Bl**dy mind over matter... the editor's welcome to the latest issue of Practical Boat Owner magazine
Part of being British, apparently, is that seafaring is in our blood. Or is it?
Despite his undoubted courage and tactical genius, Nelson suffered terribly from seasickness. Charles Darwin, whom a voyage transformed from being the despair of his father to becoming the founder of modern evolutionary thinking, suffered in a similar way.
Admittedly there are plenty of counter-examples: the buccaneering Admiral Cochrane was far more successful at sea than as a land-dweller, while in our own time Sir Ben Ainslie exhibits an affinity for sailing which has placed him at the top of international competitions time after time.
Nevertheless, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that being a Brit doesn’t necessarily make you a sailor.
Perhaps, then, the Brits are not innately different from any other nation in their seafaring ability.
So what is it that drove men like Nelson and Darwin to endure what must have been unremittingly unpleasant experiences, and has kept us at the forefront of matters maritime for such a long time?
Terry Pratchett once wrote that ‘The universe… depended for its operation on the balance of four forces which they identified as charm, persuasion, uncertainty and bloody-mindedness.’
It’s this latter quality which the Brits have in spades: call it determination, zeal, duty, stubbornness; whatever you will, it’s the stuff that kept Darwin exploring and stopped Nelson from hanging up his midshipman’s hat.
Sometimes it’s a virtue, sometimes not: it led to Mr Blair’s refusal to accept the non-existence of WMDs, it keeps us united in the face of increasing terror threats, and led to the vote to end the UK’s uneasy 40-year relationship with the EU.
A mixed bag, I think you’ll agree.
So why this talk of bloodymindedness, seafaring and Darwin? Well, I’ve been reading Julian Mustoe’s book, Voyage of the Harrier, in which he attempts to retrace the voyage of the Beagle, the survey ship on which Darwin travelled and made the discoveries which formed the basis of his groundbreaking theory.
Mustoe sets off in a modified Folksong, a design which with her LOA of 25ft is about 20ft shorter than most people would choose as a world-girdling yacht.
She founders following a grounding on the Brazilian coast which Mustoe makes clear was no fault of the boat, and far from quitting he acquires a new boat, a Peterson 26 Quarter-Tonner, and completes his voyage.
Bad weather and engine trouble play their part in setting him back, but he keeps going. Why? It has to be bloodymindedness, and makes the book a bl**dy good read and an inspiration to all sailors of small boats – which are kept going with a mixture of charm, persuasion, uncertainty and bloody-mindedness.
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PBO Project Boat 2 – Turning over our Secret 20: The machinations involved in accessing the bottom of our boat
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Create a fuel polishing system: PLUS more reader projects and tips
Waiting for the tide: The editor’s welcome to this month’s PBO – sign up for PBO’s free monthly e-newsletter at: http://emails.timeincuk.co.uk/YBW_webcross
‘Mad about the Boat’ columnist Dave Selby: ‘Holier than thou’
Columnist Sam Llewellyn: Learning the ropes
Monthly musings from Andrew Simpson: Mother tongue
PBO products and services: Books and plans from the PBO shop
New regular chandlery offers
News: The invasive species D vex has been found north of Oban… plus more
Regional news: Sailors are advised to take extra care entering or leaving the Deben… and more
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Readers’ letters: Your views
Ask the experts: Hose diameter dilemma… and more
New gear: PBO looks at the latest marine products