BookPick : Spring 2021
I vividly remember my first boat. She was called ‘Galah‘ and I sailed her in waters around Tasmania that would have been familiar to the early explorers of what was then Van Diemen’s Land. Sadly, these days I have little time to venture out on the water but I retain a strong interest in boats, large and small, as well as my abiding passion for the ships of the Great Age of Fighting Sail. This BookPick pays homage to Shackleton’s famous boat, celebrates a gifted American yacht designer, shines a light on cruising grounds in the south of England, explores navigation down the ages and examines the fate of castaways.
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Shackleton’s Boat by Harding McGregor Dunnett
James Caird is an unlikely hero, a 23-foot sea-boat that completed the most desperate and celebrated open-boat voyage in history. On board were Ernest Shackleton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley. They travelled, in winter, across 800 miles of the stormiest seas in the world, the Great Southern Ocean. Conditions on board were harsh and finding the tiny speck in the ocean that is South Georgia was a miracle of navigation by Worsley. The story did not end there; Shackleton and his companions had then to traverse the unmapped mountainous interior of South Georgia. Finally, with the help of the Chilean Navy, Shackleton went back to rescue the 22 men stranded on Elephant Island. This book is the fascinating story of James Caird from its commissioning (especially of great interest to me as a former naval shipwright) to its dramatic escape from Antarctica. One of the entries on my Bucket List is to pay homage to James Caird now fittingly housed at Dulwich College in London, where Shackleton had been a pupil.
Crusoe, Castaways and Shipwrecks by Mark Rendell
This book contains true stories which inspired Daniel Defoe; tales of bravery, courage, determination and good fortune, along with some of the reasons why people found themselves cast away. These included being wrecked, abandoned as a punishment, marooned by pirates – or even out of deliberate choice. Rendell recounts amazing tales of survival in the face of adversity – in the Falklands, the Caribbean and off the coast of Australia. Perhaps the most astonishing story of them all is that of sixty slaves abandoned on a desolate treeless island in the Indian Ocean and left there for fifteen years; some survived against all odds. Being cast away brings out the best in some – and in others the very worst.
The History of Navigation by Dag Pike
The author, a well experienced sailor, sets out to record the development of navigational techniques from the earliest time, five millennia ago. As explorers started to venture offshore into the unknown they had to rely on the sun and stars for direction. From this, pioneers turned to mathematics, astrolabes, sextants and increasingly accurate clocks to measure latitude and later longitude. More recently major breakthroughs with electronic navigation, GPS and other satellite systems have revolutionised travel, all well covered in this book. Focusing primarily on marine navigation, the author weaves a fascinating course through the successes and failures of mankind’s quest to explore his world of sea. A thoroughly entertaining and informative work.
Dick Carter Yacht Designer by Dick Carter
Not many ‘amateur’ yacht designers would dare to enter the first boat they had ever designed into the epic offshore Fastnet Race, let alone with the intention of winning it. But that is what Dick Carter did in 1964, beating all 151 other yachts. He repeated the feat four years later with another of his own designs. His radical innovations created fast and comfortable boats which were much in demand in the golden age of offshore racing. His career as a yacht designer was brief, but the impact of his innovations has lasted the test of time. Who today would think of an offshore yacht without internal halyards in the mast or that the rudder always had to be fixed to the keel? These concepts, and many more, were first introduced by Dick Carter. A fascinating account of his work by one man with a real ‘eye for a boat’.
West Country Cruising Companion by Mark Fishwick
First published in 1988, this is an invaluable sailing guide for the coastline of the English counties of the West: Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly, some of the most scenic marine areas of the UK. It combines pilotage and cruising information with historical insight and suggestions of what to do ashore. The book is enhanced with colour charts and detailed photography, including spectacular aerial shots of ports, harbours and anchorages. This latest edition has been fully revised for publication and further updates are provided every Spring on the Fernhurst Books’ website. A very readable addition to a cruising boat’s library that will not only inform but inspire.