23 February 2020 ~ Barry Yacht Club

Barry Yacht Club are holding their Annual Dinner and Presentation of Awards and they’d like me to join them and give the After-Dinner Speech. I’ll have plenty of tales to recount, having first sailed in to Barry Dock in 1982 with my Barry Pilot Cutter, Hirta. Here an image of the cutters in the harbour in the […] Read More

Tom Cunliffe sails on Overlord.

Tom Cunliffe sails aboard a 58-foot yacht built for the Luftwaffe before WWII, brought to Britain in 1945, now owned and cruised by a very active club called the Offshore Cruising Club. My thanks to them. For more information on them go to https://www.sailoverlord.org/ Copyright Tom Cunliffe 2019 Read More


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