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

Boatyard

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

Journalism

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

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

Salvage

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

Look, no sails

Because most modern yachts sail well downwind under bare poles, dropping a mooring with wind against tide is easier than it looks. It’s often possible simply to make sure the sails are ready, then slip the mooring without setting anything at all. The yacht will be lying stern to the breeze, so, in a two-knot tide, there is plenty of water passing the rudder to ensure steerage. Read More

Dipping your loops

Where more than one rope must be made up on a shoreside cleat or bollard, always pass the loop of the second and subsequent lines through the loop that was there first. The geometry of this is hard to explain, but the result is that no matter what loads are on the ropes, when you […] Read More

NO HOOKS ON THE LEECH

Few abominations can compare with a ‘motoring leech’, but the leech line should really be the last resort in subduing the horror. If you over-tighten the line, it will end up by 'hooking’ the leech of the sail and ruining the clean airflow off its trailing edge. Before attending to the leech line, first make sure the sheet’s fairlead car is correctly set in its fore-and-aft position; now ease the line until it is slack, then carefully pull it down until the leech goes quiet, AND NOT AN INCH MORE. Read More

MAINSAIL TWIST – THE SIMPLE TEST

When applying kicking strap or mainsheet tension to control the leech twist of a conventional mainsail, the question arises as to how hard you should be pulling. In the context of a cruising yacht, the answer is as simple as this: Heave down until the top batten of the sail lines up parallel with the […] Read More

WELL HEELED AND FLOATING

When you are aground and struggling to heel the boat over so as to reduce her draft, a handy method is to swing the boom as far out as it will go with a crew volunteer hanging onto the end ─ the heavier the better. If there are no takers for the job, a 5-gallon […] Read More

GIVE THE DIVER AN EVEN BREAK

Learning all the code flags is no longer a part of any yachting syllabus, but every watchkeeper must be aware of the meaning of flag ‘A’. It says, ‘I have a diver down. Keep well clear at slow speed.’ Sometimes these flags are made of plywood, sometimes of fabric, but they are always shown by […] Read More

IF IN DOUBT, WIND SHIP

Occasionally it is necessary to sail off a mooring with other yachts moored abeam on both sides and all of you head to wind. Having decided on the favoured tack, you will usually be confident either that you can gain enough way to sail out to windward of your neighbour, or that you have enough […] Read More

WHOSE RIGHT OF WAY?

A useful aide-memoir when crossing another vessel in daylight with both boats under power, is to ask yourself which of her sidelights you would be seeing if it were dark. A red (port) light would suggest that you are to take care, so stay out of her way. Green is for ‘go’, so if you […] Read More

A LULL IN THE STORM

The cold front is often the most spectacular feature of a weather system, with violent squalls, towering cloud formations, veering wind and perhaps dramatic quantities of precipitation. After the front, a clearer, windy scene usually brings fairer weather in its wake. Sometimes, the bending of the isobars on the front leads to a brief period […] Read More