When I first became interested in sailing as a kid, not that I did any actual sailing, it was all in the books of Arthur Ransome, Joshua Slocum, Maurice Griffiths and the wonderfully named Sir Alker Tripp. My yachts were confined to the boating lake in Firth Park, weird balsa wood hard chine contraptions which I thought were the cutting edge of model boat design. They might well have been, just a pity my workmanship was not good enough to match my design skills.
Sheffield City Libraries, god bless em, had an amazing set of sailing books considering the city is about as far from the sea as you can get. I reckon the City Librarian in the 1950′s was a closet or even actual yottie. No, this was the era of staunch socialism in Sheffield he could never have admitted to something as posh as sailing. Neither could I. I had to resort to reading Yachting Monthly in the Reading Room of the Central Library and saving pocket money to buy an occasional copy of Yachts and Yachting from Mrs Applebaum’s shop.
Any way, back to Sir Alker Tripp. His book, Under the Cabin Lamp, was really a collection of writings from his back pages articles in Yachting World. It was sumptuously produced in large format with fine bindings, water colours and pen and ink illustrations. It related simple tales of sailing trips and yarns between old salts at anchor in a sheltered creek with a glass of whisky in their hand and very likely a cabin filled with the smoke of pipes and oil lamps.
I recently bought a copy of his book, costing slightly more in real terms than it had on publication. I have enjoyed reminiscing about a youth long gone and have been thankful that for the last eleven years I have had a cosy cabin in my own little ship, though minus the pipe and oil lamp smoke. I have had the occasional evening yarning with old sailors and tonight have good company with a glass of malt, wind in the rigging and an old boat’s creaks and groans, or are they my own bones complaining about yesterday’s activities in the garden?
John Hill, master boat builder and repairer of Crunluath last year, told me that you don’t need company when you have a boat, it speaks to you. A bit fanciful but true. I have run through the film featured in my last post about the Tobermory Race of 1968 and thought of Crunluath, “… heeled under full sail and beating into the Sound of Mull in the sunshine of a summer’s day” as G.F. Findlay said in his review of the Honeybee design in 1959. On board in 1968 a 15 year old boy, Gordon, son of Crunluath’s second owner, undoubtedly excited, probably sometimes scared and occasionally proud of being allowed to take the helm.
He has never told me about this experience, but Crunluath has.