Here comes the Summer 2014 issue, with tales of mighty cruises, early Mediterranean holidays, mythical destinations, very bad language, the joys of seagoing simplicity and a lot more besides.
Richard Hopton describes the 1933-4 voyage from Hong Kong to Falmouth of the ‘Tai-Mo-Shan’:
On 20 June, after twelve days at sea, Tai-Mo-Shan arrived at Yokohama. The crew were armed with a splendid letter of introduction in Japanese with an English translation, signed by the Emperor’s Foreign Minister. In spite of this, they were treated with suspicion by the local officials. The language barrier made it hard to get across the fact that the voyage was for pleasure. Cultural differences did not help. As Ryder remarked years later, ‘We had no women on board and nothing to drink.’ To the Japanese, spying seemed the only possible purpose of the journey.
Nigel Sharp penetrates the mysteries of oyster dredging – and racing – under sail:
The Carrick Roads lies between the River Fal and the town of Falmouth, and is the body of water formed by the drowned valley of the lower Fal. It is a meandering channel, over 30m deep in places, bordered by large areas of considerably shallower water from which oysters have been harvested since the middle of the nineteenth century. In order to preserve the stocks and protect the beds from overfishing, a bye-law prevents oyster fishermen from using engines while dredging.
During the last century and a half, well over two hundred different vessels – Falmouth Working Boats, as they have come to be known – have dredged for oysters under sail in the Carrick Roads.
Rudyard Kipling goes fishing on the Grand Banks:
To the end of his days, Harvey will never forget that sight. The sun was just clear of the horizon they had not seen for nearly a week, and his low red light struck into the riding-sails of three fleets of anchored schooners – one to the north, one to the westward, and one to the south. There must have been nearly a hundred of them, of every possible make and build, all bowing and curtseying one to the other. From every boat dories were dropping away like bees from a crowded hive; and the clamour of voices, the rattling of ropes and blocks, and the splash of the oars carried for miles across the heaving water. The sails turned all colours, black, pearly-gray, and white, as the sun mounted; and more boats swung up through the mists to the southward.
The dories gathered in clusters, separated, reformed, and broke again, all heading one way; while men hailed and whistled and cat-called and sang and the water was speckled with rubbish thrown overboard.
‘It’s a town,’ said Harvey. ‘Disko was right. It’s a town!’
The Editor crosses the Pacific on a container ship:
Somewhere about a thousand miles southwest of Hawaii the MV Micronesian Pride hits another wave. She hits it hard. She is seven thousand tons of steel and tinned pineapple, the containers stacked four deep in the hold and three high on the deck. In her accommodation are eighteen Filipino mates, engineers and hands, a Lancastrian chief engineer, and a Liverpudlian captain. There is also a passenger. Me.
The wave is a big one. It has come down eight thousand miles of wind. It smashes the anchors back in their hawses and stops the ship with a shuddering crash. The passenger jumps out of a dream of machine guns. A bloodshot dawn is crawling out of the sea beyond the bridge windows. The heartbeat subsides. The waves roll under. The containers truck on across the Pacific.
Philip Marsden debates Marine Conservation Zones with Britain’s biggest trawler owner:
On a sunny afternoon in midsummer, Newlyn makes a striking contrast with the holiday bustle of most of Cornwall’s coastline. Long after the early morning fish market, a pair of lone refrigerated artics break up the empty acres of concrete wharf. Six or seven trawlers lie tied up along the quay, the lazy arcs of their stern lines almost touching their own reflections in the unruffled water. In the harbourside chandlers are none of the high-tag salopettes and docksiders of more yachty ports, but heavy-duty rubberised gloves, Guy Cotten bibs-and-braces, netting needles and bunt bobbins. In the public lavatories a sign is fixed above a postbox slit: DO NOT FLUSH needles down the toilet. Please use the needle chute provided.
Newlyn is one of the busiest fishing ports in the uk. It is also home to one of Britain’s largest private trawler fleets – the fourteen boats owned by W Stevenson & Sons. In the Stevensons’ office above the chandlers, the walls are jammed frame-to-frame with a hundred or so photographs of high-stemmed beamers, covered deckers, busy netters from the last century, as a theatrical agency might display the portraits of their stars.
Roger Barnes writes a paean to the joys of small-boat cruising:
Out of the shelter the waves powered in from the quarter, sweeping us high on their forward slopes. Breaking crests came crashing over the cockpit coamings, swamping the well and running away down the drains. The lurching cabin became a grim, wet misery.
Night fell. Ian and I stood alternate four-hour watches. Dawn came up grey and joyless. Soon low sunlight was gilding the waves. I left Harriet at the helm, and went below to put on a brew. When I came back up the companionway and looked around the horizon I was horrified to see the bows of an enormous ship bearing down on our port beam.
‘Ready about!’ I cried, leaping for the tiller. But the ship was keeping a good lookout. She took a sudden heel to port as she put on starboard helm to give way to us. She rushed past a couple of cables astern, very handsome in the dawn sunlight with her long black hull and white upperworks, unmistakeably the QE2.
Douglas Lindsay brings an antique across the Atlantic:
I had brought the brig Maria Assumpta into St Malo for Bastille Day when a bloke came on board asking if anyone wanted a job on a different sailing ship. He was one of the owners of the replica galleon Golden Hinde, at that time still operating on the east coast of the USA, and he was looked for skilled delivery crew to bring the ship back across the Atlantic. Three of us signed up there and then, and we subsequently recruited some of our square-rigger colleagues for the trip.
This particular Golden Hinde had been built at Hinks’s yard at Appledore in 1973, financed by a group from San Francisco who wanted to bring her to the West Coast to celebrate Drake’s (slightly doubtful) call there. The design of the replica was good except for one detail: the naval architect had been unable to believe that Elizabethan ships 90’-100’ long could have had a beam of 30’. He had therefore produced one with a beam of 20’. The bare wooden hull flopped over on its side when launched.
Rod Heikell investigates the early history of yachting:
Northern Europeans like to think that yachting began with the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660. Certainly the word yacht, from the Dutch jaghte, meaning a small, fast ship, was introduced in this period to describe the pleasure boats of Charles II and his cronies. But yachting had properly begun millennia before this, in the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
The earliest known royal pleasure craft belonged to the Pharaoh Cheops in the twenty-sixth century bc. It was about 44m over all; the Pharaoh used it on the Nile and liked it so much that he had it buried with him in the Great Pyramid.
Sophia Kingshill navigates in the general direction of mythical islands:
For over five hundred years, maps and charts marked an island in the North Atlantic southwest of Ireland. Its name was Brasil, or O’Brazil, or Uí Bhreasail, or Debrasil, or several other variants. It eventually became fixed in the popular imagination (which, indeed, is where it rightly belongs, as it does not exist, and never did) as Hy Brasil. This did not prevent sailors from searching for it, speculators from claiming it as their property, and romancers describing it in detail. It made its final appearance on the map, as Brasil Rock, in 1853.
Jonathon Green goes looking for linguistic lowlife and discovers America:
Reading Tristan Jones’ World War II memoirs, Heart of Oak, with its tales of his training aboard the stone frigate HMS Ganges, all inedible food and crushers chasing hapless boy sailors over the Devil’s Elbow at the gogger’s end, is very pleasing. But there is another fleet, sailing for another country and in another century, which took that language and gave it twists and additions all its own: the nineteenth century American merchant marine.
Oscar Branson takes us deep under some very cold water:
Walk out of the shadows of the coconut trees down the white beach into the clear turquoise water. Pull down your mask, launch yourself forward and drift into one of the great marvels of the natural world: bright colours, fantastic structures, clouds of fish of all shapes and sizes. A place full of the energy and excitement of life. A coral reef.
Now transport yourself northwards, to a spot fifty or so kilometres west of Norway, at around 64°N, 8°E. The water is very cold. Lie forward in it. Sink. After one metre, half the light has gone. After ten metres it has faded by three-quarters. After a hundred, only 0.5% remains, invisible to the human eye. The world is pitch black. Do not let this put you off. Keep sinking. At around three hundred metres there is no light at all. It is an ice-cold world, and it feels stone dead.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
And of course there is North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, eccentricity, and even the odd poem – all edited by Sam Llewellyn and decorated with the fine drawings of Claudia Myatt. Welcome aboard once more.