Tag Archives: Maurice Grifiths

The Magic of the Swatchways & Round the Cabin Table, both by Maurice Griffiths

I read a good book the other day #8

My 20 year old paperback editions are from Conway Maritime Press. Search Amazon for current editions.

My 20 year old paperback editions are from Conway Maritime Press. Search Amazon for current editions.

And now for something completely different, as they used to say on Monty Python. Most of my recommendations so far have been fiction. These two are what I call fictionalised non fiction. Maurice Griffiths was in his day (the 1930s to -60s) editor of the Yachting Monthly magazine in the UK. His books recount tales of cruising under sail, mainly around the south east coast of England. They evoke all the magic of a time when the seas were less crowded and a yacht could find anchorage in sheltered places where now a predatory marina occupies the best spot and works in cahoots with rascals who dress in uniform and style themselves Harbourmaster. These thieves work in packs and lie in wait with cosh and cuffs to pounce on the visiting yachtsman and empty his wallet. In some places, lying to ones own anchor is these days not only considered eccentric but actively discouraged by officious harbourmasters demanding money with legal menaces. Why, I was once hoist to the yardarm by the ankles by one of these pirates intent on shaking the loose change from my pockets. And I only made up one element of that last sentence! I would gleefully name the rascally basket here if the laws of libel were not so unfairly biased in his favour.

Do I sound peeved? Yes, you bet. I read and re-read Maurice Griffiths to sooth the hackles, comfortably settled in my armchair beside a roaring log fire during the loooong winter evenings with pipe and slippers and cat purring on my lap. Okay so I made up that last bit too, but you get the idea. If only ’twere true…

These are not stories of heroic adventures on the ocean waves. They are more domestic than that, on a scale that will chime with weekend sailors who escape their rotten, boring office jobs for a few days at a time during the sailing season, and submit to the dismal slavery of earning wages the week after. Five stars for quality of writing and stories that evoke better times. I suppose only the over sixties will really appreciate this sort of writing, more’s the pity.

Dammit, my pipe’s gone out! (reaches grumpily for ounce of rough shag and box of Swan Vestas).