A simple pleasure – looking

Having watched the yacht leave – (and totally failed to note her name), I indulged in the simple pleasure of looking at boats.

A film crew has been in Teignmouth for the past week or so filming the Donald Crowhurst story – Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz etc have been here, 1960’s fashions have been in evidence – (the reporting in this link seems to be all about Rachel Weisz).

I have a deep sympathy for Donald Crowhurst and his family. A lot has been written and spoken about him, the story sensationalised for public consumption; like the previous film (Deep Water), this film will bring it all out again. I hope they treat him with respect. Whatever the mistakes, and there were many from the very beginning, (each one stacked on the previous one), he put himself forward for a huge enterprise that had no precedent. That alone took a particular mind-set. Only Knox-Johnson completed the course. In terms of seamanship, there would have been no disgrace in turning back – or even in not starting at all. One can only imagine what he must have gone through once at sea. Retrospect is easy, Therein lies the fascination – the question is asked of each one of us, “Having got into the tangle, what would you have done?” Think carefully.

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‘Ethel May’ – a great grand-daughter remembers

The following arrived during the week:

“I was thrilled to find, by chance in your collection, a photo of my Great Grandfather’s boat. The Ethel May was built at Rhyl, North Wales, in 1878 (65 tons) owned by John Kearney of Co. Down.  I am assuming it was a schooner?  My Great Grandfather, Richard Coppack was her captain.  My Aunt was named after the boat, although she always felt it should have been the other way around. 

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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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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.

Seb and Maya

Back in the fifties, my dad bought an LP. He played it a lot – Uffa Sings.

As a young boy, I remember being fascinated by Uffa’s introduction to one of the sea shanties:

“‘A Roving’ – that’s a rollicking song but you can only sing about the first three verses of that because this is a song the sailors sung at sea and they weren’t always virtuous in their words.”

How I longed to hear the fourth verse!

I was reminded of this while watching Seb’s clips on You Tube.

Earlier in the year, Seb and I met at Newbury train station. He bought Blue Mistress’ old spray hood which is now attached to Maya somewhere in the Mediterranean.

I mentioned Seb at the start of his voyage. He is on a great adventure that he should one day look back on with pride. The lessons learnt will be there for ever.

He is sharing those lessons with us via short video clips from his phone. Perhaps, one of those lessons should be that because he is ‘less than virtuous in his words’, what works at sea doesn’t necessarily work for those us on land, sitting on our comfortable chairs gazing at glasses screens. (To be fair he has toned it down as time has gone on).

Here is the dilemma in the use of language. Is he recording events for himself and a small group of friends, in which case he has the right to say what he likes – (always remembering it’s difficult to put anything on media without someone misunderstanding you –  it’s totally unrealistic to think that no one else will see it – and better your friends see it first), or for a wider group – us.

I am sure we can all handle the language individually, but I would have avoided watching the clips with my mother if she were still with us – and I am certain my children would prefer to watch with me out of the room.

All the above because I, for one, am fascinated by these clips, firstly because Seb is sailing a boat like mine, secondly because he is doing something I’ve always wanted to do, and thirdly because he has found a way of recording the voyage with an intense immediacy. If he takes care in putting it all together it will be a valuable resource to him in future.

Here is Maya rounding Cabo Vincente:

You can find the rest of his clips by searching Sebinasia on You Tube.

Be(a)ware and enjoy

When all is said and done,  I’m home here talking about it, Seb’s out there doing it.

Wherever they go, I wish him and Maya fair winds  – (whenever they blow).

Fair winds

I bought a boat in 2006 – a Folksong 25. I knew little about the class and started this blog in search of other owners.
The boats were built for home completion – a different pedigree from modern production boats. After the hulls left the yard, personal preferences and individual skills took over. The preferences were as varied as the skills. It would be rare to find two identical Folksongs.
People found the blog and kindly contacted me. They have been helpful and resourceful, and I have learnt a lot that is now built into Blue Mistress for which I am very grateful.
Five years later,  a younger generation has come into the picture. The Folksong Yacht group exists. The mobile phone has taken over from blogging, instant access being the key. One person can contact the whole group and get an appropriate reply in a minute, an hour, a day.
Now one of those members has begun a voyage – Seb Rogers on Maya, last heard of in Falmouth at the weekend, looking for weather to take him across Biscay and beyond.
The excitement in that phrase!
Seb has taken on a challenge that most of us just think about.
Fair winds to him and a successful voyage. I look forward to his colourful clips and news from wherever, whenever it comes.

From Steeple Point – character and individuality

I found John Howlett’s book in my favourite second-hand bookshop – Books by the Sea in Bude.

‘Mostly About Boats’ could have been the title of this blog.

Three pages in: “We are so controlled and directed and generally bedevilled from the cradle to the grave, that any activity engendering personal initiative and self-reliance – qualities in serious danger of extinction, is surely laudable in itself . . .”

I’m beginning to like this man.

Talking of a trip to Flushing and the Scheldt, “. . . we were so fortunate as to see a Schevingen Bom. Nearly as broad as she was long and completely rectangular, save that the angles were rounded off, she was immensely strong, and was built to run in anywhere on the sands, where she was loaded or unloaded from carts at low water. Like so many things of character and individuality, they are now extinct.

. . . and about cruising: “Escapism? Well, that is an easy taunt to throw at those who ignore the values of the herd; but if we seek contentment and, perhaps, some enlightenment on those same values, here is a road for those who will take it.”

. . . and then a sentence that resonates: “The flood of man’s ingenuity has overwhelmed his power to create beauty.”

I looked at the short biography of the author on the cover – Mr Howlett, the Editor of the Cruising Association Bulletin, who calls his book a “hydrobiograpy” . . .

The date of publication? – 1956.

He must have been more or less the same age as I am now.

What would he think of 2010?

On sailing a Folksong – Betsy

The last I heard of Betsy, she was fitting out for a trip from the Algarve to Lisbon.

I look forward to hearing how they got on.


In terms of maritime history, this is a coast of great importance, the early Portugese navigators leaving a legacy that is still relevant to us today.

Looking through the links, I came across this report – The Wreck Report for ‘Hantoon’ and ‘Rothesay’ 1882, which occurred some 50 miles north of Cape St Vincent. Although it doesn’t compete with the early use of astronomical tables for navigation (or even events like the Battle of Cape St Vincent), for those  interested in seamanship, particularly where the Collision Regulations are concerned, it’s worth reading – and remembering even though it happened over a century ago, it could have been yesterday.

On sailing a Folksong – Self-steering gear

A comment this evening:

“I have just bought a Folksong and plan to do some extended single-handed voyages in her. I was wondering if you know of any folksong’s that have had self-steering gear installed on them, and if so which system / model has been used with success.”

Lo Shu

Sho Fu is the only Folksong I know of to carry self-steering gear – and this hazy image is the only one I have and I know nothing else about her.

Looking at her again, I notice the spray hood is similar to a design I have in mind. I might use this one.

I use a Raymarine ST1000+ for shorter trips, but would not want to undertake  a longer voyage with this system alone.

When I bought Blue Mistress I spent some time researching self-steering gear with the intention of fitting it fairly quickly. As happens, priorities changed and deadlines came and went and I still haven’t done it.

However, I did think that a system like the Windpilot Pacific Light might work.  (To see one fitted to the stern of a Folkboat, click here and here).

Nick Jaffe made it to Australia in his Contessa 26, Constellation, with this set up.

Here is Blue Mistress crying out for self-steering gear – and an owner with the means to go a lot further than he has so far.

If you have strong thoughts on this, let me know.