Solace of the Sea

Alan John VilliersBy Way of Cape Horn, 1929

“There is something strangely attractive, some glimmer, maybe, of the elusive and indefinable thing called romance, something of adventure and of life as all men would have it lived, if they knew how, about the setting out of a big sailing ship for the sea. The mere fact that for weeks and weeks to come – months and months often – over perhaps 14,000 miles at sea, she will be dependent upon the wind to blow her to her destination, gives to the sailor an air of the sea that can never be the steamer’s. The steamer is a machine which uses the sea as a handy means for the conveyance of goods; the sailing ship is the culmination of centuries of progress towards the evolution of the perfect vessel which may progress with the wind at sea.”

Previous daily posts can be viewed here – Solace of the Sea Archive

  • Neville Olliffe
    Posted at 16:33h, 01 May Reply

    The photography of the J Class yachts, their owners, skippers and crew has saved and stored for all generations the era that was possibly the pinnacle of yachting’s beauty.


    • Alice Murphy
      Posted at 09:18h, 03 May Reply

      A great Youtube clip of the (also) beautiful designs of William Fife III competing in Les Voiles de Saint Tropez:

    • David Jones
      Posted at 06:23h, 05 May Reply

      John Leather’s book “The Northseamen” describes the long tradition of professional skippers and crewmen from the Colne and Blackwater estuaries in Essex, who went on to sail the J-class yachts. Writing of the mid-Victorian period, he says: “These old skippers had a very liberal interpretation of the racing rules and were especially fond of false tacking to force a yacht covering them to windward to tack. The skipper sang out “ready about” loud enough to be heard aboard his opponent, and eased the helm down, just shooting head to wind while hands hauled up the fore sheet and took in the slack of the jib sheet. As the windward yacht put about, the cunning one bore away again with a clear wind. Another favourite trick was for the yacht prevented from passing a competitor by luffing to edge down until the bowsprit end was close aboard her rival, the mighty spar almost level with the helmsman’s head, sometimes for minutes at a time while the great cutters rumbled and frothed along. Not a word was exchanged nor an eyelid batted in this test of nerves. Sometimes a hard pressed racer sailed straight for the markboat, clearing her by inches at the last moment, a manoeuvre which usually caused panicked veering of chain by the markboat, resulting in a gain of precious seconds by the brazen racer. Sometimes the markboats had their revenge. At Margate regatta in 1852, Captain George Pittock in Volante was doing well against the larger Marina until it fell calm. When the breeze returned all the markboats had vanished because it was dinner time.”

  • Neville Olliffe
    Posted at 10:03h, 24 April Reply

    A 1949 publication, Sailing, by Peter Heaton, contains two cartoon character sketches, each accompanied by appropriate text. Do you identify with one of these?

    “Nothing I like better than eating hot stewed steak in a southerly gale.”

    “Can’t understand these uncivilized fellows who go out of sight of land and sleep on board and don’t wash and all that!”

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 23:24h, 16 April Reply

    And Sea Fever as a song –

    • David Jones
      Posted at 07:38h, 23 April Reply

      Re getting out of port, this YouTube clip of the Paddle Steamer PS Waverley is an interesting example of warping, making use of the extra beam where the sponsons are to help get her bow off the quayside.

  • Peter Scott
    Posted at 11:57h, 11 April Reply

    Members would know that there is a Slocum trophy on the wall of the clubhouse to mark the Visit of the Spray. Cliff Gale was one of a group of teenage boys out fishing who welcomed the Spray into the harbour in 1898.

  • Amanda
    Posted at 18:39h, 10 April Reply

    Well done Alice, David and everyone – something like this is so important to keep this wonderful club together during this bizarre time when we are physically so far apart.

  • Chris Manion
    Posted at 08:23h, 10 April Reply

    David your daily efforts are very enjoyable & the comments from around this globe we call earth are also well worth the read
    Thank you all for contributing during these difficult times
    Thanks you Alice for your constant efforts as our race secretary, web master & friend
    Chris Manion

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 12:27h, 09 April Reply

    A perfect opportunity to revisit Moby Dick.
    The story of the Essex is also available in book or film as “The Heart of the Sea”
    Thanks David, thanks Herman

  • Maggie Loaney
    Posted at 07:15h, 04 April Reply

    Thanks Alice & David

  • David Jones
    Posted at 00:58h, 04 April Reply

    A wave (no pun intended!) from over here in the UK. Wonderful to be able to stay in touch in this way – thank you David, Alice and all. Our forthcoming trip to Sydney was of course cancelled and we are locked down too. But now I have no excuses but to finish my boat – it should keep me sane for the duration.

    I attach a little piece from Small Boat Conversion, by John Lewis, Rupert Hart-Davies, 1951, Chapter Nine, Installing an Engine.

    “First, you knocks a hole in the planking alongside the stern-post, then you pokes the shaft and stern-tube through it and bolts up the coupling. Then you fills in round the tube with ;pitch, and the job’s done. You’d better wipe a spot of paint over the lot, and mind you leaves the coupling-bolts a mite slack in case she works a bit”.

    That, believe it or not, is the method used by one old boat botcher – no one could call him a boat builder – set down in his own words.. I quote it here as a perfect example of how not to put in an engine.

    • Alice Murphy
      Posted at 08:33h, 04 April Reply

      Glad you are staying busy David ! And thanks for the tip on how to not install an engine 🙂

  • Marcus Watson
    Posted at 17:45h, 03 April Reply

    “There, sooner or later, the ships of all seafaring nations arrive; and there, at its destined hour, the ship of my choice will let go its anchor. I shall take my time, I shall tarry and bide, till at last the right one lies waiting for me, warped out into midstream, loaded low, her bowsprit pointing down harbour. I shall slip on board, by boat or along hawser; and then one morning I shall wake to the song and tramp of the sailors, the clink of the capstan, and the rattle of the anchor-chain coming merrily in. We shall break out the jib and the foresail, the white houses on the harbour side will glide slowly past us as she gathers steering-way, and the voyage will have begun! As she forges towards the headland she will clothe herself with canvas; and then, once outside, the sounding slap of great green seas as she heels to the wind, pointing South!

    And you, you will come too, young brother; for the days pass, and never return, and the South still waits for you. Take the Adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes! ‘Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are out of the old life and into the new! Then some day, some day long hence, jog home here if you will, when the cup has been drained and the play has been played, and sit down by your quiet river with a store of goodly memories for company. You can easily overtake me on the road, for you are young, and I am aging and go softly. I will linger, and look back; and at last I will surely see you coming, eager and light- hearted, with all the South in your face!”

    Sea Rat to Water Rat, Wind in the Willows

  • Neville Olliffe
    Posted at 17:13h, 03 April Reply

    A Sailing Lesson

    I began my active sailing days in the Manly Junior class, at the time their sail numbers were in the hundreds not the thousands.
    One afternoon I watched a father attempting to train his son and daughter by shouting instructions from the club jetty. The lad, the younger of the pair, remained pretty much attached by his own stern to the stern of the craft, and to the tiller, while his sister dealt with keeping the show upright, trimming the jib, sometimes the main, and everything to do with the spinnaker.
    The young lady managed the lot quite well up until, returning to the vicinity of the jetty, it was time to jybe the spinnaker. Dad was loud with instructions and the young skipper even louder. There being some contradiction in the demands, and the young lady having her own ideas on how the jybe ought to proceed, reached a point where she simply detached the brace’s sister clip from the spinnaker and commenced laying into her brother with the pole.

    Always respect a lady when afloat.

    Neville Olliffe.

  • Mark Bransdon
    Posted at 15:00h, 03 April Reply

    “Remember that a race is never won or lost until it is finished, and that a slow boat sailed hard will beat a fast boat not driven.”

    Reminds me of a race from Yeppoon to Mackay many years ago. We had taken two spinnakers and both were blown out. Our main rival had a similar experience – except for what looked like a spinnaker from a skiff they hoisted! We laughed at first – until we realised it had given them that extra half a knot advantage to get past us, It looked silly, but it worked. And I still don’t know to this day why they had such a small spinnaker aboard.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 12:06h, 03 April Reply

    “to make the sail set properly you must pull the boom down. That’ll take those cross wrinkles out.” “Is that what those blocks (pulleys) are for hooked to a ring in the kelson close to where the mast is stepped? But they are all muddled up.” “Isn’t there another ring under the boom, close to the mast?” asked Queen Elizabeth. “Got it,” said Captain John. “One block hooks to the ring under the boom, and one to the ring in the bottom of the boat, then it’s as easy as anything to haul the boom down. How’s that?” “The crinkles in the sail go up and down now, and not across,” said Mate Susan. “That’s right,” said Queen Elizabeth. “The wind will flatten them out as soon as we start sailing.”
    ― Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons

  • Peter Scott
    Posted at 12:36h, 02 April Reply

    Well done Mr Franklin
    Well done David Salter and well done Alice Murphy
    There’s more to our club than just the boats and clubhouse!

    • Alice Murphy
      Posted at 12:56h, 02 April Reply

      Thanks Peter – I hope everyone enjoys these daily updates!

Post A Comment