Women on sailing ships

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (written in 1797 – 1798) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge relates the unfortunate tale of a mariner who shot an albatross that had guided his ship out of dangerous icy waters in the Antarctic. Spirits then led the ship northwards until it became becalmed near the Equator in uncharted waters. In their thirst, the sailors turned on the mariner and tied the dead albatross around his neck. All the sailors except the mariner then died, and after some horrific encounters and the ship rotting and sinking, he found himself left to wander the earth for evermore, telling his story, still with the stinking albatross around his neck, as a lesson for others.

Coleridge wasn’t himself a sailor, yet with this poem he tapped into and depicted the very superstitious life of seamen, in which the normal phenomena of the sea (winds, storms, phosphorescence and water spouts) were bestowed with malevolent magical powers and often blamed on women, as witches. Little wonder, then – as Dorothy Volo discovered in the course of her extensive research – that females were not popular on board. Despite this, there was a tradition of women at sea in the Royal Navy through the 18th and 19th centuries, though it was against regulations, on ships that were dubbed ‘hen frigates’. Moreover, in battle the women would fight alongside the men as best they could, or assist the surgeon with treating the wounded.

Prostitutes also went on board ships, though they seldom went to sea due to the fact that at the start of a voyage the sailors had probably already spent all their money, a scenario that gave rise to the Dead Horse ceremony described by Maud in such detail in the 1880 diary and by Roslyn Russell, who shows a charming contemporary painting of ‘Throwing the Dead Horse Overboard’.

The majority of women allowed on board were warrant officers’ wives, and sometimes the coopers, cooks and sailmakers were also allowed to have their wives aboard: women were ‘an unavoidable nuisance’. It says something that often women’s names were omitted from ship’s passenger lists, and their deaths were frequently not recorded.

The conditions for the seamen’s women and children on board were even worse than those of the men: they had to share hammocks in the crew’s quarters, and rely on their men to give them some of their food since they were not provided with their own rations. Their days were often spent in darkness below decks because they were supposed to keep out of the way until the evening, when they were finally allowed on deck to take part in any entertainment or dancing. Women gave birth in the dark below decks with little or no privacy or assistance, even in times of battle.

This lack of consideration for women carried through to land life, especially if the men were to die. Few benefits were available to sea widows, and often the regulations prevented them from accessing even the benefits that they were due, although some charities assisted them. Moreover, if a seaman died from his own actions, his wife was ineligible for any compensation whatsoever.

The warrant officers’ wives fared better than those of the seamen: they could share their husbands’ cabins, perhaps had a little more money and could spend their time ‘working’ – doing needlework and knitting. In addition, they may have been allocated 11 – 12-year-old cabin boys to do their odd jobs, such as polishing shoes or assisting with cooking.

Finally, women whose husbands were of higher rank – ladies of quality such as Maud, the captain’s wife – had a more comfortable cabin, a much better diet, and luxuries such as wine.

Despite the relative comfort of her quarters and conditions, life for the wives of the higher-ranking men was generally lonely. On board, Maud would have been socially isolated by the conventions of the time that would frowned on her fraternising with the crew, excepting the steward and cook, or with men other than her husband. To pass the time, Maud undertook simple tasks such as copying out the log for Henry, as she mentions, and walking on deck with him when he was free.

Nor was life on a sailing ship fashionable. One photo of Maud on board the Walmer Castle shows her as a young woman wearing the formal crinoline of the time, possibly made from silk, but this obviously would have been impractical at sea, particularly when climbing up and down ladders, as she did from time to time. Indeed, in a diary entry made when leaving San Francisco she mentions that her formal clothes are put away and she resorts to something like a black woollen wrapper or work dress, shown in a later photo. She must have had some serviceable shoes too.

9781472954237.jpgGiven these privations, one cannot but wonder why Maud accompanied Henry to sea so often. The answer perhaps lies in the simple fact that they didn’t want to be apart, a view that is reinforced by the following quotation from Hen Frigates in which Joan Druett cites one of her diarists, Mary Rowland, who wrote in 1873 of another Henry: ‘As Henry says, we have only one life to live, and he cannot be at home, and it is very hard for us to be separated so much, and a very unpleasant way of spending our lives when one is thousands of miles away.’

Extracted from The Epic Voyages of Maud Berridge: The seafaring diaries of a Victorian lady, available from www.adlardcoles.com



Riddle of the Waves: A Watery Solution

Steven Price Brown served in the Grenadier Guards for an arduous tour in Afghanistan in 2012. His platoon suffered appalling losses and as advance team medic he was at the centre of the most horrific incidents. After leaving the forces he retreated to Africa but became increasingly ill. Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in October 2014 he returned to the UK but ended up homeless, living in a hostel and undergoing therapy. In October 2015, he was introduced to the military sailing charity Turn to Starboard, and discovered a new love of nature and a new purpose in life. This ultimately led to him writing Riddle of the Waves, a unique and inspiring account of the Spirit of Falmouth 2016 voyage around the UK with the Turn to Starboard crew.


“I tapped on the window to the area just outside the recording booth and the occupants sitting inside all looked up. Henry, who was from Bloomsbury and had kindly escorted and guided me through my first radio interview, seemed a little unsure about what I was up to, but you can’t let opportunities like this pass you by. Apart from moral support and a little advice, I think he was there just to make sure my nerves didn’t lead me to throw up into one of the plant pots.

Prince Harry was one of the reactors to my tap tapping.

I mimicked shaking hands through the glass and he nodded with understanding. My first interview had been a bit of a baptism of fire, an early morning chat at BBC Radio 4’s Today Program.

I was here to promote Riddle of The Waves, my debut book about a group of military veterans who had all suffered from the impact of conflicts and had decided to sail around the UK in a 92ft gaff rigged schooner, but that was only a part of it. The crew had shared their stories with me and I had included these poignant and often amazing stories about them. I really want to tell this story, how people can move on, how there is help out there.

I’d got the radio gig because our famous royal warrior was here to visit the BBC, of course having a veteran like me talk about something close to his heart seemed a nice fit. Prince Harry came out and we chatted, getting a couple of photos together – he had wanted to ask me a question whilst I was on air, but sadly time had been short so it never happened.

He asked, “What do you think the media are like with this subject?”

My sycophancy aside, it was a good question. In my opinion, the media are very supportive, I’ve so far only had positive responses, both about the subject matter and storytelling from the media.

The only thing that concerns me is that there is an underlining ‘story’, one that accuses the Forces that they don’t do enough to rehabilitate those who have suffered from military life.

It’s fair enough to think that, as is with the normal way of life, if someone is part of the cause they normally get saddled with being part of the solution. There’s not much doubt that the Forces are heavily involved in the creation of various issues, not because they want to, but because since time began war has always created casualties.

But my recovery came at sea, we, the crew, were first strangers to each other, but we slowly built trust between ourselves, being able to share stories that we generally never share.

Our boat was called Spirit of Falmouth a wonderful pilot boat that had been gifted to the charity Turn To Starboard by Prince Charles, another Royal doing his bit.

The ‘Riddle’ in the book’s title refers to the magic that seemed to happen to us over our trip. Watching people regain strength right in front of me, growing in confidence, losing the shackles of the past and start to return to the person they want to relate to, is somewhat other worldly. It also happened to me.

But then maybe it’s just the opposite, was it nature just repairing us? Being out in the ocean and so close to the elements, at the mercy of raw nature for our trip’s propulsion, we experienced something that was unique and restorative.

Sometimes it’s best not to try hard to work it out, just accept that something good has happened and let others take from it what they can, that’s what the book is about.”

Steven’s account of the 2016 Spirit of Falmouth voyage Riddle of the Waves is available from www.adlardcoles.com

From Rescue Pilot to moviemaker…

One of our bestselling books of 2015 was RESCUE PILOT, the story of Jerry Grayson, who at age 19 was the youngest helicopter pilot to ever serve in the Royal Navy, and by 25 was the most decorated peacetime naval pilot in history after his courageous rescue efforts during the 1979 Fastnet Race. After leaving the service Jerry embarked on a new career – flying the lens to capture aerial footage for the likes of Ridley Scott, Werner Herzog and James Bond movies. His new book, FILM PILOT, is published in the UK today. He writes:

When I first picked up the diary in which my Mum had written a page for every day of her life since the age of nine I realised that it had been both a discipline and a labour of love for her. So it has been for me in writing Film Pilot.

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How many people even get to do a job that they really like, let alone one they look forward to every day? My eight years of flying in the Royal Navy had taught me how to pilot a helicopter to good effect, but as soon as I started to use my machine as a camera platform a whole new canvas of opportunity opened up before me.


It was the opportunity to share with others the privileged perspective I had from a vibrating seat above the ocean; racing yachts and power boat scything through the dawn, the first hot-air transatlantic balloon flight diving into the cold Irish Sea, Tall Ships catching the east wind in their huge white sails, and submarines appearing from the depths like mythical leviathans.

Then came the fresh skills of co-ordinating an aerial ballet in order to capture the power and majesty of other flying machines; a Spitfire, a pair of Tornadoes and a young girl making the first crossing of the English Channel by hang-glider. The latter not only went down in the history books but also nearly caused my heart to stop when the flimsy aerofoil was released from beneath the hot air balloon that had been carrying it. The balloon pilot employed nothing more technical than a hunting knife to cut the rope by which she’d been lifted, at which point the hang-glider tried to roll upside down.

As time went by the tempo and profile of being a Film Pilot increased with every new assignment. The synchronicity of time and place took me to my first movie – a James Bond film for heaven’s sake! – and my first sports gig; the Winter Olympics.

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Eventually I began to actively seek out the hot spots of the world to capture on film and share with those who would never otherwise have the chance to see New Orleans under water, the deserts of Kuwait on fire, or the surface of another celestial body. As I morphed from a Film Pilot to a Film Director I began to tell cohesive stories with my hands on the controls of a flying machine.

With the advent of drones and an entire generation who think nothing of controlling a flying machine with just their thumbs, I hope that my book provides the inspiration to get out and create an image that changes the world. As I’ve learned at every stage in this remarkable journey; a picture doesn’t just speak a thousand words, it has the potential to change minds.

FILM PILOT is published in the UK today, RRP £12.99 (or buy direct from us at a 10% discount: http://bloomsbury.com/uk/film-pilot-9781472941077/)

Christmas Gifts for Sailors


Searching for that perfect nautical gift this year? Whether you’re buying for a seasoned skipper or armchair sailor, we’ve got Christmas covered. Take a look at just a few of this year’s Christmas picks, then shop the sale where all our books are 45% off!*

* Sale ends Sunday 11 December 2016, excludes Reeds Nautical Almanacs


9781472918857A History of Sailing in 100 Objects
£20.00 £11.00

Which civilisation first took to water in small craft? Who worked out how to measure distance at sea? Why did the humble lemon rise to such prominence in the diets of sailors? A quirky look at history through one hundred objects that changed the way we sail.

Shop now >>

9781844863143The Sea Chart
£25.00 £13.75

To sail the oceans needed skill as well as courage, and the sea chart was the tool by which ships navigated their course. This magnificent book looks at the history of the chart and nautical map as a means of safe navigation.

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9781472922786Des Pawson’s Knot Craft and Rope Mats
£16.99 £9.34

Knotting guru Des Pawson gives step-by-step
instructions on how to put together beautiful rope

Shop now >>

9781472927088Narrowboat Life
£18.99 £10.44

Filled with beautiful, enthralling photography, Narrowboat Life answers all the questions we’ve wanted to ask about the ins and outs of living on the inland waterways.

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Click here to find all our gift books at 45% off


9781472916730Gordon Bennett and the First Yacht Race Across the Atlantic
£16.99 £9.34

The result of a drunken bet between three rich 19th century Americans, the first race across the Atlantic would change the course of yachting history and leave six sailors dead…

“A jaunty and surprise-packed retelling of a wonderful story” Times Literary Supplement

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9781472936004.jpgIn the Wake of Heroes: Sailing’s Greatest Stories
Introduced by Tom Cunliffe
£8.99 £4.94

A collection of amazing stories of great seamanship, bringing together some of the best sailing accounts from the last few centuries. Renowned sailor Tom Cunliffe introduces each extract by giving insightful background on the writer, their book and what makes their experience so worth reading.

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9781472908841Sea Fever: The True Adventures that Inspired our Greatest Maritime Authors, from Conrad to Masefield, Melville and Hemingway
£8.99 £4.94

This enthralling book takes us on a tour of the most dangerous, exciting and often eccentric escapades of literature’s sailing stars, and how these true stories inspired and informed their best-loved works.

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9781472928320Untie the Lines: Setting Sail and Breaking Free
£8.99 £4.94

Former stressed-out city girl Emma is in Malaysia, living on a yacht with handsome Guy, with plans to explore the world’s most remote and exotic places. Life couldn’t be more perfect. But when she is eventually forced to return to her old life in London, Emma finds herself struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. Running, or sailing, away is just not an option any more.

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For big savings on all our bunkside reads, head to www.adlardcoles.com


9781472935342The Pacific Crossing Guide 3rd edition
RCC Pilotage Foundation
£50.00 £27.50

A complete reference for anyone contemplating sailing the Pacific in their own boat. From ideal timing, suitable boats, routes, methods of communication, to seasonal weather, likely costs and dangers, the comprehensiveness of this book will both inspire dreamers and instil confidence in those about to depart.

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9781472918130The Complete Ocean Skipper: Deep-water Voyaging, Navigation and Yacht Management
£30.00 £16.50

The Complete Ocean Skipper covers everything a yachtsman needs to know when planning an offshore cruise or ocean passage.

“Essential reading for anyone planning for or dreaming about sailing long distances” Soundings

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9781472923196Heavy Weather Sailing 7th edition
£35.00 £19.25

For 50 years Heavy Weather Sailing has been regarded as the ultimate international authority on surviving storms at sea aboard sailing and motor vessels. This is the seventh updated edition, ensuring that in its 50th year the book remains as relevant and as essential as it has been for the previous five decades

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9781472923202Splicing Modern Ropes: A Practical Handbook
£20.00 £11.00

For any seafarer, splicing rope is an essential skill. But the traditional 3-strand rope is fast disappearing. So how do you splice braided rope? This is the definitive guide to this crucial skill. Most of the techniques are quite easy to master – and they are also fun to do!

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Click here for course books, cruising guides, maintenance manuals and more – all 45% off!


9781844864096Britain’s Historic Ships
£20.00 £11.00

The British Isles have a long, rich seafaring history stretching from the earliest times through the victories of Drake and Nelson, the voyages of discovery of Cabot and Cook and the defence of the realm by vessels in the present century. This lavish book explores twenty of the most celebrated ships in Britain.

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9781472930804Tom Diaper’s Logbook: Memoirs of a Racing Skipper
£16.99 £9.34

Tom Diaper’s memoirs, written on scraps of old cigarette papers, tell of dramatic races with the German Kaiser, working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, both World Wars and other exciting adventures during Tom’s lifetime. This is a rare opportunity to read first-hand about the drama, conflict and fascinating details that made up the life of a for-hire racing skipper during the glory days of racing.

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9781844862344Cutty Sark: The Last of the Tea Clippers
£20.00 £11.00

A beautiful volume describing the eventful history of one of the world’s most celebrated ships – from her construction at Dumbarton in 1869, her famous tea voyages, through to a career under a Portuguese flag and subsequent return to the Thames, the dramatic fire, painstaking restoration and glorious reopening.

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9781844862894Captain of the Carpathia: The Seafaring Life of Titanic Hero Sir Arthur Henry Rostron
£20.00 £11.00

Henry Arthur Rostron was the captain of Carpathia, the first ship to reach the distressed Titanic, defying the ship’s limitations to rescue 706 survivors. Following the rescue Rostron became the most celebrated master mariner of his generation.

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Browse our full collection of maritime history & save a festive 45%!

Merry Christmas from Adlard Coles!

From the Marco Polo to the #CuttySark, this beautiful new book captures the clipper ship era.

The Most Dramatic Era in the History of Sail, Brought Vividly to Life


In the era of commercial sail, clipper ships were the ultimate expression of speed and grace. Racing out to the gold fields of America and Australia, and breaking speed records carrying tea back from China, the ships combined beauty with breathtaking performance.

From mutinies, rivalries and the Cutty Sark’s longest voyage via the inspirational story of Captain Mary Patten and her battle with Cape Horn, Clipper Ships and the Golden Age of Sail brings this unique era vividly back to life, recounting thrilling descriptions of the most dramatic races, beautifully illustrated with the finest paintings and illustrations.

First-hand accounts, newspaper reports and log entries add exciting eyewitness detail, while the exquisite images bring home the sheer elegance of these racehorses of the sea.

Read a few sample pages from this beautiful celebration of these racehorses of the sea.

Bestselling Author Nick Ward to ‘Sail’ around the Isle of Wight by Bike!

Nick Ward

Bestselling author Nick Ward is taking on a new challenge on the 22nd August. To raise money for a charity close to his heart, Nick will ‘sail’ around the Isle of Wight by Bike to raise money for Smile4Wessex.

He will cycle 100km around the Isle of Wight to say thank you to Wessex Neurological Unit who gave him the precious gift of life back in 1971.

The Smile4Wessex Appeal aims to support the work of the Wessex Neurological Centre (WNC) by raising funds for projects that:

  • Improve the quality of care and range of treatments offered to patients of the WNC
  • Improve the quality of facilities provided at the WNC (for patients, staff and relatives)
  • Further research into neurological conditions that will have a direct bearing on patient care, or further the understanding of such conditions and their future treatment

To find out more about Nick’s challenge and to support him visit the Smile4Wessex website.

Canvas Flying, Seagulls Crying

Professional artist and writer Justin Tyers and his wife Linda lost everything in a disastrous house fire. Seeing opportunity in the rubble, they decided to start a new life for themselves by building a classic sailboat to live aboard from scratch – starting by felling the trees. Justin wrote Phoenix from the Ashes about the experience, and we have just published his new book, CANVAS FLYING, SEAGULLS CRYING: From Scottish Lochs to Celtic Shores. In this exclusive extract, Justin reveals how he fell in love with sailing.

The first boat I ever owned was a Westerly GK 29 called Good Knews. I think it’s in Ireland now. The GK 29 had a reputation for being fast but the price you paid was that they were very light and tender and whenever you stepped on board, the mast would swing toward you and give you a black eye.

My GK 29 was a bit of an impulse buy. In my twenties all I knew about boats was that they were meant to float but sometimes sunk, famously, and with the loss of many lives. What gave me the idea to buy one was that I was working in London and one Sunday in January, without the least interest in botany, decided to visit Kew Gardens. I didn’t have any friends so went alone. I was walking with my hands clasped behind my back in the manner that I’d seen other lone visitors walk – it made them look very knowledgeable about plants. I didn’t realise back in those days that walking with your hands clasped behind your back, and knowing a lot about plants, are both sure-fire ways of ensuring you never get any friends. Of a sudden the low-hanging fronds of a palm tree brushed through my hair, sprinkling me in a kind of exotic stardust which asked me why I lived as I did?

‘Take stock of your life,’ it seemed to say. ‘Not only are you miserable but you are the cause of misery in others. Why waste yourself in city-work when you could buy a boat, sail to the other side of the world and spend the rest of your life loafing around on white-sand beaches, eating coconuts and bananas?’

The question of whether a GK 29 was a suitable boat to get me there not only never crossed my mind but would have seemed technically irrelevant if it had. In my judgement a boat either floated and was therefore seaworthy, or it had ceased to float and was unsuited to my purpose.

From among the thousands of boats on the market my decision about whether or not to buy this boat was strongly influenced by three factors:

Firstly, the bloke who owned it seemed a nice chap – he was a doctor, you know?

Secondly, it was afloat. There could be no doubt about that because when I stuck my arm into the water alongside it I couldn’t feel the bottom.

But the clincher – and I wasn’t expecting this – was that it had pink racing tape running down either side of the deck.

I was a young man in my twenties and although I was interested in boats, to a degree, I was more interested in girls. Instinct told me that those flashy racing strips would be a girl-magnet. In fact, I remember feeling slightly embarrassed that a married man in his forties – and a doctor, at that – could be so obvious. There he was standing on deck explaining the advantages of a tri-radial spinnaker when all I wanted to know was how often he’d had to kneel on a Sunday in order to confess another pink-tape triumph. But I couldn’t ask him, what with his son standing there. So I bought the boat on trust and hoped that the tape would do its work.

It was only after dinner one evening when I settled down to carry out my intensive planning for a voyage to the other side of the world that it occurred to me it might be nice to go with someone, for company. I imagined that it could take several hours to cross an ocean and it would be nice to have someone to talk to. In many ways my friend Spearsy seemed like the ideal partner: he knew less about sailing than I did, so was unlikely to question my authority, and I like people who laugh easily. Another point in his favour was that Spearsy never stopped laughing. The braying of a horse was a whisper to it. God, I can hear him laughing now.

I recognised that the first qualification of a sailing companion was that he – or she – should be of sound mind and judgement, but realised that Spearsy was probably all I could get. We’d worked together for the previous eight months and he’d seemed the happiest man alive, but one day he came into work and a single glance at him told me that his blue skies had turned to grey again – the woman he loved had spurned him. That tragedy launched him into a parallel universe and only his corpse was left dragging itself long-faced through this one. I knew that if I acted quickly I could capitalise on this brief window of grief.

We both worked selling telecoms equipment – he wasn’t a successful salesman so I waited for his monthly sales figures to come in and then seized my opportunity to announce the idea of an around-the-world adventure at the very moment I knew he would be considering his future.

It’s dangerous to embark on a long voyage without the necessary experience so we agreed that in the first instance we’d drift about in the Solent pulling on bits of rope to find out what they did in a variety of conditions not exceeding Beaufort Force 4. Then when we’d got the hang of it, we’d ask someone in which direction we should head off if we wanted to see the Marquesas…


CANVAS FLYING, SEAGULLS CRYING is available now (RRP £8.99, ISBN 978-1-4729-0980-0). To buy with a 10% discount visit our website here: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/canvas-flying-seagulls-crying-9781472909800.

You can view – and purchase – more of Justin’s wonderful artwork on his website: http://www.justintyers.co.uk