Blog suggests regularity – but we can’t promise you that. Here’s where we’ll put random book- and boat-related jottings as they occur. There’ll be a flurry of catching-up before we settle into some sort of routine.

Working Sail – The Return of Agnes


Luke Powell does not just build boats – he sails them too. Some years ago he rescued his then-largest build, Agnes, from the United States where she had fallen on hard times. Click the image to read an extract from his account of the voyage home to Cornwall, with a small crew including his fourteen-year-old son Dylan (pictured here at the helm).


Lodestar Boats: BUNNY in Finland

Writing in 2003: Greatly facilitated (that is, made possible at all) by a rapidly made new mast from Essex boatbuilder Fabian Bush (see BUNNY in Morbihan), in July of this year Raid Finland followed the Great Glen and Morbihan Week in continuing to give me, Mike and Bunny a far greater breadth of experience than we might otherwise have had. Fourteen boats from throughout western Europe took part, and we gathered at the jumping-off point, Airisto in south-west Finland, over the two days before the start, allowing plenty of time for a gear check-out and shake-down sail, and to get acquainted with other craft and their crews. It’s a small world, and here I met again the Swedish family Palm with Suss, whom we last met in the Great Glen.

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Working Sail – a foretaste

Working Sail has gone to press. We’ll tease you with a few snippets from Luke Powell’s reissued book between now and its publication on 18 May. Today, you might like to read its pair of Forewords, by Tom Cunliffe and Jeremy Irons, both afficionados of the kind of sailing which has been the focus of Luke’s career, and doing a good job of conveying its sensations and atmosphere. Click the image to download them in PDF form. You can order the book here.


You would likely like* The Albert Strange Association

An annual pro bono job here is to lay out the ASA Yearbook, now in the fifth iteration of its swanky format in full colour (except where some of the photos are knocking on a bit); the 2023 Yearbook has just gone to press. Here’s what you’re missing by not stumping up a mere £15 annually. The ASA exists to preserve the world’s memory of Albert Strange, and also to foster interest in traditional boats, their building and sailing. It sends out a monthly email Newsletter which is always an entertaining and informative read. Many of us (a relative term – it won’t be a stampede) will be at this year’s Annual General Meeting at Bangor, North Wales, on the second weekend in March. Might see you there? You can turn up and join on the day! More information on the ASA website.

* Anyone recall Dr. Strangely Strange? No relation AFAIK


Lodestar Boats: BUNNY in Morbihan

In May of this year [I wrote in 2003], following a small refit and a hull repaint occasioned by the Loch Ness beaching, Mike and I were back again at this superb cruising ground with Bunny to participate in a week-long rally involving some 800 boats from tall ships down to cockleshells, most with some claim or pretension to tradition. To attempt a catalogue would be impossible and unnecessary – you name it, it was there; however the local ‘sinagot’ fishing boats, alarmingly lofty luggers with up to three masts, each carrying a passing imitation of a Roman imperial banner, are worth singling out. The fleet was divided into seven flotillas according to size and type, each starting out from a different one of the many small ports in the gulf, and spending each night at another, so criss-crossing the entire body of water. At each stop we would find entertainment in the form of local bands and singers, with freshly-prepared seafood on shore or at a variety of restaurants. Mike and I were camping at a fairly central location near Port Blanc, and ferried between boat and camp at the ends of each day by a special bus service. Throughout the week order was to be maintained by a large fleet of RIBs manned, unnecessarily as it turned out, by the CRS – the French riot police.

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A Stranger takes his leave

As some of you know I have a soft spot for the designs, the writings, the voyages, and the art of Albert Strange (1855–1917) and so do enough others to function as The Albert Strange Association, formed in 1978. The largest concentration of AS boats is on the English East Coast, and the flagship of the fleet is the magnificently restored thirty-six-foot Nirvana, in the care of Pete Clay for many years. We Strange skippers try to get together on and off the water a couple of times each year. Some of us will meet tomorrow, with his large extended family and many friends, at the funeral of Pete, whose failing health got the better of him recently. But we’ll repair afterwards to a celebratory gathering, to remember a kind, charming, wise, knowledgeable, and quietly (often wickedly) funny friend who we’ll sorely miss.


The ultimate Cooke booke

Bear with me, this is going somewhere relevant to us. Many years ago I first entered the book trade, as an assistant at Foyle’s bookshop in London when it occupied its ancient premises at the top of Charing Cross Road, not the swanky place just down the road it has today. Some readers may recall its idiosyncrasies; for example to buy a book you handed it to me, I gave you a ‘chitty’ to pass, with your payment, through the bars of an enclosed cash desk some yards away, you brought back the receipt and I let you have the book. One wag of a customer said, when I sent him off to the cashier, ‘that’s somewhere down the Strand isn’t it?’

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Lodestar Boats: BUNNY in the Great Glen

I wrote in 2003: The Great Glen Raid was, for the three years 2000-2002, a rally for sail and oar craft from Fort William on Scotland’s north-west coast to to Inverness on the east, through the Caledonian Canal, most of which consists of lochs, as opposed to locks. The term ‘Raid’ was coined by its organisers, a non-profit French body called Albacore, as shorthand for an independent sail-and-oar expedition. The same event continues today with different management, under the name Sail Caledonia.

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The Dolphin – Italian edition

Italian nautical publishers Frangente have just released their edition of our well-researched David Lewis biography The Dolphin by Ben Lowings. If you’re unfamiliar with Lewis’s extraordinary career as a sailor and explorer you can find Ben’s book here in English, and now here in Italian.


Lodestar Boats: BUNNY

Readers might wonder whether this nautical publisher has any sailing experience himself; well, yes, though I seem to spend far more time messing about with boats then messing about in them. Here and in later posts I record my dubious credentials.

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Kicking & screaming

You might notice we dragged our website into the ’20s – more or less. It’s more roomy and, we hope, more pleasant to explore, and we’ve worked to make it operate faster. Do let us know if it looks too dodgy on your particular phone or tablet and we’ll try to fix it.