Nobody told the albatross

I have just got back from London having attended Roger Taylor’s lecture at the home of the Cruising Association at Limehouse Basin in London.

Roger is the self-styled Simple Sailor . He has written three well-received books about his voyages first in his Corribee, Ming Ming, and now in her successor, Ming Ming ll. In 2009, he was awarded the Jester Medal by the Ocean Cruising Club “for an outstanding contribution to the art of singlehanded sailing.” The large number of members present was a fitting testament to his endeavours.

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Steeple Point

It has been well over a year since I last posted here. There are reasons for this and I will talk about them in time.

But now that I am ready to start again, I find that the title  ‘bill’s boatblog’ does not adequately cover what I want to say.  I want to reflect wider horizons. However, I don’t want to start a new blog – life’s too short.  Hence the new title.

I have changed the font but kept the general layout – there is a lot of historical material that I have posted over the past six or seven years that I would like to keep and one or two readers may find  the book references useful.

WordPress has developed into a much more sophisticated software package since my first timid attempts at posting.  This is a good thing – we all like to move forward. My first thoughts were that more sophistication means more complication – the process taking over the content. In fact, the changes have made it easier to post on this site. I look forward to more posts.


Steeple Point - standard

I have chosen Steeple Point – a place I have mentioned often. It plays an important part in my story and now that I am moving on from my day job, I want to have a physical base with a long personal connection from which to develop the blog.  I could have used a street we have lived in – Belle Vue or Cavendish Road or South Pallant or Martins Lane  or Clonbern Road or Nayland Rd South or Stockbridge Gardens or Paradise Road or others. Yes, there are more but none have the nautical connection I am looking for. Steeple Point stretches into the sea. I knew this place before I was old enough to know I knew it.

And there’s more. If the Earth were flat and your eye a perfect instrument, you could stand on Steeple Point, look due west, and see, first of all, very slightly to the north, Cape Clear Island and Fastnet Rock and then, on the southern tip of Ireland, Mizen Head , followed by no land at all until Quirpon Island with L’Anse aux Meadows beyond on the very northern tip of Newfoundland some 1,900 nautical miles away. All between is sea and ocean, wide horizons swept by wind and weather,



I will still talk about the boat, and I still have an eye for Greek fishing boats particularly those in Crete. They will feature, as will the past, especially the trading ketches of North Cornwall and the Bristol Channel. But there will also be occasional notes about what is going on around me as a I age in an increasingly complex world. Like it or not, all our horizons are changing. We need to recognise those changes.

Bude, Sunday

Bude, Sunday, cloudy skies, low tide

Beginning of the season, the RNLI out in force


The beach crew were checking their gear


The lifeboat crew were about to launch on exercise.


Elsewhere, the surf school was in full swing.


I had just been to my favourite bookshop, Books by the Sea, which was fatal. I was walking across a beach carrying two books having narrowly avoided buying a third.

The first was a good copy of Eric Hiscock’s Voyaging Under Sail, a 1977 edition of a book originally published in 1959. It is a companion to Cruising Under Sail which I bought many years ago.

Eye-brows are usually raised when I return home with more ‘boat books’. The question has even been asked, “Why buy books when you can get most of the information for free in easily digested packages via Google?” Well, maybe you can, but you don’t get the author.

Even if the technology is outdated,( and it certainly is in the chapters on electrics and photography), Eric and Susan Hiscock’s books reflect their day-to-day learning from their own experience and their continual application of other ideas that they have picked up in their travels. The knowledge, skills and attitudes reflected here are hard won,

Put glibly, their’s is on-the-job learning. Those of us who spend a lot of time book learning a) should get out more, and b), as importantly, should very carefully pick the authors we learn from. With that in mind, the Hiscock’s books should be compulsory reading for anyone who wishes to put their nose beyond the breakwater.


I was dubious about the second book, then bought it anyway – The Design of Sailing Yachts, by Pierre Gutelle.

This is technical stuff. “The author first considers the air, wind, water and wave and then goes on to the theory of aero- abnd hydro-dynamics and such topics as friction, form-drag, cavitation and viscosity. There follow chapters on the equilibrium of both transverse and longitudinal stability of sailing yachts . . .”

It is full of diagrams, graphs and formulae, a combination that I would normally run a mile to avoid. However, I made myself comfortable in my mother-in-law’s front room, ignored the football on the television and had a go. A while later, I realised I was absorbed. This was physics at a much higher level than I normally tackle, put in a way that I can understand. Extraordinary!

Sailing Blue Mistress has taken on a new dimension.

For love of a boat – Trechandiri

Paleochora, Crete 2009

I have started reading Mike Smylie’s ‘Fishing the European Coast’.

In 153 pages, he has written a comprehensive series of notes and reminiscences on the very wide range of boats found around the European coast.

It is the perfect overview for someone who enjoys differences in boat design  from port to port, from local conditions to local conditions, from culture to culture . . . as well as for someone interested in the evolution of craft.

For example, over the past year, I have posted many images of Greek trechandiri. Smylie writes:

“The trechandiri is the workhorse of Greek coastal fishers . . . . . The advent of motors in the 1920s simply produced a fatter, fuller body section, while in profile they were unchanged. Once the rig was removed, superstructures were added! They are ubiquitous throughout the Aegean – that sea of thousands of islands, and have one thing in common, a length/beam/depth ratio of round about 9:3:1. There are two schools of thought on their origins. Some say they developed from a particular type of caique, first built in Hydra in 1658, while others suggest they evolved from the trabaccolo, a type of sailing vessel used for trading in the Adriatic.”

Agios Nikolaos, The Mani, Greece 2007

Length/beam/depth ratios have taken on a new meaning :-).

Mr Smylie adds to what I learnt from the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth earlier in the year and from Denham’s book on ‘The Aegean’.

And the images have taken on a new meaning too.

For the origins of this image series, here

For love of a boat – 40+ Fishing Boat Association

Last Thursday’s (6th August) edition of the Western Morning News had a centre spread entitled “One man’s love affair with old wooden boats.’

It featured historian Mike Smylie, whose book “Fishing Boats of Cornwall” has just been published by The History Press.

In the article he is quoted:

‘”For this book on Cornish fishing, I spent a lot of time in Newlyn talking to local fishermen and the people involved with the local fishing industry . . .

“Something which particularly saddens me is seeing boats being chopped up – there’s a photograph in the book of a perfectly good wooden fishing boat being demolished in Newlyn in 1998 with a JCB. This happened because of the European Union fishing policy which encouraged fisherman to take boats out of fishing and scrap them.”

In 1995, Mike co-founded the 40+ Fishing Boat Association to fight that policy and help preserve old, decommissioned fishing boats.’

I am ashamed to say I have not heard of this association up to now. However, those of you who have been following the For Love of a Boat series will know this is precisely my own view on what has happened as a result of the European policy. Captain George’s video shows a Greek fishing boat demolished in just the way mentioned above for exactly the same reason.

Looking at the 40+ website I have not discovered how to join the Association yet, but will pursue it and let you know how I get on. The link to the equivalent Greek website is here. (To translate into your own language, I find Babel Fish works reasonably well).

I have ordered Mr Smylie’s “Fishing the European Coast” and look forward to reading it. The Cornish book will come later.

In the meantime, I wish Mike Smylie well – and encourage him to keep up his good work.

On sailing a Folksong – rudders 3

I have been gathering information on rudders – see my posts here and here.

The following by J.D.Sleightholme in his ABC for Yachtsmen, is useful.

Published in 1965, original price 21 shillings, and bought in one of my favourite secondhand bookshops –  Books by the Sea, Bude, Cornwall.

The question is what effect Blue Mistress’ rather heavily-built rudder have on her performance?

It’s one of those subjects that has several different answers depending on who you talk to. At the moment I’m gathering information and listening.

Blue Mistress’ heavily-built rudder.

Mr Sleightholme writes:

“A yacht should handle with the minimum use of the rudder (which slows her).

Deep narrow rudders are more effective than wide ones and have less slowing effect. As a rule, deep rudders are broader at the top due to difference in water density.

A steeply raked rudder exerts additional force in pulling the stern down when hard over.

In tacking with good way on, very little rudder is used at first, but more is applied as the speed drops – (never more than 30 degrees). Jamming it hard over may mean missing stays.

Power craft have proportionately smaller rudders because they work in the slipstream of the propeller. May be “balanced” with a small area forward of the rudder post.

Sailing craft may have 12 – 15 per cent of immersed lateral hull area in the rudder, power craft about 5 per cent.” (p.100)

This says more about shape and angles and less about weight, but it takes us in the right direction.