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Sea-Boats, Oars and Sails by Conor O’Brien

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Many readers will know that gun-runner, naval officer and circumnavigator Conor O’Brien’s book Sea-Boats Oars and Sails is a classic of small boat sailing and cruising – the good news is that it is now available again in an elegant paperback format from the Lodestar Books.

The prices are £12 sent to the UK, £13 to Europe, and £15 to areas of the world beyond Europe.

The photo above is of a François Vivier-designed Ilur, which is said to embody the qualities advanced by O’Brien in this book – the boat in the shot belongs to Tim Cooke and is sailed by him in the waters of south-west Ireland.

If you’re not convinced you need a copy, perhaps the following few sentences (and the link to a chapter below) will help demonstrate why it deserves a place on the bookshelf.

Just in these few lines, you’ll likely find he’s dogmatic about something he has experience of, reveals a little sense (on luffing) that may not be as common as it should be and, of course, in his spare style, he draws a picture that’s only too easy to conjure in your imagination. (He was writing in 1941, a time when taut writing was coming much more into fashion.)

‘The sailing boat referred to in this book, which excludes all racing craft, is not a miniature yacht. Their functions are different; the boatman is dependent on the shore, and has to make his port in good time, the yachtsman can keep the sea as long as he likes. But a sailing boat, as I define the term, is not merely a small yacht stripped for action; the significant difference is in the method of handling them. The yacht is almost uncapsizable, and, if luffed head to wind, heavy enough to carry her headway for some little time after the sails have ceased to draw. The boat stops immediately the propelling force fails. In a yacht the main sheet is belayed, keeping the sail at a constant angle with her keel, and to spill the wind out of the sail in a squall she is luffed, or turned towards the wind’s eye with the helm. In a boat the main sheet must be held in the hand, and with it she is played through a squall as a fish is played with rod and line, while she is kept sailing smartly all the time. It is fatal to luff, for if she loses headway she will not recover it till she has fallen off broadside to the wind, and if she is caught in that position with no way on she is easily capsized. Then, if the boat’s sails have to be taken in, they must come in at once, while in a yacht there is never great hurry about reducing canvas. These considerations limit the size of a boat’s mainsail and enjoin simplicity and certainty in working on her gear. As a set-off it should be remembered that the crew can get about their work with far more ease and safety in an open boat than on a small yacht’s deck.’

Read more on this topic in a chapter from Sea-Boats, Oars and Sails here.

 

Ernest Dade’s book of drawings Sail and Oar reprinted by Lodestar Books

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Ernest Dade 1 Ernest Dade 2

These lovely drawings by the artist Ernest Dade feature in a new volume from Lodestar Books – and if you’re in need of a gift or two it’s available in time for Christmas at a very reasonable £12!

As an artist, Dade trained with Albert Strange and shared his master’s passion for sailing and sailing craft. First published in 1933, the book Sail and Oar contains 100 of his lively and also historically accurate sketches, accompanied by some striking captions.

I particularly like one that reads: ‘The old smacks brought a very powerful odour with them when they returned after six or eight weeks at sea. They could be smelt some miles away.’

One of the local fishermen of the time said this of Dade’s collection of drawings: ‘These pictures… are true in every way. Mr Ernest Dade lived the life, knew the men, and sailed in the various craft he draws so well. It is a record of things passed away.’

Read more about Ernest Dade’s Sail and Oar at the Lodestar Books website.

 

Two new volumes from Lodestar Books – just in time for Christmas!

Lodestar Books Conor O'Brien Lodestar books Ernest Dade

++++ Check the bargain at the bottom of this post! ++++

East Coast cruising sailor Richard Wynne’s wonderful Lodestar Books has two smashing books coming out in the first week of December – just in time for Christmas!

Both titles are published at £12, including UK delivery—slightly more to other countries.

Sea-Boats, Oars and Sails is Conor O’Brien’s guide to sail-and-oar cruising. The new new edition is illustrated with South-West Ireland cruising sailor Tim Cooke’s photos of his small lugger An Suire (The Sea-Nymph).

An Suire is built to François Vivier’s Ilur design, which is said to epitomise the characteristics recommended by O’Brien.

Popular author, Marine Quarterly editor and Conor O’Brien enthusiast Sam Llewellyn has chipped in with a splendid foreword. However, I’d like to quote Conor O’Brien’s own description of his book:

‘Most of what is written about boats is naturally based on the orthodox view, and the man who wants a boat neither for class racing nor as a harbour ornament, but to go to sea in, gets little guidance from it. This book of mine is frankly unorthodox, in that I hold nothing sacred and take nothing for granted.’

Sail and Oar presents 100 historically and technically accurate drawings of the Yorkshire sea fishery in the late nineteenth century by the artist Ernest Dade.

Dade was a sailor and worked out of doors most of the time, so his drawings from the era before steam are both immediate and authoritative.

The book comes with a preface by author Peter F Anson and foreword by fisherman Frank Wheeler. Writing in the 1930s, Anson has this to say:

‘No maritime library will be complete without a copy of this volume on its shelves, for the Yorkshire fishing coble and the Yorkshire smack of the past century were among the finest examples of English sea-going craft ever devised, and none more fitted for the rugged coast to which they belonged or for the stormy seas on which they used to sail.’

While in the same decade Wheeler makes the following remarks:

‘Not only do the sketches portray the boats and their gear accurately and in great detail, but they also show the fishermen at their work both offshore and inshore from most of the fishing centres of the Yorkshire coast. The facility of Dade’s pen work can only be admired and most certainly enjoyed.

‘These pictures show all this and are true in every way. Mr. Ernest Dade lived the life, knew the men, and sailed in the various craft he draws so well. It is a record of things passed away.

PS – Those looking for a pre-Christmas bargain might like to snap up a copy of Francis B Cooke’s Cruising Hints, which is now available at a good discount from Lodestar – for customers in the UK the hardback is down from £35 to £20 and the paperback from £20 to £12, for other countries the price is a little higher to take account of mailing costs.