People kept asking if I would do a video tour of Samsara. It wasn’t that I was trying to hide anything, but rather I couldn’t work out how to do it while holding the phone in one hand. Then last week, my son Hugo came to join me in Jersey, and we ended up in St Malo and the River Rance – where a windless and sunny morning provided the perfect opportunity.

You can find it on the Oldmansailing YouTube channel – I’ll add the link below. However, I should mention here the one thing I forgot to include – twings (no, I didn’t know what they were either).

For years aboard Largo,  I  had struggled to find a way of adjusting the genoa cars without getting wet. In the end. The mistake I made was trying to move the cars remotely. All I needed was leave them where they were and add a pair of twings.

A twing (don’t you just love the name?) is a ring around a sheet and a line to pull it down – so adjusting the angle of pull. With mine, the lines go forward to a redundant deck fitting and then back to a pair of jammers in the cockpit. All I have to do is pull them in before I start winching the sheet – and then let them out until I’m happy with the set of the sail. It’s cheap. It’s simple – and it works.




Meanwhile, here’s the rest of the tour:

5 Responses to Twings

  • Hi John,

    thanks for your great articles, always a good read.

    The sheet lead adjusters you call TWINGS were very common on 1960’s racing dinghies – known as ‘ Barber Haulers ‘ – I still use them when required on my Anderson 22 cruiser / racer.

  • Twings have only got better.

  • John thanks for the tour and the twing idea. I find the trisail stay very interesting, I have not seen one before, only mast tracks. A Google search did not turn out any usable return. Would you be able to provide some information, as how the top and bottom are connected, length and diameter, and your comments on the usage, etc. Much appreciated.

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This is going to be a “Think Piece”.

A Think Piece – from my old newspaper days – was when something significant happened, and the editor needed to give it the appropriate amount of space but had run out of facts to put in it. All that was left were “Thoughts” – and very often, I was the one who had to think them up – and jolly hard it was, sometimes.

This time, the thoughts came battering at my door. I had just returned from lunch with a pair of long-lost cousins (lost for 20 years and 50 years, respectively – so you will forgive the bottle of wine which I seemed to have all to myself). Anyway, there I was, lying on the bunk attempting to sleep it off when all I could think of was Guy de Boer.

He was a competitor in the Golden Globe Singlehanded Round the World Race. If you’re following this blog, you probably know all about it: The main point is that it is a race without electronic navigation. The competitors have to rely on sextants and compasses and clockwork alarms to make sure they know where they are and stick their head out from time to time to make sure they’re not going to bump into anything.

And last night, 13 days after setting off from Les Sables d’Olonne in western France, American Guy de Boer bumped into the island of Fuerteventura in the Canaries.

It is every solo sailor’s nightmare. Those parts of the internet that pay attention to this sort of thing are alive with pictures of his boat Spirit aground in the surf – alongside comments that everyone is so glad the Spanish rescue service managed to get him off safely. Now there are hopes that the boat may yet be salvaged and sail again.

No one is indelicate enough to ask how it happened – no more than they have asked what were the “personal reasons” that caused fellow competitor Edward Walentoynowicz to retire after less than a week – and that after two years of preparation at the cost of most people’s life savings.

As the remaining 14 skippers press on towards Cape Town and on from there for a total of 30,000 miles (call it somewhere between 200 and 300 days), singlehanders all over the world are thinking: It could have been me.

We all know the golden rule: You work out how far you are from the shore. You calculate how long it would take you to reach it if the wind should change. If your windvane, as faithfully as ever, should turn you in the direction of the rocks. If, come to that, you might even speed up a bit and get there sooner…

So you set your alarm accordingly – and the second alarm in case the first doesn’t work or you just sleep through it.

Then add to this the fact that in the Golden Globe, you don’t know precisely where you are because you don’t have a friendly readout to tell you. Instead, there is just a pencil mark on the chart a couple of hours ago – and that was an update from a couple of hours before that – based on distance and compass course, corrected somewhat haphazardly for leeway and current…

And, be honest, how many of us have woken with our hearts in our mouths, finding ourselves heading straight for the shore? I did it only this week, sailing from Jersey to the Solent. The Navionics track shows me clearly going backwards towards Les Trois Grunes. The boat had tacked herself, the tide was running against me, and I had the alarm set for 20 minutes. OK, so that was plenty. I never came closer than three miles. But what if I hadn’t woken up? What if I had drowsily hit the “dismiss” button on the phone and rolled over, gone back to sleep while the boat – neatly hove-to – slid sideways to disaster?

Foul tide, headwind – and the boat tacks herself while you’re asleep…

What if, for heaven’s sake, I had been forced to rely on a tin alarm clock and thought I had wound it up when I hadn’t – or just set it wrongly? Show me anyone who hasn’t turned up late for work, claiming they slept through the alarm.

Now try telling that to the Spanish Coastguard when your boat is on her side with the breakers pushing her further and further up the beach.

It could happen to any of us. It really could.

Of course, that is the appeal. Who would bother to do this sort of thing if there wasn’t a frisson of danger? It’s like hang-gliding or climbing Everest, or walking across the Arctic. It’s bad enough that the organisers of such races are forced by their insurers to insist on thousands of pounds worth of safety equipment (including two lifebuoys – you’re expected to climb back on so you can throw them to yourself). The competitors have already decided to take the risk.

But I bet they were thinking they would meet their end being pitchpoled off Cape Horn; the boat smashed open by a wave they would hear coming like an express train, the floating container – just falling over the side…

Yet, to run onto a beach after less than 1,500 miles – nobody thinks that is going to happen to them.

The fate of Guy de Boer, a massively experienced sailor who had thought he had covered every eventuality and Spirit, meticulously prepared and ready for anything the ocean could throw at her, just shows that singlehanded sailing and pre-conceived notions make poor bedfellows.

1 Responses to Shipwreck

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A new book – out today!


When I returned to the UK from the Caribbean, people asked: “Did you have a good trip?”
And I said: “Yes, lovely, thanks.”
Because it was – but it was more than that. As with any voyage, it had its own special character – the moments that will remain in the memory forever (and others which are probably best forgotten).
Following on from the interest in my lockdown cruise, which led to the Old Man Sailing book, I found myself wondering whether people might like to read about this as well.
I had no idea if it would be any good – after all, there were no moments of drama, nothing important broke, nobody ended up getting rescued. It was just… ordinary. And yet, what came out of those 44 days and 3,437miles was a sort of stream of consciousness – everything from random thoughts that popped into my head because, apparently, there was nothing else in there, to what I ate and read and listened to…
At one point, I appear to have made a pet of a baby Portuguese Man o’ War. I called him Arnold – remember this was six weeks with no contact with the shore; no satphone, no high-frequency radio, no emergency beacon. No news of Boris Johnson’s downfall, come to that.
And yet, when I read it through, it seemed to be anything but dull. I stared at the words on the screen and remember saying out loud and unexpectedly: “D’you know, this is rather good…”
(There was no one to contradict me.)
So, now it is out there for the world to judge – or at least the world of Amazon – it is available as a Kindle edition and also in paperback – just a little book with a small price.
As you will see, it is called “The Voyage” with the subtitle: “#1: BVIs to Falmouth.” If it’s a success, I could write #2: Canaries to the Bahamas – maybe even #3: Panama to the Marquesas. This thing could run and run…
I would be most interested in seeing what you think of it – don’t forget to leave a review.
Otherwise, there’ll be no stopping me.

13 Responses to A new book – out today!

  • I read Old Man Sailing, then The Voyage and now reading The Good Stuff book one with book two ready to read next. So easy to enjoy even for a landlubber like me John. Please don’t stop.

  • John – you have a gentle humour and lightness of touch which is always very enjoyable to read. I’ve just ordered “The Voyage #1” and look forward to finding it waiting on my doormat when I get back…from my own (rather more modest) voyage from Plymouth to the Isles of Scilly and back. Best wishes, George (SV Good Report)

  • You cach me when I’m in need of some displacement activity. The ‘free read’ got me out of sweeping the early leaf-fall today. Thanks, John. Ordered. The book should turn up later this week….

  • Expect we’d better then. Hope it’s good for a fiver.. and what about a YouTube tour of the boat? Tips and tricks from a life on the ocean?

    • Do you know what…. I bet for a fiver this book will be worth a hundred times that minimum is a wealth of info and going by what we’ve already read then who needs a boat tour we have the full picture from John’s excellent and at some times hilarious wording…. crack on John with the rest you deserve the royalties sir!

  • Good to hear you have a new book John! Looking forward to another good read. But it begs the question- why the end (book 1) was done before the beginning?

  • Just off to buy this new book on Amazon and to be honest you have a style that is comfortable and unforced so if there are more spin offs I will buy
    Keep up the good work because vicarious it may be but it is as close as most of us will get to those places

  • Thank John. I’ll download and enjoy!

  • I shall clear a space in my bookcase for the complete series.

  • I’m ordering it now !
    Read your previous books and loved them.
    Keep sailing and writing

  • Wonderful. I’ll be in touch.


  • I’ve enjoyed your previous books…looking forward to reading this one….keep em coming

  • Thanks John. Heading over to purchase. Ron

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It is five o’clock in the morning, and I have just woken up to hear the wind charger in full cry as the boat jumps off a wave and the phone joins me in bed, painfully.

Well, I won’t need the alarm now, will I?

This is what you get for promising your 15-year-old grandson you will sail from Falmouth to Jersey before the end of the school holidays.

So far, it has taken 39 hours against the wind, and now we are in that nasty little triangle between the Roches Douvres, Les Minquiers and the iron-bound south coast of Jersey. The cosy marina in St Helier might as well be on the moon.

Last night before dinner, I set full sail in the hope that we might catch the morning tide off La Corbiere, but that’s not going to happen now. Meanwhile, it’s time to put the reef back in.

Singlehanders spend a lot of time reefing (partly because there’s nobody else to do it). Every time I open Facebook, there’s another one crowing about how they have all lines led back to the cockpit and how safe this makes it.

But as I climbed into my oilies to go on deck (two minutes), I decided I wasn’t so sure.

Fast-forward another twelve minutes (I have a fetish about timing things), and I am hanging up the oilies to drip into the shower tray, but I can’t go back to bed because my head’s still wet from washing off the salt and nobody likes a wet pillow.

So instead, I am going to sit up and pose the question: Would it really have been better if I could have nipped out in my jim-jams and conducted the whole business under cover of the spray hood?

Think about it:  If reefing involves going on deck every time, you get pretty used to being out there in heavy weather. I get more used to it than most because of the way my reefing system is set up. I think it must have been thought out by more than one person: After putting the cringle on the horn at the mast, I have to come back to the cockpit and make up the halyard  – and then go back again to take in the pennants. It’s a lot of clambering about and holding on.

Is it unsafe – or does it make me more safe?

It would be tempting fate to suggest I know the answer.

If the boat arrives in Jersey without me, we’ll know.

2 Responses to Reefing

  • We prefer reefing by the mast.
    The boat we had before our present one had all lines led back to the cockpit.
    Too much friction and a lot of rope under the sprayhood.
    Keep it simple is our motto.

  • The more basic (or thoroughly tested) the system the closer foolproof and fail safe it may be, and out of the spray hood your senses work better, if wetter

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