBride examines the economics and ecology of fish farming:

In the 1970s, technology, necessity (declining populations of wild fish), and a large helping of corporate and consumer greed led to research that culminated in the rearing of saltwater salmon by duplicating the events of their career at sea. This career resulted in the 200-fold transformation of a one-ounce parr into a six-kilo adult in two years - a testament to the incredible productivity of the marine environment; by comparison, a top Hereford steer might achieve a measly 30-fold increase in mass in its lifetime.

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Claudia Myatt goes cruising with Daphne:

I woke at midnight; I think it was the noise of the bow slamming into a wave that woke me. It always sounds as though it's hit something solid, doesn't it? So anyway, I didn't sleep too well. The Captain had warned us it might be rough; he's very good like that. 'Do take care to hold on when you visit the bathroom in the night,' he said in his noon announcement. The Captain talks about rough sea in the same way a surgeon talks about pain: 'It may be a little uncomfortable,' he says. It's like the sick bags that are always available in bad weather, with a discreet sign by them which says 'Motion discomfort bags'. I find that quite amusing. It's a shame it's rough, though, as I was looking forward to the ice sculpture demonstration today, and now it's bound to be cancelled.

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John Rousmaniere looks behind the scenes at the New York Yacht Club Book Group:

Except for the absence of motion, one might fancy oneself at sea,’ a visitor once commented about the New York Yacht Club’s clubhouse, with its flood of maritime themes across its architecture, collections, and even the Library, where yacht models are displayed among the stacks holding thousands of books. This large room, reminiscent of the highly-polished yacht cabins in which Joseph Conrad’s favorite narrator, Marlow, spins one of his tales of mystery and ambiguity, is the setting for the monthly discussions of our book group, which this year celebrates its fifth anniversary. Four storeys above a mid-Manhattan street, two dozen or more men and women come together every third Thursday with drinks in hands and literature and sailing on our minds. We gather in a seated circle, and for ninety minutes we talk of nothing but one book about the sea and ships.

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extracts from the Marine Quarterly Autumn 2017

Autumn 2017 - cruising with Uffa Fox, Baltic icebreaking, a rare William Faulkner short story, and reflections on voyaging and naval disaster

 

Uffa Fox crosses the Atlantic in luxury, and returns in squalor:

Day after day passed peacefully by; Bobby reading for an hour every evening out loud to us all in the cockpit, Miss Ann (as we called the skipper's wife) mixing Mint Juleps about 2.00 p.m. every afternoon, a Virginian drink, which first of all produces smiles, then a great feeling of energy, then a powerful desire for sleep, while, as my trick at the wheel generally started soon after sundown, I used to sing for half an hour with Bill as a helpmate, and Bobby would lead us in 'Green Grow the Rushes O'.

And so time passed, and we bent south until the sun was plumb overhead; and after that we bent our way north again for Bermuda, all of which time the squaresail lifted Diablesse over the seas, while the mainsail prevented her from rolling.

William Faulkner goes on two missions with a hero of the First World War:

A marine with a bayoneted rifle passed Bogard on to the wharf and directed him to the boat. The wharf was empty, and he didn't even see the boat until he approached the edge of the wharf and looked directly down into it and upon the backs of two stooping men in greasy dungarees, who rose and glanced briefly at him and stooped again.

It was about thirty feet long and about three feet wide. It was painted with gray-green camouflage. It was quarterdecked forward, with two blunt, raked exhaust stacks. ‘Good Lord,’ Bogard thought, ‘if all that deck is engine...’ Just aft the deck was the control seat; he saw a big wheel, an instrument panel. Rising to a height of about a foot above the freeboard, and running from the stern forward to where the deck began, and continuing on across the after edge of the deck and thence back down the other gunwale to the stern, was a solid screen, also camouflaged, which inclosed the boat save for the width of the stern, which was open.

Horatio Clare goes icebreaking in the Baltic:

The first icebreakers were invented in the twelfth century by the Pomor people of the White Sea region. The Pomors came from Novgorod and Karelia; their koches were flush-planked sailing vessels with rounded keels, designed to be squeezed. When the ice pressed in on either side of the hull the koche popped upwards undamaged. The koche's most recent descendant is the 125 million euro Polaris, owned and operated by the Finnish government, displacing ten thousand tons and running partly on liquid natural gas.

                  I first saw Polaris, her array of searchlights blazing like a fallen star as she rumbled towards us across the frozen Bay of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland.

Roger Taylor plans a new voyage:

I sit now where once ice towered, graunching its way seawards. The deeply riven landscape still speaks of its weight and power. Sometimes I fancy I can hear the glacier at its murmuring.

    Across the loch, left and right, stand the two high sentinels that shouldered the ice aside: Creag Mhaol – Bare Crag, and Creag an Duilisg – Crag of the Dulse. Between the two, the hills stretch away and up to the peak of Beinn Conchra, a faint curve defining the limit of the southern landscape.

    The ebb tide sweeps past, carrying my thoughts to the sea.

Max Liberson reflects on the art of anchoring:

The more you know about anchoring, the more you realise how much more there is to know. My first forays into this murky world were successful, mostly because in the Thames estuary the holding is very good, and the biggest problem is getting the mud off the anchor.

                  The first time things got difficult was on a trip from Nieuwport in Belgium....

A survivor of disaster in the Falklands goes open-boat cruising in Scotland:

The sun is trying to break through. Away to the west, showers move lazily across the sea before wiping their wet hands across the hills of Ardnamurchan. Below, the boats tug impatiently at their mooring lines. We break camp and stow the damp gear. One reef in the sail and cast off. A short tack across the sheltered loch, then out through the narrow entrance to the open sea. Clear of the anchorage the full force of the wind hits us. Too much sail. Another reef, then a long wet beat out to the west. Three small boats dwarfed by the hills of Morven and Mull. The seas grey and steep, the motion violent. Two miles to the point of Auliston and the sound of Mull.

 

I climb up onto the bridge. The sun shining through the windows is harsh after the red night lights below. Broadsword lies close astern, Pebble island five miles to the south. The sea is calm and blue. Giant Petrels wheel effortlessly across the water, their wings never quite catching the waves. The watch changes and the bridge settles down again. Ops room chatter sounds over the speakers, routine reports tracking the unfolding drama of the day.

Graeme Stones tells the story of an agonising decision:

We called our skipper Tiger because he was fearless. In every other way the nickname was unsuitable, for he was amiable, fun-loving and relaxed. We made him walk the plank once, on his birthday. Took him down to the aft deck, blindfolded him, hoisted him up on to a broad board over the gunwale and poked him with poles until he fell off into the chill North Sea. He swam round to the stern ramp and clambered out on the steps, puffing and blowing and as he stood there, catching his breath we tipped cold porridge and galley scraps onto his head. He just roared with laughter and chased us off the deck.

                  Tiger’s command was a little under 200 feet long, an ex-Arctic trawler now converted to a Dive Support Vessel...

Tom Cunliffe takes a relaxed look at Lecky's 'Wrinkles':

Ask any serious sailor born before the electronic revolution if the name 'Lecky' rings a bell and the answer will be, 'Lecky's Wrinkles, of course.' What he or she would mean is a book that first appeared in 1881 and had by 1908 run on to a fifteenth luxury edition 'with photogravure portrait', containing the distillation of more hints and tips for the navigator than anything published before or since.

Henry McBride examines the economics and ecology of fish farming:

In the 1970s, technology, necessity (declining populations of wild fish), and a large helping of corporate and consumer greed led to research that culminated in the rearing of saltwater salmon by duplicating the events of their career at sea. This career resulted in the 200-fold transformation of a one-ounce parr into a six-kilo adult in two years - a testament to the incredible productivity of the marine environment; by comparison, a top Hereford steer might achieve a measly 30-fold increase in mass in its lifetime.

Claudia Myatt goes cruising with Daphne:

I woke at midnight; I think it was the noise of the bow slamming into a wave that woke me. It always sounds as though it's hit something solid, doesn't it? So anyway, I didn't sleep too well. The Captain had warned us it might be rough; he's very good like that. 'Do take care to hold on when you visit the bathroom in the night,' he said in his noon announcement. The Captain talks about rough sea in the same way a surgeon talks about pain: 'It may be a little uncomfortable,' he says. It's like the sick bags that are always available in bad weather, with a discreet sign by them which says 'Motion discomfort bags'. I find that quite amusing. It's a shame it's rough, though, as I was looking forward to the ice sculpture demonstration today, and now it's bound to be cancelled.

John Rousmaniere looks behind the scenes at the New York Yacht Club Book Group:

Except for the absence of motion, one might fancy oneself at sea,’ a visitor once commented about the New York Yacht Club’s clubhouse, with its flood of maritime themes across its architecture, collections, and even the Library, where yacht models are displayed among the stacks holding thousands of books. This large room, reminiscent of the highly-polished yacht cabins in which Joseph Conrad’s favorite narrator, Marlow, spins one of his tales of mystery and ambiguity, is the setting for the monthly discussions of our book group, which this year celebrates its fifth anniversary. Four storeys above a mid-Manhattan street, two dozen or more men and women come together every third Thursday with drinks in hands and literature and sailing on our minds. We gather in a seated circle, and for ninety minutes we talk of nothing but one book about the sea and ships.

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

 

 

Extracts from the Marine Quarterly Summer 2017

Summer 2017 - sailing tall ships, getting awkward with Greenpeace, towing in the West Indies, and the old ways are not necessarily the best ways....

Ernest Gann wraps up:

The Dutch harbor regulations required a pilot to be aboard for the passage down the Maas River toward Hook of Holland. On the day of sailing he came just before noon and I was secretly relieved because there was a multitude of other things to consider without bothering about Rotterdam's maritime traffic, which is certainly the heaviest in the world. And this pilot inspired confidence at a glance. Though he was a small and elderly man, his large hands and remarkable blue eyes spoke of a lifetime at sea. His uniform cap was tilted jauntily on his white head and his first commands were wonderfully reassuring.

WW Dunne sails to Guernsey:

Tom Bowling is a 3-ton JOG cutter, 21ft overall, and of conventional construction. She has no engine (and does not need one) and is well equipped with all gear necessary for a seagoing yacht. New this season is the echo sounder, which has proved to be more than just a luxury. The windvane steering gear, which allows the boat to be self-steering on any point of sailing, is absolutely invaluable and we would not attempt even the shortest cruise without it. At sea we never steer.

     This year Margaret and I had planned to visit southwest Ireland and the first port of call was to be St Peter Port, Guernsey, where relations were expecting us.

Peter Willcox impedes a delivery:

Many countries feel that burning toxic waste is a good idea: out of sight, out of mind. Instead of a large, highly visible pile of waste, or leaking barrels of corrosive goo, the waste is burned and released into the air where it ‘disappears.’ Voila! Problem solved, right? Except releasing the gases into the air just spreads the problem around so everyone can suffer the effects. The solution to pollution is not dilution, but stopping the pollution in the first place.

      Our objective was to stop a delivery of 3,700 tons of mixed waste from Holland that was going to be burned in the Igelstaverket power plant in Södertälje, Sweden. 3,700 tons was just a small part of more than 110,000 tons that had been burned the year before. But Sweden had just applied for a permit to burn three times that amount, and to draw attention to this we were prepared to stop the ship delivering its cargo to the plant.

Julia Jones explains the Yachtsmen's Reserve:

The RNVSR (Royal Naval Volunteer Supplementary Reserve) came into being(or so the story goes) late in 1936 because the First Lord of the Admiralty found himself stuck for something interesting to say when introducing the Naval Estimates for the forthcoming year. Given the international context, such a lack of inspiration might seem surprising; but Britain was still hoping that there wasn’t going to be a war, money was tight and rearmament was a delicate subject. The First Lord sent a memo round his colleagues and received a reply from the Admiral Commanding Reserves suggesting that yachtsmen and other experienced amateur seamen should be invited to put their names forward as a supplementary list in addition to the established RNVR. The announcement was made, the newspapers picked up on it and the response was brisk. Two thousand volunteers were wanted; two thousand were swiftly enrolled.

Steve R Dunn hears shellfire in the Dover Strait 100 years ago:

Two Royal Navy flotilla leaders, Swift and Broke, had been assigned a patrol duty off Dover. The captain of Swift was Commander Ambrose Maynard Peck, while Broke was led by Commander Edward Ratcliffe Garth Russell Evans, known to his friends as 'Teddy', and a famous polar explorer. He had been seconded from the navy to the Discovery expedition to the Antarctic in 1901-1904, when he served as second officer on the relief ship, and afterwards planned his own Antarctic expedition. However, he suspended this intention when offered the post of second-in-command on Captain Robert Falcon Scott's disastrous expedition to the South Pole of 1910-13. Specifically, he was to be the captain of the expedition ship Terra Nova. He accompanied Scott to within 150 miles of the Pole on foot, but became seriously ill with scurvy and only narrowly survived the return journey. In one way he was lucky, for although he nearly died, he at least survived, unlike the entire group which had continued towards the Pole, including Scott himself. Called back to active service in 1914 from the lecture circuit, he always sailed with a stuffed penguin mascot strapped to the mast of his vessel, in recognition of his exploits. A nation's hero once already, he was about to gain renewed fame.

 Max Liberson on ferro-cement, fencing wire and linoleum:

My first experience of a ferro-cement boat was the 31-foot Colin Archer type gaffer my father built over four years. I was invited on the maiden voyage from Turnchapel in Plymouth to Salcombe, returning the next day. I was available because I had paid off one trawler and was looking about for another to join. In those days I was convinced I knew the sea. Now, many sea miles and more years than I would care to admit later, I realise how little I really knew.

 Nim Marsh gets technical in the West Indies:

The 63-foot, 30-ton aluminum ketch Blue was severely damaged when Hurricane Luis hit Simpson's Bay Lagoon in September 1995. It was decided that she needed to be towed 550 miles from St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, to Trinidad. Here we would deliver her to Peake's Yacht Services in Chaguaramas, to be returned to the condition in which she first came down the ways in South Africa in 1990.

     We were faced with making her sufficiently seaworthy to complete the long tow in 20 to 35-knot trade winds. We were also faced with the challenge of rigging a towline and bridle that would pull her in a controlled fashion.

 Adrian Morgan cooks up boat soup:

We buy varnish in tins these days, and there is a mighty industry geared to telling us what to use and how to use it. Black pudding, linseed oil, fish glue, colza oil, black varnish, bitumen paint, white lead, red lead, whiting, white zinc, gold size, lampblack, raw linseed oil and gum copal are a mere reeking memory. But in 1944, if you were bosun of a small coaster you might have sent one of the hands down to the paint stores for a gallon of rectified spirits of wine, 2 ½ lb gum sandarac, ½ lb gum mastic, 2 lb gum anima. Having assembled these ingredients, you would bottle them, put them in a warm place, shake from time to time, then strain the mixture and instruct the off-watch to set to with brushes (round) to varnish the flagpoles, the old surface having been cleaned down to the bare wood with caustic soda and pumice stone.

 Sam Jefferson hunts treasure with E F Knight:

E F Knight's sailing career began in the 1860s, pottering about in open boats off the family holiday home in Honfleur. Later he made two trips to the Baltic and two epic transatlantics. His view on sailing was an unfussy one: he once reflectedthat ‘the smaller the boat, the more fun can be had’ and also observed that standing headroom seemed a bit unnecessary on a yacht: ‘If I want to stand up, I go out into the cockpit.’ His knowledge of sailing in dinghies and open boats was extensive, and his book Small Boat Sailing was one of the first and best how-to-sail handbooks. (It even has a chapter on sailing the lateen rig, with penetrating remarks on the dos and don'ts of shooting the cataracts of the Nile.) Lovers of Arthur Ransome’s works will find frequent reference to Knight’s Small Boat Sailing in the 'Swallows and Amazons' series.

William Petherick sets sail:

I shipped on the Brigantine Forest Prince of Newport, Mon. as Able Seaman at £2.17.6 per month, in the beginning of March 1868 on a voyage from Newport to Lisbon with a cargo of 325 tons of Coals, then Ballast for Villa Real in Spain near Gibraltar, then take a cargo of Copper Ore to Liverpool.

     We sailed from Newport on March 7th with an easterly gale and very heavy snow. We ran down to Morte under a close reefed topsail and foresail. When passing that, we set the double reefed mainsail and, after passing Hartland Point about 10 pm the same night, the wind being just abeam, blowing heavy, we found what we was up against.

 Jon Tucker on cruising during earthquakes:

The news reports had not surprisingly been focussing on the land-based damage. When we switched on our VHF, a barrage of coastal navigation warnings abruptly reminded us that we were about to be faced with a different set of problems. The first was ominous enough: 'Following earthquake activity, mariners are warned that aids to navigation may be unreliable and there may be unusual tides.' The second was equally disturbing: 'Mariners are warned that charted depths may have changed in sea areas Conway, Cook and Castlepoint.' Charts might have lost their usefulness. For the immediate future at least, we water-dwellers were going to have to revert to navigation by number one eyeball.

 John Blake on the development of the nautical chart:

The first known mention of a shipboard chart came when St Louis (also known as Louis IX of France) sailed in 1270 from Aigues-Mortes in the south of France to Tunis, intending to use it as a base for his involvement in the eighth crusade. On the voyage he had with him a portolan chart, drawn by Venetian and Genoese cartographers at a time when those Italian city-states dominated trade in the Mediterranean.

Ella Westland introduces the Cruikshank brothers:

George Cruikshank always felt that he should have been a sailor. Instead, he became the most acclaimed caricaturist and illustrator of the nineteenth century, living out his maritime ambitions through his production of images of seamen that continued to influence public perceptions of the navy when the Napoleonic wars were long past.

     His older brother, Robert, did succeed in running away to sea, despite his father’s opposition - Isaac needed both boys in his London engraving workshop. Certainly the Cruikshank brothers had brine in their blood. Their maternal grandfather, a naval officer, had died in a sea fight against the French, and their paternal grandfather had been a customs inspector in the Edinburgh port of Leith. Robinson Crusoe was a much-read favourite in the Cruikshank household, his desert island adventures trumped only by the real-life anecdotes of one of their lodgers, none other than the African explorer Mungo Park.

 And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

​​​​​​Extracts from the The Marine Quarterly - Spring 2017

Spring 2017 – hunting U-boats, cruising with the family, procurement scandals in the US Navy, camping on Rockall

G H P Mulhauser goes hunting U-boats in the ‘Q’ Ship ‘Result’
At the beginning of March 1917 we were sent out to make a tour round by the North Hinder Lightship, up past Smith’s Knoll and then to the Dogger Bank. The first three days out were quiet, but on the morning of the fourth day it began to breeze up, and in the early hours the flying jib had to be taken in. An hour later the outer jib was stowed, and the mizzen, main,and foresails reefed. At dark a heavy SE gale was blowing, and things were very uncomfortable. The CO decided to heave to, as the ship was then clear of minefields, and also clear of the SW Patch on the Dogger Bank.

Anthony Bailey takes his young family sailing in his thousand-dollar yacht:
After Margot and Liz returned from Church and Sunday school, decided today might as well be the day. Gathered gear and junk, all ready by noon, except for Liz, who had disappeared in the direction of the Holy Ghost parade, celebrating the feeding of the starving masses of Portugal by Queen Isabella. Found her at the Portuguese Holy Ghost Club, downing free Portuguese soup. Finally reached the dory, stowed gear, fed other members of the crew. Made sail at 1:30 pm. Clear blue sky, not too warm, light breeze.

David Smith bluffs his way aboard a 1970s trawler:
I went down to the Grimsby Fish Docks to see Barney, the Ross Trawlers’ radio technician. I told him that I didn’t have a ticket, but this did not seem to worry him. He gave me a lift back to my digs with the instruction that I was to meet him next morning on the North Wall of the fish docks where the trawlers berthed prior to sailing back to Iceland or the White Sea. When I arrived I was then told that I was about to sit my examination for the PMG General Certificate of Competence in Radiotelephony. Once we were in the radio room, the Inspector asked me to tune the Oceanspan and then asked me basic questions from the R/T section of the Handbook. Five minutes later I was a fully qualified radiotelephony operator.

Hammond Innes sails from Istanbul to Malta:
As the first grey luminosity of dawn touched the sky, we heard the muezzins calling the faithful to prayer from the dim-seen needle-points of minarets. We headed for the entrance to the Bosporus and soon the pattern of domes and minarets began to emerge, vague outlines dominating the long peninsula of the old town – St Sophia, Sultan Ahmet, Bayezit, Suleymaniye, all the mosques that stand above the Golden Horn. The domes were huge, the bulk of the buildings staggering, but it was the minarets I remember, tall pencilled shapes that seemed to prick the underbellies of the clouds; ethereal in the grey dampness of the dawn, they seemed to belong to an Arabian Nights world and not a part of the bustle of the great port. Stemming the current below the old Seraglio, now part of the rich Topkapi Museum, we entered the waterways that gave birth to Constantinople.

Crispin Ellison learns that there’s no such thing as a free passage across the Pacific:
Close inspection showed up a huge number of items in need of repair or renewal. Jobs included replacing a good amount of woodwork and decking, sealing most of the windows, scraping many months of barnacles from the hull at low tide, filling dents and holes in the concrete hull, and repainting and re-varnishing the whole vessel from the keel up. Oh, and mending the engine.

William Hargreaves opens a window on the world of a Southampton First Class Pilot:
One of the pleasures of being a Southampton pilot is that the port handles not just the largest container ships in the world but a variety of other ships: the largest passenger vessels, the largest ro-ro carriers, and tankers of up to 350,000 tonnes. Squeezing a Supramax bulk carrier into the old dry dock is not for the faint-hearted; and spinning an eighty-five metre ship bound for the scrap berth in a 100-metre turning circle requires just as much concentration as that required for a ship four times as long. Things just happen more quickly on the smaller ship.

Andrew Cockburn raises an eyebrow at a recent US Navy initiative:
The roster of terrible warship designs is long and freighted with disasters, but some stand out as short-odds contenders for Worst Ever. Favorites for the title include HMS Captain, a full-rigged three-master rendered top-heavy by metal gun turrets, which predictably capsized soon after launching in 1870, drowning 480; the Imperial Russian Navy’s perfectly circular (and completely unsteerable) ironclads of the same era; and Beatty’s under-armoured cruisers, which blew up rather too easily at Jutland. In more recent times we have had HMS Excalibur, based on a salvaged experimental U-Boat, pronounced ’75 percent safe’ by the Admiralty and dubbed HMS Excruciator by her crew. But of all the truly awful notions that ever crawled from the addled brains of a naval bureaucracy, few can compare with the ongoing catastrophe of the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, aka the LCS, or (as its crews prefer to call it) Little Crappy Ship.

Nicholas Gray interviews a sailor from the Golden Age of cruising:
Edward Allcard has spent virtually the whole of his adult life wandering the world’s oceans, usually alone. He has written several memorable books describing his adventures. He now lives in Andorra, high in the Pyrenees. When he first moved there, he was asked by an immigration officer concerned for his future happiness if he wouldn’t feel enclosed by the mountains after the ocean’s wide horizons. ‘No,’ he replied. ‘Mountains are just waves standing still.’ He is the sole surviving member of that band of sailors who opened up the world’s oceans in the early days of small-boat voyaging.

James Grogono, pioneer of speed sailing, tells a tale of ever-increasing records:
The sport of speed sailing started in 1972, with the first Weymouth Speed Week. Until that time no speed claim had been accompanied by strict impartial measurement of time and distance – three years earlier, indeed, Bernard Hayman, then editor of ‘Yachting World’, had been incensed by a record claimed after ‘measurement’ from a moving car on the seafront at Southend. He formed an ad hoc Committee, chaired by the naturalist and painter Peter Scott. Rules were made, the organisation was handed to the RYA, and Speed Week came into being.

Rockall is a granite speck in the North Atlantic some 200 miles west of the Outer Hebrides. It is rarely visited and rarely scaled. Landing on its steep flanks, difficult at the best of times, is possible only when the weather is at its most benign – and by the time a boat has chugged out from Scotland, calm conditions can have deteriorated, making landing impossible.

One Sunday evening in late May I was sitting in a large armchair by a glowing fire when the telephone rang. It was Neil McGrigor. He had long been planning an attempt on Rockall. All systems, apparently, were now go. The operation began to function like a recently-cleaned Swiss watch.

The Editor of the MQ goes trailer sailing in Scotland:
For the last twenty years, the Corryvreckan Cruising Club has gone for a sail somewhere off the west coast of Scotland. There are four of us nowadays, and we sail singlehanded in small boats, meeting up at a specified anchorage of an evening for a bit of carousal, and helping each other out should we get into difficulties during the daily sail. The only rule of the club has been that we never, ever, under any circumstances go near the Corryvreckan. In the unlikely event that you have not heard of it, this is a deep gulf between the isles of Jura and Scarba, through which the tide pours at up to twelve knots. In the wrong wind conditions, this produces rips, overfalls, and the third biggest whirlpool in the world after the Maelstrom and the Old Sow off Eastport, Maine.

So as we moved the boats from their trailers to the water at Balvicar Boatyard on the island of Seil, we had no idea where we were going, but a pretty good idea of where we were not going.

Jon Tucker celebrates the world’s biggest Marine Protected Area:
I remember a hushed conversation in the wheelhouse of a ninety-foot Kiwi fishing boat in the early nineties. A promising new, unnamed, unregulated species had been discovered around the seamounts south of Easter Island. Get in before the bureaucrats start meddling, was the argument. It would be tough, but the profits would be enormous. That was the boom-and-bust mentality of the world-wide fishing fraternity. It bothered me. The announcement last October that the world’s largest Marine Protected Area is to be established in 1.55 million sq km of the Ross Sea – the size of France, Germany and Spain together – left me a lot happier. Once the euphoria has died back a little, though, it is interesting to look a little more closely at the conservation of the Last Ocean.

 

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

​​​​​​​ Extracts from the The Marine Quarterly - Winter 2016

Winter 2016 – Aegean cruising, boatbuilding in Lamu, tales from the radio room, the long, long history of coral and childcare on Clyde puffers

Jon Tucker takes his children on a little nature trip:
The Chatham Islands are a seldom-visited archipelago in the roaring forties about 450 nautical miles downwind of New Zealand’s South Island. Vessels bound for Cape Horn seldom bother to drop in. The islands are generally shrouded in cloud, and offer only one dubious all-weather anchorage. Scattered near Pitt Island (the smaller of the populated pair) are a number of small rocky islets, barely accessible by boat. Two of them, the Fort and the Castle, derive their names from their topography. The nearby Mangere Islet became famous overnight during the late 1980s with the discovery of three specimens of the Chatham Island black robin, a species assumed to have become extinct several decades earlier. One was an elderly female, which was named Old Blue. The other two birds were both males, one of which later turned out to be infertile.

From this tiny and precarious gene-pool, a remarkably successful breeding exercise developed…  Soon after the inauguration of the breeding programme, a small group of Kiwi yacht-racing enthusiasts came up with the hitherto unheard-of idea of an ocean race from Napier to the Chatham Islands.

Robert Atkinson and friends go poaching in the Small Isles:
We cut off the creature’s head with Hugh’s penknife. This was not as difficult as it sounds, but took several minutes. We whispered still and continually glanced to the skyline; the horror of somebody appearing over it was not to be thought of – but we must have half-expected it since we looked up so frequently.  We then cut off other parts which it is correct to take from a stag. The tide was low but flowing again. We had a long way to move the boat. We struck the tent, cleared the site and loaded everything into the boat.

Di Beach and her husband go boatbuilding in Lamu:
The woodcutters roughly squared off the chosen branches with their adzes to reduce the weight, then dragged them to the shoreline with coconut-fibre ropes. When the boat was loaded higher than seemed prudent, they sailed back to Lamu. Upon arrival at the boatbuilding site they dumped the timber in the shallows, where it remained submerged until needed – Lamu boats were always built of green timber.  Many such trips were needed, and the process took several weeks.

Philip Temple spends Christmas at sea with Bill Tilman:
We had a book called ‘The Magic Pudding’ and Antony, Ed or Warwick tookto reading a verse from it before each heavy mound was cut up andserved. At the presentation of an early duff the Skipper told thistraditional tale: ‘The new cabin boy is always asked if he likes themiddle or ends of treacle duff. Middle! says the boy. Me and themate likes ends, says the Skipper, promptly cutting it in half.’ Andthen as Antony replied with some rude retort: ‘What I want from youMr Mate is silence — and not too much of that.’

Tales of hilarity and tragedy from the now vanished Radio Rooms of the Merchant Navy:
‘The Wireless Operator, a plain man equipped to do one thing extremely well, bears himself in extreme emergency with cool courage. He stands by his job, though at any moment the ship may sink under his feet. From the very nature of his job he is almost the last man to leave a sinking vessel – allowing precedence in devotion to the captain alone, and he continues to send distress calls and to direct rescuing vessels until some officer seizes the slack of his trousers and pitches him into the boat. Sometimes, and not infrequently, he goes down with his ship.’

Keith Read tells the story of a rather fraught tow:
It had been a good couple of days. It was the early seventies and the boat, the Royal Navy’s newest hunter-killer nuclear submarine, was heading back to the Clyde after a final set of post-build sea trials. Full-power steaming and a deep dive had all gone well. The boat had proved highly manoeuvrable and watertight at the deepest diving depth. True, the principal naval architect for the design had been seen to turn a little ashen on surfacing. This turned out to be because the seal in the main accommodation hatch had been found to be missing. But well-machined faces and sea pressure had rendered a seal redundant, so all was well that ended well, and the crew and assorted contractors, overseers and trials personnel were beginning to relax after a strenuous, cramped and tiring few days.

As the boat headed through the North Channel ten miles North West of Rathlin Island and the Irish coast, a North Atlantic gale blew in….

Anthony Bailey reflects on the joys and sorrows of winter boating in New England:
In my very small fleet of small boats, I found that my favourite craft, at least for lone winter use, had no sail. This was a Gloucester Gull Light Dory, designed by Phil Bolger of that town. The traditional New England dory was a simply built boat, carried to sea stacked one inside the other on the decks of Grand Banks schooners, and dropped overboard for their crews to use on the fishing grounds. Bolger’s variant was not only less burdensome but with lower freeboard, its lines refined for easy rowing. There was no need to carry masses of fishing gear or, on the way home, several quintals of cod. Initially tippy, it became more stable the further it heeled. Our dory had been painted with the usual-for-dories high-visibility orange paint but given no name, so we baptized it Lark, the slightly-out- of-birth-order acronym of our four daughters.

Hammond Innes sets out from Malta, bound for Byzantium:
For those who sail in the Mediterranean the problem of Turkey has to be faced sooner or later. I knew the difficulties – but having seen the Turkish coast from the Dodecanese two years before, I had to go, I had to see Troy and the ruins of the Ionian cities; above all, I wanted to sail my own boat through the Dardanelles and across the Sea of Marmara to Istanbul, to see the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus.

Nigel Sharp tells the long, convoluted story of yacht handicapping:
It was probably the Royal Yacht Squadron (at that time the Royal Yacht Club) which introduced the first system of handicapping, at its 1827 regatta. Two of the three cups were awarded to the fastest boats below 75 tons and 45 tons respectively, while all vessels were eligible for the third. Two years later this was taken a stage further. The competing boats – still racing as a single fleet – were split into six groups according to their tonnage, all the boats in the bigger group giving the same time allowance to all the boats in the next smaller group, and so on.

    Individual handicaps were issued for the first time in 1841, when eleven yachts between 31 and 393 tons raced each other, with an allowance of one second per mile for every ton of difference between the competing boats. The 6th boat home was declared the winner on corrected time, and the system was considered (at least by the Committee) to be a success.

More jinks high and low on the Vital Spark:
The last passenger steamer to sail that day from Ardrishaig was a trip from Rothesay. It was Glasgow Fair Saturday, and Ardrishaig Quay was black with people. There was a marvellously stimulating odour of dulse, herring, and shell-fish, for everybody carried away in a handkerchief a few samples of these marine products that are now the only seaside souvenirs not made in Germany. The Vital Spark, in ballast, Clydeward bound, lay inside the passenger steamer, ready to start when the latter had got under weigh, and Para Handy and his mate meanwhile sat on the fo’c’sle-head of “the smertest boat in the tred” watching the frantic efforts of lady excursionists to get their husbands on the steamer before it was too late, and the deliberate efforts of the said husbands to slink away up the village again just for one more drink.

Charles Payton introduces us to a whaling captain who lost his wits:
The life of a London south sea whaleman of the early 1800s was not easy. Crews of 30 to 35 men were confined in vessels seldom more than 90ft on deck, and sailed with the certainty that even if they survived they would not return within two years, and that they could be away for three to four. In four years they might touch land for stops totalling three months overall, and these only to take on water, vegetables and wood. Everything else they carried with them or made for themselves.

Given these conditions, it is surprising that there is not much evidence of mental illness on whale ships – and where it exists, it seldom presents in the common sailor. Masters and Mates, coopers and carpenters, were more susceptible.

Oscar Branson laments the decline of coral reefs, but points out that it has happened before and will happen again:
The demise of corals is a catastrophe at ecological, environmental, economic, cultural, philosophical and personal levels. It is a visible and appalling sign of the direct impact we can have on the planet. Surely this cataclysmic destruction of an entire, complex ecosystem must be unparalleled and unique?

Well, no. Coral reefs have been comprehensively wiped out on at least 6 separate occasions since the origin of life on Earth 3.8 billion years ago.

The Editor goes gardening:
The last northern gasp of the Gulf Stream carries the seafarer through a ferocious landscape. The Cuillins look as if they want to saw chunks out of the sky. The hills behind Torridon glow red-hot in the sunset. As the boat turns into the mouth of Loch Ewe, the only thing between her and Labrador is the grey pencil line of the Isle of Lewis, forty miles to the west. At the southern end of the loch is Poolewe, a scatter of houses trapped between the sea and the jumbled mountains inland. The peninsula on the left of the white hotel bears an Art Nouveau grove of pines. Traditionally, there are so few trees in these parts that even coffin boards are hard to get. What is going on?

 The dinghy crunches on the shore. Drifts of seaweed cling to the boots. There is a steep, grassy bank. Then, suddenly, a walk with neat laurel hedges, brightened with bloody splashes of the climbing nasturtium tropaeolum speciosum, lined on one side by a neat two-acre terrace of flowers and vegetables, and on the other by a sub-tropical jungle.

 

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

Extracts from the The Marine Quarterly - Autumn 2016

Autumn 2016 – Summer cruising in Antarctica, exploding derelicts, sunken forests and one of yachting’s great myths examined.

Jon Tucker’s sons take him to the windiest place in the world:
Fifteen hundred miles south of Tasmania, nestled into the Antarctic promontory of Cape Denison, is a tiny boat harbour less than two fathoms deep and half a cable wide. For roughly four weeks after each summer solstice the fast-ice breaks out, leaving enough room for a single yacht, trussed on every quarter with shorelines stropped to boulders. It is a unique anchorage in a coastline dominated by thousands of miles of giant ice-cliffs. The Pilot shows that the only months of significant reprieve from incessant katabatics are December and January, when summer anticyclones reduce the chance of being hammered to one day in two.

This was the little meteorological lottery for which my son Ben had decided to take a ticket. He had recruited his youngest brother Matt as crew, and allowed me to tag along as cabin boy on a promise of good behaviour….

Morgan Robertson tells the story of a dream salvage that turns into a nightmare:
On a bright morning in November 1894, a curious-looking craft floated into the branch current which, skirting Cuba, flows westward through the Bahama Channel. A man standing on the highest of two points enclosing a small bay near Cape Maisi, after a critical examination through a telescope, disappeared from the rocks, and in a few moments a light boat emerged from the mouth of the bay, containing this man and another. In the boat besides was a coil of rope.

The boat soon passed the fringing reef and came in sight of the strange craft, which lay about a mile east and half a mile offshore. ‘You see,’ resumed the younger man, called Boston, ‘there’s a back-water inside Point Mulas, and if she gets into it she may come ashore right here.’

‘Where we can loot her. Nice business for a respectable practitioner and a man who calls himself a retired naval officer.’

David Lewis explores the mysteries of South Seas navigation:
In the 1960s academic controversies were rife concerning the navigational feasibility of prehistoric canoe voyages. A voyage between Tahiti, Rarotonga and New Zealand using book-learned Polynesian non-instrumental navigation (with a safety officer aboard) was therefore undertaken in the catamaran Reha Moana in 1965.A later (1969) project in [the ketch] Isbjorn stemmed from the realization that a scattered remnant of heirs to a 2,000-year-old navigation tradition still survived. The obvious step was to seek to become their pupils aboard ocean-going canoes, where these were still in commission, or alternatively to voyage under their command in an Isbjorn temporarily stripped of compass, sextant, patent log, clocks, radio and charts. The quality of the master navigators we encountered and the inherent accuracy of their art rendered a safety officer entirely redundant. The only time one would have been appreciated was when, after a month in the Carolines without instruments, my son Barry and I replaced the compass and set out for Truk, a mere 135 miles away. The noon sight next day appeared little more than a formality – until it revealed that we had been heading a good 25º off course. No Island navigator would have been more than 2º or 3º out; dismay and puzzlement reigned. Frantic searching brought the culprit to light – a knife tucked away unnoticed under the compass bracket. We would have been better off, we reflected ruefully, had we relied on the Tongan saying ‘the compass may go wrong, the stars never.’

Martyn Murray voyages to St Kilda:
I started the engine and hauled in the anchor, which had snared a large ball of kelp. I cleared the kelp ball and secured the anchor firmly on deck. This was easier said than done as Molio was being pushed by wind and tide; it meant rushing back and forth from anchor to engine controls so as to adjust her position in the tight confines of the harbour. Once ready, I hauled up the mainsail and steered Molio round the red buoy at the entrance from where I followed the Leverburgh Channel to the northwest. Passing through the outer channel that lies between the isles of Stromay and Ensay, I put her onto a more westerly course and let fly the yankee, keeping five turns furled. As we cleared the sheltering arm of Harris, the gusts grew stronger; there was no need to raise the mizzen as Molio had plenty of sail up. With the engine off she surged forward at over six knots, passing little gatherings of guillemots and razorbills. I looked westward across the lonely sea. Beyond this gateway, there were another forty-three nautical miles to go. With luck, I would be on a close reach all the way.

J P W Mallalieu’s convoy gathers:
Williams arrived at the ship from his three days’ leave simultaneously with Sub-Lieutenant Carr. ‘Had a good leave?’ said Carr.

‘Yes; but I’ve come back with a hell of an overdraft and a hangover.’

‘Any idea where we’re going?’

‘Iceland, I’m afraid.’

They arrived in their old fjord three days later. It seemed colder. White clouds always threatened to drop snow, and frequently did. They had leisure to notice some ominous signs. The anchorage had filled considerably. There were several more merchant ships flying the hammer and sickle, and one of these spent the morning practising with an Oerlikon gun which she had just fitted.

Adrian Morgan goes in search of the real ‘America’:
On March 28, 1942, an unusually heavy snowfall smothered the New England countryside. At the height of the blizzard, the roof of a nondescript shed on the waterfront at Trumpy’s Yard in Annapolis collapsed. The incident was scarcely newsworthy. America was at war and had other, far more pressing, matters on its mind. But to the historians of the America’s Cup it was a tragedy, for the shed was the final resting place of a low, black schooner whose legacy has inspired controversy ever since.

Sam Jefferson describes a hideous rounding of the Horn:
The Southern Ocean was in a fury. Three weeks of hurricane-force winds had been hurling spume along the surface of moving grey mountains whose peaks were lost in cloud. Lashed by this rage was the sailing ship British Isles, listing to port, boats gone, deck gear smashed. Aloft, tattered rags of canvas cracked in the gale. She had been hove-to for three weeks, and had drifted to within 66º 32′ S, perilously close to the icefields, a mere 105 miles from the Antarctic Circle. Her spars were frosted white, her steel hull, rubbed raw by brash ice, bleeding great welts of rust.

James Barker, her Captain, had doubled the Horn fifteen times. Yet even he must have harboured grave doubts as he watched his depleted crew grow weaker by the day. Three men were already dead, many more incapacitated in their bunks. The world was grey and stormy, as it had been for days. But at this moment Barker spotted something new. He roared, ‘STAND BY FOR YOUR LIVES!’

Hugh Aldersey-Williams explains how Galileo got it right about the planet, but wrong about the tides:
Galileo was not a Copernican when he left Pisa – he had not seen for himself any compelling evidence to support the idea that the earth rotates around the sun – but by the time he left Venice he was. What did he see there that made him change his mind? In the first place, his investigation of projectiles indicated to him that bodies could move under the influence of more than one force at a time – in this case the propulsive force of the explosion to launch a missile and the still unrecognized force of gravity pulling it off its path and back to earth. Second, there was the persistent impression of the journeys on the barges that supplied Venice with water.  He had seen how their vital cargo lay still when the boat was proceeding at a steady speed but would slop about when the boat changed speed or direction. When a barge slowed as it came in to dock, for example, its load of water would rise up in the bow and fall in the stern.

Lisa Woollett wanders among drowned forests:
I go to the beach of Millendreath because I’ve heard about the trees. It is the third Monday in January — the most depressing day of the year according to the radio — but after months of wind and rain sweeping in relentlessly from the Atlantic, the sun is shining from cloudless blue.  The trees were uncovered a week ago, when violent storm waves stripped the beach of much of its sand. It is low tide when I get there and several part-exposed trunks lie at the half-tide mark where the sand turns to mud, some drying in the faint warmth of the sun.

Claudia Myatt explains the techniques of sketching at sea:
Almost every harbour has at least one artist on the quayside on a summer’s day, and every village-hall art exhibition displays coastal scenes full of boats of varying degrees of seaworthiness.

So why, in an age of cameras, do we still do it? Perhaps John Ruskin had a point, when he wrote in 1857:

‘… I believe that the sight is a more important thing than the drawing; and I would rather teach drawing than my pupils may learn to love Nature, than teach the looking at Nature that they may learn to draw.’

Jim Ring discusses ‘The Riddle of the Sands’:
No book published either before or since better captures the peculiar pains and pleasures of sailing and living in small boats. The flog of wet canvas, the tattoo of halyards on the mast, the relentless degradation of food, drink, comfort, convenience and personal hygiene, coupled with the uniquely rewarding challenge of bending wind, tide and weather to the service of your will. It is also a book that established the whole genre of the spy novel, of the individual pitted against the state, of David against Goliath.

 

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

Extracts from the The Marine Quarterly - Summer 2016

Summer 2016 – passage to Haiti, helicopter salvage,  Jutland, Severn trows, and the world’s most incompetent smuggler

John Maclean and crew sail the 1979 Fastnet race:
The steady westerly swell of the sea had been temporarily flattened by the wind coming in from the south, and Fluter was training along superbly, her lee rail occasionally dipping under, the phosphorescence flying to leeward. This was exhilarating, but we all knew it was just part of the blow beginning to work itself up. By midnight we were down to the No. 1 jib and 7 rolls in the mainsail. At the change of watch we decided it was a good moment to put the storm jib. Shortly after this there was a gust with more than a hint of a Force 7 and the strop on the head of the storm jib broke, the halyard disappearing up the mast. We reset it using the spinnaker halyard, saying that in the morning someone would have to go up the mast to retrieve the other halyard, which was flying out horizontally in the near gale. Little did we know there would be no hope of this. When Simon took the weather at 0015, the forecaster announced a severe gale SW Force 9 was on its way.

Captain Edmund Eglinton begins a long career carrying cargo under sail:
Came the day when the Jane was loaded and ready to leave the River Axe for her first cargo to the Kingston walls. It was a very low spring tide, however, and the Jane, to save time, actually had to be sailed into the mud berth and ‘dumpted’ as Capt Smart termed it, and her anchors carried off after the tide had ebbed. Of course, my father took me with him, for I already had quite a lot of experience in mooring the various trows, and the heavy ‘anchor drill’ that went with it. I was conversant also with the hoisting and furling of the sails. But this was my first trip! The first time ever in a vessel under sail from one place to another! It was only a few miles but I was thrilled beyond measure.

Kenneth Michell fights Bolsheviks on the Dvina in 1919:
b hgnbbThe Medical Department now recommended me to the Admiralty to receive an appointment to a ship in a warm climate and in order to have their little joke they appointed me in command of HM Monitor M33, which was fitting out at Chatham to relieve the garrison at Archangel and endeavour to make contact with, and rescue,  Admiral Kolchak, which meant passing up through the Norwegian fjords, round the North Cape and through the ice to the White Sea and the River Dwina.

I found the M33 in a state of chaos, having returned after the war from bombarding the Belgian coast. I was warned that as they were such shallow draught ships they were very unmanageable in a seaway and to get ready for a passage of more than a thousand miles through the North Sea and Arctic Ocean, I prepared for the worst.

Nat Benjamin sails his schooner ‘Charlotte’ to Haiti:
A moderate night wind slid down the high volcanic slopes and across the water, wafting us through the Passage with sheets eased. Shortly after midnight we rounded Cap Dame Marie and set our course for Île-à-Vache, some 20 nautical miles to the ENE. Cooperatively, the breeze backed a few points to the north, allowing us to make our heading in one tack. At about 0300 we rounded up in the lee of an uninhabited cove and set our anchor in white sand under 20 feet of clear, moonlit water. When the sails were stowed and Charlotte finally at rest, all hands walked about the deck in quiet conversation. This was the natural world, unchanged by man, and for all of us a landfall like no other.

Graeme Stones hunts a ditched helicopter in the North Sea:
The helicopter we were looking for had gone down in the dark a week earlier, in a rising gale. We had been working on a Dive Support Vessel in the same field until the wind got up and late in the afternoon we had to let go the platform and steam into it. By 2200 it was blowing 7 gusting 8. The last flight of the day took off from the rig we’d been diving on with the two pilots and a solitary passenger. Soon afterwards there was one transmission, with only these words: ‘Mayday, we’re ditching.’

Nicholas Jellicoe remembers his grandfather’s part in the battle of Jutland:
In 1911, commanding the 2nd Battle Squadron from HMS Hercules, Jellicoe was able to successfully attack Sir George Callaghan’s rear by breaking with the rules and moving his squadron as an independent force. In the summer of 1913, Jellicoe again outmanoeuvred his commander-in-chief in a battle exercise where Jellicoe’s Red Fleet simulated a possible German invasion. Having lured his opponent south towards Flamborough Head, Jellicoe managed to land his 2,500-strong force either side of the Tyne. The exercise had been too successful. It was cut short lest it give the Germans ideas. It was this action that some say identified Jellicoe as the future war commander of the Grand Fleet.

David Higham sees the end of an era:
My time in submarines in the late Sixties and early Seventies coincided with the last hurrah of the art of the Gun Action Surface. I first served in Auriga in 1967, when she was part of the 7th Submarine Squadron based in Singapore during the Indonesian Confrontation of 1962-1966. The Royal Navy had refitted the boats in the squadron with the QF(Quick Firing) Mark viii 4in gun. While I was on board, first for training and then as Fifth Hand (the most junior officer), we practised Gun Action Surfaces as a welcome diversion from prolonged exercises playing loyal opposition to the surface ships of the Far East Fleet.

Francis Morland provides an object lesson in how not to smuggle hashish:
It was textbook, really. We drifted rather aimlessly for a day, then found the famous trade winds. For the rest of our journey an 8 to 10-knot wind blew steadily from astern. We poled out the main and foresail. A marvellous peace settled over the boat. Two dolphins joined us, skipping around us sometimes, sometimes just cruising astern, sometimes disappearing for an hour or so. We played them music to see what they liked best. Peaceful day after peaceful day went by. Then one dawn, when I was on watch, a blip appeared. During the day it turned slowly into Antigua: a perfect landfall, beginner’s luck. More ominously, our first radio contact included a speech from President Nixon, declaring war on drugs.

Suzy Annett-Brown goes fishing off Sardinia:
Head out for a mile and a half, he told us, line up the port light with the water tower to the west and the church tower of Calenzana with the beginning of the big cluster of maritime pines to the south, drop your anchor and go in reverse until it holds. Then pay out your palangrotte. The palangrotte was a length of thick nylon fishing line on to which several hooks had been bent at regular intervals, baited with pieces of squid. At the end of this line was a weighted sinker to hold it in place once it had reached the bottom. And what miraculous catch was this elaborate setup supposed to bring to the surface? ‘Ah!’ he said, rolling his eyes in ecstatic memory of a time gone by. ‘Le pageot royal!

Matthew Engel takes the last ship to St Helena:
30 December (afternoon) Neither me nor the taxi-driver is clever enough to find either e Berth or Duncan Dock where boarding for the RMS St Helena takes place. This is because there are no signs. By a process of elimination, I eventually guess correctly, rush in breathlessly, terrified of being late for check-in, then discover I am the first to arrive. In a sense I am already in St Helena, where everyone knows the ropes. So I sit in this grim hall, watching a video screen which regularly flashes up an advert for Titanic artefacts, which seems rather tactless. Not merely have I never been to St Helena, I have never been to sea. Not properly. Cross-Channel ferries, yes, but never on an ocean. In my journalistic career I have reported from all seven continents, but I flew even to the South Pole.

Tristan Gooley reads glitter paths:
When light strikes water and then reaches the eye it must have followed one of three paths. It will either have been reflected off the bottom, or off particles in the water, or off the surface. The bottom, obviously, shows as a change of colour, and particles as a milkiness or opacity. The effect that interests us here is reflection from the surface, which produces the long line of shimmering reflections known as the ‘glitter path’. This is caused when the eye picks up thousands of tiny sun reflections on the sides of waves stretching into the distance. Its shape is a measure of the height of the sun and the roughness of the waves; the glitter path will get narrower as the sun gets lower, and broader as the waves get steeper.

Jonathon Green discovers a new sea author:
The primary myth of Simenon is the myth of Paris, with its weather, its omnipresent Seine, its cafés, its haute bourgeoisiepetits gens and criminalunderworld. Maigret is an assemblage of illustrative tics — the eternal pipe stuffed with army-strength tobacco, the rides on buses with open platforms, domestic life with Madame Maigret.

Like most myths, these hide the truth. Simenon, so quintessentially ‘French’ was, like Agatha Christie’s ‘typical French detective’ Hercule Poirot, in fact Belgian. Maigret pursued as many cases beyond Paris’s city limits as ever he did within its twenty arrondissements. And while Simenon is at first glance culturally landlocked, the sea, and on a smaller scale France’s network of canals, plays a central role in his work.


And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

Extracts from the The Marine Quarterly - Spring 2016

Spring 2016 – sailing in the ice, racing clippers, new short fiction, America’s cup foilers, circumnavigation and skulduggery

Roger Taylor explores the islands of the ice:
There are moments in every voyage that become indelibly etched into the memory. At twenty minutes past two on the morning of Tuesday the twenty-second of July, after we had been at sea for seventeen and a half days,. I stuck my head out of the hatch. Oh! The fog had gone. Ahead of us, brilliantly irradiated by the low-angled light of an Arctic early morning, the southern cliffs of Bjørnøya stood high and proud. Nothing more than a few narrow wisps of cloud, cutting horizontally across the rock and the greensward that topped it, marred the perfection of the scene. I could see the basic topography of the island: the tall southern cape; the higher peaks to the northeast, and between the two a protrusion of low whalebacks that marked the island’s sole anchorage, and the lowlands trailing off to the northwest.

Sam Jefferson tells the story of the last great tea clipper race:
The Pagoda Anchorage was a broad, glassy sheet of water off Foochow many miles up the treacherous Min River, hemmed in by towering hills trimmed with curls of mist and lush foliage. Here the clippers gathered as spring brought the fragrant tea harvest down from the interior. In 1869, there was a notable absentee – the Sir Lancelot. She was a clipper feared by all. Her skipper, Richard Robinson, a tough Cumbrian, had won the China race on three separate occasions – more times than anyone else. He had attained command of the clipper Fiery Cross in 1860. In 1866, perceiving that the Fiery Cross was being outclassed, he switched to the beautiful new Sir Lancelot and overhauled the entire China fleet to win the 1867 race. A close finish in 1868 had seen him narrowly beaten by the Spindrift. As 1869 came around he was hungry for revenge.

Jon Tucker participates in an international incident in Antarctica:
There is something very wrong aboard our ship this evening. The sensation is distinctly different from the rhythmic lift-halt-crunch of an icebreaker on a regular day. It is impossible to ignore the shuddering vibration of both labouring engines, or the unpredictable jolting motion. In the compact passenger lounge, nervous laughter and uneasy glances accompany each violent sideways lurch, and voices are raised to be heard over the screech of tortured steel. Not everyone knows it, but tonight Akademik Shokalskiyis fighting for her life.

Original short fiction from Graeme Stones:
Coming ashore’s not like you think. Weeks and weeks cooped up with a dozen other blokes, twelve hours on, twelve off, work and eat and sleep and work. Lie about for an hour when you come off shift, watching blue videos, all the same, same faces, same tricks, but we can have a few laughs watching, crack a few jokes. It gets tight as the days go by, like everything is shrinking. When you go on board, when the trip starts, you can feel how it is for the blokes already there, you have to tidy yourself down because you’re still blown out and soft and full of all the other things you could be. But soon the job takes over and does it for you, and then there isn’t anything else. I like that bit, the feeling you can give up thinking about who you are off the ship because you’ve got real worries instead….

Surgeon Rear Admiral John Muir sails with the Bristol Channel pilots:
For some years I had been deeply interested in Bristol Channel pilot boats and the possibility of their adaption for yachting purposes. By all accounts they were wonderful sea boats, cheap to build and maintain, and could be handled with only one man to crew. After donning my oldest yachting suit, I looked the complete ruffian when I purchased a third-class rail ticket for a little village on the Avon not far from Bristol. In the back of my mind was the hope that I might have the chance of getting inside information usually denied to the lordly yachtsman before I decided to spend several hundred pounds, which I hadn’t got but hoped I might be able to raise, in buying one of them. Above everything I wanted to make sure that they were really within the power of two men.

In due time and in pitch darkness I was deposited as the sole passenger at the village station.

Nigel Sharp tells the parallel stories of two races half a world apart:
America’s Cup boats have evolved from the vast gaff schooners and cutters of the late 19th century, through the majestic Js of the 1930s and the relatively small 12-Metres in the post-war years, to the competition’s own International America’s Cup Class, and then to the 72ft foiling wing-masted catamarans of 2013.

Falmouth Working Boats have developed less dramatically. Two of them had a brief flirtation with Bermudan rigs in the 1950s, but now they are all now gaff cutters again, as this is still considered the most efficient rig for oyster dredging.

Adrian Morgan relates a famous collision:
While all hands on deck watched every shiver of jib or topsail luff, Valkyrie’s steward was down below, busily squaring away his pantry. He paid no attention to an outbreak of shouting on deck. Then, suddenly, the hull planking in front of his eyes burst inwards, and amid a huge splintering of timber and a rush of cold water the monstrous black bow of Satanita appeared.

Eric Hiscock and his wife sail round the world:
Our plan to make a voyage round the world had been maturing for a good many years, and after making a trip out to the Azores and back in our 4-ton cutter Wanderer II, Susan (my wife) and I decided the time had come to put our plan into action and see a little of the world and its people before growing too old and fussy to enjoy the experience.

Lesley Jameson, retired ocean sailor, makes a voyage on a container ship:
The technology [on the bridge] is totally beyond me, with too many screens etc. I was never very good at finding my way at sea without buoys and charts. It was fun when my brother and I were children and given a penny or two for seeing the next buoy in the Thames estuary, perhaps in thick fog. My husband tried to teach me to use our sextant when we were sailing in the South Pacific, but I often ended up in tears! I would rather be helming. On the ships, usually an officer will know how to use a sextant, and that is reassuring

Sam Llewellyn describes the skulduggerous arrival of the telegraph on Scilly
Scilly had no telegraph, and nobody was very keen to make the enormous investment required to lay thirty-odd miles of undersea cable across the notoriously difficult waters separating Scilly from the mainland. In the late 1860s, however, attitudes underwent a mysterious change. Telegraph boosters began to stalk the streets of St Mary’s, talking cable.

Robert S Fairweather gives an expert’s account of sustainable fishing:
I had considered fishing, as far as I thought about it at all, a straightforward task. Sustainable fishing was simply a case of not taking too much, and its problems came from the fact that this aim was the polar opposite of the greed of industry. …  I discovered that this was a simplistic view. Conservation of fisheries, it became apparent, involves a tangle of economic, cultural and personal stories.

Jim Ring reviews a new history of Britain’s submarine service:
With the exception of the sinking of the Belgrano in the course of the Falklands War more than thirty years ago, just what our submarines and submariners have done for us is hardly known. It is difficult to switch on Radio 4 without hearing General Lord Dannatt extolling the virtues of the Army in which he served; and no sooner had the House of Commons given the ‘chocks away’ to bombing Syria than we had raf Tornados all over the News at Ten and even the Sun. No such publicity is accorded to submarines. This is a pity, for the Flotilla’s service in the years since the end of the Second World War can justly be compared to that of Bomber and Fighter Command during Churchill’s ‘finest hour’.

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics, and the thoughts of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

Extracts from the The Marine Quarterly - Winter 2015

Winter 2015 – cruising the Med and the North Atlantic, baiting the French Navy, racing from New York to Cowes, brewing megawatts from the tides….

Sam Jefferson tells the story of the first Transatlantic race:
As the evening wore on, the arguments became increasingly incoherent. At some point someone proposed a race across the Atlantic, to decide the matter once and for all. The stakes were almost as high as the owners’ blood alcohol. The entrance fee was to be $30,000 per yacht, winner takes all, making a final pot of $90,000 – about $15 million in today’s terms. If the stakes were rash, the start date, 11 December, was borderline crazy. Yet when the revellers awoke the following day they took their hangovers to the New York Yacht Club, of which they were all members, and formalised the race.

George Millar cruises from Malta to Falmouth:
We seethed past the wine port of Marsala before 2300. The naval authorities there (Marsala used to have strong connexions with our own Royal Navy, before gin ousted wine from the wardrooms) were annoyed or intrigued by our display of lights – we carried port, starboard, stern, and masthead lights, and when it came to gybing I would turn on the spreader lights too – and a searchlight poked out at us. There was a blue flash, and all the lights of Marsala fused, leaving only the lighthouse, which was most necessary for my cross bearings. Sweeping round Favignana, we beat gingerly up into the easternmost bay of the north coast.

David Keswick gives an account of a peculiar cutting-out expedition in Fernando Po:
Work went forward through the autumn of 1941, and with increasing urgency into the winter. SOE officers undertook the duties of Vice-Consul at Santa Isabel and at Bata in Rio Muni on the mainland of Spanish Guinea. Another SOE officer passed between these two as Consular Courier, making the forty-mile crossing from the mainland to the island once a week in a leaky and ancient launch, noting the shoals, currents and buoys of the harbour approaches. The Vice-Consul at Santa Isabel found himself on friendly terms with the Spanish pilot of the Governor’s private aircraft, and his joyrides over the harbour provided a series of admirably detailed photographs.

Captain Colin Darch remembers his ship’s captivity off Somalia:
The pirates attacked around 1600 on Friday 1 February 2008. We saw a white plastic skiff approaching fast. I changed from auto to manual steering control, increased engine speed and propeller pitch to maximum, pressed the secret button which would activate a tracking device, and put out a mayday call on the VHF (which nobody answered).

They approached fast on the starboard quarter, five dark men, heads swathed in white rags, armed with Kalashnikovs. As they came level with our stern I turned the port thruster control 90 degrees to give our stern a 3000hp lurch towards them. Just in time they veered away. On the next attempt they fired shots. We all ducked. I was relieved to note no broken glass. Then Ted shouted that only four pirates were in the boat. Had the other boarded us? No! The bowman with boarding ladder had fallen into the sea and was swimming back to his mates. I considered running back over him, but I was not yet mad enough to kill. They appeared to give up, and we lumbered away east. Then to our dismay we saw a second boat arrive with four gunmen.

Jon Tucker sailed to Moruroa with the New Zealand Peace Flotilla:
When Jacques Chirac announced in 1995 that France would resume underground nuclear testing at Moruroa, a roar of angry disbelief rose from Oceania and Australasia. I still vividly remember Greenpeace’s David McTaggart on NZ TV: ‘I hope that the Kiwis, who are the best sailors in the world, get together all the boats they can and just wander over to Moruroa. You don’t have to go inside the 12-mile zone, as even when you are outside the 12-mile limit they have to put a warship on to you and it bothers them. The more that can get there the better. Please come.

‘Just wander over,’ he said. He was talking about a winter Southern Pacific voyage of some 3000 nautical miles, equivalent to a North Atlantic crossing.

The Kelvin auxiliary engine arrives in the New World:
On 29 November 1929 the engineless three-masted schooner Neptune II left St John’s, Newfoundland, on what was normally a twelve-hour hop over to Bonavista Bay.

They were almost in sight of Bonavista Bay when a terrific gale sprang up, with blinding snow. They had to run under bare poles for 220 miles. One huge wave washed away the wheelhouse, poop and lifeboats and wrecked the steering gear. For several days they wallowed, sometimes making westing, but mostly forced to the eastward by the weather. After more than three weeks at sea they decided enough was enough. Armed only with a compass, they attempted to set a course for the English Channel.

G S Hewett remembers a North Sea Crossing with his father at the turn of the last century:
When I was nine years old and my brother was eleven, we were pronounced ‘good hands’, and it was agreed that we should all go to Norway for a holiday. A telegram was duly sent asking for the boat to be launched, and in a few days a reply came, saying, ‘Your yacht is sitting on the waves’. All was then great excitement. Several days were spent in packing, as we had to take almost everything we wanted with us. With the help of a school friend we assembled a huge heap of sails, food and other necessaries. When the great day arrived our next job was to get all the gear to the railway station. In those days there were no taxis, but we solved the problem by making the gardener load up the heavier pieces on his wheelbarrow. When everybody was loaded to the full, there was still one parcel left – a side of bacon, which I was instructed to bring. It was too heavy for me to lift on to my shoulder, but I overcame the difficulty by tying a bit of rope to it and dragging it along the road to the station.

Richard Woodman tells the story of the cargo liners:
Real liners, you may say, were the great passenger ships. When the passenger liner disappeared, she was replaced by the airliner, whose parvenu operators nicked all the maritime terminology they could lay their hands on, because liners meant the Blue Riband, the luxury of the First Class dining room, gambling on the ship’s run: glamour. There was, however, another sort of liner, less glamorous, but the true progenitor of the modern container ship. I refer to that forgotten but supremely versatile ship, the cargo liner.

Trevor Robertson sails across the Atlantic, then sails back again:
An eastward crossing of the Atlantic in June or July should be easy for a well-found gaff cutter like Iron Bark. Wind and current are generally fair, gales few and the chances of a hurricane low. Early in July 2014, we (Iron Bark and I) were on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, provisioned and ready to sail for Scotland, when Hurricane Arthur’s imminent arrival was forecast. This was disconcerting, as I was not expecting a hurricane so far north this early in the season.

Douglas Lindsay was the sailing master of a trireme:
No direct archaeological evidence of triremes has survived – the boats were built of softwood, and deteriorated quickly – but there is a good written record, which was mined extensively for the boat’s design and operation. In classical times Athenian oarsmen were skilled freemen, not slaves. Each oarsman came with his own oar, and a sheepskin to sit on. The ancient record is also full of complaints by the Thalamians, down in the bottom, about the sweat, farts and disrespect raining down from above. Similar grumblings rose constantly from the modern Thalamians, who nonetheless took a spiky pride in their position – which was none too comfortable, as they had the smallest space in which to operate, hemmed in fore and aft by cross-beams. This meant that smallest rowers went in the bottom and the tallest rowed in the comparatively spacious Thranite layer.

Alastair Robertson takes a long, hard look at sea power technology:
A few years ago, the Dutch coastal engineers Hans Hulbergen and Rob Steijn were sitting in a café overlooking the windswept sands running out to the North Sea, studying a chart weighted down with ashtrays and coffee cups. Hulbergen asked for a cigar. Steijn pulled out a four-inch cheroot and laid it on the chart. As he reached across for it, Hulbergen was struck by the way it lay perfectly at right angles to the shoreline, jutting out into the sea like a breakwater. Suddenly he saw the cheroot not as a smoke but as an open-ended concrete dam extending far out into the sea, pierced through with dozens of underwater turbines. Dynamic Tide Power (dtp) had been conceived – and it is still in gestation, for to hold back the tides sufficiently to produce a significant out- put the breakwater would need to be an astronomically expensive eighteen miles long.

This process – epiphany followed by severe practical difficulty – is typical of a long line of ingenious schemes designed to harness the energy of the oceans.

David Burnett considers the Collins New Naturalists series:
People who go to sea are even more serious students of the weather than farmers – farmers depend on forecasts for their living, sailors for their lives. The study of weather is more than mere forecast- ing. The serious student must have an understanding of the past to help him understand what might lie ahead. Next time some- one pronounces it to be the wettest British summer or coldest winter since records began, hand them a copy of John Kington’s magisterial Climate and Weather. Few books wear their learning so lightly. Even fewer offer such a multitude of pleasures to the armchair reader.

 

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics, and the grim bletherings of tugmaster and tobacco smuggler Ray Doggett – all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

Extracts from the The Marine Quarterly - Autumn 2015

Autumn 2015 – trolling for tuna, racing multihulls round the world, getting on the wrong side of Bill Tilman, hanging out with the Albanian navy….

Albert Strange remembers his last cruise in in Cherub II:
When a man has owned and parted with a good many different boats, each one leaves in the memory its own particular stories which are never forgotten. No ship that I have ever owned has left more or happier memories than the little Humber yawl Cherub. She was a good, dependable creature, such a sea-boat for her inches and, if you did not want to walk about below, gave such comfort and ease when the toils of the day were over, that the affection she compelled has never been obliterated by her successors. I still wonder how I brought myself to part with her.

Jon Tucker trolls for tuna under sail:
‘Fish!’ yells Colin, as first one then three lines suddenly go bar-tight, zipping steeply downwards. The ensuing drill has become second nature. We hasten aft from the warmth of the wheelhouse, cautious on the heeling deck swept by knee-deep green water. Twenty vigorous minutes later, nine good-sized albacore tuna weighing from six to eight kilograms are sloshing among the melting ice in the slurry bin.

Rod Heikell sails from the Red Sea to Cochin:
We needed to keep clear of Socotra, the large island on the southern entrance to the Gulf of Aden, because it has long had a reputation for piracy. In 1995 at least fifteen ships and yachts had been seized by pirates operating out of Somalia over an eight month period. In 1996 the area was declared a no-go zone for shipping of any sort. Several yachts had been fired on and a few had been boarded by pirates. This was not the era where yachties were captured and held for ransom, but more ‘smash-and-grab’ piracy for money and valuables.

As it was we slipped past just 60 miles off the coast of Socotra and within the known zone for piracy, running no lights at night and keeping a good watch by day….

H A leF Hurt tells the melancholy tale of the loss of the ‘Sappho’:
The last of the cargo had been hoisted on shore, the hatches were all covered and secured, and the chief officer gave a sigh of relief as he left the deck and hurried into the welcome warmth of the saloon. It was terribly cold outside. Winter had come unusually early, and with quite unlooked-for severity. For the last fortnight the thermometer had not stood above zero, and had often been 20˚ below, and now in the first week of December 1915 the river at Arkhangel was covered with two feet of ice.

‘Thank God that’s over at last,’ he exclaimed.

The British Naval Attaché in Rome pays a visit to the Albanian Navy:
Formally dressed in ice cream suit and aiguillettes and accompanied by an Albanian minder, we set off in a battered staff car. Three fraught hours later (Albanians drive very fast and competitively, pulling out without looking, and their roads are littered with potholes and stray animals) we arrived at the Officer Naval Training College just north of Vlorë. Here we were greeted by a smart honour guard and invited to tour the establishment. There was not a lot to see. Staff and cadets were enthusiastic, but queries relating to equipment and study programmes elicited a Balkan shrug. It appeared that the obstacle course of ropes and chasm, a few tattered notebooks and a beached whaler were the extent of their training capability. Of boat-work, practical instruction and engineering there was no evidence.

Nigel Sharp recounts the tooth-jarring history of the Jules Verne Trophy:
Before 1993 no fully-crewed multihull had ever raced non-stop around the world. The idea of the Jules Verne Trophy – named after the author of Around the World in Eighty Days – was conceived by some of the sailors who took part in the 1989-90 Vendée Globe, including the winner, Titouan Lamazou, who set a new round-the-world non-stop record of 109-and-a-bit days. The trophy was to be awarded to the first boat to sail from an imaginary starting line between the Lizard and Ushant, leave the three great capes (Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn) to port and return to the same line in under eighty days, and to any boats which subsequently beat the first winner’s record.

In January 1993, three large multihulls set off to try to win the trophy. Robin Knox-Johnston, co-skipper of Enza New Zealand, one of the competitors, wrote: ‘Impossible and unrealistic, said many… those of us who thought it could be done at that time with a large enough multihull were classified as dreamers.’ Commodore Explorer, the only one of the three to make it round, won the trophy, crossing the finishing line with just eighteen hours to spare. Among the many people who were surprised that the goal was achieved so soon was the American artist who was making the trophy, but hadn’t yet finished it.

Captain Richard Woodman remembers his friend Lady Rozelle Raynes:
The outbreak of the Second World War meant that the daily trip through the grounds of [Lady Rozelle’s] father’s estate passed through an Army encampment. The spectacle of young men training for war had its effect upon her; she prayed that the war would not end before she could sign up. Her prayers were answered, and in 1943 she joined the wrns, finding herself not – to use Nicholas Monsarrat’s phrase – a ‘commissioned lovely’ on the staff of an admiral, but a Stoker Second Class, manning one of the many small tugs carrying men and signals round the anchorages of the growing invasion fleet assembling in the Solent.

Colonel Rémy of the Résistance is smuggled out of occupied France with his family:
We had set the radio up in the hotel room, and contacted London. In a short message we told them that we were ready to start Operation Marie-Louiseand London confirmed that the boat would be at the rendezvous at the agreed hour. Alex suggested that we dine at the Moulin de Rosmadec. I arranged a horse-drawn carriole,the only available transport, and we left the children in the care of the hotel’s patronne, and asked the young peasant at the reins to pick us up early the next morning to deliver us to the coast at Pont-Aven.

Janet Verasanso, one of the pioneers of Mediterranean cruising, explains her deeply fraught relationship with the legendary Harold ‘Bill’ Tilman:
In early May 1951 the British people were either looking forward eagerly to the Festival of Britain or wondering whether (despite the draconian currency restrictions) it might not be a good moment to take a holiday abroad. My husband, Ernle Bradford, and I belonged to the latter category. In anticipation of the crowds and incessant media reportage, we sold our possessions and bought a small 10-ton ex-racing Dutch boeier named Mother Goose, which we hoped would take us through the French canals to the quieter delights of the Mediterranean. To be able to cruise this sea, visiting the Renaissance cities of Tuscany and the ancient sites of Greece, had been my dream since childhood. To do so in one’s own boat, especially after the privations of the war and immediate post-war period, seemed almost unbelievable.

Douglas Lindsay describes his early days in the coasting trade:
A ship was working north along the Buchan coast in dense fog, with a man on the foc’sle chucking small lumps of coal ahead. So long as they splashed, it was safe to go on. The lookout was rather surprised when a policeman suddenly appeared over the foc’sle rails, and the captain fell on his knees and vowed to sign the pledge. The explanation was not, however, supernatural. The ship had gone aground on a slowly shelving sandy beach without realising it, and the policeman, pedalling by on his bicycle, had been unimpressed to have a lump of coal chucked at him out of the murk. Following the bellows of the ship’s whistle, he had waded out to the ship’s bow with a ladder, and climbed aboard to find out what on earth was going on. Badly shaken, the captain renounced the pledge and sought refuge in the bottle, where the policeman joined him.

I have heard people swear this is true.

The distinguished surgeon Martin Thomas describes the diseases of seamen:
In the age of sail, Jack Tar risked injury and death from foundering, wreck, fire and explosion, as well as the cannon, musket and cutlass of the enemy. But a greater risk by far – greater than all these horrors put together – came from disease and the treatments for disease, some of which were useless but did no harm, and others which were worse than the condition itself. It has been estimated that in the Napoleonic Wars eighty-one per cent of deaths were caused by disease or accident, twelve per cent by loss of the ship, and only six per cent by enemy action.

Glenn Storhaug explores the seamanlike nature of the poet T S Eliot:
In 1910, Tom [Eliot] boarded a steamer for a short stay in London and a long stay at the Sorbonne in Paris….This was the start of his transformation into T S Eliot, future Nobel Laureate, impeccably-dressed publisher and man of letters. But his early sailing experiences provided his poetry with a source of imagery that never lost its significance. Memories of such fogbound expeditions as his rounding of Mount Desert Rock intensified rather than faded…

 

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics, all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

 

 

Extracts from the The Marine Quarterly - Summer 2015

Summer 2015 – cruising Brittany, dodging ice, chasing Zeppelins, the origins of fishing boats, Highways to Hell, Missions to Seafarers… 

George Millar takes advantage of local knowledge:
When we had cleared the southern entry we saw most of the other craft turn to port for the harbours of Brest, while we continued south across the great bay called l’Iroise, making for a second race, the Raz de Sein. The Jean Jaurès had reduced speed, idling, we assumed, because the tide was setting through the Raz against us. My friend the drunk cooked on a charcoal deck stove. While the fishermen ate they passed from hand to hand pearly binoculars resembling grossly-swollen opera glasses. With the aid of that impressive device they made a close study of Isabel and Serica. We kept some distance astern of them, for we wondered what the captain would do at the entry to the Raz.

What he did was to veer to port into the cliff-hung Baie des Trépassés (which contains many submerged rocks). The race roared past at eight knots, carrying a brutal sea with it, and pushing a swell at an angle into the bay. The Jean Jaurès pottered about in zigzags. Isabel pushed Serica up close to them and, hanging on by our shrouds against the rolling, I asked them what they intended.

‘We’ll go through in an hour,’ the captain answered.

David Cowper transits the North West passage – several times:
What a night! The Gressingham duck breasts were rejected as being unsuitable for the conditions – (just as I had seasoned and scored them, and made an apple sauce). The ice pack was on the move with a strong southeasterly wind. To start with there was not even the ghost of a breeze, but gradually the open area of water took on a ruffled appearance, and before long the wavelets gave way to bigger seas. When I re-emerged after a couple of hours’ sleep, it was like a scene from Dante’s inferno – there was a full gale blowing on the beam, and the entire frozen sea appeared to be on the march, with great rafts of pack ice proceeding with remorseless power on their individual trajectories – some in full sail like huge, delicate lotus flowers, others looking like stacked-up railway sleepers; and then there were fantasies of the funfair – giant gondolas, and rocking ducks, floats from carnival days and even a double pedalo with a circular viewing hole through the centre, for all the world like an old fashioned plate camera – Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and the Land of Oz all intertwined; Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth creations, and every conceivable resemblance to something or other imaginable.

Flight-Lieutenant Culley hunts a Zeppelin:
At about 0830, Culley suddenly saw the Zeppelin in the sky at a great height – estimated then to be about 10,000 ft. After that things moved very quickly but with absolute precision under the calm direction of Colonel Samson in the lighter and Commander Holt in hms Redoubt. Soon the lighter was approaching full speed, and with Culley already in the cockpit, the extremely tricky operation of starting the [Sopwith Camel’s] engine by means of swinging the propeller by hand was undertaken. The airman who had been appointed for this work was a magnificent type, tall and powerful and absolutely calm. He was fitted with a special belt around his waist, which was anchored to the deck at a point that just permitted him to reach the propeller. He performed this operation with a 30 knot wind in his back as though nothing exceptional at all, and as soon as the engine started he carefully pulled himself back by the anchor cord, unclipped the hook and disappeared below deck. Now only Colonel Samson was visible, with his head just showing, to give the pilot the all-clear signal when he was completely satisfied that the aircraft could take off.

Culley then pulled the release fitted in the cockpit of the Camel and after a run forward of less than 5ft the Camel literally leaped into the air and was safely launched.

Charles Style takes command of HMS ‘Illustrious’:
I am driven past sandy French colonial fortifications to the harbour. It is already hot. On the pallet-littered quay, two dockyard workers in grey shorts and t-shirts sit motionless in front of their hut. I head for the big British tanker/stores ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, where all is cleanliness and smart white uniforms. Generators hum, and air blows lightly from the punkah louvres. We go to sea around midday and head south across an idly rolling tropical ocean, flying fish bursting outwards from the bow wave.

On the third morning I wake to the sight of hms Illustrious at three miles on the port bow. Her 686ft of length and high flight deck give a sense of solidity, and her grey paintwork looks dark against a cloudless sky. She is in 8º42’n, twenty-five miles off the Sierra Leonian coast,and I can just see aircraft being moved on deck.

A new short story by Julia Jones:
So there was Joe and Eli, that bitter cold day in December 1981, dredging somewhere between Ray Creek and Colne Point. The wind was easterly, so they should have had a bit of a lee, but still the wind came whipping round, and there had been a few flurries of wet snow chucked in their faces, and the shoals were white-topped and churning, and the short afternoon was beginning to fade.

They was both tough boys, and they knew that moving around the deck at work keeps you warmer than hunched over the tiller in the cockpit of a yacht. But there weren’t no shelter on the Igraine, none of your deck houses or spray hoods, just the forward hatch with the sliding cover that would lead you down into her cabin with the Primus ready to fire up, you hoped, and the aft hatch to the fish hold…

Mike Smylie teases out the origins of  fishing vessels:
In a harbour on the western fringes of Ireland there is a boat I know. She was built by James Noble of Fraserburgh in 1926, registered as cn196 and named Fairy Queen. She is undoubtedly a Loch Fyne skiff, one of the last of the line; I can be certain, because I have owned one of her sister ships. Yet over the years I have seen her referred to as a fifie yawl and a Thames bawley. This highlights a problem we seem to have in identifying particular types of fishing boat. In order to get around this difficulty, I thought I would try to tease out the various areas of influence which during the past thousand years or so have contributed to fishing boat design in Britain and the near Continent.

Jonathon Green takes us sailing on the moral sewer that was the Ratcliffe Highway:
The Ratcliffe Highway, nineteenth-century London’s sailor central, has gone. Like a house that has borne witness to a killing of more than usual foulness, it has been razed, the site buried under concrete and tarmac… Not a vestige remains. The almshouses, the schools, the merchants’ houses and the warehouses, have gone. So have the avenue of elms that once lined the street, and the minatory gallows erected on a hill in neighbouring Limehouse in 1440 for the hanging in chains of water-thieves (known as ark ruffians), their rotting corpses visible, London’s Elizabethan chronicler John Stow tells us, ‘farre into the riuer Thames’.

This was once the site of the William, the Bear, the Gunboat, the Angel & Crown, the Sailor’s Saloon, the Hole in the Wall, the Mahogany Bar and a host of other sailors’ pubs, lodging-houses and semi-brothels that gave the place its nineteenth-century notoriety.

Horatio Clare meets the good people who founded and continued the work of the Missions to Seafarers:
[At a] meeting in Salthouse Lane, Hull… ‘a few friends’ resolved to fit out a ship for missions to seafarers. Among the scheme’s subscribers was the great William Wilberforce. The ship chosen was ‘a bluff old craft with no figurehead but a splendidly-carved stern on which remained the name Valiant.’ Twenty-seven years later, by which time Valiant was known as ‘the floating chapel’, John Hall Oliver began work aboard her in Hull Docks.

Mike Peyton remembers the good old days:
When you are ninety-three, as I am, you have a tendency to think of the old days as the good old days. This is partly untrue, of course – I had friends drowned then who could be alive now if they had had a mobile phone. Nevertheless, you had to put more into sailing then, and I am sure you got more back. Yachts were often engineless. There were very few marinas, and anchoring off was normal – I still remember the satisfaction I got when I first anchored off, admittedly with some apprehension, by the Wallet Spitway one night, waiting for water. When I turned out later I found a working barge had joined me, which confirmed that I had done the right thing.

Annie Hill discusses the joys of living on a small boat:
Living on a boat, large or small, means that you are close to the natural world, attuned to small changes in the weather and aware of the fact that your surroundings are shared with a myriad of animals and plants. I live on a small boat called Fantail, and am rarely more than a yard or so away from the Great Outdoors.

Oscar Branson leads a plunge into a California kelp forest:
We descend, swimming down a steep wall of rock that drops away into the blue. Sharp shafts of sunlight dance over the rock, lighting up foot-wide pale pink sea fans hanging from the face, and glinting off the eyes of Pacific lobsters hiding in the cracks. The world is full of breathing and bubbling, and a constant background crackling hiss. It tastes of salt and neoprene. As you get closer the hiss becomes the urgent crackle and pop of snapping shrimp, with their special, enlarged claw that they can slam shut to cause an astonishing shockwave, making cavitation bubbles – one of the loudest noises in the ocean.

Closer still, and the bare rock comes alive.

 

And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics, all decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.

Extracts from the The Marine Quarterly - Spring 2015

Spring 2015 – sloops of war, inshore fisheries, cruising tropical Japan and Captain Nemo’s library

JoJo Pickering tells the story of her father’s relationship with a famous boat:
Racundra was built for Arthur Ransome of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ fame in Riga in 1922, and is immortalised in his wonderful Racundra’s First Cruise. Adlard Coles bought her, renamed her Annette II, and wrote about her in his book Close-Hauled. She was renamed Racundra after Adlard Coles sold her, passed through various different hands and fell into obscurity. My father was her fourteenth – and last – owner.

Tom Whitfield tells the story of a childhood fishing in a Devon beach boat:
A lobster pot was worth about £5 when one added up the cost of the withies and the day’s labour – about a week’s wages then.  The highlight always was when a blue flash was seen in the bottom of the pot as it surfaced, and a frantic flap flap of the lobster’s tail as the dripping pot was lifted and rolled in over the gunwale. The boat would threaten to dip its gunwale as the weight of the pot freed itself from the water and the weight of Bert (not that I ever called him anything but Mr Hillman, out of respect for his age) and myself eagerly watching for signs of life.

Henry Plummer has a near-fatal brush with Cape Fear:
There are many inlets to run to in fair weather for a boat of 4ft draft, but I fancy it usually happens that a man stays outside until the sea picks up and makes running inlet bars dangerous. The bars off the mouths of the inlets, they tell me, trend to southward and the gutter runs behind them up the beach. The open beach is fairly bold and if I was put to it, I think I would crowd on the rags, tie myself in the cockpit and send her up into the meadow. Make no mistake about that, a good, bold, sandy beach is much better to walk home on than 10ft of tide-swept water inside a sunken sandspit.

Douglas Lindsay retrieves the ‘Sunset’ from Amazon pirates:
Time passed – so much time, indeed, that the skipper’s patience ran out, and he sailed for Brazil. The bank was upset by this. The Sunset reached Nazaré some time in September 1996, and was greeted with open arms by the fishing company which had invited her to come. There was, however, no sign of a fishing permit, or indeed any obvious prospect of the boat starting work. By this time the bank was getting seriously upset, and demanded that the skipper return to the uk with his boat, failing which they would take action against him. The local fishing company’s response to the bank’s threat was to remove the boat from the company’s pier and hide it in a creek up the Amazon. At this point the bank decided it was time to reach for the repo experts.

Jeremy Roch cruises from Plymouth to London and back in 1677:
Having some occasion that called me to London, as had three or four sparks of the Town the like, I proposed going by water to save charges, which they agreed to. According[ly] I fitted my boat with all necessaries for such a voyage and, when all was ready, I gave them notice to come away. But it seems their hearts failed them, for they put it off with frivolous excuses, which vexed me a little. However, since I had put myself to so much cost and trouble, I was resolved to proceed, though alone. But as I was going off, a young lad that had never been on the salt water desired me to give him passage and I, thinking he might be of some service to me, took him in.

Ian Mclaughlan traces the development of the sloop of war from its 17thcentury origins:
With their slender hulls and shallow draught, [the first sloops] bore a strong resemblance to enormous, elegant rowing boats. The largest were 65ft to 70ft on deck, with a beam of 13ft and a draught of 5ft. They had weather decks, so they could to a certain extent keep the sea in rough conditions (though these decks were no guarantee of safety; during their brief, hardworking careers, which lasted from 1673–83, several foundered or were wrecked.) Their mainmast was amidships and set a square course and topsail or a very tall, thin ‘buss’ sail, as used by the herring busses. The foremast carried either one square course or, depending on the rig of the mainmast, a course and topsail.  Although they were armed, they were not really fighting ships. They carried 2 or 3-pounder carriage guns and possibly some half-pound swivel guns, often referred to as ‘murderers’, mounted on stanchions at chest height. These were often charged with metal bric-a-brac and used against the opposing crew as a form of naval blunderbuss.

Neil Calder goes dinghy cruising in Okinawa:
I live in a house by the sea on the beautiful subtropical island of Okinawa. Okinawa lies some 400 miles south of the Japanese mainland and is the largest of a chain of islands named the Ryukyus. From my deck I watch the lagoon, turquoise, never more than three metres deep, spread out to the reef about sixty metres offshore. After the reef there is deep blue East China Sea. This sea aches to be sailed on.

In meetings at work I disassociate myself from my body and drift off. I dream of hot passages, lost beaches, diving in warm, gin-clear sea, turtles, flying fish and the heeling of the boat as the wind comes off the land. I have to get a boat.

I obtain an American 14.6 sailboat and I call her Dileas, ‘faithful one’ in Gaelic, a name normally reserved for sheepdogs. She is heavy, stable, and broad in the beam, like all the best companions.

Nigel Sharp tells an oddly topical story of unpreparedness remedied by lateral thinking:
When war broke out in September 1939, the Admiralty thought it was well prepared: the Royal Navy was, after all, the largest in the world by some margin. It was only after hostilities began that the Admiralty realised that the war would not be won by its huge fleet of heavily-armed aircraft carriers, submarines, destroyers and battleships alone, and started to place orders for smaller craft, mostly with the seven hundred-odd British companies whose pre-war business had been the building of boats for leisure purposes. At the beginning of the war, the Navy’s small-boat forces amounted to about two dozen small coastal motorboats. By the end of the hostilities, these firms would have produced vast numbers of military vessels: 1500 for the Coastal Forces alone, as well as Air Sea Rescue boats, raf pinnaces, water ambulances, motor fishing vessels, minesweepers, landing craft and a myriad of other craft for specialised roles.

Daniel Cotton jumps ship and faces the consequences:
Being young and full of romantic notions, I fancied I could better my position by staying on shore. So I agreed with some negroes to pull me on shore after dark for the sum of 6/6d. After landing on the wharf I made straight for the country and slept my first night in a sugar mill where I was half eaten alive by mosquitoes, starting next morning to walk to the opposite side of the island, leaving the main road as being too public, I crossed the fields. . . .

Janie Hampton takes us steaming on Lake Malawi:
The Rev Chauncy Maples went to Oxford University to study law, but was inspired by Dr David Livingstone to renounce a career as a lawyer and join the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (umca). In 1876, aged twenty-one, he sailed for East Africa, where he set up clinics and schools for escaped slaves, and founded an Anglican Mission in Nyasaland (now Malawi).

Missionaries in Africa were usually killed by malaria, lions, warriors or lightning within a couple of years. Maples, however, was a survivor. After twenty years promoting Christianity and fighting slavery, Maples was consecrated Bishop of Nyasaland. But on his journey back across Lake Malawi, his sailing boat capsized in a storm. His cassock dragged him down and he drowned.*

Lake Malawi is part of the Rift Valley. It is 365 miles long and fifty-two miles wide, and is surrounded by Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania. In 1895 the umca commissioned Henry Brunel, son of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and John Wolfe Barry, the architect of Tower Bridge, to design a steamship for the lake. The ship would be called after Chauncy Maples.

Arthur Lane gives notes on his career as one of the more unconventional lighthouse keepers:
I went up to Scotland, to John o’ Groats. Nearby is Duncansby Head and the lighthouse, open to visitors. The keeper showed me round and I asked him what he had to do. ‘Nothing,’ he said morosely. I had already taken in the cold, impersonal magnificence of the sea, the vastness of the sky, the absence of people, the drama of the coastline, the landscapes discouraging to vendors of household comprehensive insurance, and the remoteness from Birmingham. Probably it was at that moment that I decided, ‘This is for me.’  I returned the 450 miles from Drumnadrochit to Birmingham in one ride of twenty-one hours on my underpowered motorcycle, falling asleep in the saddle towards the end and waking up in unexpected parts of the road. Then I wrote off to Trinity House, London, offering my services as a lighthouse keeper.

Adrian Morgan tells the story of a significant night in the life of ‘Bods’ Bodsworth:
Torpedoman Cyril ‘Bods’ Bodsworth, RN, sank a royal yacht. Under orders, you understand; a King’s orders, though he had no idea that was where they came from. But come they did, on a July night in 1936, detailing him to make up the four charges which would send Edward VIII’s yacht Britannia, inherited from his father, to the bottom of a deep trench south of the Isle of Wight.

William Firebrace discusses the literature of subaqueous habitation:
My interest in reading and writing about the sea comes from a book I have just completed, titled Memo for Nemo, about the habitation of the sea both in reality and fiction, from the time of Jules Verne’s fictional submarine Nautilus up until today. The 12,000-volume library of the submarine is the first travelling library of the sea, a vast personal collection assembled before Nemo, the submarine’s captain, bid farewell to the land.

 

And of course there is North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity and extracts from the classics  – all edited by Sam Llewellyn and decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.