Blackwater book cover; Goldhanger Creek
Ready About on the River Blackwater is a delightful little book by Creeksailor.
His real name is Tony Smith, but as his self-chosen name and title suggest, Creeksailor is a small boat enthusiast fascinated by the creeks and shoals of the northern part of the Thames Estuary and of the Blackwater in particular.
It wouldn’t be too much to say that Tony adores the place, but I only discovered why very recently. I have once sailed on the Blackwater but it was an open water sail and, naturally, I came away thinking it was a pleasant and sheltered estuary with some interesting features that should be seen at closer quarters.
Fair enough, you might think, but one evening this summer, by chance we found ourselves standing on the seawall at Goldhanger Creek where – bang! – it came to me. Finally I saw what Tony sees: an extensive sheltered area of inlets and creeks waiting to be explored and few people to disturb the peace.
We have our own creeks and ditches around the Swale of course but some day, when there’s time and the right weather, I hope to sail over and have a good look round from our own shoal-draft boat.
In the meantime, what does Ready About on the River Blackwater have to offer?
It opens with a foreword by Tony’s guru, legendary East Coast sailor and navigation expert and teacher Charles Stock. What follows is not a guidebook, but describes a series of visits and a series of places, which Tony does pretty well.
He’s informative, gives an up to date picture of how things are on this coast, takes the time to tell just enough of the history, and, like many earlier sailing writers on this area, has some good stories to tell. It’s quite enough to get anyone interested in sailing the Blackwater, and will be well worth taking afloat to re-read for points of local interest while waiting for the tide. Handily, it’s a fairly slim volume that’s easily carried.
But what Tony’s book offers that most earlier prophets of East Coast sailing could not is photos – lots of them, and in colour. With earlier writers, you have to close your eyes and half-guess half-interpret what’s being described – which is difficult for beginning sailors, and those who only sail keelboats. Just how small can a creek be and still be navigable?
With Ready About in your hands, it’s possible to see what he’s so enthusiastic about, and make your own judgements.
The book could have done with a bigger map (in two parts, perhaps?), and that here and there it might have benefited from slightly sharper proofing (as could this weblog, no doubt). But these are tiny things: it’s a super little book, and when I finally closed the back cover, I wanted more. I hope Tony goes on to write and publish more of this kind of thing.
PS Creeksailor is also a busy weblogger, who’s well worth following. Read his weblog here - I guess it’s also the best place to find out where and when copies of Ready About may be bought, and I gather there a new print run is just about to arrive on Tony’s doorstep…