“Is there ANYTHING to equal the first chuckle of water under your hull at the start of a new summer cruise. The thrill of response as the boat heels under the press of her sails, free as the wind itself and all the cares and tribulations of life ashore sailing away like nightmares from a waking man!”
Elsewhere I have noted the fine books coming out of Lodestar Books, a small English publishing house run by Richard Wynne, which specializes in “new and neglected nautical writing.” This fall, having laid Ebony up for the winter, and having completed my fall construction project of a garden shed and cider press I have had the opportunity to put my feet up and sample a number of the recent Lodestar offerings. They have certainly helped me face the long winter evenings and the mind and body numbing view of a frozen harbour and have stirred the imagination planning for my next season of sailing.
The Lugworm Chronicles is a nearly 500 paged omnibus edition of three books by Ken Duxbury first published in 1973, 1975 and 1976 respectively. Duxbury recounts his fairly low-key adventures sailing in the Greek Isles, taking the boat back from Greece to England, and finally thinwater sailing in the Scilly Isles and the Hebrides. The fact that the boat in question is an 18 foot Drascomb lugger makes for stories to which I can relate. These are not nail-biting tales of struggle against the sea, but rather are more sailing observations of the trip or trips filled with the minor triumphs and challenges, the like of which I often face in my own boat. However, the first two books in this set are a little too much travelogue and a too little sailing for my taste. The third volume has more about the boat and the sea and to my mind is the best of the three volumes. Incidentally a Lugworm is a type of large sand worm often used as fishing bait. Unlike some of the earlier Lodestar books this is softbound but does have sewn bindings and high quality production. The Chronicles has drawings by the author and charts and illustrations from the earlier volumes. My sole production criticism is that the published did not take the opportunity to have a few better charts drawn as the typescript originals look shabby compared to the rest of the text.
The second volume is by an author with the intriguing name of H. Alker Tripp. The Trip book is the fourth by this author published by Lodestar. The first three volumes first appeared in the 1920s and are “casual explorations” of sailing in the Solent, Sussex and Essex. Beautifully produced, these are excellent examples of the English small-boat sailing tales. Under the Cabin Lamp was first published in 1950 and consists of yarns and reminiscences of fifty years spent in England’s coastal waters. Although written about harbours and channels a full ocean away from Atlantic Canada and from a time a century ago, many of the incidents strike a familiar note to someone sailing today. Romanticized just enough to suggest the atmosphere of an imagined snug cabin on a small craft at anchor these tales told under the cabin lamp are a good read. This too is a quality soft-cover edition, the hard cover production costs pushing the price up too much for the publisher to have any return on his efforts.
I am a big fan of Tony Smith’s blog Creeksailor which details his continuing explorations of the Thames Estuary and Essex Coast in Charles Stock’s old boat Shoal Waters. Writing in the immediacy of a blog his travels and accounts seem to have a freshness to them which disappears when the writings are brought together in this book which he has called Sea-Country. The book is pretty slight with just over 130 fairly large-print pages. The other problem is that its been done already and done well. Stock’s book, In Shoal Waters (also published by Lodestar), covers his fifty-year experience in sailing a lot of the same territory in the same gaff-rigged centre-board 16-foot boat and to my view does it better. The latter book also has maps or charts which I always find are a necessity to understanding the text. It is interesting to contrast both of these recent volumes with H. Alker Tripp’s account Shoalwater and Fairway published in 1924 (90 years ago) and still available through re-publication by Lodestar. It has almost twice the content of Smith’s book. An interesting and contrasting companion to both of these books is Dylan Winter’s Keep Turning Left video series, the first part of which explores much of the same geography and includes the bonus of Winter’s wry humour.
The publisher’s website has his full catalogue with reasonable prices for overseas shipping. As he notes, the purpose of the imprint is to furnish “new and neglected nautical writing” and the list now numbers eighteen volumes with a couple of more books already out of print. His success in the venture is evident in the increasing shelf footage that his books occupy on my book-case.
There is incentive here for next sailing season but in the meantime it is certainly nice to use these volumes and be able to transport one’s self to the cockpit or cabin of a thin water boat. I am content that Northumberland Strait holds the promise of as many inlets and harbours as are documented in the Lodestar volumes… now if we could just change the climate to allow for a longer sailing season.