Category Archives: Boating, boats, ships and the sea

Lodestar republishes Bill Tilman’s legendary sailing and mountaineering adventures

Dick Wynne’s Lodestar Books has published the first two volumes of a uniform edition of the books of HW (Bill) Tilman — who must have been one of Britain’s most extraordinary and successful independent explorers by both land and sea.

Tilman was born in 1898 and began climbing in 1929, and then in 1955 also took up voyaging. He disappeared in 1977 along with the crew of Simon Richardson’s En Avent on a trip from Southampton to Las Palmas and Rio de Janeiro – the vessel is presumed lost at sea en route to the Falkland Islands with loss of all hands.

His seven mountaineering titles and eight sailing titles, plus the biography High Mountains and Cold Seas by JRL Anderson will appear in pairs at quarterly intervals over the two years from September 2015.

The first volumes to be released are out now: Snow on the Equator and Mischief in Patagonia, and have forewords by Sir Chris Bonington and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston respectively.

Tilman has an engaging, breezy and often characteristically upper-class understated British style, and is frequently very amusing, though the lightness of his style belies his complex character. (For more on that, see the latest edition of the wonderful Marine Quarterly).

‘… the Himalaya are high, too high for those who are not ‘in the vaward of youth’, and though the ageing mountaineer will assuredly find rich solace in its valleys and upon its glaciers he is not likely to resort to them when he knows there are peaks in other parts of the world still within his feeble grasp. So I began thinking again of those two white blanks on the map, of penguins and humming birds, of the pampas and of gauchos, in short, of Patagonia, a place where, one was told, the natives’ heads steam when they eat marmalade.

‘Before this line of thought had led me anywhere I had acquired a stout 14ft. dinghy as a first step to venturing upon the sea. There are a number of mountaineers whose devotion to mountains is not entire, who own and sail boats; but there are few sailors who also climb.

‘Of these, the best known was the late Conor O’Brien. He was a celebrated yachtsman who had designed his own yacht Saoirse. Having been invited to join a climbing party in the New Zealand alps for Christmas in 1923 he thought a voyage there an excellent opportunity for trying her out. Going by the Cape and running his easting down in the Roaring Forties he reached New Zealand. He arrived too late for any climbing so he sailed home by way of the Pacific and Cape Horn. One feels that his devotion to the sea came first and that in his eyes the loss of a climbing season was nothing to the accomplishment of such a tremendous voyage.

‘There is something in common between the arts of sailing and of climbing. Each is intimately concerned with elemental things, which from time to time demand from men who practise those arts whatever self-reliance, prudence, and endurance they may have. The sea and the hills offer challenges to those who venture upon them and in the acceptance of these and in the meeting of them as best he can lies the sailor’s or mountaineer’s reward. An essential difference is, perhaps, that the mountaineer usually accepts the challenge on his own terms, whereas once at sea the sailor has no say in the matter and in consequence may suffer more often the salutary and humbling emotion of fear.

‘The sea’s most powerful spell is romance; that romance which, in
the course of time, has gathered round the ships and men who from the beginning have sailed upon it—the strange coasts and their discoveries, the storms and the hardships, the fighting and trading, and all the strange things which have happened and still do happen to those who venture upon it. For the professional sailor this romantic veil has no doubt become threadbare, but for the amateur there is endless fascination.’

Read a longer sample here.

News from Fowey boatbuilder Marcus Lewis

Fowey boatbuilder Marcus Lewis has written to tell us about some of his recent yard news:

‘Hi Gavin, hope all is well. I just thought I would drop you an email with what has been happening.

‘Recently I’ve built a lovely little 8ft pram dinghy for a customer, replicating a dinghy of his grandfather’s that had been stored for years and is sadly now beyond economical repair. It is of spruce and mahogany on oak timbers, and was delivered a few weeks ago.

‘Also, earlier in the year, I had the chance of buyng the GRP mould for the Mayflower dinghy. The mould had been around for years, but had not been used lately – even though it is GRP, it is still a real classic, and we can now build the wooden version or supply the grp alternative, fitted out with top quality timber.

‘A friend of mine who has a lot of GRP experience has been renovating the mould, and after many hours polishing and waxing, we are just laying up the first hull.

‘The Mayflower is an ideal rowing boat, or with a small outboard, or as a sailing dinghy as originally intended, and all versions will be available, as customers require, with built in buoyancy and RCD compliance.

‘Cheers, Marcus’

Thanks Marcus – it’s good to hear from you. That’s a sweet pram, and I’m looking forward to seeing the first new Mayflower from that mould. I would think it would be quite a desirable little boat, particularly for folks who want a boat that won’t dry out and leak.

Possible bronze age log boat found at Hollowshore, near Faversham

Bronze age boat at Hollowshore

Oooh – look what they’ve found lurking in the mud at Hollowshore. The folks who did the work are SWAT Archaeology, and hopefully there will be a report at some point…

It’s such a special place, there’s no question.