Category Archives: Locations

Foula fishing superstitions

In “ancient times” fishermen had to beware of meeting the bad foot [unlucky person] on their way to sea. According to Robbie Isbister, that is nowadays rightly dismissed as superstition.

We’re not told here who has the ‘bad foot’, but sailors’ superstitions generally tend to focus on people with flat feet or red hair. (That’s me and much of my family in trouble then… )

Also, among Foula fishermen certain taboo things were not to be referred to by their normal names at sea and had special sea names instead, eg:

  • yongers [horse]
  • scaffin (or fittin) [cat]
  • klibna [tongs],
  • blethers [sheep]
  • hyuncie [hen]
  • tounskerrie [cock]
  • rakki [dog]
  • cunning [rabbit]



Good Little Ship: Arthur Ransome, Nancy Blackett and the Goblin

Julie read Peter Willis’s book Good Little Ship: Arthur Ransome, Nancy Blackett and the Goblin (published by Lodestar) with great pleasure recently. She was clearly charmed by it, and I thought her comments were interesting – not least because they show how Peter’s book is as relevant to non-boating Ransome fans as it is for us boat nuts.

Here’s what she says:

‘I read We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea when I was a child with no understanding or experience of sailing whatsoever and no knowledge of that part of our coast – but when I first read it I enjoyed it as an adventure in an unfamiliar and exciting world, but with the familiar characters I knew from the earlier books.

‘So it was really nostalgia that led me to read Good Little Ship. As a result of reading Peter Willis’s book I immediately re-read We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea with a lot more understanding of the locations and what inspired Ransom’s story.

‘I’m not a great sailor or a regular reader of sailing books, but Good Little Ship kept me reading from the beginning. The story of the 28ft 6in Hillyard-built Nancy Blackett, is tightly written and nicely illustrated, and it’s like reading a family history, with all the different owners and their good and bad fortunes.

‘It’s also very clear that for Peter Willis finding, restoring and then sailing Ransome’s yacht in the same waters that Ransome had sailed had a lot in common with a love affair.’




The Steamship London and Foul Weather Call

The sad tale of the Steamship London, which is said to have sunk in a storm in the Bay of Biscay as a result of being overloaded. If you’ve ever wondered what disasters prompted the legal changes that brought in the Plimsoll Line, this is one of them.

Foul Weather Call can be thought of as a hornpipe or a reel, I think. Either way it comes from a 19th collection of tunes owned by the Welch family, who lived in the little Sussex port of Bosham.