Dry dock for winter? Curl up with a book

It’s difficult to believe, but Christmas is fast approaching and thoughts of taking the boat out on the river are probably fading rapidly from most people’s memories.

IT’S difficult to believe, but Christmas is fast approaching and thoughts of taking the boat out on the river are probably fading rapidly from most people’s memories.

So with that in mind, I thought I’d devote this week’s column to a quick look at some of the books that have recently been published with a nautical flavour – particularly because one of them has a very local connection.

Val Lewis, is the wife of Lynn Lewis, founder of marine goods store Nauticalia, and the pair live in Shepperton.

Val has always been a writer and even when she was helping Lynn to set up Nauticalia, she kept her hand in as an author including producing the first edition of a charming little book called Ships’ Cats in War and Peace.

This delightful volume has now been updated and is republished – not surprisingly, by Nauticalia – and is well worth a read.

Quite rightly, Val makes the point that all cats are really ships cats at heart – that’s how they’ve managed to spread themselves round the world so successfully over thousands of years.

Ships’ Cats includes stories about every conceivable kind of cat ranging from a wonderful tale about a cat called Tiddles supposedly owned by Admiral Lord Nelson (although I might take that one with a pinch of salt – or should that be a pinch of fur?) to the heart-warming story of Simon, the ship’s cat aboard HMS Amethyst, a Royal Navy frigate which came under fire from Communist Chinese guns as it travelled up the Yangtse River in April 1949. 25 sailors lost their lives during the bombardment and Simon was wounded in the back and leg and suffered burns to his face.

Amethyst ran aground and suffered a hot and anxious wait while negotiations went on with the Communists about freeing the ship and what was left of her crew.

Despite his injuries, Simon was key to maintaining the morale of the ship’s company – and he even managed to continue his rat-killing duties taking on and killing a huge rat the crew had nicknamed Mao Tse-Tung. Eventually, Amethyst broke out of her predicament and rejoined the fleet – and Simon was treated as a hero – a symbol of the spirit of the Royal Navy. Great stuff.

Ships’ Cats in War and Peace (ISBN 978-1-907803-28-4) is published by Nauticalia with an rrp of £12.99 – highly recommended.

At the other end of the spectrum, Adlard Coles Nautical have just released a wonderful book called Sail – A Photographic Celebration of Sail Power.  Featuring pictures by some of the world’s leading maritime photographers, this new paperback edition is crammed full of fantastic shots of yachts – both modern and historic – in all their glory.

If you love sailing or if, like me, you believe that there is nothing to touch the feeling of a big yacht under full power hammering her way through the swells, then this will certainly bring a smile to your face.

Sail – A Photographic Celebration of Sail Power (ISBN 978-1-408-12995-1) is published by Adlard Coles with an rrp of £29.99

Finally, if your more of a doer than a watcher, sailing legend Tom Cunliffe has just updated his excellent The Complete Yachtmaster – the absolute bible for anyone intending to go to sea in boats.

The book has always been a bestseller and this seventh edition includes new chapters on making the most of modern electronic equipment.

But its real strength lies in the fact that it contains everything you need to know about the theory and practice of sailing.

So, if the old man is seriously considering buying that sailing boat he’s always talked about, make sure you put this in his Christmas stocking.

The Complete Yachtmaster (ISBN 978-1-408-12984-5) is published by Adland Coles Nautical and comes with an rrp of £24.99.


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