Category Archives: Adventures

Arthur Beale hosts talks by successful round Britain sailor Kim Sturgess and Last Voyages author Nicholas Gray

On 26th October Arthur Beale and Fernhurst Books will be hosting an evening looking at two contrasting voyages which are recounted in books from the Making Waves series.

Kim C Sturgess will recount how, at the age of 50, he undertook his first major sailing adventure, sailing around Britain – the dream of many cruisers in the UK. He made it achievable in 50 day sails and 1 night passage. This has proved a popular tale and his book (Sailing Around Britain) moves into its second edition in October as part of the Making Waves series.

Nicholas Gray has done many voyages himself, but has recounted the lives and last voyages of 11 famous sailors in his book Last Voyages which was published this year. This evening he will talk about some of the characters from his book and give his take on Donald Crowhurst whom he met before his last voyage. One reviewer commented: “Nicholas Gray even manages to add something new to the well-known story of Donald Crowhurst”. This will become even more well-known as the film The Mercy, staring Colin Firth, based on Donald Crowhurst, is released later in the week. Nicholas will perhaps be able to give a less sensational account.

As well as short talks on these voyages, the authors will be available for questions, conversation and even signing copies of their books.

A nominal £5.00 entry fee is charged but this is fully refunded on purchase of one of the books in the Making Waves Series (or any purchase over £15.000 from the shop).
Places are limited, so we ask you to email talks@arthurbeale.co.uk to reserve your place.
Date: Wednesday, 25th October 2017
Time: 18.30 for an 18:45 start
Venue: St Giles in the Fields Church, 60 St Giles High Street. London, WC2H 8LG (just over the road from Arthur Beale)

A history of madness at sea

Nic Compton’s latest book Off the Deep End looks at madness at sea. Some folks think the only sane thing is to stay ashore and it has to be said they do have a point… Some degree of madness has so often been a feature of the the great voyages, particularly those of the solo sailors. I can’t help being reminded of Joshua Slocum’s nights of being piloted by the pilot of Columbus’s La Pinta, for example.

Nic’s doing a book signing today on at the Southampton Boat Show on stand J052 from 12noon to 4pm.

Here’s what the publisher’s rather vivid blurb says:

‘Confined in a small space for months on end, subject to ship’s discipline and living on limited food supplies, many sailors of old lost their minds – and no wonder. Many still do.

‘The result in some instances was bloodthirsty mutinies, such as the whaleboat Sharon whose captain was butchered and fed to the ship’s pigs in a crazed attack in the Pacific. Or mob violence, such as the 147 survivors on the raft of the Medusa, who slaughtered each other in a two-week orgy of violence. So serious was the problem that the Royal Navy’s own physician claimed sailors were seven times more likely to go mad than the rest of the population.

‘Historic figures such as Christopher Columbus, George Vancouver, Fletcher Christian (leader of the munity of the Bounty) and Robert FitzRoy (founder of the Met Office) have all had their sanity questioned.

‘More recently, sailors in today’s round-the-world races often experience disturbing hallucinations, including seeing elephants floating in the sea and strangers taking the helm, or suffer complete psychological breakdown, like Donald Crowhurst. Others become hypnotised by the sea and jump to their deaths.

‘Off the Deep End looks at the sea’s physical character, how it confuses our senses and makes rational thought difficult. It explores the long history of madness at sea and how that is echoed in many of today’s yacht races. It looks at the often-marginal behaviour of sailors living both figuratively and literally outside society’s usual rules. And it also looks at the sea’s power to heal, as well as cause, madness.’

The boats of Sri Lanka with Stephanie Boucher and Alex Bienfiat

My friends Stephanie Boucher and her husband Alex Bienfait recently took a sabbatical of a few months in Sri Lanka. I gather the trip was both stunning and an education.

Anyway, they and came back with these photos, for which many thanks!

Stephanie works with websites for a living, and so naturally kept an excellent weblog of the trip. I should also explain that Alex is a Church of England parish priest, and I think took many if not all of the shots.

I’ve paraphrased some of Stephanie’s notes:

The cross on the fishing boat is interesting. It seems that when Christian missionaries came to Sri Lanka with the colonial powers one group that was particularly receptive was the fishing communities. This was particularly the case on the West coast of Sri Lanka: ideally Buddhists do not kill any living creature, but in this otherwise largely Buddhist culture fish is extremely popular, nevertheless. Fishermen often felt they were outcasts from the general community, and found a new sense of identity and self worth as Christians.

The fishing boats at Trincomalee were mostly of these boats were of fibreglass construction, much like those they to others photographed in the west and south of the island. But at Trincomalee they also saw a number of log canoes hewn from of a single tree. Stephanie, who has attempted to carve wooden spoons and other tools, greatly appreciated the skills required to get the thickness and shape correct for these boats. Some had subsequently been patched with a fibre glass lining, and also on the outside in various ways.

The final shots of outrigger canoes are from the former Dutch colonial capital of Galle. The stall with fish for sale, shows the is also picture with fish for sale, showing the boats are still very much in use.