And the winner is…

You’ve heard of the Oscars, I daresay. They are bestowed in a modest little film ceremony that seems to be doing very well for itself. We predict big things for it. But you might not, perhaps, yet be aware of the nascent yet brilliant YachtscarTM awards.

They are, in many respects, much like the Academy Awards, but without the red carpet or revealing dresses or industry clout or hefty global coverage. In fact, to the casual onlooker, there may not be a great deal of similarity between the two at all, other than that they occur within only a couple of days of each other. (What serendipity!)

But, notwithstanding all, here they are: the very first annual YachtscarTM Awards, here to celebrate and honour the excellence of boaty publications at Adlard Coles Nautical.

Best Book in a Leading Role


A bestseller since its first publication – with over 40,000 copies sold in seven editions – you might call this tome a bit of a box-office hit. It’s the standard reference for Yachtmaster students, thus helping all its readers to take on leading roles themselves. We make it a policy never to ask a book its age, but it’s safe to say that Complete Yachtmaster has matured very well indeed.

Best Book in a Supporting Role

WHAT NOW SKIPPER? by Bill Anderson & Chris Beeson

We all love a spot of good seamanship and this handsome chap is a direct route to finding it. It doesn’t preach or drone on when everyone’s tired of hearing the sound of its papery little voice, but it helps crew support their skipper when navigational or seamanship problems threaten to scupper them. It’s the supportive friend everyone needs in their life.

Best Visual Effects

SAILING GOLD by Mark Chisnell

It’s the beautiful little starlet in all its glory: colourful, animated, glossy, exciting, handsome, iconic. And it documents the entire history of Olympic sailing in technicolour glory, proving that it’s really not just a pretty face.

Best Book Tie-in


Four hundred pages. Hundreds of knots, both practical and ornamental, shown in clear, step-by-step full-colour photographs. The most comprehensive resource on the art of knotting on the market. Could this have missed out on a Yachtscar? I’m a frayed knot.

The Ebenezer Scrooge Most Words Per Pound Memorial Award


At a hefty 1088 pages long, we have to hold up our hands to say we haven’t quite finished a thorough word count of the beloved Almanac. But even without one, we feel fully vindicated in declaring this incredible value for money – with 45,000 changes made to each year’s edition, plus free access to the digital almanac to boot, Mr Scrooge would doubtless be a happy, not to mention safe-sailing, old sea-dog.

The Robinson Crusoe Desert Island Read Award

THE SEA by Nic Compton

Picture the scene: you’re shipwrecked on a desert island, not a soul, nor a ship, in sight. You’ve probably got more than a little time on your hands, and what better way to spend it than admiring some of the most stunning and dramatic images ever taken of our oceans – from the wild to the peaceful, and the exquisite to the strange. It’ll remind you that desert island isolation isn’t all bad. And it’s a large format hardback too, so if push comes to shove and you really want to leave… it might help serve as a makeshift raft.

The Horatio Nelson Coping in an Emergency Award

FIRST AID AT SEA by Douglas Justins & Colin Berry

We never know when an emergency’s about to land on our deck, and with this sturdy, laminated, colour-coded and quick reference book, you’ll never be caught out by a rogue accident. Written by doctors who sail, it’s entirely relevant to life on board, whether your vessel is large or small. Frankly, Horatio would have done well to have kept a copy to hand.

Best Editor in a Supporting Role

HANNAH LEECH for World Voyage Planner by Jimmy Cornell


Standing at 400 pages, and boasting the impressive claim to guide sailors and dreamers from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world, Jimmy Cornell’s World Voyage Planner is a truly weighty tome – both figuratively and literally. And with the ever-competent Half-hitch Hannah at the helm, firmly navigating this vessel’s course towards publication, we know it’s in safe hands.

 Lifetime Achievement


An author of not a few Adlard Coles Nautical books, Alan Watts boasts an impressive and illustrious life – from an early stint in the Sea Scouts, he took on active service in the Royal Navy, before working for many years as a forecaster for the Met Office. Alan’s first book for Adlard Coles appeared in 1968 – meaning his publishing career with us spans more than five decades. He is the author of the bestselling Instant Weather Forecasting, as well as Instant Storm Forecasting, Weather Wise, The Weather Handbook and, finally, The Seabreeze Handbook, which publishes in a matter of mere months. We’ve nothing but admiration for Alan’s achievements and his extraordinary meteorological knowledge.

And there we have it! The 2012 YachtscarTM Awards in all their nautical glory. Now you must excuse us – we’re off to the after-party. It’s all glamour here, you know…

Are we aground again?

Guest blog by author and artist Justin Ruthven-Tyers

If ever you find your boat has run aground, you may wish to hear some words of wisdom from an expert; may I present myself to you as that expert? I’ve run aground thousands of times.


Sometimes I run aground deliberately; sometimes I run aground when I thought I wouldn’t; and sometimes I run aground when I’m not expecting it at all… and I’ve reduced all our years of experience into some advice that you won’t find in any of your sailing handbooks. To give credit where it’s due, the idea isn’t mine at all; I learned it from a novice – on his first outing.

He and his wife were considering buying a lovely old sailing skiff – well, I say lovely; it was rotting, but where there was no wood there was plenty of filler; and to unify the filler with the boards the whole thing had had a fresh coat of paint. Fresh – heavens… in some places it wasn’t yet dry!

My wife and I were at our mooring dabbing some varnish on bits of bright-work using last-years’ brushes – whose hairs stuck out at all angles – and found that by straining ourselves into silence we couldn’t help overhearing snippets of their conversation. What we learned from it, together with his choice for the day of cotton blazer and a ‘short’ pipe, told us that this vessel, if he decided to buy it, was to be his first command; and today was to be the first time he’d set foot on the water.

He pushed off from the slip and the skiff drifted around in circles for a few minutes offering its sails to the wind on a take-us-as-you-find-us basis, whilst he filled his pipe, beat the dust off some cushions, took some choice morsels from the hamper, and then settled himself down to form a general impression of the area by flicking through the pages of an Atlas. In response to a plea from his wife he moved the tiller to one side so as to make more room and learned that he could direct his vessels course; and with that helmed away for the reef.

The weather was glorious: cat’s-paws chased each other over the mirror of the sea, and the lazy silence of the afternoon was broken only by the refreshing sound of ice-cubes in a bucket, either falling together or being driven apart by a bottle. By following its sound we could tell, without looking up from our sticky wood, what progress the skiff made across the bay.  When it found that part of the reef which lies just an inch or two below the surface, and seeing that it was generously upholstered with kelp, the skiff hauled itself up, as will a seal, and settled into the soft weed to bask.

For five minutes no one spoke… it was such a peaceful scene you didn’t like to. With one leg cast full-width along a thwart, and the small of his back against the gunwhale, the prospective buyer twirled his glass at the sun catching its sparkle, and offered his face up to its warmth as a soft breeze toyed with his hair.

Seeing the boat’s owner arrive back at the slip and begin shuffling nervously from one foot to the other, the sailor called across to explain why they had spent so long on the same spot – his voice was slurred, as though his words had been slowly marinating, and these had been the most delicious moments of his life.

‘Ab-so-lutely becalmed!’ he drawled, and then raised his glass in the owner’s direction as an after-thought.

So whenever our boat chooses to haul its fifteen tons on to a bank we lounge around – as Monet would have painted us – affecting a crisp Edwardian delinquency to say for us that this is how we planned to spend our weekend.

Well, I say ‘weekend’ – it might be twelve hours… or it might be a fortnight.

Visit Justin Ruthven-Tyers’ blog for more on sailing and life on a Hebridean island. His new book, Phoenix from the Ashes, is out on 1st March 2012 and available on Amazon pre-order now.

A Titanic project

By Mariner Multon

‘There was a sudden change in the temperature. You could smell the ice.’ Reginald Lee – Lookout

‘I did not return immediately. I had to wait until the yells and shrieks had subsided, because it would have been suicide to go back there until the people had thinned out… A drowning man clings at anything.’ Harold Lowe – Fifth Officer

When he came up with the idea, I don’t think he appreciated the sheer scale of it. Over a million and a half words long (the equivalent of War and Peace three times over), when we printed it all out, the stack of paper stood 6ft tall. And he had to reorganize this mass of text into a coherent, readable book, a ‘mere’ 90,000 words long – and do justice to all the survivors who’d spoken those words in a courtroom many years ago.

The author was Nic Compton, the mass of text was the entire transcripts of the New York and London inquiries into the sinking of the Titanic, and the book is the brilliant Titanic on Trial.

Titanic on Trial

Taking place on a scale that reflected the size of the tragedy and the public interest in it, the inquiries into the sinking of the Titanic collected together thousands of pages of evidence from the surviving passengers and crew. The sinking of an ‘unsinkable ship’ seemed unbelievable, and there were many unanswered questions. Why was she going so fast in an ice field? Why weren’t the lifeboats filled? Why didn’t other ships didn’t respond to her distress calls earlier? And how did some wealthy (male) passengers secure spaces in lifeboats when so many other (female) passengers didn’t?

It was using this unique resource that Nic wanted to re-tell the story of the Titanic’s final night. Whereas most books about the Titanic put the reader another step away from those who actually experienced the disaster, by using these testimonies Nic was bridging the gap between raw source material and a truly compelling account by the survivors themselves. A wonderful idea, but one with problems: the mass of information, and the fact that a lot of the transcripts consisted of dry and repetitious courtroom proceedings.

How to choose what would make the cut? How to order it all? And how to find a balance between creating a compelling story and retaining the integrity of the source material? As Nic says, ‘There was no way of knowing before I started whether there would be enough material to tell the whole story, or whether I would be left with enormous gaps – in which case, how would those gaps be filled?’

But he took the plunge and got stuck in. ‘I edited each individual account first. This involved cutting out all the questions and courtroom waffle, editing the answer where necessary to make sure the sense wasn’t lost. This meant reading through 181 witness accounts and about 2,500 pages of text. At the end of it, I had 160 files on my computer, which was my raw material – a bit like colours on an easel. Second Office Lightoller provided the most detailed and joined-up account, so I used him as my base, gradually adding other people’s accounts in and around his, cutting and splicing as I went. I tried to pick the fullest accounts to start with (Archibald Gracie was another useful starting point), adding the smaller bits of detail later. I remember there was a moment, about a quarter of the way in, when I first felt the full effect the interspliced narratives was having, and I suddenly thought: yes, this is working! From then on, it grew quickly and seemed to acquire a life of its own.’

And in a book so preoccupied with death, Nic has given the survivors’ words new life. The story he has woven together is compelling – heartbreaking, sometimes funny, occasionally horrifying – and all the more so because the words we are reading are those of people who were actually there. This book is a gift to the reader, as well as doing a true service to the memories of those who spoke up a century ago. A job well done, Nic!

 Titanic on Trial publishes on 1st March 2012. Click here to pre-order your copy on Amazon.

A life less ordinary

It’s not exactly your average tale: a house and its contents burned down to the ground one night; an ambitious scheme to rebuild it; a beautiful classic sailing boat, built by hand, by novices; and seven years aboard it, learning to sail in secret anchorages and upon salty Celtic seas.

So not your average tale by any stretch, but it is Justin Ruthven-Tyers’ tale, and it’s told in his incredible new book – Phoenix from the Ashes. It’s funny and heartbreaking, inspiring and comforting, profoundly unique – and all true. Here’s the man himself with his wife Linda, talking about his remarkable story…

And if that’s whetted your appetite, we’ve got an exclusive pre-publication sample of the book for you to read too.

Phoenix from the Ashes will be available from 1st March 2012 – preorder your copy from Amazon here

And finally: The beady-eyed amongst you might have recognised a few similarities between Justin and Linda’s boat and the one in our blog header above…

Meet the crew

Every week from now on the team here at Adlard Coles Nautical are going to be bringing you news, features and articles that we think our readers will find interesting. There will be guest spots from our authors, competitions and information on how you can submit your own book proposal to us.

This week, however, let’s introduce the blogging team:

Captain Cole is the brains behind the Adlard Coles blog (and despite what you might be thinking, she didn’t actually write this post). The newest recruit at Adlard Coles Nautical, since arriving just over six months ago Jess has edited titles as diverse as a comprehensive knot-tying guide and a book about wind. We don’t know how she finds the time, having got addicted to tweeting for @ReedsNautical.

Mariner Multon is our resident grizzled sea dog, having weathered the stormy waters of nautical publishing longer than the rest of us. Having risen through the ranks from assistant to commissioning editor, Liz has more books under her belt than a thief in Waterstones. Little known fact: Liz met her future husband on a tall ship sailing holiday. He was hungover at the time.

Halfhitchhannah refused to register as Rear Admiral Hannah, but we might yet change her login when she’s not paying attention. As senior editor Hannah ends up doing all the massive 400 page tomes that would sink your boat rather than float it. The highlight of her career so far has been editing Jimmy Cornell’s new book World Voyage Planner.

Ensigneyers is an assistant editor at Adlard Coles Nautical, and was so good at writing the blurb to go on the back covers of the books they let him write the text to go inside one of them too. And then a second. And now a third. All the best jokes are his (though as you are probably thinking, he did write this post).

Kirsty has a good excuse for having a boring name. When she’s not editing the Reeds Professional books she works on Bloomsbury’s sports titles, and also runs the Bloomsbury Sports blog here.

We hope you come back each week and enjoy what we have to offer. We’d love to hear from you, so please do leave us comments.

Full steam ahead!