Tag Archives: Yachting Monthly

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).


A Tiller and Fun

There be tyrants at sea…

The America’s Cup yacht races, recently broadcast on UK TV, set me off on this train of thought…

Image: Falmouth working boats

Falmouth working boats, racing on a Saturday afternoon. These are my kind of boats.

As a sometime yachtsman I occasionally fall victim to bouts of disabling nostalgia. Tiller in hand on a sunny afternoon, a steady breeze, a calm sea, a well cut suit of sails… Ah me! The simple prerequisites for fun, if you happen to be a boating man; the very stuff of a yachtsman’s dreams during the long dreary months of winter when the boat is either laid up safely ashore (where the next passing hurricane will topple her out of her cradle and the insurance company will gleefully refuse liability on grounds of some piffling infringement), or moored safely afloat in the marina collecting barnacles and osmosis craters in equal proportion from being left too long afloat. The old wisdom that too long in harbour rots a ship remains as valid for today’s plastic vessels as it was for Nelson’s wooden walls of England.

Image: below decks.

Below decks: the cabin & my crew after a short beat to windward

But a tiller can also be a terrible tyrant. Most yachtsmen will at some time – probably shortly before they shelled out for Read More →

Cash on Delivery

A sailor’s tale:

Image: Yachting Monthly, May 1998 issue.

Yachting Monthly, May 1998 issue.

Mention of my father in an earlier post reminded me of a yacht I owned twenty five years ago. It was a Folkboat, a modest enough vessel as yachts go, but beautifully built of tight-seamed carvel mahogany resplendent in varnish from truck to waterline. People used to ask how I ever found time to sail it, believing it must be hell to keep all that varnish up to standard. I used to tell them it was not the acres of varnish that took time to maintain, it was the fiddly bits, the mahogany handrails, portlight bezels and edge beadings, and lots of yachts have that sort of trim even if built of things other than wood.

When glassfibre was invented boatbuilders rapidly took up the new material and became plastics manufacturers instead, while their customers grasped thankfully at the delusion that GRP was virtually maintenance-free. Note that word virtually. Turns out it covered a host of sins from fading colours and stress cracks to the dreaded boat pox (or osmosis, to give its proper name). I never found it took much longer to varnish my wooden topsides than others took to polish their plastic ones, but still the battle has been largely lost. Nearly all yachts are built of plastic these days; even I have partly succumbed to its shiny lure.

Back in the day, however, when my yacht was based in Read More →