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.