I’ve been invited to talk to yacht clubs not only in England, Wales and Scotland, but also in Ireland, Holland and Norway. These include, amongst others, The Royal Yacht Squadron, Bromsgrove Boaters, The Royal Channel Islands YC, Rudyard Lake, The Irish Cruising Club, Poolbeg YC, Nederlandsche Vereeniging van Kustzeilers, Chipping Norton YC and Cardiff Bay YC. There is a fee for my talks, but if you’ve only got a few members, don’t despair. Small groups sometimes get together with a neighbouring club and I’ve been known to donate a book for a raffle prize to help swell the coffers.
One of my most popular club lectures is about the development and safe use of navigational electronics. It masquerades under the title of ‘Man is Not Lost ‘. This illustrated talk, with a mix of yarns and solid information, is a friendly and irreverent look at the changes many of us have seen from the early 1970s when I found Barbados after 42 days at sea with no chart at all – just a lat/long to shoot for, a sextant and my grandfather’s pocket watch – to my current chart plotters that sometimes manage to lead me astray.
I have another lecture, called ‘The Boats that Built Britain’ which is based on my popular BBC2/4 TV series.It introduces you to the team behind the programmes, gives an insight into the presenter’s lot and includes a few out-takes.
Among the boats shown you’ll see the replica of Cabot’s 1497 ship, ‘The Matthew’; a lug-rigged 1895 Scottish fishing boat; pilot cutters from the Bristol Channel; and a LCVP which involved me going to sea in a skip!
Also on offer is a talk entitled ‘Ice With Everything’. This is about a trip I made recently to Greenland in a mate’s boat that he bought for £14,000 on eBay. There’s rape and pillage involved in this lecture, but not from us boys I hasten to add. That’s where the Vikings come in. Back in the early 1980s, before electronics, I had made a pass at Greenland in my 1911 pilot cutter, following the route of the Vikings’ westward voyaging in which I’d become deeply interested. This talk combines all three expeditions in a highly illustrated rollicking tale.
My latest lecture is called ‘What ship? Where Bound?’. This is a talk on two levels – part autobiographical, part historical. My lifetime involvement with cruising ancient pilot boats gave me a headstart when writing my most recent book about the history of the sailing pilots in northern Europe. Hair-raising tales of the everyday life of a pilot are interwoven with my own adventures to Brazil, Greenland and Soviet Russia. The reason this form of vessel was so popular is explained – all backed up by a load of images from the era of magic lantern slides to digital pix of today.
All these lectures are richly illustrated and last about 50 minutes with a question-and-answer session afterwards. If your club is outside the Solent area, there may be some modest travel expenses.
A full house at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club