The English yachting narrative with particular reference to Cornwall

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The English yachting narrative with particular reference to Cornwall

The June 2009 edition of the NMMC journal Troze is now online and and is packed with gems from the history of yachting.

The article in question is titled The English yachting narrative with particular reference to Cornwall and is written by yachtsman and retired clinical psychologist Mike Bender.

Here are some quotations I particularly enjoyed. From the beginnings of yachting:

‘In the reign of Elizabeth I, Richard Ferris decided it would be a atriotic act to show that no Englishman need be afraid of sailing in home waters after the Armada had been defeated in 1588. In 1590, with two companions, he rowed and sailed in a wherry from London to Bristol. He was not molested by the Spaniards but had to take evasive action near Land’s End to avoid a pirate ship.’

That’s a great story, if I ever heard one. Writing of the Corinthian generation of yachtsmen in their small wooden boats in the late 19th Century, Bender concludes:

‘What is interesting in these texts is that they are usually little more than expanded logs and journals, so it must have been the novelty of these passages that made them of such great interest to the contemporary reader, combined with the use of lithographs which invariably show the boat being pitched around in rough seas going round some suitably perpendicular headland. This Romantic imagery obviously appealed to the dreamer in the reader; but there is a self-denying, almost self-flagellating quality, in the self-chosen tussle with the sea in which the sailor engages.’

On women, he writes:

‘There was a long period of resistance before the First World War towards accepting women into yachting and yacht clubs. Sailing by women was feared for giving too much leeway for the dress and freedom of bodily movement required (and hence, being sexually arousing); and as a statement of equality or independence.’

And on the importance of recording the recent past:

‘There is also a certain urgency… If no-one looks for or after them, the historical records of those pre-GRP, pre-GPS endeavours – the accounts, the letters, the contracts, the tools – will soon be lost; and if no-one is interested in taking down the accounts of the sailors who used them, and getting them published in one of the many forms now available, they will take their experiences to the grave, and we will be the poorer thereby.’

This article is well worth reading. Find it here.

National Maritime Museum Cornwall small boat register goes online

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St Agnes lighthouse, Scilly Isles – see
the news about Troze below

The National Maritime Museum Cornwall’s small boats register has gone online – and we’re all invited to let its organisers know of any craft that should be included. I should think there are hundreds!

Here’s the NMMC’s release on this important project:

‘Over the past few years, National Maritime Museum Cornwall has been working on a database of boats which deserve heritage protection. With the help of other museums, owners and charitable trusts, the Museum has been assembling a list of over 1200 boats.

‘Now part of this database known as the National Small Boat Register including boats under 40ft in length, is available on the web and everyone is invited to help make it the definitive list for the UK.

‘The list is modelled on the database used for ships – the National Register of Historic Vessels – but uses a new ‘history pod’ to identify key dates in a craft’s history.

Jonathan Griffin, director of the Maritime Museum says: “There is still much work to do. We need to obtain owners’ permission to publicise details of some of the boats we already hold on the database. We’d welcome hearing from everyone about other boats which they feel should be included in the Register.”

‘Looking ahead, the Museum is keen to develop a discussion forum to make the whole register inclusive and a place where enthusiasts can exchange information about the boats.

‘Have a look at the research area of the Museum’s website at and see if your boat or a boat you know of should be registered.’

Also new from the NMMC has also launched an interesting-looking quarterly online journal called Troze. The first issue concerns wrecking on the Isles of Scilly.

Museum’s staff sayTroze will welcome article submissions from enthusiastic researchers, writers or people who are knowledgeable or passionate about their topics.

If you’re wondering, as I was, the title of the journal is taken from the Cornish word for the sound made by water about the bows of a boat in motion.

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