New and Neglected Nautical Writing

Words written on water

Our first book had sold out a few years before, and we had the feel­ing it was time for a new edi­tion in our now-stand­ard robust soft­cov­er format, and that there remained an unplumbed audi­ence among people who, though per­haps not habitu­al read­ers of sail­ing books,…

That unique engagement

For most of my life my sail­ing was of the arm­chair kind, and in the mid-1970s much of it was in the delight­ful com­pany of Ken Duxbury, a writer whose light touch belies the skill and resource­ful­ness which under­pinned the voy­ages made by him and his wife B. in their…

No better test of character

Most people read­ing this have enjoyed lives markedly more com­fort­able than those of their par­ents or grand­par­ents. My own fath­er served at sea when a teen­ager dur­ing World War II, as a stoker and coal trim­mer on tramp steam­ers and later on deep-sea res­cue tugs, on…

Cruising in Denmark

George Holmes’s illus­trated and often hand-writ­ten cruise accounts fre­quently appeared in the pages of the Hum­ber Yawl Club Year­book, and later in The Yacht­ing Monthly. Here is a cruise he made in Den­mark in 1894, and writ­ten up a few years later. He and his com­pan­ion…

Progress on Emerald

One of the reas­ons these blog posts are so infre­quent is I have a few dis­trac­tions, two of which are Albert Strange yachts. One, Leona (1906) awaits atten­tion when I finally retire from the day-job (or make me an offer). The other, Emer­ald (built 1937 to a…

Tilman and ‘Viola’—lost footage unearthed

The BFI has recently unearthed and put online ‘lost’ col­our film foot­age of a num­ber of Tilman exped­i­tions. It cur­rently lacks any form of com­ment­ary and needs a bit of an edit. There are links to it on Bob Comlay’s web­site. Two reels fea­ture a 1971…

A bit ‘Father Ted’

I became the new keep­er of the Albert Strange canoe yawl Emer­ald in Octo­ber 2017. Although she was func­tion­ally in very good order, her extern­al bright­work (var­nish) had suffered lately, as her owner of the pre­vi­ous twenty-five years had been unable,…

A Strange weekend on the Deben

The week­end of 1–2 Septem­ber 2018 saw the largest ever gath­er­ing afloat of yachts designed by Albert Strange; this took place in idyll­ic con­di­tions on the River Deben in Suf­folk, with seven boats tak­ing part. Wood­bridge pho­to­graph­er Gill Moon gave chase on…

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A serious kind of joy

Some­how, and to his incredu­lity, I had never read an Arthur Ran­some book when Peter Wil­lis approached me with Good Little Ship. Nancy Black­ett, the real-life ori­gin­al of the Gob­lin in We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, was a famil­i­ar sight on the East Coast and clearly much…

A legacy of riches

When barely six­teen I spent two months with my slightly young­er broth­er Dave hitch-hik­ing, and often rough sleep­ing, around Scot­land watch­ing birds. We went as far north as the Shet­land isle Fet­lar to see the snowy owls which bred there, and man­aged to cadge an…

In all weathers by a crew of two

Tom Cun­liffe writes:For fifty glor­i­ous years from the time of the 1861 Pilot­age Act until the Great War nailed down the coffin lid on com­mer­cial sail, the Bris­tol Chan­nel was a free-for-all for com­pet­it­ive pilot­ing. This great fun­nel of tide-swept water stood wide…

Too fast for accurate navigation

The year was 1955 and H W Tilman was under­tak­ing his first ‘sail to climb’ exped­i­tion, aim­ing to cross the Patago­ni­an ice-cap in both directions—starting from the ‘other side’. This would neces­sit­ate a trans­it of the Magel­lan Strait; as Sir Robin Knox-John­ston puts it…