Extracts Summer 2019

Folkboats, Belloc, submarines, typhoons…..

Harry Ricciardi and 'Tösen' visit Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos:

Tösen doesn’t have an engine. Tösen doesn’t have a head. Tösen doesn’t have an electrical system you can plug into a dock. Tösen is a handsome Danish Folkboat I rebuilt over seven years, in the dirt, in the corner of the yard, in front of the schooner shed at the Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway in Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard. Tösen resembles herself most when she is alone, on her anchor, with blue water in the distance.

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The Nicolson children buy 'Finetta':

My sister was 22, three years older than me. We had each recently come into a small inheritance, and being sensible, we put the two sums together to buy Finetta. She was cheap because she was outclassed by newer International 6-Metre yachts. She had been converted to cruising by adding a cabin top over the forward end of her long, narrow cockpit. This lid was three feet long, and the resulting cabin was little better than a dog-kennel – not that any self-respecting hound would have put up with its discomforts.

     In this less than capacious interior there were low battened seats each side, with folding cots over them, which were normally stowed up against the topsides. To go to sleep a crew member would hinge the cot down and suspend it horizontally from a pair of ropes to hooks on the cabin top. Only someone absolutely exhausted and very young could conceivably fall asleep on such an inhospitable surface.

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 Martin Woolls brings home the 'Cromarty Rose':

The winter of 2009/10 was the worst for a hundred years. The cobbled quayside at Cromarty was covered with an inch of solid ice, and so was the ship. Her aft saloon was not much more than a 20ft square steel box; trying to sleep in that was out. I bought a 22ft-long motorhome, drove it aboard from the Cromarty ferry slipway and chained its chassis down to the deck. After many months of fiddling about we were given our passage certificate, and were cleared to begin the voyage.

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Hamish Hardie goes shopping for a windjammer:

By 1992 the three-masted barque Glenlee was owned by the Spanish Navy and named the Galatea. We knew they intended to scrap her, and we knew that we had to do something quickly if she was to be saved. We found out just how quickly on the 18th of February, when the British Naval Attaché at the Embassy in Madrid telephoned to say that the Navy was to sell her at auction just eight days later in the Arsenal de la Carraca, near San Fernando, about ten miles from Cadiz. He added that there was a Dutch company very interested in buying h

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 Ian Tew gets through a typhoon in Hong Kong:

The bosun and his crew were lounging on the forecastle waiting to weigh anchor. After about twenty minutes I went down to the new captain's cabin and knocked on the door. There was no answer, but I could hear him retching in the bathroom. I went in and knocked on the bathroom door. 'Are you all right?' I asked, looking at the arched back bending over the basin. He turned with a very red face, highlighted by the black hair, and said, 'Be okay in a minute. Always the same before stations.' He turned again and retched.

     'We will be late at the buoy if we don't move now,' I said. 'Shall I weigh anchor, sir?'

     'Yes. Be up in a minute. Damn it.'

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Charles Warlow goes in search of Hilaire Belloc:

Belloc wrote several essays about sailing, but only one book — The Cruise of the Nona. In it he described his cruise from Holyhead to Cornwall in his much-loved Nona, just before the outbreak of war in 1914 and a few weeks after his wife had died, together with earlier and later cruises, mostly along the south coast of England. The Nona was built in about 1870. She was a little more than 36ft overall, nine tons, cutter-rigged, and drew six feet. ‘Four men were happy on board her, five men she could carry, six men quarreled’. She definitely did not have ‘the abomination of an engine’. Like many of his generation, he had never ‘fallen so low as to put a motor into the Nona...I would rather die of thirst, ten miles off the headlands in a brazen calm, having lost my dinghy in the previous storm, than have on board what is monstrously called to-day an auxiliary’.

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James Taylor explains how he became a navigator:

‘You are now the Navigating Officer.’


     ‘But be in no doubt: I navigate this submarine, not you.’


     It was 1967. I was twenty years old, a Sub-Lieutenant on the Royal Navy’s Supplementary List.  Our professional career options were limited – Submariner, Clearance Diver, Hydrographer or Aircraft Direction. A mere five ‘O’ levels was the requirement, though one distinguished submariner of my term joined on the premise that he had four ‘O’ levels and a note from his headmaster to the effect that had he turned up for the History ‘O’ level he certainly would have passed.

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 Philip K Allen traces the development of figureheads:

The origin of figureheads is ancient. As soon as men went to sea in ships, about 3000 BC, there is evidence that they decorated the bows of their vessels. Seafaring has always been a hazardous business, and the protection of deities seems to have been one of the prime motivations. The Ancient Egyptians placed statues of sacred birds on the prows of their ships, and both the Greeks and Phoenicians painted large eyes on the front of their galleys to reassure the sailors, then, as now, a superstitious breed, that the eyes would permit the vessel to see its way home. From these simple beginnings more elaborate carved figures developed. The Phoenicians favoured carved horses, to indicate their vessel’s swiftness. Greek war galleys fighting off the might of the Persian Empire displayed a carved wild boar, perhaps to invoke its stubborn ferocity. Early Roman warships often wore the figure of a wooden centurion above their rams as a symbol of military order and discipline.

     In the years after the fall of Rome, the practice of carrying a carved figurehead spread from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coasts of Europe.

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 The 'Red, White and Blue' crosses the Atlantic in 1866:

A few days ago a brief newspaper paragraph made known to the British public that a miniature full-rigged ship, of something less than 2 1/2 tons register, with a crew of two men and a dog, had been spoken in the English Channel, off Hastings, after making an excellent passage, in point of time, from New York. It is not necessary to analyse the motives which have induced two young American seamen to risk their lives in so perilous an undertaking as crossing the stormy Atlantic in a little craft about the size of a ship's jolly-boat. In a logbook that bears very unmistakeable evidence of what boat life is on the Atlantic, we find it stated, ‘That the object of this expedition is to be at the world's fair in Paris.’ The Paris Exhibition, however, opens in April, 1867. To have reached it in time would have involved sailing from New York in February. Probably no one knows better than the adventurers themselves by this time that the chance of weathering an Atlantic equinoctial gale in a two-and-a-half ton boat, was rather too remote to be undertaken by any but a properly-qualified candidate for a lunatic asylum.

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 Jonathon Green considers food in Patrick O'Brian:

If there are such main courses as ‘Little Balls of Tripe a Man Might Eat Forever’ and the somewhat more exotic ‘Squirrels in Madeira’ and ‘Goose and Truffle Pie’, and such venerated steamed puddings as ‘Dog’s Body’, ‘Drowned Baby’ and ‘A Long Grey Pudding, Made with Sea-Elephant Suet & Studded with Juan Fernandez Berries’, there are also such horrors as ‘Boiled Sh***’: the bird guano, extracted from puddles of sun-warmed sea-water, on which Maturin is forced to survive when in pursuit of nondescript flora and fauna he finds himself abandoned on St Paul's Rocks.


And as usual 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.