Extracts Winter 2018

Winter 2018 - Greenland, superyachts, eccentrics and krill....

 Emma Beynon sails from Iceland to Greenland:

‘Capps, Capps!’ Pavel is standing by our bunk. ‘We are taking in water!’ Silence. Capps leaves the warmth of the bunk. I pretend I am asleep, I wish I was not so warm. I wish I had not taken off my clothes; drowning north of the Arctic Circle naked at my age might seem inappropriately racy. I concentrate on holding my stomach down. I can just about make out the conversation above the clatter of the winches on the deck and the flogging of the rope. ‘We are going to have to go back.’

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 Fog paralyses the Port of London:

A grey mist, more formidable than the previous haze, was stealing over the water, and the narrowing estuary seemed suddenly to fill up with ships, anchored all along the edges of the channel - coasting steamers, schooners and barges.

[p]It was not too bad yet. From the inner end of the Sea Reach they could see the oil tanks below the Mucking, with a large tanker moored alongside the wharf. Still, there was a hot tide running behind the Anglian, rushing her up the river far faster than the most casual and reckless man on board now wanted her to go. ‘Bring her to an anchor, pilot, for heaven’s sake!’ the now thoroughly anxious captain cried.

     ‘I’m looking for a berth, captain; with this tide we’ll require a lot of room before we get her turned round.’ The pilot’s voice quavered, and the captain looked at him sharply. He was staring ahead with wild eyes, gripping the bridge rail as if in desperation, his face grey, drawn and haggard.

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Superyacht owners do their stuff:

There’s a break in the clouds for a few hours. This coincides perfectly with the first visit of the Owner and his Wife post-refit. They arrive in a cerulean blue F-Type that snarls to a halt at the entrance to the deserted port car park. The barrier refuses to open. After stabbing the ‘help’ button repeatedly and shrieking, the Owner’s Wife (for it is she behind the wheel) leaves the car where it stands and walks on her Blahnik heels the short distance to the passerelle, where Pienaar and the crew are gathered on the quay. She rakes them all with a glare and marches on board. Pienaar leads the tour of the new features of the yacht: the raised hangar; the new cinema under the Owner’s suite with 11.2 surround sound; the last word in steam rooms in the gym; the new custom-built Italian furniture on the main deck; and, of course, the cushions. When she sees them, the Owner’s Wife stops abruptly. ‘Is wrong!’ she barks.

     Pienaar’s smile becomes a little more wooden. ‘Madam?’

     ‘My new cushions, they are laid wrong out.’

     Melanie, the chief stewardess, steps forward. ‘Madam?’

     ‘How much times I need say it?’ snarls the Owner’s Wife. ‘Someone puts my cushions wrong way around.

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 ‘Carina' comes out of a North Sea storm and finds herself embroiled in world affairs:

Carina was a 31-foot gunter sloop, designed by Alfred Mylne, built as an open one-design in 1903 by John Hilditch at Carrickfergus on the north shore of Belfast Lough. They’d decked her over in the thirties and fitted her out with three berths. A Stuart Turner inboard had been added later, giving her five to six knots in a calm sea. That summer we spent most weekends sailing. I was a novice, but in time I got the hang of it. Carina was to be our escape route to adventure. We would sail up the west coast the next season, 1962, through the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness to Inverness. Three hundred and seventy miles to the northeast lay Stavanger.

May 1962. Far to the south, Havana is receiving a Soviet agricultural delegation with another team embedded in its midst: Colonel General Semyon Ivanov, chief of the General Staff’s chief operations directorate and the man in overall charge of the trip; several missile construction specialists; and other military experts.

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 Mike Golding tells David Chance how to sail an IMOCA Open 60:

There she is at the end of the pontoon: a great black carbon beast with a hundred feet of mast, house flags rippling on her forestay, people toiling like ants on her honeycomb-pattern decks. Step off the finger pontoon, across the broad sidedeck and down into the cockpit. It is a neat, minimal space, with a coffee grinder and half-a-dozen winches bestowed three a side, the two big ones the size of oil drums. There are racks of jammers spewing lines like wires in an old-fashioned telephone exchange, neatly flaked now and probably never again.

     The house flags come down. Start the engine, twenty-odd horsepower, about as much use as an eggwhisk to a boat with as much windage as this. The breeze is out of the west, so the team rib puts its nose against the bow to push it round and point it at the marina entrance. And off she whirrs, seven and a half tons, sixty feet long, nineteen feet wide, a few inches inside the maximum dimensions permitted by the imoca rule.

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 Roger Taylor explains a great voyage:

I am back at my writing table. The sea loch is still there, and the sheer cliffs of Creag Mhaol and Creag an Duilisg, and the islands, and the herring gulls staring seawards with unseeing eyes. Everything is as it was, yet everything has changed, for the voyage has been made. I feel a deep and radiant peace. The waves rolling in from the Inner Minch no longer call or challenge or taunt. I look at them with a benign eye, for the account is now balanced, squared, closed. I have done what I had to do.

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 Richard Crockatt chronicles the bravery and eccentricity of the Nova Espero and her crew:

There is something especially stirring about accounts of small-boat voyages in the first decades after the Second World War. It was the swansong of centuries-old maritime traditions: boats were made of wood, navigation was by compass and sextant, many boats were engineless, speed was measured by trailing logs and depth by lead line. Radios were limited in range, if they were carried at all, and safety equipment was primitive. Independence and self-sufficiency were a minimum requirement, not a matter of bravado.

     Among the many notable voyages of that period, those of Nova Espero in the late 1940s and early 1950s stand out not only because of the small size of the boat - she was twenty feet overall and just under sixteen feet on the waterline - but because of the sheer ambition of the challenges she met.

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 Captain Smith recounts some incidents of a voyage:

In the year 1850 I left London in command of the ship Parland for Cape Town and Calcutta with a mixed cargo, besides having about a dozen intermediate passengers and three or four cabin. We were not long at sea before I could perceive that the cargo had been badly stowed in the hold, there being much freight in the lower hold and comparatively little in the tweendecks, which had the effect of causing the ship to roll so tremendously that from the very first I had serious fears she would roll all her masts away. However everything stood fast until we had crossed the Equator, when one fine morning between one and two o’clock I was called by the chief mate to be informed that the foremast had gone overboard with all its rigging sails and spars.

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 Bob Comlay pays tribute to his friend Bill Tilman:

Exploring the relationship between H W Tilman and his crew members can help to shed light on the compassionate side of his character, a trait that the popular yachting press has often found convenient to ignore.

     At home with his sister Adeline, in the company of his niece Pam, or aboard ship with a good crew when things were going well, Tilman’s impeccably-timed and mischievous wit kept spirits high, the humour as often as not turned on himself. In unfamiliar surroundings however, his natural reticence could easily be misinterpreted by those who had not had the privilege of personal acquaintance.

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Steve Nicol makes astonishing revelations about the relationship between krill, whales and ocean currents:

In the early twentieth century there was no attempt to systematically monitor the Antarctic ecosystem to see if any of its components were changing radically in response to the reduced whale populations and the increase in krill abundance that many suggested would have resulted. Prior to the 1970s there was no methodical approach to estimating krill abundance, and the data we have has many drawbacks. Measuring the abundance of a mobile marine animal that occupies an area of some nineteen million square kilometres that is ice covered for half the year is not a simple task.

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 Willie Wilson tells the story of the modern pilot book:

In a publishing world populated by independent individuals of powerful mind, relationships between authors and their publishers could become strained, sometimes to breaking-point. The London Boat Show at Earl’s Court in January was traditionally the forum where trade and authors met, and where deals of varying significance were brokered. There were distinct publishing camps, and while there was sometimes a caginess about revealing plans for new titles or new authors signed up there was generally a happy atmosphere between rivals. There was entertaining damning-with-faint-praise of the type in which Phoebe Mason of Stanford Maritime was a specialist: ‘the format of Brandon’s South England Pilot is large enough to be a genoa but I imagine that the text is sound’.

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 And of course there are North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, seamanship, laughs, 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.