Sea Fever: a British Maritime Miscellany: Book review

This compendium of maritime and seaside facts covers everything from how to fish for mackerel to sea shanties, and is an ideal gift, says Yachting Monthly contributor, Julia Jones

Sea Fever: a British Maritime Miscellany
Meg Clothier & Chris Clothier
Profile Books, £16.99

Nicely presented, agreeably written, this compendium of maritime and seaside facts and stories seems is a book designed to give or be given.

Its subjects range from informative explanations of tides, weather etc to the retelling of legends, such as King Arthur’s Tintagel and the description of more recent maritime events such as the scuttling of the German High Seas fleet in Scapa Flow.

There are shanties, poems, instructions how to fish for mackerel, explanations of cardinal marks and rules of the road.

There’s no discernible method of ordering, topics arrive with pleasurable unexpectedness – a tribute to the authors’ skill.

Meg Clothier and Chris Clothier are siblings with considerable sailing experience as well as love of the seaside.

Their book has a whiff of family holiday about it- lively conversation about the difference between a boat and a ship, for instance.

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I’ll put my own pennyworth in here and suggest that a ‘ship’ has a very specific definition, depending on her rig (a three-masted vessel having three square-rigged masts, as Richard Woodman reminds us in his History of the Ship).

A submarine is a ‘boat’ because it could formerly be carried on a ship (tell that to the designers of the RN Astute class!).

The Clothiers come up with a neat, if argument-provoking suggestion, that the dividing line may be found in the way each vessel leans as they turn sharply: boats, they suggest, lean inwards; ships with higher centre of gravity, lean out.

Hmmmm – does this work with super tankers? Mega-yachts? I feel a discussion coming on…

Generally Sea Fever does not aim to provoke dissension but offers snatches of reading pleasure and impetur for all those conversations which begin ‘Did you know?’

It’s an attractive, handleable book for shared areas ashore or afloat and a bunkside book for those who just want a page or two before they sleep.

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