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.

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A new site for canoe yawl enthusiasts

canoe yawl, dick wynne, george holmes, eel, canoeyawl, humber yawl

George Holmes’ influential canoe yawl Eel

The canoe yawl deserves more prominence, and so Dick Wynne and friends have set up a website devoted to this type of boat at www.canoeyawl.org. I hope it’s a great success!

Here’s what Dick and co say about their venture:

We want to draw attention to today’s and tomorrow’s canoe yawl designs and not be seen as a purely historical group. But fear not, we love the pioneers too — one of the CYA ringleaders sails a 19th century design. Our aim is to represent all known canoe yawl designs, past and present, on these pages — it’ll take us a while to flesh out the design archive, with more designs, and more words to those already present.

  • If you have designed a canoe yawl, we want to hear from you and to give you some free advertising.
  • If you own a canoe yawl we want to hear from you with your experiences of it.
  • If you’re selling or buying a canoe yawl, we want to help you.
  • If you are none of the above and just like canoe yawls, we want to hear from you anyway!

The folks behind canoeyawl.org have a magazine in the pipeline that we hope will appear twice a year, and some interesting practical initiatives to discuss. I hope it’s all a great success.

PS – if you’re interested in canoe yawls, you may want to check out one of the seriously good reads of the year: Holmes of the Humber.

Holmes of the Humber – a new book just in time for Christmas 2009

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Holmes of the Humber new colour

Holmes of the Humber – a new book about George Holmes

Dick Wynne of the Albert Strange Association has been in touch to say that a new book on artist, writer, sailor and boat designer George Holmes written by Tony Watts is about to burst onto the scene on the 1st December.

That’s good timing I’d say – and I’d guess this first book from the Lodestar Books imprint will be a popular item on many people’s Christmas shopping list this year.

I’ve been promised a chance to see the book in advance – so expect to hear more about Holmes of the Humber here in the next few weeks.

Click here for more information and sample pages from the Lodestar Books webpages: Holmes of the Humber.

PS – Check the Albert Strange Association website for what looks like the beginning of a heart-warming story about a boat the may have been designed by McLean Gibson.

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