Tag Archives: Tom Cunliffe

A video about caulking skills by Tom Cunliffe in Denmark

Tom asked if I’d like to post this video about caulking from his latest series of videologues – and of course I’m delighted to do so!

I particularly take his point about the skill involved in caulking and traditional boat building generally. Folks caulking upwards from under a hull have long had my particular admiration…

Pilot Cutters and the Victory: books from Seaforth Publishing

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I must read this book by seasoned sailor and writer Tom Cunliffe some time. Here’s what the Seaforth Publishing’s blurb says…

‘The pilot cutters that operated around the coasts of northern Europe until the First World War were among the most seaworthy and beautiful craft of their size ever built, while the small number that have survived have inspired yacht designers, sailors and traditional craft enthusiasts over the last hundred years.

‘They possessed a charisma unlike any other working craft; their speed and close-windedness, their strength and seaworthiness, fused together into a hull and rig of particular elegance, all to guide the mariner through the rough and tortuous waters of the European seaboard, bought them an enviable reputation.

‘This new book is both a tribute to and a minutely researched history of these remarkable vessels. The author, perhaps the most experienced sailor of the type, describes the ships themselves, their masters and crews,and the skills they needed for the competitive and dangerous work of pilotage. He explains the differences between the craft of disparate coasts – of the Scilly Islesand the Bristol Channel, of northern France, and the wild coastline of Norway – and weaves into the history of their development the stories of the men who sailed them.’

I notice that whoever wrote it has managed to capture the characteristic Cunliffe persuasive and salty style.

PS – A more recent release from Seaforth is Brian Lavery’s book Nelson’s Victory: 250 Years of War and Peace, which is published this month to coincide with the 250th anniversary of her launch.

Brian is also guest curator of an exhibition at the Chatham Historic Dockyard, if you have time to get over there.

The publisher’s notes promise the book is the most comprehensive book yet published on the topic and includes new and surprising revelations, including that:

  • she was almost wrecked on her launch
  • diplomacy conducted onboard her played a crucial role in provoking Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1912
  • 1914 Kaiser Wilhelm set the First World War in motion sitting at a desk made from her timbers

The book also tells the story of Horatio Nelson, who was born a few weeks before his most famous ship was ordered.

The latest issue of the wonderful The Marine Quarterly and two books: Mike Smylie’s Traditional Fishing Boats of Europe and an account of cruising in canoes in the 19th Century

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Novelist Sam Llewellyn’s other project, the unfailingly beautifully edited The Marine Quarterly,  continues to impress, and I’m enjoying the new edition as much as I have each of the previous nine editions. I say it’s essential reading, and that a full set – if one could keep them together – would be an asset when waiting for the tide.

This issue includes an illuminating history of pilots and piloting by Tom Cunliffe, Ken Duxbury’s account of visiting his first Greek island aboard his Drascombe Lugger Lugworm,   and an introduction to the story of pier-head painting by artist and illustrator Claudia Myatt.

In fact, if anything it gives me even greater pleasure because it includes a piece from Ben Crawshaw. Ben, as regular readers may remember, built one of my small boat designs, the Light Trow, and his book Catalan Castaway recounts his remarkable adventures. (See the ad at the top right of this weblog.)

Mike Smylie Traditional Fishing Boats of Europe

I’m also just beginning to read Mike Smylie’s latest book, Traditional Fishing Boats of Europe, which aims to tell the story of how the various types of fishing boats evolved over hundreds of years in line with the catches they were built to chase, the seas and climates in which they must work, and of course the cultural influences involved.

It’s a complicated story and clearly an important project, and I’ll be fascinated to find out just how he can cram all of that information between two covers! No doubt he can, though, because he’s done this kind of thing before and knows what he’s doing…

Those Magnificent Men in Their Roy-Roy Canoes

Jim Parnell’s Those Magnificent Men in Their Roy-Roy Canoes is clearly a must for  anyone interested in the remarkable story of sailing in these little boats.

It’s really a historical record of the adventures of the three New Zealand canoeing Park brothers, George, William  and James, who were active in the late 19th and early 20th Century, and includes material from their logs and from newspaper cuttings, and is written very much in the quite formal, slightly detached style of that era.

Still, the adventures they describe are quite something, and include crossing South Island (including a long portage, naturally) and crossing Cook Strait on a night with no moon. I needn’t mention how dangerous the Southern Ocean can be – but the Parks, particularly George Park, seem to have been indomitable.