Books on Board

As with any small home, space is an issue on a boat. This is confounded by the ‘extra’ things which are necessary for the nautical aspects of boat life: safety equipment, charts, radio, sails being kept inside during winter… Don’t get me wrong – Teka is incredibly well designed for storage. She is a deep sea boat through and through. Everything is a cupboard. But space still feels short sometimes. Add to this the fact that we are both rather bookish people, and there is a bit of a problem. Becoming a boat owner can feel all encompassing sometimes, but it doesn’t erase other interests. Keith is an avid historian, and therefore has an extensive selection of books on the life of Napoleon, for example. I am interested in even older things. Having just finished my degree I have accumulated a great deal of books on prehistory and evolution, as well as evidence of my love of a good story. It is probably unsurprising then that, since buying Teka, we have accumulated a few sailing books as well.

We were gifted a few. ‘Brave of Stupid’ by Tracey Christiansen is particularly good, although I can’t help feeling that perhaps the gifter was trying to make a point. It is a really witty account of a couple of friends sailing around the world, almost by accident. It’s packed with fun stories, but doesn’t pretend everything was, erm, plain sailing. It’s a really inspiring and entertaining read. Then there are the practical books. Unusually for myself, a great believer in the knowledge to be found in books, I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that the best way to learn about boats and sailing is to do it (under the guidance of someone who knows the ropes already, of course). How-to books aren’t worthless though. ‘Hand, Reef and Steer’ by Tom Cunliffe is a personal favourite. Teka is gaff-rigged. While this is arguably the most beautiful of all sailing set ups, it has been out of fashion for a couple of years (i.e. since WW2). Cunliffe states that “by the 1950s anyone ordering a new yacht with a gaff rig would be considered eccentric”. This is particularly interesting as it immediately tells us something about Teka‘s history and the sort of person/people who commissioned her, as she was built in 1954. The popularity of the Bermudan rig can make information about gaffers a little hard to come by, which makes this book – lent to us by Teka‘s previous owner – a life saver. Cunliffe’s discussion of the pros and cons of a gaff ketch are particularly heartening, when it comes to the practicality of sailing with a small crew.

IMG_3308Then there are books about the beauty of the sea. We managed to get hold of an anthology of poetry about the sea, from 1887. It’s a lovely little book. My personal favourite is by Sir Walter Scott:

The helm, to his strong arm consign’d,

Gave the reef’d sail to meet the wind,

And on her altered way,

Fierce bounding, forward sprung the ship,

Like greyhound starting from the ship

To seize his flying prey.

Awaked before the rushing prow

The mimic fires of ocean glow,

Those lightnings of the wave;

Wild sparkles crest the broken tides

And, flashing round, the vessel’s sides

With elfish lustre lave.

While, far behind, their livid light

To the dark billows of the night

A gloomy splendour gave,

It seems as if old Ocean shakes

From his dark brow the lucid flakes

In envious pageantry,

To match the meteor-light that streaks

Grim Hecla’s midnight sky.


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