New and Neglected Nautical Writing

Stories

by Dick Wynne except where stated

An Essex girl through and through

I first met her in Tolles­bury and imme­di­ately fell for her. She was an ­Essex girl through and through but not like all the oth­ers, although she was shal­low. As far as I could see then there were only two prob­lems. There was a big age difference—fifty-five…

The romance of a proper dinghy

The light north-east­erly breeze con­tin­ued dur­ing my watch until mid­night, and Juan­ita sailed on through the dark­ness, her jib shim­mer­ing with the phos­phor­es­cence of the lee bow wave, and little Punch, the 8’ dinghy fol­low­ing in our glisten­ing wake, with a…

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…

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…

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…

To sea for shelter

Her­bert Alker Tripp (1883–1954) was a keen sail­or and an accom­plished artist whose reg­u­lar occu­pa­tion was in a civil­ian capa­city with the Met­ro­pol­it­an Police in Lon­don from 1902 until his retire­ment in 1947. Begin­ning as a clerk, he rose to the rank of Assist­ant…

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…

Ghost ship of Grytviken

The Albert Strange Asso­ci­ation (bear with me), in which I am heav­ily implic­ated, held its Annu­al Gen­er­al Meet­ing in Lin­coln a few years ago, and our very enga­ging guest speak­er was Dr Robb Robin­son, a mari­time his­tor­i­an at the Uni­ver­sity of Hull. His sub­ject was…

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…

Handy with a toolbox

Mar­tin O’Scannall has enjoyed a love affair of more than forty years with his 1913 gaff cut­ter Saunt­ress, begin­ning with her rebuild and cul­min­at­ing in the glor­ies pic­tured here. Below is his account of her sojourn in a boat­yard at Brent­ford on the Thames in west…

Getting sea-value

My good friend Fabi­an Bush built me a (-noth­er!) boat a few years ago and we launched her togeth­er in 2014 at West Mer­sea in Essex. Teal is named for the ‘small dab­bling duck’ in recog­ni­tion of the dir­ec­tion my sail­ing was expec­ted to take in my dot­age, and she has…

An invitation I just couldn’t resist

Charlie Stock was a sin­gu­lar sail­or, who was for sixty years a part of the scenery on his home waters of the Thames Estu­ary. In his last book, pub­lished posthum­ously, he describes and handles the local fea­tures and haz­ards meet­ing the small boat sail­or, not only in…

The Yorkshire Coble

Per­haps the most curi­ous craft which is found in use by the fish­er­men round the coasts of Bri­tain is the York­shire coble [writes George Holmes in 1912]. Along with the Sher­ing­ham boat—referred to and described in a former number—this type is used for crab­bing by the…

Like a box of jewels

Someone, some­where wrote that George Mil­lar was incap­able of writ­ing a dull sen­tence, and never was that more true than in his three books of sail­ing mem­oirs. Oyster River, set in the Mor­bi­han in Brit­tany, and Isa­bel and the Sea, relat­ing a voy­age through the French…

The rough with the smooth

Bob Com­lay is a vet­er­an of two Tilman exped­i­tions to Green­land, and has cajoled many sail­ors, climbers and writers into con­trib­ut­ing fore­words and after­words to our new Col­lec­ted Edi­tion of Tilman, shed­ding fresh light on a fre­quently mis­un­der­stood fig­ure: I…

My last cruise in ‘Cherub II

Albert Strange had a gift for what might be styled ‘com­pan­ion­able writ­ing;’ the abil­ity to take the read­er with him, in ima­gin­a­tion, on his voy­aging remin­is­cences. One of these exper­i­ences is related here, a cruise in the Cher­ub II, “My most beloved boat” as Strange…

A preposterous proposal

Philip Temple’s 1965 account of an out­rageously bold exped­i­tion was pub­lished without fan­fare, without many good pho­to­graphs, and without even the bene­fit of a copy-edit­or; it van­ished without trace. The Sea and The Snow came to our atten­tion a few years ago as we…

Hole Haven

Des­pite its unpre­pos­sess­ing name Hole Haven, the creek to the west side of Can­vey Island on the lower Thames, is a wel­come bolt-hole for those bound up- or down­river need­ing to get some rest or wait out a tide. It has ful­filled this ser­vice since at least the 1890s…

A quiet sense of achievement

Spring 2009: Con­stance is just back from her first Old Gaf­fers event, the annu­al East Coast Race week­end at Bright­ling­sea, where she mixed it with craft large and small, and attrac­ted much admir­a­tion for both her looks and speed, praise which rightly belongs to her…

Forgotten and lonely backwaters

Tony Smith is now the keep­er of Charlie Stock’s game little 16-foot gaff cut­ter Shoal Waters, and has made it his busi­ness to take her the length and breadth of the Thames estu­ary, and into nooks and cran­nies most of us have never heard of, let alone vis­ited. One such…

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…

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,…

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…

Extreme limit of the credible

A cor­res­pond­ent famil­i­ar with the first edi­tion of Mess­ing About in Boats wrote to me: a delight­ful book of real sail­ing from a man who comes over as being kind, com­pas­sion­ate and con­sid­er­ate. He bought three cop­ies of our new edi­tion as gifts—an example worthy of…

A mindful scrutiny

Glor­ia Wilson has been writ­ing about, pho­to­graph­ing and draw­ing the North Sea fish­ing industry for half a cen­tury. Of her draw­ings in par­tic­u­lar she writes:In mak­ing the draw­ings, with my own pho­to­graphs for ref­er­ence, I have enjoyed a mind­ful scru­tiny of the boats…

This was living, at its best

Around the turn of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury the Hum­ber Yawl Club exer­ted a nation­al, and inter­na­tion­al, influ­ence in the world of cruis­ing under sail which com­pletely belied the paro­chi­al hori­zon its name sug­gests. George Holmes (1861–1940) was for dec­ades the lead­ing…