Monday, 6 January 2014

Two Books for a Winter Read

So, did I get my wished for Christmas Presents this year? Well no. I got some great stuff but none of the items on the list that I kind of hinted I would like. Am I downhearted no-way! Because there were one or two books from Susan that I hadn’t thought of and they made perfect holiday reading by the log burner while the wind and rain hammered the windows. The bottle of Cognac and the mince pies added to the delight.

The Last Grain Race by Eric Newby

Sailing literature as good as this is rare indeed. Square rigger sailors at the end of the age of sail were not particularly skilled writers. In fact I can think of only three:

‘Dana’ who wrote ‘Two Years before the Mast’ an account of crewing a sailing Merchantman from East to West Coast USA

Joseph Conrad was essentially a novelist but based his stories on his experience as a seaman in the age of sail.

And this guy Eric Newby. This book is the story of a young man sailing one of the last grain carrying square riggers in 1938. A round trip from Europe to Australia aboard a four-masted barque.

He then went on to become one of the greatest travel writers of this century. The Last Grain Race is Eric Newby's spell-binding account of his time spent on the Moshulu's last voyage in the Australian grain trade.

He has a sharp eye for detail and the hardships, dangers, squabbles, and occasional sheer joy of shipboard life. Its all here and it deserves a place on every sailor’s bookshelf.

The Magic of the Swatchways by Maurice Griffiths

This is about small boats and small waters in the first half of the 20th Century when sailing boats were built of wood and expected to leek. This is one of the best yachting books I have ever read. A series of stories based on the boats Maurice Griffith's sailed around the Thames Esturay and the low-lying shores of Essex.  Maurice went on to become a very important and influential UK boat designer and many of his designs are still afloat and much loved today. More than any other book I have read, it evokes the spirit and all the emotions and feelings people have for sailing.

Simple sailing, simple times, timeless literature.

You can get both of these books here:

The Last Grain Race Around the Horn in 1939 (USA Readers)

The Last Grain Race (Picador Books) (UK Readers)

Magic of the Swatchways (USA Readers)


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