On sailing a Folksong – Mike Burns and ‘Fram’


Mike has kindly written the following about Fram:


“I thought I might just add to this email the raison d’etre for my boat being called Fram

so Episode 1

Back in around 1965 at the age of approx 23 I signed on as a marine geophysicist with the British Antarctic Survey. I had some Scottish rock & snow climbing experience but only a couple of races sailed as crew on an Enterprise at Kippford in Scotland. I had however as a Grammar School pupil in Sunderland attended the local Cathedral at some memoration ceremony to RF Scott

Three years under canvas as a dog driving scientist down south was certainly “justifiable training for the youth of GB” as once stated by Fuchs the then Director of BAS.

I completed my polar exploration stint & returned to UK, Birmingham University, to work on & eventually publish my scientific findings.

No chance of a PhD but I did get a Polar Medal and eventually a mountain named after me. (This turned out to be more of a ridge than a mountain) very aptly named “Burns Bluff”

The thought of what to do next was challenging, so I married, we canoed in two slalom canoes around north cape in northern Norway on our honeymoon and then thought that the next best thing to dog sledging would be sailing a boat travelling at around 4/5 mph with every day changing plans as to the destination according to weather etc.

Having read much of Antarctic history I grew to favour the Norwegian approach as opposed to that of Scott, It did not take long to find that Nansen had a much more erudite approach to travel and hence the Norwegian word forward or “Fram” was obvious. Nansen’s nautical travails were also far more challenging than those of Scott

In addition as a tight fisted half Scotsman four letters certainly fitted the frugality constraints which resulted in “FRAM”

perhaps Episode 2 might follow in a day or a week or perhaps a month or so as to how I found the boat in Doncaster !”


I look forward to Episode 2 Mike. By the way, what were you studying?

And is Fram still for sale?


Boat names can be tricky. I called briefly into Plymouth Yacht Haven the other day, and, as I passed a very large yacht,  a young woman looked down and asked if I had a green and a red mistress too. There were several answers to that – all of which came too late!

On sailing a Folksong – Fram and Eric Bergqvist

I am not the only one owning a Folksong. In fact, compared to some, I am very much the novice – (as anyone who has read this blog for a while can testify). However, I have learnt a thing or two and I know a gem when I see it.

Kite gybe

This is Fram. The picture speaks for itself.

Mike Burns wrote at the end of last month:

“I home completed a Folksong in 1984 . . . and still have her . . .

“Maiden voyage in 1985 was circumnavigation of the north of Scotland, ie. clockwise Fortrose to Fortrose via the Caledonian Canal.

“Raced her last weekend single handed, flew spinnaker & also had to anchor up when wind dropped & strong tide, only came third out of 8 mixed handicap boats. Had to winch up the anchor with the genoa winch!!”

He has kindly sent images of Fram and copies of his original documents, and has given me permission to publish them here which I am delighted to do. Thank you, Mike. I hope we will exchange more details as time goes on.

~ ~ ~

Among the documents is an interview with the Folksong designer – Eric Bergqvist.

In it, he says: “I wanted a yacht fit for sailing single-handed in the Irish Sea.

“The first of my three requirements was that she had to be attractive. Pride of ownership is always a top priority and a gentle evening’s sail followed by a few pints and a chat at the club can be just as rewarding as a landfall after a long passage.

Fortrose Harbour

“My second priority was performance – speed on all points of sail and the ability to keep going in a short steep sea where you’ve the combination of wind over tide in shallow water. Self-steering is, in my opinion, the best aid to navigation, enabling the skipper to keep dry, warm and alert. The Folksong’s long keel gives good directional stability and suits the construction of a very simple self-steering device.

“My third requirement was ease of construction. Simplicity is the essence of both good design and economy, and I’m not in the position of having a lot of money tied up in a yacht.

These three requirements: looks, performance and economy all add up to a fibreglass Folkboat.”

With dolphins

That sums it up for me. Even though I have spent more money than planned on Blue Mistress – (yeah, well . . .), she is still more economical than many similar boats from the more well-known classes. She performs well and looks good.


Now, some detail. In the extract above, he talks of “the construction of a very simple self-steering device.” Do any Folksong (or Folkboat, Folkdancer or similar long-keeled boat) owners know which one from the early eighties he may have been referring to?

A World Of His Own

On 22nd April 1969, a third year student in London, I watched Robin Knox-Johnson return to Falmouth on television.

His feat made a lasting impression. Like Sir Francis Chichester, he represented a spirit of adventure born of individual skill and personal endeavour. The essence of the achievement? No large back-up team, no communication for much of the voyage, no modern navigational aids – one man running with the elements, (and often against them).

Nowadays, it is difficult to describe his achievement without dropping into the world of spin and hype. They have stolen all the superlatives. Too much has been attributed too often to lesser deeds.You have to read his story in his own words to understand the man and the task.

And, for the rest of us, whatever our sailing ambition, he will be one who went before.

Are there words that sign-post what he did that may work for us now?

Napoleon Hill showed a feel for it early last century when he wrote:

“Whatever you want, oh discontented man, step up. Pay the price – and take it.”

Sir Robin stepped up, paid the price with perseverance and stamina and took his prize – the first to sail non-stop solo round the world.

Because he showed the trip was possible, others have followed with increasing confidence  – as well as with many, many more technical aids, and achieved successes of their own

Now, forty years on, general expectations are such that completing a solo navigation goes largely unmentioned – you have to be a record-breaker (or fail spectacularly) to get noticed.

But remember this: taking the prize may be the headline, but it’s the stepping-up and paying the price that’s the real challenge. And that’s the Knox-Johnson legacy.

All power to him this anniversary.

(Follow the links to see what others think – start here or here)