I replaced her with Saari, a 32ft pilot cutter, designed and built by the great Colin Archer for a Finnish pilot. Ros and I set off for Brazil in her in 1975. We lived on board her for five years and I couldn’t stand up below! She sailed out of our lives never to be […] Read More


Marishka became part of our family for just a couple of years whilst I was teaching at the National Sailing Centre in Cowes, but she wasn’t big enough for my plan to follow the Viking route, so we looked around and found Hirta. Read More


Hirta on her sea trials in 1911 Hirta, a 35ton pilot cutter, was built in 1911. She stars in my book ‘Topsail and Battleaxe’ and was part of a major BBC1 television series. She was built for Pilot Morrice in Polruan at Slade’s Yard (now Tom’s) and was originally named Cornubia. After she left the pilot service, she […] Read More


You’d be forgiven for thinking Westernman an old boat when you look at this excellent photo, taken by Phil Stapleton in the Solent a few years ago. Hirta was replaced by Westernman, built in North America (1997) to a design drawn up by my friend Nigel Irens. Nigel is best known for his world-beating fast […] Read More


We bought Constance in Florida after selling Westernman. She’s a classic Mason 44 design and is our first fibreglass yacht.   Here’s a few photos of her. I’ll be updating them soon, but these will go for now. Above was taken on the Swedish east coast in the islands off Stockholm. Magic, isn’t it. This […] Read More

The Boats that Built Britain

This 6-part series started on BBC4 and was so popular it was later transferred to BBC2. ‘The Boats that Built Britain’ was the flagship programme in a major new season called ‘Sea Fever’ which looked at the crucial way in which the sea has helped shape our island. My series, produced by Century Aspect, examined […] Read More

Island Race

In 1994 I sailed round Britain in my 1911 pilot cutter Hirta to make a series for BBC2 called Island Race. Accompanying me were John McCarthy, the Beirut hostage, and Sandi Toksvig, comedienne. With John and Sandi, my crew and I juggled the 35ton gaff cutter into some interesting places. The Celebs slept aboard on […] Read More


This ten-part series was immensely popular and people still stop me in the street to say how much they loved it. It was first screened in 2005 on Discovery Realtime TV and frequently repeated – the last time on Quest. Sadly, another series doesn’t seem forthcoming, which is a shame as I really enjoyed meeting the guys […] Read More

My life

I’ve been sailing all my life I started sailing back in 1961 when my Dad shoved me and a pal off on the Norfolk Broads in a 22-foot gaff sloop with no engine. That way you either learn fast or come to grief. I was fourteen and I was lucky. Since those days I’ve sailed […] Read More

My wheels

Bikes and a Bentley I’m as happy talking about bikes as boats and I’ve been riding motorcycles since 1965. The bikes have included a 250cc BSA C15 that taught me about mechanical breakdowns and a 650cc Matchless that almost killed me at the age of 19. I had various reliable Hondas and Yamahas when I […] Read More


My first article was written in 1987 when I was away cruising. It was accepted by a small paper. I then had the courage to offer a piece to ‘Yachting Monthly’. They liked it, bought it and the rest, as they say, is history.  I’ve also written for most of the yachting magazines in the UK […] Read More

Coaching & Days on the water

One-to-one coaching on your yacht Electronics seminars Private tuition on the art of celestial navigation Masterclasses on club boats If you think I may be able to sort out some issues for you, please email me explaining what is needed, or leave a phone number so that we can discuss it.   One-to-one training aboard […] Read More

Lectures ~ Speeches ~ Events

I’m available for club lectures, after-dinner speeches, motivational speeches, special events and much more.   Lectures 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, […] Read More

Eyeballing a gap

When you’re entering a harbour or a narrow bay and you need to give one side a certain amount of clearance, bear in mind that while it may be impossible in practice to be sure of keeping a certain measured distance from a point, the eye can readily divide a picture up into halves or thirds. Read More

Think before lassoing

‘Lassoing’ a mooring buoy by dropping a bight of line over it then heaving in the slack is a useful means of securing temporarily, especially where there is neither mooring ring nor pick-up buoy with its promise of a strop. The technique should, however, only be used as a last resort and never as the […] Read More

No misunderstandings

Any possible ambiguity can be cut out of helm orders by making all references in terms of the boat herself. ‘Keep it on the left’, when approaching a buoy could mean the helmsman should sail to the left of the buoy, but it might also mean that the buoy will run by to the left […] Read More


Always discuss the deal before you accept a tow. If you’ve run out of fuel on a calm evening, a friendly fisherman might pull you in for a bottle of scotch, but if your boat is in undisputed danger and you accept a tug, you may be rendering your insurers at risk of a salvage […] Read More

60-mile rule

By some quirk of mathematics, a one-degree course error delivers a vessel a mile to one side of a destination that is 60 miles distant. Two degrees sets her two miles off and five degrees will result in five miles (5.25 to be strictly accurate). The system keeps going more or less up to fifteen […] Read More

How far off?

From time to time, we all imagine we’ve anchored closer to the shore than is actually the case. To assess how far off the beach you are, don’t rely purely on first impressions. Spot something whose magnitude is recognisable in everyday terms – a person walking a dog, perhaps; or a bus, a flagstaff or […] Read More

Tugboat hitch

Securing a spring line to a winch barrel where there is no handy cleat is best achieved by the tugboat hitch. This is also the favoured method anywhere a single post or bollard must accept a line that may need to be released under serious load. Read More