Category Archives: Culture: songs, stories, photography and art

Traditions and culture relevant to the world of real boating and sailors

A drone over the Wanderer dinghy national races at Whitstable

My thanks to my sailing pal Jim Van Den Bos for pointing me to this YouTube shot by a drone flying over the Swale and the beaches of Whitstable on the occasion of the Wanderer nationals a week or two back.

It wasn’t a great day for sailing – or racing – but it was clearly a good day for a drone to go up and show us some of the local landscape.

Catro Vellos Mariñeiros musica tradicional de Galicia

My thanks to Martin Calpe for sending this one over. The two types of sailing vessel you see here are the lancha, used for transport, and the dorna, much smaller and used for fishing.

Photo project to reveal how people feel about Faversham Creek

Picture the Creek

Picture the Creek is a project that’s about the photos folks take of Faversham Creek and what it means to them. It’s not supposed to be about how good the pictures are, but the stories they tell, so an expensive camera is not required.

You can take a photograph or send one you’ve already got – maybe one from long ago. Or you can draw or paint a picture and scan it or photograph it.

The images will be shared on the Picture the Creek website, on social media platforms and at an exhibition in Faversham in the autumn.

There will be prizes for the most interesting and original images however. These will be in two categories: adult and junior (16 and under), and will be awarded at the autumn exhibition.

The most important point, say the organisers, is to say something about what the photo shows: is it something you like or something you don’t, something that made you curious, something that brings back memories, makes you angry, makes you laugh, or makes you sad?

Faversham Creek has all of those for me. In general, I dislike photo competitions (how can anyone make iron judgements about something as subjective about how you respond to a photo?) but I might just go and see what I can dig out myself…

Square rigged sailing ship Peking rounds Cape Horn

Here’s some classic footage of the square rigger Peking rounding Cape Horn – and some other bits and pieces. My thanks to regular reader Martin O’Scannall for sending this link over.

By the way – this YouTube is really rather poor and I’m told by regular reader Chris Brady that the Mystic Seaport Museum has a much better version on sale on DVD.

Michael Maloney’s film: The Apprentice – Making Life Work

Faversham film-maker Michael Maloney is passionate about the value of apprenticeships to young people, and believes they are vital to the economic and social future of Britain.

He points out that about a million of our young people are currently unemployed – a point that which contrasts sharply with the some of the claims we hear about the healthy state of our economy.

I particularly like the quotation from Griff Rhys-Jones visit to Faversham Creek Trust’s apprenticeships project at the Purifier Building in Faversham last year: ‘The reward is in what you do.

(It had better be – in the same short speech he also revealed that the boat cost him £70 to buy, that he had spent a further £500,000 on her over the next ten years – and that on putting it on the market more recently had been offered how much? You’ve guessed it – £70,000.)

This Youtube is a trailer for a longer and more in-depth film that Michael is making on the subject of apprenticeships.

Read more about Michael’s project here:

Two more songs for singing sailors

Two more sample recordings of songs from my temporary bedroom recording studio: John Connolly’s widely sung Fiddler’s Green, which is today so beloved by real-life fishermen, accompanied by my pre-war Hohner Erika melodeon, and the classic broken-token-my-love’s-a-sailor-but-he’s-been-gone-seven-years piece The Dark Eyed Sailor, which like many people I learned from the singing of Fred Jordan.

The eventual aim is eventually to make a CD – working title ‘Songs for singing sailors’ – that will hopefully be available through the usual commercial channels. We’re months away from that result, but I hope these samples tickle someone’s fancy!

Blokes Up North – through the heart of the Northwest Passage by sail and oar


Blokes Up North.

Blokes… Up North. They sound ordinary enough, and they and their publisher try to describe themselves that way – but ordinary they aren’t really.

They’re as tough as the old boots they probably keep in a cupboard somewhere.

For one thing, they’re Marines. For another, the authors of this account published by Lodestar, Kev Oliver and Tony Lancashire have sailed, rowed and dragged a 17ft open dinghy from West to East through the often frozen seas and islands that claimed so many explorers and crews in search of the North West passage during the 19th century.

Even today in the era of global warming and in the height of the Arctic summer, it’s not too strong a claim to say that in doing so they risked their lives, and that surviving and reaching their destination is no small achievement in a time when the age of exploration is otherwise largely over.

Oliver is clearly a big fan of Shackleton and fascinated by polar exploration generally. On top of that he had drawn inspiration from an old friend from the Marines who as a 19-year old with a pal had circumnavigated Spitzbergen, and was also a great admirer of the scarily determined dinghy cruising exponent Frank Dye.

Lancashire’s viewpoint seems to have been that he admired Oliver and liked adventuring with him in the Marines – and was hoping he’d be asked along for an unexplained scheme…

The boat they chose was the Norseboat 17, which seems like a very good choice, being long enough for two rowing stations and, in theory, just about light enough to be handled on shore or ice  - but was still going to need additional built-in buoyancy, and, in all that ice, reinforced bows.

And so, as the rest of the world continued to reel and totter in the months following the the banking crisis, in July, 2009 these two ‘ordinary’ blokes set off . Happily they were well equipped, as well as well trained, even if they were not hugely experienced small boat sailors or rowers.

The book recounts their adventures in their own voices – typically a few paragraphs from one followed by a few from the other. It’s a choppy sort of effect, but lends the book a novel conversational quality, and brings a new dimension to the narrative. It’s certainly an interesting approach, and I’m quite glad someone’s tried it.

The story includes the usual sailing expedition incidents – falling in, near capsizes, losing the mainsail halliard (which meant they couldn’t raise the mainsail and go to windward) in 9ft waves miles from land and being blown further North further out into open sea – but with the added spice that the cold Arctic water has the power to kill in moments. Happily, they figured out a way round the halliard problem - but then there was the time their tent got sat on by a polar bear…

I won’t spoil this story or any of the others. If sailing adventures are something you enjoy – and many of us do, especially in the dull dark days of winter – this book from Lodestar priced at £12 in the UK, £13 in Europe and £15 elsewhere won’t disappoint.

PS – Did I mention that one of the best half dozen Victorian and early 20th century books about cruising the Thames Estuary – arguably it is the best – previously available only in hardback is now available in paperback from Lodestar? H Lewis Jones’ Swin, Swale & Swatchway