Good morning everyone.

This one is both a real-time blog post and an addition/correction to the Autumn cruise series of posts which still has a few left to run.     In ‘real’ time i’m home, WABI”‘ is bouncing around on her mooring in heavy rain, lots of wind and a very big spring tide waiting for a lift out and i’m slogging away in the garden so….


I’m at a slight pause in the heavy work at home because it really is blowing about 50 mph here and it’s raining hard so i’ll prepare a few catch-up posts to show anyone who is interested what iv’e been up to here.  Our place here has pretty big gardens which got completely out of control this year what with me being away for a lot of it and having done very little gardening after my knee replacement last year.  While its been great to be able to spend a lot of time away this year it did mean that i came back to an explosion of brambles, nettles and invasive weeds.

Iv’e been going at it so hard in the garden that i haven’t been writing any new book material or new blog posts apart from the series that i’m drafting with Big Al down in NZ : to be honest i come in from the garden at the end of day wet, cold, filthy and tired so what i have been doing is lots of leisure reading and some research for the winter posts series.    It’s funny but iv’e been talking back and forth with some regular visitors here about the excellent Chernobyl (HBO) series and i was just commenting that if i’d put the same effort into my homework as i just have re-learning everything about nuclear fission then i might have done a lot better at school !   My first job yesterday during the rain was to clear my desk of the notes i made for the Chernobyl posts : one note is a diagram of the decay sequence of Uranium 235 ……my old physics teacher would have been well impressed !

As is my way i don’t just have one book on the go, right now i have 3 books next to my end of the sofa plus a chart and then upstairs at the computer i have another 2 ; the upstairs ones are easy to explain because they relate to the project that my mate Al is working up in NZ and for that i’m reviewing what i know about cedar-core and epoxy boat construction (teaser !).   It’s downstairs that the real work is going on as i’m flipping between Douglas Murray ( The Madness of Crowds), Maurice Griffiths (Swatchways and Little Ships) and finally Phillip Pulman’s ‘Book of Dust’.    Each are a seriously good read in their own different ways and at some time i’d like to write my own review of Douglas Murrays recent books.

Right now i’m back in my own odd corner of obscure English literature in the evenings with a complete re-read of the late Maurice Griffiths books , some of which are nearly 100 years old now as in his early work he was writing about ‘yachting’ and sailing in the years leading up to the second world war.  More than one visitor has commented that my posts read a bit like Maurice Griffiths works and that really surprised me because what i remember of his writing always seemed far more crisp, with ‘ proper’ grammar perhaps, clear and also very atmospheric.  He did, after all train himself to be a journalist and then magazine editor, and then found a writing formula that worked well at the time and that seems to have worn well such that he is still eminently readable today.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Maurice Griffiths had known ‘Inanda’ below, a fairly typical east coast boat and now, some 80 years old.


Anyway and moving on… ‘The Magic of the Swatchways’ and ‘Swatchways and Little Ships‘ i found a bit frustrating this time because i was trying to follow the sailing action in greater detail and, this time, with a tiny bit of experience of the coast he was talking about.  Readers here will remember that i bought an east coast yacht (Inanda) in Ipswich, did a quick dash down the river Orwell, spent a couple of days in the Walton Backwaters and then did the technically challenging crossing of the Thames estuary and that aboard a gaff rigged yacht straight out of Griffiths era.   With that tiny bit of exposure to the area i suddenly understood and could picture his scenes around Harwich, the Orwell, the Pye sand and so on but i was completely lost beyond there… night in my reading i was completely ‘at sea’…..lost somewhere in the Thames estuary with the Raysand growling away under my lee and a fierce wind over tide shoving me up the Black deep…..i think, but it didn’t really engage me as it should have done had say i known that part of the river.

Reading along this time i could now picture a few places that he regularly visited as iv’e now been there but for 90% of the time he is ‘somewhere else’ in a complex of rivers, creeks and sandbanks that i don’t know at all so to follow the story i had an old Imray Thames estuary chart spread out on the floor next to me… east coast folio’s being still aboard WABI”’.   There is a small print of a Thames chart in the books but nowhere near big enough for the mass of detail so the full sized chart really helped me understand a lot of the situations he was talking about….like for instance when he talks about beating up one of the major Thames channels getting a lee from one or other of the sandbanks or as i said above when one of the sandbanks is a dangerous lee shore.

Crossing the Thames in Inanda


You’ll probably picture what it was like here when i had my ‘doh’…slap-head, face-palm and lighbulb’ moment when i realised that iv’e  accidentally created exactly the same problem with my whole France cruising series and then with my Autumn cruise : even Steve Mundane told me that he’d had to read some of the posts not really understanding where it was that i was talking about.        Unlike the late Maurice Griffiths iv’e never so much as copied a small piece of maritime chart or even OS map into a single one of my posts…..hardly surprising that visitors have difficulty following the action just as i did with Griffiths scenes in the Thames.   I remembered then that Dylan Winter, in his excellent video series , always used a clip from Google earth maps to show watchers the same thing and that worked well.    Early on in my own cruising posts i did think to use that structure but i think now that it only works really well in video form so ‘well done Dylan’ on finding that way of working.

I don’t expect readers to have to read my posts with an Imray chart in hand or to go to the trouble of tracing my routes on Google earth, although i often used that system myself to take a different look at areas that i was going to cruise.   In France for example when i was online i would often study the area that i was in using satellite view to see where i might be able to get into with my ultra shallow draft boat….and that had me poking into areas that i might have overlooked on the charts.  This morning though i woke up knowing exactly what i should do and that was to find a visual way, map or chart section that readers could use and instantly see where it is that i’m talking about

I can’t find an easy way of replicating the same kind visual  detail and information for my posts so i thought that the simple thing would be to just take photographs of the relevant sections of my charts and use those.  At the same time i’m going to see if there is any way of getting permission to use digital chart files or similar.   My plan is to add a photographed section of chart to the autumn posts and see how that works first and then see if i can find something more effective later on.  My plan…..unfortunately, the result of my first try just isn’t effective what with the reflection from the shiny chart material and the folds and so on.   Of course i took a look at the internet to see if there was anything that i could easily use but no luck so far on that one.

Carrick roads and the Percuil river photograph of my Imray chart this morning…..but it just doesn’t really work i feel.


In the meantime.

While i work on that little problem i’d just like to say thanks for the interest and feedback recently, especially from the Chernobyl post.   I honestly think that series was the best docu-drama that iv’e ever seen so well done HBO.  I gave up on HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ way back in the series even though i enjoy the genre.   In France i temporarily ran out of reading material one time so when i was in harbour at Camaret i raided the book-swap for anything readable and in English….what i found was a nice copy of Phillip Pulman’s ‘Dark Materials‘ trilogy and that kept me going for a whole weeek.  What i’m eagerly waiting for right now is the start of HBO’s next series which is a remake of Phillip Pulman’s ‘Dark Materials‘ series.  Although i enjoyed the ‘Golden Compass’ film to some extent i felt that it missed the depth and darkness of the books….hopefully HBO will nail it this time : the trailer looks promising and don’t say “oh but that’s just a fantasy film for children”.

Now everyone….get your seasickness buckets handy…

Aside from my continued work in ‘studying the themes of white middle class male privilege in non-intersectional inter-war amateur maritime literature’ (That’s anything by Maurice Griffiths et al) …….ok you can stop retching now and i’ll remove my tongue from it’s solidly ‘jammed in cheek’ position….but seriously folks, and changing tack : see what i did there ? ….I have just finished reading the second book in Phillip Pullman’s next series : The Book of Dust, and i really enjoyed that .  It might just be my imagination but i can easily see the east coast as Griffiths portrayed it in the 1930’s as being part of the ‘Dark Materials’ world : all steam trains and steam-ships, smoky late Victorian city-scapes and the hidden water world of the ‘Gyptians’….it makes me wonder what my ‘Daemon’ would look like especially given that ones personal ‘Daemon’ is of the opposite gender ?…..more on that one in the next post.

1 Comment

  1. I like the chart photo idea Steve even if they’re not the best subject. Much better than having to go and try and find the locations outside your site in my opinion. And thanks for The Book of Dust recommendation.

    As to the ‘Dark Materials’ adaptation on the BBC, I thought it was good as an opener to get the casual viewer interested and faithful enough to the source to keep the fans happy. Good to see too that the casting director manged to get all their boxes ticked 😉

    At least the wind and rain have stopped eh.


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