Extracts from the The Marine Quarterly - Summer 2012

Here comes the Summer 2012 issue, with gales, the Jubilee fleet on the Thames, and the Olympics.

Alastair Robertson casts an eye on the North Sea fishery
Humberside now makes a living processing imported Icelandic cod, while the Icelanders reap the benefits of climate change in the shape of huge shoals of mackerel turning up in their waters when once there were none – to the chagrin of the Scottish pelagic fleet, which has had its quotas cut. Is it going to happen all over again?

Janie Hampton, Olympic historian, takes us back to a kinder world
Sailing was first included in the Athens Olympic programme in 1896, though as it turned out the weather was so bad that the event was cancelled. In 1900, the regatta was omitted from Olympic results because the winners were given cash prizes. Motor boats appeared on the Olympic scene for the first (and last) time in the Solent in 1908. The Under Sixty Foot class had only two entries, one of which, Mr and Mrs Gorham, nearly sank, leaving the other, Thomas Thorneycroft, to win gold because his crew of two bailed so assiduously.

Dag Pike navigated the ‘Atlantic Challenger’ on her Blue Riband voyage
There were six of us at the press conference before we set off for the record attempt. There were Chay Blyth and Steve Ridgway, legendary tough guys with a penchant for crossing oceans. There was Eckie Rastig, the engineer, who would be nursing the pair of 2000hp MTU diesels that would power Virgin Atlantic Challenger II across the ocean. There was Peter McCann, who would film the event for posterity. Of course there was Richard Branson, grinning and gung-ho, telling the reporters what they wanted to hear, which was that we were all keen and ready to get out there and make another attempt on the Atlantic record. And there was me, contracted to act as navigator and weatherman. We all looked pretty confident.

Appearances can be deceptive.

B. Heckstall-Smith recalls a toughish Cowes Week in Kaiser Wilhelm’s ‘Meteor’
As the squall struck the Meteor sheheeledover on her beam ends. The huge lug foresail full of wind pressed her head down and her rudder came half out of the water. The vessel being a yacht of great tonnage had four skylights amidships arranged at the corners of a square. Two of the leemost skylights were completely under water and the sea was pouring into the cabins. The heftyGermans on the wheel put the helm hard down, but this was of no avail. The Meteor, rolling on her side, with tons of water in her bulwarks and her main boom trailing inthe sea, would not answer her helm and bore away, staggering and shaking like a great galleon before the force of the gale, a wallowing mass of sail and spindrift, with forty German sailors clinging to her weather rail.

Amanda Martin tells the story of the Scilly pilot gig…
Boats everywhere have been refined through centuries of use as man adapts them to the specific requirements of particular tasks and places. Pilot gigs represent a fusion of experience and necessity based on the criteria of seaworthiness, strength, cost, and above all, speed.

while Alasdair Moore gives an insight into the view from the rowing thwart
You are three hundred metres from the finish line, your hands can no longer feel the oar, your arms have tightened into a constant ache, your lungs are trying to burst out of your chest in a desperate search for more oxygen, your tongue has been transformed into a leather flip-flop, a burning mix of sea and sweat is running into your eyes. If there was a second to stop, everything would be all right; you might even have time to be sick or jump overboard. But there is no time. There is nothing, except the relentless stroke of the oars…

Ewen Southby-Tailyour warns of possible futures in the Falklands
Mrs Kirchner knows that Argentina is an economic disaster area in which inflation is running at twenty-five per cent. Nothing can unite her subjects better than xenophobic comments centred around Las Malvinas. She has no doubt studied the way in which, before the last invasion, General Leopoldo Galtieri decided that he needed to appease his naval chief of staff, and incidentally shift Argentine thoughts away from the ‘dirty war’ he was waging on his people, with a swift amphibious operation.

Kirchner may not have a ‘dirty war’ to mask, but she does have her problems. Both Britain and Argentina have ‘agreed’ that only peaceful solutions are the way ahead. Indeed, neither country has the means to do otherwise.

Except, of course, through unconventional warfare.

Christopher Lee remembers his rise from deckie to mate
It started forty and more years ago. I’d been expelled from school, something about setting light to the cricket pavilion. Ducking the oily thumb that would have tugged me by the ear to my grandfather’s factory, I ran away to sea and signed on as a deck apprentice aboard the Saint Gregory. She was a tramp built for the duration, an old coal burner converted in Hamburg to oil, with a mostly Chinese crew on deck. That January midnight she was lightship alongside in Rotterdam, bound for Port Sudan and a cargo of salt for Kunsan. MacCobb was the Mate.

We swung the compass off Ushant in an unforgiving swell, and by a force eight in Biscay MacCobb had me crouched in oilies leeward of Number Three hatch winch, lashed tight with a bucket of cold stew between my knees and a shaky grip on an empty galvanized pail. My orders were to eat from one and fill the other with what I couldn’t hold down.

Roger Taylor finds a bit of breeze near the Arctic Circle
By eleven I was forced to lower a panel of the mainsail to keep Mingming balanced, in a breeze that already hinted at what was to come – not so much by its strength but by its steady, lugubrious moaning. I had met moaners before, off the Dogger Bank and Iceland and the Faroes – winds that by dint of their absolute regularity of air flow set up a low, grief-stricken vibration. The moaning rings in the rigging and in the hull and in your head, and it presages nothing good.

Jonathon Green introduces John Taylor, sponsorship pioneer
The self-styled Water Poet epitomised himself in the illustration to Taylors Motto (1621). The author is standing on a rock in the middle of a stormy sea; he has an oar in one hand, an empty purse in the other, and stands astride a book. But if the purse was empty on that occasion, it was by no means always so.

Geoff Holder relates the unnatural history of sea serpents
In Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (1900)for example,John Gregorson Campbell describes the sea serpent known as the Cirein Crôin, the largest of all creatures in the sea:

Seven herrings are a Salmon’s fill,

Seven Salmon are a Seal’s fill,

Seven Seals are a Whale’s fill,

Seven Whales are the fill of a Cirein Crôin

And seven Cirein Crôin are the fill of the

Big Devil himself.

Guy Venables meditates on the psyche of the lobster
Find a gorse or holly bush about the size of a Labrador retriever. Weave it thickly with wool, both around and through, until it resembles the type of sculpture often seen at an art school end-of-year show. Bait the middle with a holed box or plastic container full of old mackerel heads or other offal. Weight it with anything heavy, bend on a line and buoy, and drop it near where you think there may be lobsters.

and many others meditate on books, life, fisheries, storms, calm, and the things that happen above and below the waves on this and the other side of the horizon.