Percy Blandford’s autobiography is on sale now!

Percy Blandford - A Life Full of Hobbies

Publlishing phenomenon and prolific post-war era canoe and boat designer Percy Blandford’s family have had his autobiography published, and it’s now obtainable from them. To obtain a copy, message his grand-daughter at diane.naested@gmail.com

I think the foreword  (see below) explains it all as well as anyone could… I should add that the grand old fella wrote his autobiography at the age of 95.

Percy Blandford was a man of many talents, interests and achievements. A world-renowned boat designer and builder,
a pioneering Do-It-Yourself expert and the author of countless books and magazine articles on an extraordinarily wide range of technical subjects, he was also a leading figure in the Scouting movement for well over eighty years, an unrivalled long service record for which he was honoured with a unique certificate that had to be created specially for him.

Born in Bristol on October 26th, 1912, Percy was apprenticed to a large local engineering firm before qualifying as a technical teacher and going to work in a school in London.

During the war he was recruited as a technical writer for the RAF, producing manuals for new aircraft. After the war he returned briefly to teaching before launching his career as a small boat designer and all-round technical journalist, making a name for himself in the post-war D-I-Y boom.

In his workshop at home in Newbold-on-Stour he designed and built prototypes of scores of canoes, kayaks, dinghies,
trailer-sailers, yachts, cabin cruisers and – in the sixties – even surfboards! Altogether, he sold more than 78,000 of his D-I-Y boat plans worldwide. They are still available and his boats are still being built today. He himself was a keen canoeist, narrowly failing to qualify as a candidate for the 1948 Olympics, although he was very proud to be appointed a timekeeper and judge for the rowing and canoeing events, staged at Henley.

As well as writing thousands of magazine articles on technical subjects ranging from net-making and ropework to
blacksmithing, knife-making, upholstery and every aspect of woodworking, Percy also published 113 books on an equally broad range of subjects.

For more posts about Percy and his boats, click here.

I’d like to underline the point that his boats are still being built by sharing this shot of one of his PBK canoes launched by Dundee-based canoeist Bill Samson.

Bill Samson pbk canoe

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Francis B Cooke’s writing republished in blockbuster manual of traditional yachting

Cruising Hints FB Cooke 450 pixels

Francis B Cooke was one of the great yachting writers of the 20th century and more – a long-lived man, he was first published in 1883 and was still writing in the early 1970s, by which time he was in his early 100s .

He has been one of my favourite authors for many years, and so I’m delighted that Lodestar Books led by Dick Wynne have brought out a compendium of his writing.

I think it’s high time Cooke was rediscovered – a very popular sailing author for many decades, his books are full of practical information and advice peppered with beautifully told stories about his experiences and descriptions of the East Coast areas of Essex, Kent and Suffolk. However they are now rare in the second-hand bookshops.

Cruising Hints: The Traditional Yachtsman’s Compendium is a big book of 686 pages including the index priced at £30 from the Lodestar website – or something around 5p/page. I will make a great Christmas present for many Intheboatshed.net readers. (That’s a hint, but the way!)

What you get is a very complete manual of old-fashioned small boat cruising, that’s still relevant for traditional boat owners and enthusiasts today, intermingled with pieces of writing that demonstrate a deep and abiding enthusiasm. For example, the section ‘The boat’ includes chapters with titles such as ‘Yachting with economy’, ‘Selecting a yacht’ and ‘Size for the single-hander’, but it also includes a chapter headed ‘A perfect love of a boat’ that turns out to have been drawn by Harrison Butler.

This quotation from ‘A perfect love of a boat’ encapsulates several of Cooke’s regular themes of economy and practicality, enthusiasm, adventurous single-handed sailing (in contrast to many of his 19th and early 20th century cruising contemporaries, who required the help of a hired man) and of course his beloved East Coast:

‘She is a perfect love of a boat, and when my ship comes home, I shall be tempted to have her built. That is of course if I still remain in the same frame of mind… The design I am in love with for the moment comes from the board of that enthusiastic yachtsman Dr T Harrison Butler, and was published in the Yachting Monthly of November 1915… an exceedingly pretty and comfortable little cruiser. The boat has a very nice sheer and a bow that reminds me of the excellent small cruisers designed by Mr J Pain Clark. The underwater lines suggest weatherliness, and with a good length of keel she should be very steady on her helm… Length over all, 18 feet 6 inches… Of course, the boat is very small but it is astonishing what a lot of fun one can have even in a ‘tabloid’ cruiser. She strikes me as being just the thing for knocking about on the estuaries and creeks of the East Coast at weekends, whilst a trip up to Lowestoft would be quite within her capabilities in any ordinary summer weather.’

The phrase ‘when my ship comes in’ is mildly amusing – Cooke was a successful merchant banker, so I’d be surprise if he was short of a bob or two.

The new book Cruising Hints includes chapters and sections describing the classic East Coast sailing area, a substantial collection of Cooke’s design commentaries often describing craft that are now considered classics, and an extraordinary number of beautiful lines and layout drawings – it’s a real feast of the draftsman’s art.

There are also sections on sailing cruiser equipment, the ‘Domestic economy’, ‘Maintenance’ and ‘Seamanship’, and ‘Desirable East Coast anchorages’ – just the stuff to read while waiting for the tide, or in peaceful moments at home, if there ever are any…

Have I persuaded you it’s a good buy yet? I hope so! If not, there’s more information at the Lodestar Books website including this pdf including samples from the book.

PS – I’m reminded that the wonderful compendium of George Holmes’ writing and drawing that Lodestar published in 2009 been reprinted. See a review here.