Fans of East Coast small boat sailing legend AC Stock will be delighted to know that when ill health forced the wise navigator off the water, he got down to writing a memoir of his sailing life.
I must say it’s a very great shame old Charles didn’t live to see his book published, because he clearly put his heart and soul into this volume. Read a sample here.
Perhaps his most important point is made right at the beginning of the introduction:
‘My original aim was to sail round the world, but three things prevented me from doing so: I never had the money; I never had the time; and I had a wife and four children. Sailing the wide oceans, visiting the palm-fringed atolls and sweltering tropic ports where the jungle drops down the mountainside to kiss the warm seas remains a pastime for winter evenings, in the comfort of an armchair and with an endless number of books on the subject.
‘Before retirement, and thanks to an understanding wife, I did for a dozen or so weekends a year find time enough to sail as far as I liked, provided I was back in good time to go to work on Monday morning. Did this mean just pottering about in the river, with all my year’s hopes pinned on fine weather for the precious summer holiday, or could I, year in and year out, still find some real sailing? Did I have to race to get some sort of interest, challenge and excitement? Did my modest means compel me to crew on larger craft to enjoy offshore and night sailing? The answer is set out in this recollection of my sailing years, and I hope illustrates the wonderful adventure playground that lays just a couple of hours from our crowded roads and railway stations.’
In short, a large part of Stock’s answer to the problem of how to sail while holding down a job and not neglecting his responsibilities was to sail a small cabin boat, Shoal Waters, as far as he could in the time available. I think that makes him a model for the rest of us…
In his foreword, author Robert Simper explains a little more:
‘The sight of Shoal Waters quietly sailing along the side of an estuary and then suddenly vanishing up some secluded creek has been part of the East Coast scene for almost half a century. Charlie has always been very happy to tell you the details of his latest jaunt down the Blackwater or, if it was spring, along the Norfolk Broads to glimpse the birdlife among the reeds.
‘A glance at Shoal Waters tells you how these trips have been achieved. The boat was always very tidy and the gear carefully stowed. The voyages were clearly and painstakingly planned and his close knowledge of the way tides behave on the coast was undeniable. He kept out of trouble by knowing when not to go to sea and knowing where to tuck in when the weather turned foul.’