We recommend: Swin, Swale and Swatchway by H Lewis Jones, reprinted by Lodestar Books

Swin-Swale-and-Swatchway-Front-Cover

I’ve just read H Lewis Jones’ book Swin, Swale and Swatchway in a new edition from Lodestar Books, and I have to say that it’s a rattling good read.

Lodestar proprieter Dick Wynne has kindly given me permission to put up a section of Swin, Swale and Swatchway – download it here. The whole thing is of course available at a very reasonable price from the Lodestar Books website.

Lewis Jones’ book about cruising around the Thames Estuary and its various creeks and rivers quickly turned out to be one of those that I read from cover to cover and didn’t want to put down. I come across only three or four such books a year that meet that description.

On starting to read Swin, Swale and Swatchway I quickly felt I was in familiar territory – yes, the sailing areas he describes are often familiar, but more there seems little doubt that Lewis Jones was a powerful influence on many sailing authors who came later. That’s what I thought when I first sat down to read, and I was enormously pleased to be vindicated later when I learned that Maurice Griffiths, no less, was a Lewis Jones fan.

Published in 1892 and not reprinted until now, Swin, Swale and Swatchway still seems very fresh, and almost every page seems to includes something quotable. Here are a few very small samples

‘The Medway in its lower reaches is a splendid cruising ground for small craft, certainly there is no other place at once so accessible from London and so convenient for small-boat sailing. From Rochester Bridge to Sheerness there are nearly fourteen miles of water, all open except in the neighbourhood of Rochester itself… For the rest of the distance the banks are low, so that the winds blow true and without squalls; there is soft bottom everywhere, so that no harm can follow from any accidental going ashore, and for a large part of the distance, in fact for nearly the whole way from Gillingham to Sheerness, there are a series of side creeks and channels, along which the man who is fond of exploring expeditions can penetrate into no end of quaint corners, and can find plenty of quiet anchorages for the night without alarms of any sort.’

Again, on the subject of one of these creeks:

‘Long ago, Stangate Creek was full of hulks, and was used as a quarantine station, and at the time of the Crimean war there was a large number of Russian prisoners kept there. When any of them died they were buried on the island, between Stangate and Queenborough, which has the name of Dead Man’s Island. Tradition says that the fishermen used to dig up the coffins for the sake of the oak planks of which they were made; and Benson says he once picked up on the shore there a hollow thing which he used for a bailer for some time, until he discovered that it was a piece of human skull, and hastily threw it overboard.’

Benson, I should explain, was the experienced Thames sailor and Mr Fixit who looked after LewisJones’ boat when the author was going about his workaday business.

Finally, here’s a Lewis Jones anecdote explaining why tying up overnight at Rochester wasn’t necessarily such a good idea in the late 19th century:

‘Once, when we were anchored near the Sun Pier, about five in the morning, an enterprising young ruffian thought the occasion a good one for coming alongside to prospect for moveables, little reckoning that as he touched the little vessel’s sides there would emerge, Jackin-the-box like, a half-dressed and dangerous looking figure from the fore hatch and another from aft, with a truculence of aspect heightened by a pair of gold spectacles; and that both, in well drilled chorus, and in accents bland, would demand an explanation of the unexpected visit. The double-barrelled apparition proved too much for our young friend; his jaw dropped, he hastily withdrew, murmuring by way of apology for his intrusion, “I say, d’yer stay out all night in that ‘ere?”‘

Holmes of the Humber explained

 

Holmes of the Humber new colour

[June 2011 – This book is now available again after selling out less than a year after publication.]

Holmes of the Humber is a new book by long-standing Humber Yawl Club member Tony Watts. But just who was the book’s subject, George Holmes? The publisher’s notes tell the story so well, I repeat them here just as they appear on the fly-leaf:

George Holmes lived from 1861 to 1940 on the northern side of the Humber estuary. He was an avid and accomplished sailor in small craft of his own design, in British waters and in mainland Europe, and his prolific writing and drawing have left us an absorbing and charming record of his cruises, his boats, and the people and places he encountered.

‘In common with his friend and sailing companion Albert Strange, boats were not his regular occupation but were a diversion from his working life. And along with Strange, his name is forever associated with the development of the Canoe-Yawl, now enjoying a renewed popularity. Its sailing qualities make it arguably the best choice of craft for the single- or short-handed coastal and estuary sailor.

‘Holmes of the Humber is a nautical book and a social document. Look within to appreciate the pioneering days of cruising under sail, when enjoyment and fulfilment sprang from personal endeavour and the camaraderie of the group, and were largely independent of the external forces which would control us today.

‘Tony Watts has combined original sources, Holmes’ published output and the recollections of his family, and his own knowledge and experience of the Humber sailing scene to produce this, The Essential George Holmes.’

For more information and sample pages from the Lodestar Books webpages, click here: Holmes of the Humber.

Don’t miss something good – sign up using the link below to start receiving the free weekly intheboatshed.net newsletter.

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

[ad name=”intheboatshed-post”]

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.

Don’t miss something good. Sign up below to start receiving the free weekly inthboatshed.net email newsletter.