Mike Smylie’s Herring: a History of the Silver Darlings is now in the shops

Mike Smylie Herring - A History of the Silver Darlings

Fishing historian Mike Smylie’s latest book Herring: A History of the Silver Darlingsexamines the effects of herring and the herring trade on the communities who catch them over the past 2000 years, including the way of life, superstitions and of course their boats.

Herring’s importance to the coastal peoples of Britain cannot be measured – at one time tens of thousands were involved in catching, processing and selling the fish from Stornoway to Penzance, and many towns on Britain’s East Coast grew rich as a result. In Herring: a History of the Silver Darlings Mike also explains the natural history of the herring and even includes recipes including baked buttered bloaters, salmagundy and super sgadan.

Also known as Kipperman, Mike Smylie has been researching the history of the herring for nearly 30 years. He has also written extensively on fishing vessels and the fishing industry, including the books Fishing the European Coast, Fishing Around the Bristol Channel and Fishing Boats of Cornwall published by The History Press. He often appears at maritime festivals smoking herring for the public.

Luke Powell’s Working Sail

Bristol Channel pilot cutter Amelie Rose built by Working Sail

Historian and writer Mike Smylie commented that I should see Luke Powell’s Working Sail website the other day – and he’s bang right. If your Monday morning needs a lift – and whose doesn’t? – I recommend you take a sneaky look as soon as you can.

While you’re there, check out the series of YouTube videos of the modern-built Bristol Channel pilot cutter Amelie Rose. But keep calm – if you’re in a public place, try to avoid exclaiming or singing too loudly or you may find people will start asking questions…

A second look at the small zulu Ocean Pearl restored by Nick Gates

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The small zulu Ocean Pearl restored by Nick Gates

We’ve received this informative email from Nick Gates, the guy who restored the small zulu we featured in an earlier post.

‘Just been sent the link to your site by a friend. Very enjoyable! Glad to see our boat Ocean Pearl featured. The jury is out as to her correct type. Mike Smylie is unsure….thinks she may be a hybrid of a half zulu and a Danish seiner. Half zulu, because she is half-size, and built for fishing under power, not sail.

‘But sail she does! A few weeks ago we maintained a steady 8 knots through the water between Ryde and Chichester harbour, peaking at 8 ¼ knots. This was without the mizzen on a close reach in 18 to 20 knots of wind. She has proved to be quite handy in confined spaces, short tacks well, and will point as high as a good gaffer.

‘I plan to increase the rig this winter, with a longer bowsprit and larger headsails to improve her light weather performance. Saying that, she will pass any modern 37’Jeauneau/Bavaria/Rassy with ease.

‘I have done a couple of vids on YouTube:



‘Great site,

Come for a sail next year!

Nick Gates’

Well – that’s an invitation you don’t get every day! I’ll definitely take that one up if I get half a chance thanks Nick!

Nick’s videos are well worth looking at, the first for its glimpses of Ocean Pearl’s restoration, and the second because it conveys a sense of the heavy work involved in raising a big yard and how well the boat looks and sails.

See Nick’s website at www.nickgates.co.uk.

Is Ocean Pearl a zulu, fifie or a baldie? Click here.