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.