Tied to the community

Many of our authors could tell a story about the writing of their books, but Nic Compton’s is particularly touching. His new book A Knot a Day is a wonderful collection of 365 knot-based projects (from mastering a bowline to making a garden swing for the kids), and is something all of us here would have liked to have had to see us through our time at home this year.

It was just after the start of the first UK lockdown that the commission for my new book came through. It was called A Knot a Day and was intended to contain 365 knots – a knot for each day of the year – with the accent firmly on the practical and the fun. It was the perfect lockdown project, or so it seemed. And so I buried myself in my garden office and started researching 165 new knots to go with the 200 I already had. And what a wealth of interesting knots I found to go alongside the standard knot fare: there were knots for ladders, swings and zipwires; knots for bracelet, necklaces and keyrings; knots for shoelaces, ties and scarves – and a whole raft of ‘magic’ knots, which proved especially challenging.

Trouble was, although lockdown was an ideal time for researching and writing about stuff, it wasn’t so good for getting hold of materials and, eventually, the models I’d need to take the photos – for I was determined as much as possible to take the knots out of the studio and into ‘real’ life. For a start, I’d need a lot more rope than I happened to have on my various boats, but it was hard to know exactly what sort. In desperation, I posted a message on social media asking if anyone could lend me some rope. Straight away I got a reply from the local forest school teacher, saying she would lend me what turned out to be a rucksack full of climbing rope, including several different coloured lengths of paracord (thanks Lisa!). Next, a crafty friend from up the road offered me a bag full of macramé string of different colours and sizes, mostly unopened (thanks Caroline!).

For the next few weeks I had a great time, heading off to the woods with my kids to photograph various outdoorsy knots, up to Dartmoor for the climbing knots, and to Bantham Beach for kite and three-legged race knots (thanks Betty and Sol!). My son even helped with the simpler magic trick knots, and my daughter obliged by modelling some strange and unusual shoelace knots (her pink trainers were just the trick!). When all else failed, my wife stepped into help, as well as providing invaluable styling advice (thanks Anna!). But, inevitably, after a while their enthusiasm waned and I realised I need some fresh blood. By then, the lockdown restrictions had eased and we were allowed to meet in small numbers and mix with friends at a social distance.

It started off with a couple of my daughter’s friends, who had heard about the book and were keen to have their photos in there too (thanks Daisy and Esme!). And, if they were going to have their photos in the book, then their parents weren’t going to be left out either (thanks Jo and Steve!). By then, I had cleared half my office and turned it into a photographic studio. To get more an age mix, I asked my daughter’s piano teacher and her sister (who also taught my daughter the piano!) to model some of the scarves (thanks Tabitha and Matilda!). To help redress the gender balance, the waiter at the local quayside café had been furloughed and was more than happy to spend four days with me trying out different tie knots and grappling with the harder magic knots (thanks Graham!). And that’s not to mention the important task of modelling the various cat and dog accessories (thanks Mitzy and Winnie!)

Help came in other forms too. I snapped up a rustic coffee table a friend was giving away on a community group, which became the default background for most of my studio shots (thanks Kate!). And, when I tired of that, my builder lent me a stunning black slate (thanks Steve!). The village shop had stopped stocking the lighters I needed to seal the ends of rope, but luckily one of the assistants had just stopped smoking and was delighted to offload some of her leftover lighters (thanks Kirsten!). And those aren’t just any woods featured in the photos; they belong to the grandfather of one of my daughter’s friends (thanks Anthony!).

In the end, more than 20 people in the village contributed to the book in some form – a genuine and generous community effort, for which I am hugely grateful. For most, their only payment was a paracord ninja turtle figure (see page 335 of the book) and a free copy of the book. And yet, strangely, this community involvement was only made possible due to the lockdown. At any other time, most of these people would have been too busy to spend time modelling photos of knots, but as it turned out the project provided a break from the monotony of lockdown.

By the time I finished, Jo was back at work training guide dogs for the blind, Steve was back providing educational facilities at the zoo, Tabitha was back in Bristol studying dentistry, Matilda was in Cardiff studying music, Graham was at Reading doing a PhD in maritime history… Life has returned to almost-normal, and it seems unlikely that the circumstances which created the book will never happen again. For, apart from being a fun and informative book of knots, for me A Knot A Day will always be a snapshot of Lockdown 2020 and of a community that came to help.

A Knot a Day is published on 10th December, RRP £16.99. You can buy it at a special discount direct from our website here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/a-knot-a-day-9781472985163/

Elvstrøm Explains the Racing Rules

The Olympic Games may have been postponed this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but World Sailing have released their changes to the racing rules bang on time. The 2021 to 2024 rules kick in come January, and this week we published our bestselling guide, Elvstrøm Explains the Racing Rules.

As well as containing the full rules and a guide to all the changes, the book takes a unique approach to explaining them, featuring bird’s-eye view diagrams, comprehensive examples of racing situations and cross references to the relevant World Sailing case studies. This approach was originally devised by Paul Elvstrøm, arguably the greatest Olympic sailor of all time, whose gold medal record has yet to be broken decades later. It has continued to be updated by his son-in-law and international racing judge, Søren Krause.

Long established as the most accessible and most trusted guide to the racing rules, the book also includes a confidence-building section on how to present your case in a protest, and the back cover shows the signal flags for instant easy reference on the race course.

However, the aspect we are most excited to reveal is the return of the plastic boat models for use during protest hearings. These were dropped from the previous edition but we have listened to feedback from customers and found a way to bring them back just the way you will remember them. As before, they are transparent but coloured differently so can also be used with an overhead projector.

We hope Elvstrøm Explains the Racing Rules helps all racers, whether you’re in a dinghy, keelboat or larger yacht, and as with all our books, we really appreciate all feedback you send us. We publish books for you, and we are always interested in hearing what our readers have to say. Please do feel free to get in touch with any comments or suggestions via adlardcoles@bloomsbury.com or on Twitter (@ReedsNautical) or Facebook.

You can order the latest edition direct from us at a special discount here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/elvstrom-explains-the-racing-rules-9781472980595/

Jimmy Cornell: the future is electric

Jimmy Cornell needs no introduction to long-distance cruising sailors (or those who dream of it). He has sailed several hundred thousand miles around all the oceans of the world, launched rallies for cruisers to follow in his wake, and written several bestselling guides, most notably the classic World Cruising Routes, now in its 8th edition. 2020 is Jimmy’s 80th year, but never one to stop for long, he is about to embark on one of his most adventurous voyages yet. In this blog he explains where he’s going, how, and the reason why.

In 2010 I sold my Aventura III and, as I was 70, felt that the time had come to call it quits. That didn’t last long and by 2013, with accelerating climate change increasingly making the news for those who were prepared to listen, I decided to get another boat and attempt to transit the Northwest Passage. Described by scientists as the “canary in the mine” of global climate, whatever happens there eventually spreads to the rest of the world. I did manage to transit this once impenetrable waterway, now opening up as a consequence of climate change. I also saw the consequences of global warming affecting the local population. With mission accomplished, in 2017 I sold Aventura IV, and that was it. But not for long, as three years later, with climate change surpassing the worst predictions, I decided to put retirement on hold for a bit longer and try something completely different. Like sailing around the world on a fully electric boat along the route of the first circumnavigation 500 years previously.

My concern for the state of the oceans has been strongly influenced by my own observations during 45 years of roaming the oceans of the world, as well as being regularly reconfirmed by my research into global weather conditions when I am updating my various books. The 500th anniversary of the first round the world voyage seemed the perfect opportunity to sail that same route and do it in an electric boat with a zero carbon dioxide footprint.

As to the historic dimension of my project, its aim is not only to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the first round the world voyage but also to put right a persistent wrong. The first circumnavigation continues to be attributed to the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan.  In fact, the Basque sailor Juan Sebastian Elcano should be credited with this achievement, as he sailed with Magellan from the start in 1519, took over the leadership of the expedition when Magellan was killed in the Philippines, and completed the voyage in 1522. Hence the Elcano Challenge but with a play on words: EL.CA.NO.   ELectricity. CArbon. NO.

Aventura Zero is a 48-foot Outremer catamaran with propulsion provided by two 15 kW electric saildrives.  The Finnish company Oceanvolt have been working on electricity regeneration for the last twenty years and have produced an ingenious system based on their ServoProp variable pitch propeller. The configuration of the specially designed blades is capable of delivering optimal efficiency both forward and reverse, and also in hydro-generation mode. When sailing, the propellers are capable of generating an estimated 800 to 1,000 W at 6 to 8 knots. In addition, Aventura Zero will also have a large amount of solar panels (1,300 W).

Aventura Zero was launched at the Outremer boatyard in the south of France in late August and we have a provisional departure in the second half of October. The 32,000-mile voyage is an ambitious undertaking, but I am prepared to take on the challenge and show that such a concept is viable for a cruising boat, and should become the norm in the long term.

For many years I have been ending my long-distance cruising seminars telling the audience that the most beautiful moments in life are still to come. I am the living proof of that.

You can read more about Jimmy and order all of his books at a 10% discount on our website here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/author/jimmy-cornell/ You can also follow the progress of Jimmy’s preparations and the voyage on his website here.

A state of mind for high latitude sailing

The Reverend Bob Shepton won Yachtsman of the Year in 2014 for his adventurous sailing adventures to remote polar regions. In a new book, co-authored with fellow high latitude sailor Jon Amtrup, he shows you how you too could follow in their wake. In this exclusive extract, Bob and Jon take a look at the state of mind necessary for these kinds of voyages.

Sailing in the high latitudes requires experience, planning, stamina, guts and a special state of mind. As with most other things, you can train for a high latitude expedition. If you live in a country with a winter season – use it actively for cruising. Don’t put your boat on the hard for the cold season. Spend the weekends and afternoons sailing so that you are prepared for the real thing. Start in the autumn. Anchor in small bays that are partially exposed to learn anchoring techniques and how to arrange lines ashore. Read the weather forecast thoroughly to avoid putting yourself in dangerous situations when training. When lines and anchor are set properly, you will be surprised how much wind and sea you can ride out. Be sure always to have an exit plan if things should turn out for the worst.

3 DD amongst the icebergs Uummannaq. Photo Ben Ditto, my camera - Copy - Copy

Exploring in remote areas is a challenging mind exercise. It’s not just about keeping warm and alert. As you sail along a new coast where the weather can be highly unstable, you always need to have contingency plans.

Think worst-case scenarios for when sailing, before anchoring and after you have set your anchor. What if the wind shifts? Will the anchor hold? Will ice come drifting? Where can I escape to? Do I have enough room to manoeuvre?

Always have a back-up plan for the back-up plan. Self-sufficiency and being prepared for redundancy are the key in high latitudes. And to avoid problems it is important to have established routines that work:

– Always have the boat ready for rough weather, both below and on deck. Make sure everything has its own place on board, and that everyone puts things back after use. This will give you the ability to hoist anchor immediately without a lot of things breaking or being thrown around down below.

– Establish routines on deck so that you sail with a clean deck. If you have to stow diesel cans, dinghy etc on deck, make sure they are always secured when not in use.

– Potential breakages or chafe or anything else that can become a problem must be fixed straight away. If your mindset is ‘it can wait until tomorrow’, then the problem might be a whole lot bigger and the weather much worse when it becomes essential to fix it. The moral is to fix things immediately. Always.

– Also establish routines when sailing into the night. It’s a good habit to check all halyards and sheets before night falls. They must run free and not be tangled with other lines or the rig. Prepare the sails you expect to use during the night. If you are sailing along a coast, think about which anchorages or harbours you could go into along the way if the weather should turn bad, or the feeling of tiredness becomes too overwhelming.

– When starting the engine, always check for lines in the water before pushing the button. Then check that the cooling water is pumping out freely and no unusual sound is coming from the engine. Check the oil level every morning before heading out.

– You are probably doing these things already, but all this is routine that will heighten your awareness and most likely give you a trouble-free and happy expedition.

– Think comfort before speed. It is always better to wait a few hours, or even a day or two, instead of setting out into a nasty sea or bad weather prognosis. It is easier on the boat and crew. And to be perfectly honest, what does a day or two matter in the grand scheme of things? Take the time to enjoy yourself where you are, right now.

High Latitude Sailing (ISBN: 978-1-4729-7327-6) is published on 3rd September, RRP £25. You can buy with a 10% discount direct from us here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/high-latitude-sailing-9781472973276/

From the editors of the Reeds Almanacs

It’s been a challenging year for the editors of the Reeds Almanac, but they have certainly risen to that challenge. In this blog, one of the editors, Perrin Towler, takes a look at the impact of both the pandemic and Britain leaving the EU, both this year and in future. Check out the bottom of this blog for our current special deals for the 2021 Almanac.

Success! We have compiled, edited and proofed the 2021 edition of the Almanac in spite of the pandemic. It is now winging its way to the printers to be available for distribution later this month. This has been a challenging year for harbours and the marine industry as a whole. Just as Brexit was set to alter continental cruising Covid struck.

Although both may be seen as disasters, in reality, they represent periods of change and uncertainty. This is unsettling for everyone but presents us as the editors particular problems. What will be the shape of things to come? How do we predict what rules will be in place in March next year? The truth is we can’t and with the loss of boat shows and other forums many in yachting are feeling their way. Reeds is well placed to adapt and relay these changes to sailors using its unique structure of monthly updates based on input from the harbours, marinas and our network of agents. This perhaps underlines the value of having professionally compiled information, as so much data on the internet is cached and out of date.

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The restrictions are now easing and some are ‘staying local’ while others ‘head west’. Foreign excursions are somewhat speculative at this time. It is worth thinking of the changes in berthing – limited rafting, fewer berths and distanced communal facilities in showers and heads. Help the marinas by phoning ahead and ensuring that you have a place to berth. It is debatable how summery August is – it can be changeable and a secure berth is always welcome at the end of a passage. It is a good time to take advantage of the increasing opportunities to dine ashore too.

It is not all gloom and doom. The quiet period has also allowed progress in the refurbishment of facilities in the UK and abroad. Beaulieu has completed the first stage of the walk ashore pontoons, and Dover progresses the Western Docks Revival. Abroad, improvements to ports and marinas include new pontoon layouts and visitor arrangements for Nazare in Portugal and Crouesty in S Brittany and a new chartlet with expanded information for Le Guilvinec a busy fishing port is now actively welcoming visitors.

We welcome feedback and we are already getting the first reports in from intrepid mariners already underway. We are looking forward to a busy Autumn trying to collate the inevitable changes and fallout from them. Our biggest difficulty is getting information sufficiently far in advance. Covid in particular has seen almost instantaneous changes to regulation and advice. Our task is to ensure that there is a reliable and accurate framework of data and information to allow skippers to react appropriately and safely in this rapidly changing environment.

We are sharpening our pencils in anticipation!

The 2021 Almanac will be published on 20th August, and will be available through all good bookshops and chandleries (ISBN 978-1-4729-8021-2, RRP £49.99). You can pre-order direct from us and receive a £5 discount here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/reeds-nautical-almanac-2021-9781472980212/. For our best price every year, check out our fantastic annual subscription here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/subscription/reeds-nautical-almanac-subscription/9781472980212

Exploring Britain’s canals

We have recently published Britain’s Canals: Exploring their Architectural and Engineering Wonders, a beautiful and insightful exploration of our inland waterways, written by canals expert Anthony Burton, with photography from Derek Pratt. In this extract, Tony writes about John Rennie’s stunning aqueducts.

The Dundas aqueduct (below), named after the canal company’s chairman, Lord Dundas, could be thought of as the engineer’s tribute to the elegance of Bath. It is built from the same oolitic limestone, so closely associated with the city that it is popularly known as Bath stone. There was a source of stone near at hand at Bathampton, so there was no problem with supply. The stone has a very special quality, notably a rich honey colour, that can seem almost buttery on a fine, sunny day – and it is admirably suited to the neoclassical style fashionable in Bath.

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Because we think of canals in an industrial setting, it is easy to forget that the age in which they were built was also the age of the great Georgian architects. John Rennie was to provide his own architectural embellishments. The Avon itself is crossed by a single semicircular arch, with relieving arches on the land to either side. Pilasters decorate the piers between the arches, above which is a deep dentil cornice. The whole structure is topped by a balustrade, with the individual supports elegantly curved. As with all the best Georgian architecture, the effect is enhanced by the careful attention to proportion and detail.

The other aqueduct, at Avoncliff, is notably less attractive. It has none of the architectural detailing of Dundas and was built from the local ragstone, which has not worn well and as a result there has been a lot of rough patching to the stonework over the years. It is not, however, without its interest as it is a reminder that, like other canals, the Kennet and Avon was built to serve industry. There is a pair of watermills, one a woollen mill and the other a flock mill, down by the river, and originally a tramway – an early horse-drawn railway – ran along the towpath and over the aqueduct, which explains the width of the towpath.

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Rennie’s other great work was the aqueduct (above) that carries the Lancaster Canal over the River Lune, just outside Lancaster. This is a massive structure, 664 feet (202m) long, crossing the river on five semicircular arches at a height of 61 feet (19m). It uses a similar classical language to that employed at Dundas, but the effect is very different. Lancaster is a northern working city and was then a busy port, not a spa attracting the wealthy and fashionable. Here, the local stone is tough millstone grit, so instead of the smooth ashlar of Dundas, the blocks on the Lune aqueduct are left uncut, presenting a rough, uneven face to the world, known appropriately in architectural terms as rusticated. This is an aqueduct that we actually know a great deal about, as detailed records have survived from the construction period, giving us an insight into what was involved in creating such a grand structure.

Britain’s Canals is available now (ISBN 978-1-4729-7195-1, RRP £18.99) through all good bookshops, or direct from our website with a 10% discount: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/britains-canals-9781472971951

Privileged storytelling – the history of RAF Search and Rescue

We will soon be publishing the official illustrated history of the Royal Air Force’s Search and Rescue Force, following its disbanding in 2016. In this blog, author and aviation journalist Paul E Eden highlights a few moments that stood out to him during the writing of the book. (All photos herein are UK MoD Crown Copyright.)

When I was four, the ‘real’ Father Christmas gave me a Matchbox Spitfire model kit when we visited his in-store grotto. I guess Grandad’s three decades in the Royal Air Force qualified him for the job of building and painting it, but I was immediately fascinated. The Ladybird Book of Aircraft appeared under the tree that year and I was hooked.

The model and book were the seeds of a passion that blossomed under the fertile skies of East Anglia. Born and raised in the Cambridgeshire Fens, I grew up to the sound of jet noise through the 1970s and 80s. These were the days of NATO exercises, when one could barely travel a country lane without stumbling upon an RAF station.

Much later, equipped with a combination of unbridled enthusiasm, an eclectic knowledge and fundamental lack of flying aptitude, I successfully applied for an assistant aviation editor’s position. It was the beginning of a career I never expected and still haven’t planned for.

In 2003, I went freelance and in a serendipitous turn of fate, a publisher was subsequently sufficiently satisfied with my work on one of their magazines to offer me editorship of another, the Royal Air Force Official Annual Review. I compiled my first in 2011 and most recent in 2019, with a 2020 cover date; circumstances very much beyond anyone’s control mean there almost certainly won’t be a 2021 edition.

Through Review I understood for the first time, the extreme professionalism that’s intrinsic to frontline aviation and, with the pick of RAF operations available to me, I chose the very best stories through which to illustrate it. Knowing that the RAF Search and Rescue Force was scheduled for disbandment, in 2012 I decided to showcase the skill and professionalism that typified RAF SAR crews by looking at a couple of operations from the previous 12 months.

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I chose the 25 March 2012 event when a Sea King crew from 202 Sqn’s ‘A’ Flight, operating out of RAF Boulmer, Northumberland, launched in response to a gas leak and fire on the Elgin Well head platform, and the Swanland rescue of 26/27 November 2011. The profound experience of researching and writing the story remained with me and when it was suggested soon after that I might tackle an official, illustrated history of RAF SAR, there was never any doubt that I’d do it.

In the Elgin operation, the Sea King took a particularly unusual role, standing off to use the superior view provided by altitude, and the crew’s well-honed communications skills, to act as rescue coordinator. With seven helicopters engaged, among them another RAF Sea King and a Norwegian SAR aircraft, Flight Lieutenants Iain Cuthbertson and Gareth Dore, and Flight Sergeants Nigel Mortimer and Andrew Rowland managed the situation with skill and calm professionalism.

The November 2011 incident was quite different. The cargo ship MV Swanland was swamped in heavy seas west of Lleyn Peninsula in the Irish Sea. Laden with 3,000 tons of building stone, the vessel broke up and sank, leaving its crew little time to abandon ship. A Sea King HAR3 from ‘C’ Flight, 22 Sqn, RAF Valley, was the first helicopter on scene, effecting a rescue that was dramatic, dangerous and tragic in turn.

The mission could have been flown by any RAF crew on any rough night. This abridged extract from The Official Illustrated History of RAF Search and Rescue ought to be considered with that in mind.

Flight Lieutenant Thomas ‘Sticky’ Bunn was on shift the night of the Swanland mission. “I was the 22 Sqn, ‘C’ Flt Op Captain that night. Flight Lieutenant William Wales was my co-pilot, Sergeant Graeme ‘Livvy’ Livingston my RadOp [radar operator] and MACr [Master Aircrewman] Richard ‘Rich T’ Taylor was winchman. The wind was already howling when we went to bed and I half expected the ‘job phone’ to ring that night, but hoped it wouldn’t.

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“The phone woke William at 02:20hrs and we learnt it was an overwater ‘wet job’ which, from a flying point of view, was preferable to going to the mountains in 40kt of wind and rain at night. We quickly became aware that this was a serious job, with the coastguard reporting a ship breaking up 30 miles southwest of RAF Valley. As a crew we knew this wasn’t an everyday job and as I got into my immersion suit the adrenaline was flowing.”

Wales takes up the story: “The call came into my bedroom at Valley – the co-pilot’s bedroom had the phone next to the bed; it always woke me with a jump! Collecting all the information I needed and waking the others, I could already hear the wind and rain outside. Then I walked into the ops room and heard Holyhead coastguard blaring out a mayday call to all vessels and realised this was a little bigger than I’d first thought.”

Wales described the rescue scene as chaotic as the crew set about checking debris and liferafts. Having seen sailors safe in one dinghy, attention turned to looking for survivors in the water. Then: “We found another liferaft… and put the winchman down, in fierce conditions, to check inside, but there was no one in it. Then the liferaft rolled, with Rich T inside.”

“We elected to put me down,” Taylor recalls. “It was quite challenging. The pilots ended up having to fly manually. After several attempts at getting me inside, I ended up in the water alongside it, then a big wave lifted me up and carried me into the dinghy. It was pitch black inside because the aircraft had moved away quite a bit. I began searching the raft. And that’s when it rolled over.

“I was under the water for some time and the pilots and winch operator were quite concerned. If they’d just winched in, they could have dragged me through something and injured me, so they had to let the situation develop. Luckily, I popped up, in a bit of a spluttering mess, but on the wrong side of the dinghy. I had to swim underneath to get back to the aircraft side. They recovered me and I was pretty pooped; it was really swim for your life stuff.”

Sticky recalls: “Livvy reported Rich T swinging towards and entering the water, and then the dingy flipping. This wasn’t pretty and I feared for him. At some point he came out of the dinghy and we recovered him back to the aircraft. Our hearts sank when Rich told us the dinghy was empty.”

From his seat beside Sticky, Flt Lt Wales had an intimate view of his captain in action. “He remained calm and in control throughout. He had to fly the rescue manually, a tricky procedure for non-SAR crews; normally we would use the RadOp in the back, with a joystick to steer the hovering aircraft over the liferaft. However, in this case the kit wasn’t working because the waves were so big, and Sticky had to fly it with minimal visual cues, because it was so dark and there were walls of water coming at him.”

With Rich T safely back in the cabin, the crew was determined to find the first dinghy. On the way, the helicopter flew over a large debris field and an emergency beacon broke through on the radios. “We became hopeful this was where we would find survivors and started to search methodically upwind. We saw survival aids, floats, doors and lots of debris ripped from the ship, but no survivors,” Sticky remembers. “This was when it hit home that a ship really had gone down. Right there.”

Research for the book revealed many rescues every bit as skilled as that flown by Flt Lt Bunn and crew. Among them, a mission flown by Flight Lieutenant Christian ‘Taff’ Wilkins and crew in March 2013, when winchman Sergeant Rachael Robinson made six separate hazardous descents to reach a grievously injured French trawlerman in atrocious weather off Milford Haven, is one of several that stand out.

Royal Navy Sea King Helicopter Comes to the Aid of French Fishing Vessel 'Alf' in the Irish Sea

There were also occasional humorous or peculiar events to discover, including a September 1955 sortie in which a 275 Sqn Sycamore helicopter crew lowered a bucket and collected freshly caught fish from a boat.

But the book is about much more than helicopter SAR, extending back to the RAF’s formation in 1918 and to 2020, albeit that SAR Force disbanded in 2015. Trawling the archives and discovering these stories has been a privilege – having the opportunity to pass them on is even more so.

We publish The Official Illustrated History of RAF Search and Rescue on 9th July. You can buy it from all good bookshops (ISBN 978-1-4729-6090-0, RRP £25) or direct from our website (with a 10% discount) here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-official-illustrated-history-of-raf-search-and-rescue-9781472960900/

Alan Watts

We are very sad to report the death of our longest-standing author, Alan Watts.

Alan had already had one career in meteorology before he started a new one as an author. It was our founder Kaines Adlard Coles himself who finally managed to convince Alan to write a book that combined his professional expertise with his interest in sailing. Alan was apparently unsure about writing one to begin with, but eventually he came up with the idea for a book with photos of the sky to help readers work out for themselves what to expect.

That book was called Instant Weather Forecasting, and was first published in 1968 (this first edition is the one pictured). Over half a century later it has never been out of print, with Alan having returned to it for four new editions over the years, most recently in 2016. Though initially aimed primarily at sailors, it found fans in people taking part in all manner of outdoor activities. It has sold over a million copies in numerous languages in the past 52 years, making it perhaps the bestselling Adlard Coles book of all time.

IWF 1st ed

Even Alan was surprised at just how successful the book proved to be, but it inspired him to write numerous other books on the weather, including similar but more focused books along the same lines, Instant Wind Forecasting and Instant Storm Forecasting. Aside from Instant Weather Forecasting, his most successful book for us was The Weather Handbook. He had been working on a fourth edition of that at the time of his death, and we will publish it this autumn.

His longest-serving editor at Adlard Coles was former director Janet Murphy, who said, ‘I worked with Alan for so long that it seems inconceivable that he isn’t still at the helm of the Adlard Coles meteorology list. His name is stamped all over so many market leading titles, and will be for years to come.’

Alan has left a fine legacy of weather books, and as the weather only really changes from hour to hour rather than year to year, we can easily foresee his name still being held in high regard for expertise and accessibility another half a century hence.

Making mooring stress-free

Duncan Wells is the author of our incredibly popular Stress-Free series, highly illustrated step-by-step guides to all kinds of sailing skills, complete with QR codes linking to Duncan’s videos. His latest book is Stress-Free Mooring, and in this blog he explains how the book was born and shares some advice from it.

With Stress-Free Sailing and Stress-Free Motorboating selling well in the UK and the USA and while working on Stress-Free Navigation, I was approached by Bill Saint from Charlotte in North Carolina.

He asked me whether I had ever considered doing a pictorial version of the books so that when on board, a skipper could look at what the wind and tide were doing, flip through the book and find a technique for casting off or coming alongside, or indeed any close quarter manoeuvre.

“No, I hadn’t,” I replied. “But I will now.”

And so Stress-Free Mooring was born.

Stress-Free Mooring Front Cover

It covers all the close quarters situations you will find for sailing boats and motorboats and delivers ground-breaking solutions. And all techniques can be managed by one man from the cockpit of their boat.

Anyone who has read Stress-Free Sailing or Stress-Free Motorboating will know that I favour techniques that use rope for attaching to or detaching from the dock. And generally, particularly for coming alongside, we need something on the shore that we can get our rope round. Remember we never step ashore until the boat is lying alongside and holding to a bridle or a spring. Most marinas and docks either have T cleats that we can lasso or are moving over to them as they upgrade their equipment.

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But river banks can still have mooring rings, which we cannot lasso and of course France still favours the tacquet circlé – hooped cleat – and short fingers with a bar at one end. Neither of which are lasso-able.

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I showed how to get onto short, narrow, wobbly French fingers in Stress-Free Sailing. I cover this too in Stress-Free Motorboating but as motorboats mostly like to moor stern to, the lack of anything to lasso on the seaward end of a French finger is not an issue as the motorboat backs into the berth and lassos the T cleat – which is generally available – on the shore end of the berth.

In Stress-Free Mooring I have added the use of stout devices to help us – mooring hooks.

If we attach a mooring, snap hook/caribiner to a line and then run the line through the mid-ship cleat and to the cockpit, we can offer up the snap hook on the end of a boathook – assuming it has a fitment for this.

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Now when faced with a bar at the end of the finger we whack the snap hook at it, remove the boathook, take up the tension on the line and click the engine into ahead so that driving against this, the boat is held alongside the dock. We can then step off and set our mooring lines, before returning to the cockpit and with the boat nicely moored taking the engine out of gear and turning off the engine.

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I also make great use of the Rustler’s Hitch in Stress-Free Mooring when it comes to casting off and especially for springing out the bow or stern. Have a look…

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Bill Saint, who owns Classica Homes (https://www.classicahomes.com take a look at the website; they are fantastic homes. I just wish I lived in North Carolina!) is very pleased with the book he inspired.

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Stress-Free Mooring is published on 14th May (ISBN 9781472968357, RRP £12.99). You can order it direct from us with a 10% discount here. Keep up-to-date with Adlard Coles and Reeds on Facebook and Twitter.

A new beginner’s guide to sailing

When all of this is over, we’ll be desperate to escape our homes! Read on for some great advice from our author Simon Jollands – all the sailing essentials, perfect for sending on to any would-be sailors in your life dreaming of days of freedom, preferably on the wide open waves…

I was inspired by my daughter Freya to write Go Sailing. For the past few years, she and her husband Chris have been on annual bareboat sailing holidays with a group of friends, some of whom have limited sailing experience. “Dad,” she said, “how about writing a book that covers the basics for sailing novices who want to join in the fun? We have several friends who would like to give it a go.” So I sat down with Freya and Chris and we made a list of things to cover in the book. They kindly took loads of photos on their next holiday, many of which are included in Go Sailing.

With events cancelled and sailing clubs closed due to Covid-19, it doesn’t look as though many people will be able to go sailing over the coming months. However, I hope those with limited experience might instead have the time to enjoy reading up about some of the sailing theory covered in Go Sailing, so that when they eventually do have a chance to get out on the water they will be able to make the most of it and gain maximum enjoyment from taking part. Here’s an extract from Chapter 6: ‘Crewing Tasks Underway’…

SAIL BALANCE
Keeping the sails balanced involves making adjustments to the sails as the wind gusts or changes direction. This is the job of the sail trimmer.

Having the sails balanced and trimmed correctly for the course that is required will result in the most smooth and efficient ride possible, allowing the person on the helm to focus on steering to the desired course.

SAIL TRIMMING
When a cruising yacht is underway, most of the time it will have two sails hoisted – a headsail and the mainsail. Once hoisted, the two sails need to be adjusted so that their shapes harmonise and work together, resulting in the most efficient performance and a balanced helm. A balanced helm is where the boat is not being pulled either towards the wind, known as weather helm, or pushed away from the wind, known as lee helm.

Handy tip: You will find that some yacht crews and skippers are continuously adjusting their sails while others hardly seem to touch them. If you are aboard a racing yacht, the adjustments will tend to be continuous, as the wind shifts and varies in strength. In these circumstances the whole crew concentrates on getting the absolute maximum performance from the boat. If on the other hand you are sailing aboard a laid-back cruising yacht, you will probably find that once the sails are hoisted and a course is set that sail adjustments are kept to a minimum. A well tuned boat will sail faster and will tend to heel less than a boat with badly adjusted sails.

Adjusting the sails
The sails are adjusted by “easing” or “sheeting in” the jib sheet and main sheet, in other words by either letting out or pulling in the sheets. This action causes the sails to change their shape to take advantage of the direction of the airflow over them.

As the boat sails closer towards the wind’s direction the sheets are pulled in, which flattens the sails. As the boat sails away from the wind the sheets are eased, allowing the sails to be more curved in shape.

Most sails have telltales to help the sail trimmer see how the air is flowing both sides of the sail.

Telltales
Sails have short lengths of ribbon or wool attached to them, called telltales. Telltales indicate how the airflow is moving over the sails and whether they are working at maximum efficiency. If the telltales are streaming horizontally, then the sails are correctly trimmed.

Once the boat is heading on the correct course, then the trimmer adjusts the sails until the telltales are flowing horizontally. If the telltales stop streaming correctly, this indicates the boat has either gone off course, in which case the helmsperson needs to steer back on course, or the wind has changed direction, in which case the sails need to be re-trimmed.

Mainsail trimming
• Telltales flying horizontally, luff slack – correctly adjusted.
• Sail flapping – sheet in.
• Sail tight up to the mast – ease the sheet.

Genoa / jib trimming
• Telltales flying horizontally on both sides – correctly adjusted.
• Telltale on the inside of the sail is lifting – sheet in.
• Telltale on the outside of the sail is lifting – ease the sheet.

POINTS OF SAIL
Aside from being head-to-wind, a boat can sail at any other angle relative to the wind. In order to do so, a boat’s sails have to be adjusted to create the best aerodynamic shape for the sails to work efficiently.
Together, the different angles are known as points of sailing and a number of terms are used to describe the boat’s course relative to the wind direction, not unlike the points of a compass.

The points of sailing are:

Head-to-wind – a sailing boat cannot sail directly into the wind as its sails do not fill, begin to flap and have no effect. When this happens the boat is referred to as head-to-wind and the boat slows down and stops. Depending on the design of sails and boat, the sails will not usually fill until the boat is pointing at an angle between 40º and 45º away from the direction of the wind.
Close-hauled – as close to the wind as possible. Sails are pulled tight. The boat heels away from the wind but is prevented from being blown over by the counter balancing effect of the keel beneath the hull which not only holds the boat upright but prevents it from sailing sideways.
Close reach – the wind is forward of the beam. Sails are eased out a little. The boat continues to heel over away from the wind.
Beam reach – the wind blows directly across the side of the boat. The sails are eased further out. The boat continues to heel.
Broad reach – the wind comes over the rear quarter, aft of the beam. Sails are eased well out. The boat no longer heels.
Training run – the wind is almost directly behind the boat. Sails are eased well out. The boat does not heel but may rock from side to side, known as yawing.
Run – the wind is directly behind the boat. The sails are eased right out and the head sail is pulled onto the opposite side to the main so it can catch the wind. The boat may continue to yaw from side to side.

GO SAILING is published on 30th April (RRP £12.99). You can pre-order it with a 10% discount direct from our website here. Simon’s earlier books (Safe Skipper and the Reeds Lights, Shapes and Buoyage Handbook) are available for a 30% discount (45% for ebooks) for a limited time only.