The English Raid 2012: the East Coast

The English Raid for 2012 is being organised by Moray McPhail (of Classic Marine) and it’s to be on the East Coast. The plan, unless it changes, is to meet over the period from the 1st to the 5th August, camp near Shotley and to have three classes raiding to Manningtree, Ipswich and Walton, with dinners at various yacht and sailing clubs.

It does look like fun for those who can make it!

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Ready About on the River Blackwater, by Creeksailor Tony Smith

Creek Sailor Book Cover Goldhanger Creek

Blackwater book cover; Goldhanger Creek 

Ready About on the River Blackwater is a delightful little book by Creeksailor.

His real name is Tony Smith, but as his self-chosen name and title suggest, Creeksailor is a small boat enthusiast fascinated by the creeks and shoals of the northern part of the Thames Estuary and of the Blackwater in particular.

It wouldn’t be too much to say that Tony adores the place, but I only discovered why very recently. I have once sailed on the Blackwater but it was an open water sail and, naturally, I came away thinking it was a pleasant and sheltered estuary with some interesting features that should be seen at closer quarters.

Fair enough, you might think, but one evening this summer, by chance we found ourselves standing on the seawall at Goldhanger Creek where – bang! – it came to me. Finally I saw what Tony sees: an extensive sheltered area of inlets and creeks waiting to be explored and few people to disturb the peace.

We have our own creeks and ditches around the Swale of course but some day, when there’s time and the right weather, I hope to sail over and have a good look round from our own shoal-draft boat.

In the meantime, what does Ready About on the River Blackwater have to offer?

It opens with a foreword by Tony’s guru, legendary East Coast sailor and navigation expert and teacher Charles Stock. What follows is not a guidebook, but describes a series of visits and a series of places, which Tony does pretty well.

He’s informative, gives an up to date picture of how things are on this coast, takes the time to tell just enough of the history, and, like many earlier sailing writers on this area, has some good stories to tell. It’s quite enough to get anyone interested in sailing the Blackwater, and will be well worth taking afloat to re-read for points of local interest while waiting for the tide. Handily, it’s a fairly slim volume that’s easily carried.

But what Tony’s book offers that most earlier prophets of East Coast sailing could not is photos – lots of them, and in colour. With earlier writers, you have to close your eyes and half-guess half-interpret what’s being described – which is difficult for beginning sailors, and those who only sail keelboats. Just how small can a creek be and still be navigable?

With Ready About in your hands, it’s possible to see what he’s so enthusiastic about, and make your own judgements.

The book could have done with a bigger map (in two parts, perhaps?), and that here and there it might have benefited from slightly sharper proofing (as could this weblog, no doubt). But these are tiny things: it’s a super little book, and when I finally closed the back cover, I wanted more. I hope Tony goes on to write and publish more of this kind of thing.

PS Creeksailor is also a busy weblogger, who’s well worth following. Read his weblog here – I guess it’s also the best place to find out where and when copies of Ready About may be bought, and I gather there a new print run is just about to arrive on Tony’s doorstep…

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.