Extracts from the The Marine Quarterly - Summer 2011

Ewen Southby-Tailyour charts the Falklands
For reasons I have yet to understand my four unarmed and unescorted landing craft were launched southwest of Lively Island, a seven-and-a-half-hour open sea passage off what was still presumed to be an enemy-held coast. For similarly incomprehensible reasons I was not, despite repeated requests, given the task force recognition signals for that night. ‘If you see any other ships, they will be enemy,’ said someone consolingly. As a bonus I was not given the precise position of our start point; the landing craft were not fitted with echo sounders; my lead craft had a faulty radar; the compass had an unknown deviation, having earlier been swung for a cargo of light tanks; and we were entering an area of fast-deteriorating weather.

Tom Cunliffe explains the life, times, gear and manoeuvres of the Thames sailing barge
Cargoes were usually loaded and offloaded at a staithe or wharf. But it was by no means unusual to lay the barge onto a smooth beach, let the tide leave her, and unload by wagons drawn down to her across the dried-out sand. The town of Margate was greatly expanded by bricks brought in using this method. It sounds perilous, but in fact there were few really serious accidents. So robust was a barge that she would sometimes be lying on a beach with spray breaking over her cross-trees on a lee shore, yet still work off as she floated. One old-timer noted that ‘they couldn’t sink, but they used to bounce.’

Sam Llewellyn tells the story of the modern successors of the sailing barge…
Tim Lowry is the Chief Executive of Armac Marine,based on the Medway in Kent. Armac’s ten ships range in size between 1180 and 2300 tons. They are excellent carriers of project cargoes too big to go by road – wind farm bits, transformers, tidal generators, fibre-optic cable from the Rhine ports and Ireland to Britain – and high volume materials like gravel and bulk waste, grain and fertilisers. In the winter, the wise men and women of the local council ‘truck their road salt from Cheshire all the way down to Kent,’ said Lowry, round spectacles glistening with indignation and scorn at this ludicrous waste of truck miles. ‘96% of British trade involves a leg of water. Why we don’t recognize the fact that we’re an island nation is beyond me.’

… and Will Llewellyn explores a possible future 
Fuel prices will rocket, engines will stop, freight rates will soar and hub-and-spoke logistics chains will grind to a halt. Booze cruising and daily Dutch flowers will become a distant memory. Supermarket shelves will empty. ‘Bring back Gustav Erikson and his clippers!’ people will cry. ‘Wind is free, and the world spent a long time learning to use it!’ But Gustav Erikson is dead, and his ships are museums, and the deep skills of sail are something that have been forgotten by most of the world. But not all. Divider Roger Barnes cruises his dinghy to the Ile de SeinOn the northern side of the bay was a little cove bounded by high crags where a handful of local fishing boats lay to improvised buoys. I anchored clear of the moorings. All night long my boat swayed and tugged at her anchor as the Atlantic swell snored on the cliffs around me. I woke early, sodden with dew. It was a bright, clear morning with a light wind off the land. Hoisting sail, I set a hopeful course towards the distant island.

Kate Rew explains how to swim the Channel
The first thing you need to swim the English Channel is less sensitivity to boredom than a whelk. Making your way across the English Channel is an exercise in extended repetition – the twenty-two-mile journey generally takes between ten and twenty hours of uninterrupted swimming – but this is nothing compared to the training involved before you actually start.

Hilaire Belloc gives advice to the simple sailor
If your boat is a home and a companion, and at the same time a genius that takes you from place to place and, what is much more, a comforter and an introducer to the Infinite Verities – and my boat is all these things – then you must put away from yourself altogether the idea of racing. The cruiser, the strong little, deep little boat, is all I have called it. It is a complete satisfaction for man; but if you let in racing you are letting in the serpent.

… and Dermod MacCarthy goes sailing with the great man
The morning after our arrival at Poole we set sail for a passage westward, to Weymouth, but we were never to reach that port owing to an incident at Anvil Point near St Alban’s Head off the Dorset coast. That evening, in fact, a rueful Mr Belloc and his crew would be back in Poole Harbour. It was an exciting incident in which disaster to the ship, danger to Mr Belloc and ourselves, even drowning, stared us in the face for a few minutes.

Chris Stewart becomes an amateur professional fisherman
I climbed onto the boat and offered the skipper my credentials. These consisted of some fanciful adolescent claptrap that ran something like this: I was the harvester of the land on account of working as under assistant pigman on the Major’s farm, and he was the harvester of the sea. We harvesters should stick together; ours was a noble calling in a world otherwise peopled by bent accountants, hucksters and time-servers. By sharing a day, we would all be the richer for the experience. I must have been bonkers.

Nick Walker, Captain of the last puffer on the west coast of Scotland, continues his marine alphabet
C is for CAUL. This is the skinny membrane that covers the head of some babies and other animals when they are born. Unless it is removed quickly, the baby will not be able to breathe and will suffer accordingly. There is an ancient tradition that if you are born with a caul, you will not drown. I was born with a caul. The midwife took mine away to London’s Docklands, to sell to a seaman who had not been fortunate enough to be born with one of his own. My mother says this is nonsense.