What's a good buy for the boat's bookshelf?

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Book reviews

We'll update this feature with newly published books which may be of interest to our Members. If you have a book you've enjoyed, please send a review to the Editor. If you're a publisher or author, let the Editor have all the details in time to include it here and in the printed Gaffers Log newsletter.

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The Impractical Boat Owner

"The Impractical Boat Owner. Tales and Trials from Years of Floundering Afloat"
Dave Selby Published 13 July, 2017 by Bloomsbury
£9.99 Paperback Original /eBook

Never mind 'Dunkirk', Dave Selby’s first book, a collection of his earlier columns in Practical Boat Owner, is an absolute delight. This book, a collection of his 'Mad about the Boat' columns that have been popular in PBO for years (Dave also writes a monthly column for Classic Boat – Saleroom) tells the story of one man’s love affair with sailing, told with a very perceptive ‘outsider’s’ eye. Since buying his GRP, 1970s-built Sailfish 18, Dave has poked its ugly little bows into every pat of the anthropological zoo that is the British sailing scene.

The book is, like many good things in life, completely useless. If you want to have a laugh though, Dave is the funniest commentator on sailing there is. In this collection, he discusses everything from sailing certificate zealots to the mysteries of weather or the fear of stepping aboard a yacht for the first time at the London Boat Show. We have stories of pontoon life (what’s the code!), Day Skipper Theory, racing success (the secret is not to rush), and how to perfect the grungy East Coast nautical look. Sail with Dave on his first solo voyage, then his first solo voyage 'all by himself' and his first circumnavigation – a four-mile voyage of discovery around Osea Island. There is nothing like sailing, reckons Dave, to ruin your dress sense, which is quite something from a man whose dress sense, although dramatic and ambitious, has always displayed a disastrous lack of basic good taste. Dave, a seasoned veteran of 12 transats (all of them on an aeroplane), is a mine of glorious witticisms and shared experience, and no one is safe from his sharp wit: the ’boutique sailors of the south coast’ are treated with the same friendly disdain as the salty longshoremen of his adopted home of Maldon in Essex; and is so funny at times that you might have sore stomach muscles from laughing too long.

Disclaimer: Dave also owns a very lovely ‘stretched’ Blackwater Sloop that he has had restored over the past few years. At least, we think he does, but we’ve never seen it and he never talks about it. For more info. visit Dave online.

‘Rivers’ by Piers Rowlandson, November 2017
Kindle or paperback versions available from Amazon

This self published story is loosely based on the logs of Piers’ own boats although the characters are wholly imaginary. We embark upon tales set in traditional boats voyaging the Solent, the South West and Brittany. We even attend an unusually violent Gaffer event. Many meals and bottles of wine are consumed. There are some observant and delicate descriptions of natural sounds in the harbour and at sea. The picaresque action spans the genres from adventure and romance to thriller and, finally, detection. It is punctuated with moments of pathos and high drama, one example of which shows exactly why you should never, ever sail wearing flip flops.

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A gaff cutter called Patience

There is a strong thread of comic irony. One laugh out loud episode involves the hero Rick’s escape from hospital. Rick is surrounded by strong females. The first segment concerns scantily clad Lucy, a fantasy of sex and steering maybe but with a mind of her own. Lucy’s alter-ego, Rick’s daughter Tori, comes to the fore in the second part. The third episode, featuring the enigmatic Lottie, assumes a darker tone. The gripping finale comes with a twist. A novice sailor might experience a gentle education in navigation, pilotage and manoeuvring a long keeled boat. Old salts can argue with descriptions of handling a spinnaker, use of an autopilot and coming alongside. The narrative contains some scenes of a mild sexual nature.

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NHS UK broad pennant

‘Restoring a Dunkirk Little Ship’ by Peter Draper September 2017
96 pages Colour photos throughout Amberley Publishing £14.99

‘Caronia’ was originally built in 1927 as a St Ives shing vessel, converted to a motor yacht in the 1930s, and in 1940 joined the eet of requisitioned boats sailing to Dunkirk. Peter Draper acquired ‘Caronia’ in 2002, by which time she was in need of some serious restoration. In this readable and well-illustrated book, full of photographs to help explain the intricate details of the task, Peter recounts his story. The introduction starts with a question asked of (or by) many an OGA member. ‘Restore, rebuild or repair’?

Peter suggests he’s doing mostly ‘repair’ and moves quickly on to summarise the chequered 90-year history of this Dunkirk Little Ship. Having set the scene, the rest of the book provides a step-by- step account of the sometimes painstaking and challenging work involved in the series of projects to return ‘Caronia’ from houseboat to National Historic Ships Flagship, Solent in 2017. The chapters are punctuated by getting ready for three passages of the ‘Return to Dunkirk’ in 2005, 2010 and 2015. The narrative is well structured and Peter’s enthusiasm and passion for his project shine through the text and photos. Deciding to undertake most of the work himself, it is clear that this great undertaking has been very much a ‘family affair’ with son, Lewis and daughter, Natalie actively involved. The book will be of interest not only to the enthusiastic amateur boatbuilder but also to anyone with an interest in maintaining our historic eet of wooden boats in a seaworthy condition for future generations to enjoy.

‘Sailing ships of the Bristol Channel’ by Viv Head May 2017
96 pages Colour photos and diagrams throughout Amberley Publishing £14.99

On our regular forays into the Bristol Channel from Cardiff, the local OGA BC Area gaffers’ skippers and crew seldom see many other craft. An occasional transporter ship operating out of Bristol’s Royal Portbury Dock, a dredger, perhaps, and some other leisure craft, but this is not the busy end of a British seaway and one might well conclude that it has little signi cance in the history of seafaring and sailing ships. Viv Head’s new book puts such superficial deductions well and truly into the recycle bin as he opens up the incredibly rich maritime history of the Bristol Channel, reaching back to when men first went to sea in ships powered by the wind.

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'Mascotte' races, 2017

The book is organised around an introduction to the Bristol Channel, and 11 sections covering; Pioneers, Trading Vessels, Antarctic Ships, History Ships, World Wanderers & Racing Yachts, Pilot Cutters, Working Vessels, Trows & Derelicts, Atlantic Gypsies, Boatyard on the Beach, World of Boats, and a Glossary. The 96 pages are packed with fascinating, well-researched stories and a panorama of images, many taken by the author. The textual sections are written in an easy, relaxed style imbued with humour that masks the painstaking research that Viv has obviously invested in each of the 50 or so individual ships’ stories.

The modest A5 size does not do any favours to the visual images that deserve more display space, the juxtaposition of text and image is sometimes a distraction, and an Index of ship entries would not have gone amiss, but I’d rather have this book in circulation than not. Specialist local history print publishers such as Amberley are working to fine financial margins, so bravo to them for taking on this title. These slight disappointments were easily forgotten as I immersed myself in the book. Each section threw up new points of interest, but for me the most enjoyable read was when Viv drew me into his research journey as exemplified in the sections on Purton in Gloucestershire - The Graveyard of Ships, and Boatyard on the Beach. The boatyard in question was located on Penarth beach and Viv’s passion for his subject shines through in his account of three 30-40 footers built at this modest yard: 'Emanuel', 'Caplin' and 'Armorel'. The latter two are both now to be found in New Zealand waters, an unexpected and fortuitous coincidence for Viv as this is his ‘other’ home for half the year. So, in the interests of research no doubt, he got to go onboard both, and to helm Caplin in Akaroa. If you know of someone that would share Viv’s love of the Bristol Channel, ships and maritime history then a recommendation is in order. Even better buy them, and yourself, a copy - you won’t regret it.