Lit Bits

THE INVASION OF ANGUILLA: A Comedy of Errors, Caribbean Style

Anguilla beach

I first learned of the British invasion of Anguilla, which took place in March 1969, while studying Don Street’s Transatlantic Crossing Guide several years ago. In his classic tome (which I can still recommend as a great general reference if you are cruising the islands of the North Atlantic), Don mentions the event in passing and cites two books treating it. One, The Mouse That Roared, he claims is a fictionalized account of the invasion; the other, Under An English Heaven, he cites as a factual account.

The Mouse That Roared, by Leonard Wibberley, which I read as a boy, in fact was published in 1955, 14 years before the invasion of Anguilla took place. It tells the tale of a fictional European micro-nation, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, that declares war on the United States, hoping to garner a bonanza of foreign aid after its inevitable defeat. Instead, through a series of improbable events, Grand Fenwick ends up in control of a U.S. secret weapon, the Q-Bomb, and in effect conquers the world. Though the book has nothing to do with Anguilla, its comic spirit does mirror that of the real-life improbable events that led Britain to invade Anguilla after the tiny island rebelled against independence from the British crown.

Nope, that’s not a typo. They rebelled against independence.

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A PILGRIM AMONG THE SWATCHWAYS: Chasing the Ghost of Maurice Griffiths

Riverside

The name Maurice Griffiths is not particularly well known in the United States, but in England he is most certainly an iconic figure. A dapper fellow with a goatee beard, he was born into modest circumstances at the turn of the 20th century, the second son of a traveling glove and underwear salesman who had an eye for ladies and racehorses and consequently died bankrupt. At age 19, in the year 1921, not long before his father passed away, Maurice and a friend sold a much-loved model railroad set, invested the proceeds in a 50-year-old semi-derelict cutter named Undine, and the rest--as they say--is history.

Over the course of the next six decades, Griffiths bought, sold, and cruised innumerable small yachts, and wrote 15 books on sailing, one of which, The Magic of the Swatchways, is now a classic of British sailing literature. Griffiths also trained himself as a naval architect and became a successful yacht designer, drawing several pioneering designs for simple shoal-draft cruising boats. Most important, perhaps, he was one of the first on either side of the Atlantic to publicly champion the concept of sailing as a sport for the common man. During his 40-year tenure as editor-in-chief at Yachting Monthly magazine, he transformed what had become an elitist yachting social journal into a practical, but very literate bible for middle-class sailors who dreamed of getting afloat aboard boats of their own.

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TALES OF JOHANNE REGINA: In Andorra With Tom Cunliffe and Clare and Edward Allcard

Johanne under sail

Sorry the blog’s been dark so long! But I do have an excuse. I’m in France right now, having come by way of Ireland (where I was visiting family for Easter) and Barcelona and then Andorra, where I stopped in for a few days to visit Clare and Edward Allcard, the well-known liveaboard cruiser-authors who wandered far wide for many years on an old 90-ton Baltic ketch named Johanne Regina (see Clare’s books A Gypsy Life and The Intricate Art of Living Afloat). Johanne has since been adopted by a Catalonian non-profit group, has been rechristened Ciutat Badalona (after the Catalonian municipality of the same name), and is now flawlessly maintained (see photo up top).

But it wasn’t always so. If you’ve ever read A Gypsy Life, you’ll recall that the Allcards’ two decades of ownership of Johanne was an unrelenting maintenance nightmare and the boat was never really ever close to being “finished.” Coincidentally, during my visit they were also visited by British sailing author and TV personality (and erstwhile SAIL contributor) Tom Cunliffe, his wife Ros, and his old mate John Lovell, who had come to share some even grimmer tales of Johanne’s pre-Allcard days.

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VOYAGING WITH KIDS: The Ultimate Guide for Cruising Families

Kids cover

Lin Pardey gave me a hug and handed me a copy of this book when I saw her at Annapolis, and now I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Of course, I do have to admit I am biased. I know and have worked with several of the people involved in creating the book--two of the authors, the publisher, and the editor--but I wouldn’t be pimping it if it wasn’t good. All these people are some of the best in the business.

I can think of many magazine articles I’ve read (and edited) over the years on this subject--how to live the cruising dream with kids in tow--but offhand I can’t think of any books. And the big problem with all those articles is they are always written by just one person, so you get a necessarily narrow perspective on what is ultimately an extremely multi-faceted subject. After all, there about as many different ways to be a cruising family as there are families out there cruising. (I am remembering, for example, a family of four I once met in the Canaries who were having the time of their lives--on a boat just 18 feet long!) The very cool thing about this book it that it has three different authors, all of them highly experienced cruising parents, plus they have elicited opinions and information from many dozens of other cruisers, including a big bunch of cruising kids who have since grown into adulthood.

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