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catalac08
06-05-11, 21:30
Apology if this has been done before but I have a climbing friend interested in Tilman's last trip and he has asked me to try and ascertain a few things still not clear to him even after extensive reading, as I have said to him that there were people on this forum who had detailed and personal knowledge of Bill Tilman and his sailing/mountaineering exploits:-

1 The En Avant (excuse spelling) vessel-what type and size of boat was this and had it just been converted for the purpose of the trip to Smith Island?
2 Any ideas on how this expedition was funded?
3 Had the other crew experience of ocean crossings previously?
3 Tilmans Greenland trips were well documented and his liking for pilot cutters but what about other sailing trips-did he have crew or was he solo and did he always sail pilot cutters?
thanks in anticipation
keith

doug748
07-05-11, 08:10
I have no inside knowledge but another post has prompted me to reread a bit recently:

1) En Avant was a wartime tugboat hull constructed by slave labour. She was a semi-wreck and had been sunk more than once, Richardson himself fitted a Deutz marine engine, large battery banks and a welded keel. She had good stability but low freeboard. There have been differing views of the boat, Colin Putt wrote: "En Avant proved to be a good sea boat and the crew turned up trumps" elsewhere she was described as a "sorry sight" and was thought to be unsuitable for the trip. Conditions on board would have been stark.
2) I suspect the trip was funded by Richardson's own resources perhaps with contributions from the crew. He bought the boat for 750 and was given the engine. He was keen on Tilman's concept of small, low cost, expeditions. His Mother's writings (which I have not seen) would no doubt flesh this out.
3) There were seven on the trip: Tilman, Richardson, Coatman, Toombs, Williams (contacted by advert), Johnson (old school friend) and Dittamore (American Climber).
I guess some of the three brought in by advert would be sailors.

From: The Last Hero Bill Tilman - Madge
HW Tilman The Eight Sailing/Mountain-Exploration Books - Introduction Putt

Mark-1
07-05-11, 08:35
1 The En Avant (excuse spelling) vessel-what type and size of boat was this and had it just been converted for the purpose of the trip to Smith Island?
2 Any ideas on how this expedition was funded?
3 Had the other crew experience of ocean crossings previously?
4 Tilmans Greenland trips were well documented and his liking for pilot cutters but what about other sailing trips-did he have crew or was he solo and did he always sail pilot cutters?



1) According to "Summary of Information Relating to the Possible Loss of Ev Avant" by the Royal Inst of Navigation she ws a steel Tug, built in Groningen in 1942. Ricahrdson bought it in 1976 and converted it himself for sail specifically for 'adventuring'. All Simon did was to weld a box section keel on so there is some speculation that it dropped off. She was a Gaff Rigged Cutter, without bowsprit. Length: 18m, Beam 3m, Draught 2.5m aft, 1.75m forward, strengthened with 15mm steel plate at water level. She had a 13m (above deck) steel mast.

She had a counterblanaced rudder with a servo tab on the trailing edge to provide a simple autohelm.

2) I don't recall but I found out this week that the crew were asked to contribute 1000 each.

3) Of the Crew, Johnson was Merchant Navy and experienced navigator. Tilman had done a ton of sailing but was pushing 80. Obviously Simon Richardson himself had done a fair bit. No idea about the others.

4) His first trip was on a Pilot Cutter, and all his boats were pilot cutters. I've never heard of him doing any sailing beyond that which he documented which is all in Pilot Cutters. Maybe he did.

I have a copy of "The Quest for Simon Richardson" by Dorothy Richardson. If your buddy is interested in the last trip it's well worth getting hold of a copy. It includes a report by David Lewis and Colin Putt & another report by the Royal Institute of Navigation.

Of course it doesn't answer the most interesting question, "What happened?".

catalac08
07-05-11, 10:13
Many thank Doug747 and Mark-1
That is lots of very useful information which should give my friend a few sources of info that he has not already sourced. His belief about him solo sailing puzzles me as I have the understanding (maybe mistakenly) that pilot cutters being very heavy boats and presumably gaff rigged would be too heavy for single handed sailing, particularly raising sails.
thanks
keith

Wansworth
07-05-11, 10:35
Many thank Doug747 and Mark-1
That is lots of very useful information which should give my friend a few sources of info that he has not already sourced. His belief about him solo sailing puzzles me as I have the understanding (maybe mistakenly) that pilot cutters being very heavy boats and presumably gaff rigged would be too heavy for single handed sailing, particularly raising sails.
thanks
keith

I always thought that the Pilot cutters where managed by two/three men.There was a patented reefing gear on the boom and the men where fit! They would probably not be economical to run with a big crew.The same as the Thames Barges mainly a cre of two men and a boy,different rig of course but developed over time for eas of handling bya small crew.

westernman
07-05-11, 11:04
Many thank Doug747 and Mark-1
That is lots of very useful information which should give my friend a few sources of info that he has not already sourced. His belief about him solo sailing puzzles me as I have the understanding (maybe mistakenly) that pilot cutters being very heavy boats and presumably gaff rigged would be too heavy for single handed sailing, particularly raising sails.
thanks
keith

I have a big gaff pilot cutter, 52ft LOD and 34 tonnes.

Two people can very easily get the sails up on a gaff pilot cutter. It takes a fair bit of energy, but the loads are never heavy. I have also done it single handed on occasion.

I can't think of anything which could not be single handed (apart from parking stern to in the marina). It is much more convenient when hoisting or lowering the jib, topsail etc, to be two people - one on the halyard, and one to feed the sail or to pull/control the sail down onto the deck.

doug748
07-05-11, 15:01
....... His belief about him solo sailing puzzles....
keith

Yes, I can't recall anything about him sailing single handed.

I have just looked at the opening chapters of Mischief in Patagonia. He speaks of buying a 14ft dinghy, two trips to Ireland with a chum in a Four Ton yacht, and a trip from England to the Med as crew.
This latter trip was probably with Robert Somerset (military man and offshore racer) in Iolaire. In the books Somerset is referred to as The Master in matters of sailing and navigation.

DownWest
07-05-11, 16:35
There was one forumite who did two trips with Tilman. He stopped posting here after some nasty stuff against him in the lounge. I will ask him if he cares to comment.
A

Mark-1
07-05-11, 17:53
There was one forumite who did two trips with Tilman. He stopped posting here after some nasty stuff against him in the lounge. I will ask him if he cares to comment.
A

Also Minn:
http://www.ybw.com/forums/member.php?u=31649

Alfie168
07-05-11, 18:09
Rod Coatman (his initials were R.D. so we called him Rod...can't actually remember if his actual name was Roderick or not) was a school friend of mine and a thoroughly likeable guy.We were in the same house and we were both 3rd XV stalwarts. I hadn't seen him since school but I was greatly shocked to hear he had died on this trip. I believe he was the ships photographer, though I have never read any account of the trip.

Tim

penfold
07-05-11, 18:22
As I understand it the pilot cutters were rigged to be handleable by a man and a boy, as more crew was uneconomic. Obviously when the pilot was onboard they had 3, but only part of the time.

Mark-1
07-05-11, 18:33
Rod Coatman (his initials were R.D. so we called him Rod...can't actually remember if his actual name was Roderick or not) was a school friend of mine and a thoroughly likeable guy.We were in the same house and we were both 3rd XV stalwarts. I hadn't seen him since school but I was greatly shocked to hear he had died on this trip. I believe he was the ships photographer, though I have never read any account of the trip.

Tim

Yes. He was a Roderick. Tell us a story of him.

What position did he play? What music did he like?

Alfie168
07-05-11, 19:40
Rod migrated to our House at school as he had fallen out bigtime with the housemaster in his original house for reasons I have either forgotten or never knew. This made him instantly popular as a rebel (which he wasn't really) as it was exceedingly unusual for this to happen. He fitted in from day one as we knew him already and he was made very welcome. He was not tall, but had a shock of dark ginger hair and a big smile and a slight tendency to mischief without being a pain. He was an enthusiastic sort of guy and was what I can only describe as a quiet extrovert, if thats not too contradictory. He was fairly bright IIRC, and certainly had a bright personality.

We were mighty glad to have him in the house rugby XV as we were not a strong outfit, and as I mentioned he and I were in the School 3rd XV where we had more fun with a lot less skill than the 1st or 2nds. I think Rod played fly half or scrum half..it was that sort of position, and he was fairly quick and efficient at getting the ball out to us backs. I don't recall music being a big part of his life, but that might be memory playing tricks and he may have played a wind instrument..but I forget frankly as it 39 years ago now....Ouch.

I've been pondering if I have a house photo with him in, and I think the answer is no. I certainly have no personal photos, which is a shame. It was a bad time as another of my contemporaries in our house died in an avalanche whilst skiing at about the same time.

Tim

DownWest
07-05-11, 20:16
There are unlikely to be accounts of a voyage were the boat disappeared after leaving the Falklands..
And I don't think Tilman was much involved in the trips organisation, more a passanger.
a

Alfie168
07-05-11, 20:48
I believe there have been accounts of the trip up to the point of their departure from the Falklands. Their disappearance off the map subsequently with no communication does suggest a very quick catastrophy about which there has been speculation, but there can be no actual account without a survivor or a witness can there.

Bad business though.

Tim

westernman
07-05-11, 21:20
As I understand it the pilot cutters were rigged to be handleable by a man and a boy, as more crew was uneconomic. Obviously when the pilot was onboard they had 3, but only part of the time.

According to my understanding, the pilot never took any part in crewing his boat.

Mark-1
08-05-11, 06:09
Rod migrated to our House at school as he had fallen out bigtime with the housemaster in his original house for reasons I have either forgotten or never knew. This made him instantly popular as a rebel (which he wasn't really) as it was exceedingly unusual for this to happen. He fitted in from day one as we knew him already and he was made very welcome. He was not tall, but had a shock of dark ginger hair and a big smile and a slight tendency to mischief without being a pain. He was an enthusiastic sort of guy and was what I can only describe as a quiet extrovert, if thats not too contradictory. He was fairly bright IIRC, and certainly had a bright personality.

We were mighty glad to have him in the house rugby XV as we were not a strong outfit, and as I mentioned he and I were in the School 3rd XV where we had more fun with a lot less skill than the 1st or 2nds. I think Rod played fly half or scrum half..it was that sort of position, and he was fairly quick and efficient at getting the ball out to us backs. I don't recall music being a big part of his life, but that might be memory playing tricks and he may have played a wind instrument..but I forget frankly as it 39 years ago now....Ouch.

I've been pondering if I have a house photo with him in, and I think the answer is no. I certainly have no personal photos, which is a shame. It was a bad time as another of my contemporaries in our house died in an avalanche whilst skiing at about the same time.

Tim

Thanks Tim that's exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for. I just had a skim read through The Quest for Simon Richardson and Dorothy Richardson seems to have taken a shine to him. There's a reasonable B&W photo and a little bit of Bio.


I believe there have been accounts of the trip up to the point of their departure from the Falklands.

Yes, there were quite detailed letters written about the first leg of the trip to Rio. After that silence.

PS: I say above that Simon asked for 1000 contributions. That's Bob Comley's verbal recollection while he was in mid talk and could easily have been a slip of the tongue. Dorothy Richardson mentions contributios and says "I think it was 400 but I am not sure". Dorothy says it was specifically for food.

PPS: It's about time someone "published" "The Quest for Simon Richardson" online in PDF form. It's clear Dorothy published it as a memorial to her son rather than to generate cash and I doubt the current copyright holder would object.

Minn
10-05-11, 03:40
I knew Simon slightly from turning out at Lymington to offer HWT a hand with fitting out. I took an immediate liking to him and it was no secret that HWT strongly approved of him.

The boat was in origin a small harbour tug, and had been owned by Mullers of Ternuezen, iirc, she one of many sisters named "En Avant..." with a number. I think she may have been "En Avant 23".

Simon asked me to go along, which I was quite keen to do, but I did not have the 1,000 (my recollection of the amount is the same as Bob's) that he needed as stake money from each crew member. It was a perfectly reasonable request, but I was making 1,500 p.a. as an articled clerk at the time.

Two more climbers were going to join them at Stanley. Simon had the logistics well planned.He had even taken the precaution of getting support from HRH Prince Philip, iirc.

If Colin Putt said the boat was OK, that was, and still is, good enough for me.

The boat made Rio with no trouble, iirc, and my two pennyworth on what happened would be a collision with a ship; it happens all the time. A few weeks ago, a ship that I manage ran over and sank a 23 metre steel fishing boat, killing 11, without anyone on the ship being aware of it. We only knew of it a day later. In those days lights were feeble, if carried at all (Tilman never bothered with them when the boat was off soundings) and ships tended to switch off the radar when off soundings to make the CRT screens last longer. The passage took them past the mouth of the Plate, which is a reasonably busy place.

Searush
10-05-11, 05:16
Thanks for the input Minn, I am amazed by your statement that a 23m steel boat was sunk by a ship which didn't even notice the collision. I have no experience of such matters whatsoever & accept what you say, but can't understand that nothing would be heard or felt by any crew members. Or is it that the "disturbance" was simply ignored?

Minn
10-05-11, 06:24
109,000 tons at 19 knots in a moderate seaway at 0215 am isn't going to notice the odd 70 tons, 250 metres ahead of the airconditioned wheelhouse, when the OOW has his head in the ARPA altering course for big stuff, the lookout is being as much use as the average big ship lookout and everyone else has their heads down.

About the time of the loss of the "En Avant", I helped to investigate the collision between the Lowestoft tug "Barkis" and the small Greek bulker (ex Combern Longstaff) "Jupiter", of about 3,200dwt. The tug was on the coaster's starboard bow, just passing the heaving line to connect when she suddenly rolled under the bow, capsized and sank, killing her crew of three. It was assumed to have been interaction and an M notice was issued. Nobody on the coaster felt a thing, yet she was not much bigger than the tug, and this was two miles off Lowestoft pier heads on a fine summer's day.

Searush
10-05-11, 07:20
109,000 tons at 19 knots in a moderate seaway at 0215 am isn't going to notice the odd 70 tons, 250 metres ahead of the airconditioned wheelhouse, when the OOW has his head in the ARPA altering course for big stuff, the lookout is being as much use as the average big ship lookout and everyone else has their heads down.

So the noise & shock is lost in the general noise & movement caused by a seaway? I only have ferry trips to relate to, but it just seems to me that a lump of steel would offer noticeably more resistance than water & the change would be felt wherever you were. I repeat I have no knowledge, just surprised that it is undetectable. Thanks for the heads up.

Minn
10-05-11, 09:40
I don't know what happened, of course, but this seems a reasonably likely explanation for the disappearance of a boat that had made the passage to Rio without alarming her crew. Tilman wrote, in a letter home, that they were the best bunch he had ever sailed with.

Searush
10-05-11, 11:07
I don't know what happened, of course, but this seems a reasonably likely explanation for the disappearance of a boat that had made the passage to Rio without alarming her crew. Tilman wrote, in a letter home, that they were the best bunch he had ever sailed with.

Not criticising, I'm just very grateful for the general insight into run-downs.

DownWest
10-05-11, 16:53
Minn,
Just interested, an M notice? I am used to the different coloured notices in tha aviation world, having initiated a pink one on autopilots (jammed the controls on one of our air-taxis)
Is this a general warning?
A

vyv_cox
11-05-11, 07:58
Thanks for the input Minn, I am amazed by your statement that a 23m steel boat was sunk by a ship which didn't even notice the collision. I have no experience of such matters whatsoever & accept what you say, but can't understand that nothing would be heard or felt by any crew members. Or is it that the "disturbance" was simply ignored?

A few years ago I was given a bit of a tour of a large LNG carrier in Yokohama while I was carrying out an investigation on a small part of it. The Chief Engineer told me that he was walking on deck during a passage and thought the bow wave sounded noisy, so walked forward to investigate. There was a large whale wrapped around the bow! Presumably the ship had collided with it as it lay on the surface but nobody had noticed.

Minn
11-05-11, 09:54
Minn,
Just interested, an M notice? I am used to the different coloured notices in tha aviation world, having initiated a pink one on autopilots (jammed the controls on one of our air-taxis)
Is this a general warning?
A

Yes; that's exactly what it is - originally a Merchant Shipping Advisory Notice, issued by the Board of Trade; but known as "M" Notices for all my professional lifetime.

We are no longer very different from aviation - in the UK flag we have our own CHIRP set up and we have the MAIB - the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch of the DfT as well as the MCA. These changes stem from a recognition that aviation was handling safety better than we were and I must say there has been a huge improvement in merchant ship safety in my lifetime.

The industry as a whole is heading in the right direction - you may like to take a look at this project, (a bit pprunish) run by friends of mine in the Philippines, which gets a good deal of quiet approval from the great and the good in the above bodies because it says what they cannot:

http://maritimeaccident.org/about/

(The Safespace project is particularly good...)

AntarcticPilot
11-05-11, 10:21
It may interest people that Smith Island, the unreached destination of En Anant's final trip, would probably have defeated them anyway. The island is extremely inaccessible, being fringed by ice-cliffs nearly all the way round. There are few practicable boat landings on the island, and access to the interior is extremely difficult. The interior consists entirely of sloping, glaciated, crevassed mountainside, rising to 2100 metres (approximately - it has never been accurately measured!). I gather one expedition (http://www.oneworldmagazine.org/focus/southpole/smitmain.htm) has successfully climbed the highest peak on the island, but the link outlines several failed expeditions - putting a rather better gloss on them than I have heard anecdotally!

Minn
11-05-11, 10:47
Thanks for that excellent link. Looks like a very commendable effort.

Simon's plan was, iirc, much along the same lines - to land a party by inflatable with stores for six weeks or so and retreat to an island some 140 miles distant. I have forgotten the name of the island that he had in mind but it is an occasionally active volcano and there was the remains of a base on it which he thought he might find something useful in.

AntarcticPilot
11-05-11, 11:01
Thanks for that excellent link. Looks like a very commendable effort.

Simon's plan was, iirc, much along the same lines - to land a party by inflatable with stores for six weeks or so and retreat to an island some 140 miles distant. I have forgotten the name of the island that he had in mind but it is an occasionally active volcano and there was the remains of a base on it which he thought he might find something useful in.

It would have been Deception Island, which has an excellent land-locked natural harbour, even if it does occasionally go bang! Deception Island is definitely and active volcano - last eruption was in 1967-1970. I happen to have done research (http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CBgQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fjournals.cambridge.org%2Fproducti on%2Faction%2FcjoGetFulltext%3Ffulltextid%3D220047&rct=j&q=deception%20island%20cooper&ei=l2zKTYLHGsWp8AOg6sjyBg&usg=AFQjCNGFkWcSvv2bsfMwejD_yaIjnst7EA&cad=rja)on the activity of the volcano, and it is very definitely active!

Minn
11-05-11, 12:21
Thanks very much; it was indeed Deception Island that Simon had intended to use as the base for the boat - I recall him showing me a chart of it. Your paper makes interesting if slightly alarming reading - as an amateur, I conclude that regular Surtseyan and Stromboli type eruptions do not preclude something altogether more spectacular by way of an explosive eruption - there might be a moral here for the citizens of some more populated places!

AntarcticPilot
11-05-11, 12:44
Thanks very much; it was indeed Deception Island that Simon had intended to use as the base for the boat - I recall him showing me a chart of it. Your paper makes interesting if slightly alarming reading - as an amateur, I conclude that regular Surtseyan and Stromboli type eruptions do not preclude something altogether more spectacular by way of an explosive eruption - there might be a moral here for the citizens of some more populated places!

The current advice on volcanic hazards at Deception Island is based on this paper. I do recall that after we wrote the paper, John Smellie and I said to each other that we didn't give much for the lives of elderly, unfit tourists if the Big one happened!

Basically, Deception Island is a caldera - that is, beneath the island is a large reservoir of magma. The history would be that a volcano built up over this pool of magma, creating a classic cone shaped volcano. One day, the pressure over the magma reduced to the point that lots of gas came out of solution, and there was a massive eruption (chamber collapse), and we were left with the present scenario of a doughnut like structure. However, the magma chamber is still there, and magma is slowly building up in the chamber. The present eruptions will continue over time, and as the paper says, the centre of the caldera is slowly rising as magma builds up in the chamber. One day, we will probably have another major event - but when is anyone's guess!

PS, the eruptions aren't either Strombolian or Surtseyan, but associated with the Caldera.

davidfox
11-05-11, 13:39
Reading HWT books, he seemed to have had greater problems getting crews as he got older, I dont remember him sailing solo in any of his accounts. There are however some fairly graphic accounts on his later yoyages of crew troubles and even of him having to bribe people not to jump ship. Clearly after the war he sailed with mates/wartime colleagues and there are some hilarious accounts of there antics. HWT didnt believe in radios and such like on a boat, believing that if you got into trouble you got yourself out of it (he was in SOE in Yugoslavia during the war and would have had to be pretty self reliant) Perhaps as time went on, he found that he couldnt rely on his old mates to sail with him anymore and the younger guys who had answered adverts found him a bit alarming and wanted to jump ship when he insisted on frightening them half to death in the ice. Am i right in my recollection that Simon had been in one of his sailing crews?
HWT marvelous man wish i had met him.

Minn
11-05-11, 14:03
Reading HWT books, he seemed to have had greater problems getting crews as he got older, I dont remember him sailing solo in any of his accounts. There are however some fairly graphic accounts on his later yoyages of crew troubles and even of him having to bribe people not to jump ship. Clearly after the war he sailed with mates/wartime colleagues and there are some hilarious accounts of there antics. HWT didnt believe in radios and such like on a boat, believing that if you got into trouble you got yourself out of it (he was in SOE in Yugoslavia during the war and would have had to be pretty self reliant) Perhaps as time went on, he found that he couldnt rely on his old mates to sail with him anymore and the younger guys who had answered adverts found him a bit alarming and wanted to jump ship when he insisted on frightening them half to death in the ice. Am i right in my recollection that Simon had been in one of his sailing crews?
HWT marvelous man wish i had met him.

Yes, Simon was an ex crew member whom HWT approved of, as indeed are Bob Comlay (who went twice) and I. It was said amongst us, on the basis of tales told by people like Charles Marriott (who sailed with him three times) and Colin Putt (twice) who came down to help fitting out, that, if anything, HWT had mellowed with age, and we all believed that he had been a "Tartar" in his fifties.

He certainly never alarmed Bob Comlay or I and I am confident that I can speak for my fellow crew members of the year I sailed with him.

You probably know the story, told by Eric Shipton, about Tilman and Shipton, bivouacked on a ledge in the Himalayas. Shipton was a great talker and Tilman was not - anyway, the story goes that Shipton says to Tilman:

"Tilman?"

(grunt from sleeping bag)

"We have been climbing together for ten years now"

(grunt from sleeping bag)

"Do you think we may have got to the point where you might call me Eric and I might call you Bill?"

"No!"

davidfox
11-05-11, 14:28
Yes thats a wonderful story and probably just goes to show his very dry sense of humour which comes over well in his writing, He writes about Charles on I think his 1st trip to Greenland, they were in a particularily out of the way place and HWT had been talking to the natives for the best part of a day and suddenly Charles appears form the bowels of the ship resplendant in a pith hat and HWT remarked that the locals realised that now the real Captain of Mischief had condescended to go ashore. I remember reading of one trip when several of the crew were very unhappy about not having a radio and HWT attempts to penetrate the ice on the east coast of greenland which was particularily bad that year. The bribing the crew incident in the South Atlantic also stemmed iirc from crew being unhappy. but i read these books some time ago! and there were many accounts of strong happy crews.

Minn
11-05-11, 16:45
Roger Robinson was on the last trip South, and recalls that the breaking point was reached when HWT served the previous night's curry for breakfast! Having had curry for breakfast as recently as last Saturday morning, admittedly following my host's quite outstanding birthday party, I feel the crew were a little unreasonable here...

CLP
11-05-11, 17:19
I think HWT gets some unfair criticism about having low tolerance with some crews. He was from a different era and I suspect one or two of his younger crews on later trips just could not understand the different attitudes to what seemed to them perhaps undue hardship and HWT's expectations of what a crew should be willing to do or put up with.

Having said that, a sailing/climbing pal of mine here in Nidderdale was with HWT on his Spitsbergen trip and has the highest regard for him. He was in his 20's on that trip and still speaks very fondly of both HWT and the memories of that trip, despite some quite serious things going wrong at the time.

davidfox
11-05-11, 19:20
Roger Robinson was on the last trip South, and recalls that the breaking point was reached when HWT served the previous night's curry for breakfast! Having had curry for breakfast as recently as last Saturday morning, admittedly following my host's quite outstanding birthday party, I feel the crew were a little unreasonable here...

Last nights curry is a favorite breakfast dish in this house, even though now I have to accompany it with a handful of Rennies!
HWT was definately a one off, as tough as old boots and from a different era, a survivor of the first world war battlefields, where one really didnt expect to survive, clearly a man of nerve, who understood the dangers of all the activities he undertook, but unlike most of us, who would have run a mile at the risk, thrived on it. It sounds like Roger Robinson had the same dry sense of understated humour that HWT had!
Im probably going to have to get his books out again and reread them!

Minn
12-05-11, 14:01
I think HWT gets some unfair criticism about having low tolerance with some crews. He was from a different era and I suspect one or two of his younger crews on later trips just could not understand the different attitudes to what seemed to them perhaps undue hardship and HWT's expectations of what a crew should be willing to do or put up with.

Having said that, a sailing/climbing pal of mine here in Nidderdale was with HWT on his Spitsbergen trip and has the highest regard for him. He was in his 20's on that trip and still speaks very fondly of both HWT and the memories of that trip, despite some quite serious things going wrong at the time.

YES.

Please see PM

DownWest
12-05-11, 18:04
Thanks to Minn, Arcticpilot and others for interesting info and stories.
A

oldvarnish
12-05-11, 18:15
I think HWT gets some unfair criticism about having low tolerance with some crews. He was from a different era and I suspect one or two of his younger crews on later trips just could not understand the different attitudes to what seemed to them perhaps undue hardship and HWT's expectations of what a crew should be willing to do or put up with.

I think it was also due to the fact that he had served in the trenches in WW1 and after that experience couldn't see how anyone could complain about anything. My favourite is his mistrust of 'a man who could not eat sardine spines' or 'someone who wore gloves in the north Atlantic in the summer'.

Babylon
12-05-11, 19:41
Thanks to Minn, Arcticpilot and others for interesting info and stories.
A

I second that.

I read Tilman's sailing books some time ago, but good to be reminded of the man and his achievements.

westernman
12-05-11, 21:09
I read somewhere that he never used the topsail.
Can anyone here elaborate on that?

The top sail on my Pilot Cutter is pretty easy to set and take down and adds a fair turn of speed in light to moderate conditions.

oldvarnish
13-05-11, 10:14
I read somewhere that he never used the topsail.
Can anyone here elaborate on that?


When sailing in high latitudes he often removed the topmast, largely to reduce windage, I think.

westernman
13-05-11, 12:16
When sailing in high latitudes he often removed the topmast, largely to reduce windage, I think.

Which would make sense if you are not going to use the topsail.

Did he think the winds would always be strong, so that the topsail was never going to be of any use????

prv
13-05-11, 12:38
Which would make sense if you are not going to use the topsail.

Or vice versa - you remove the topmast because you're expecting enough bad weather that you'd rather be without it, then you can't set the topsail even when the weather's not bad.


Did he think the winds would always be strong, so that the topsail was never going to be of any use????

Square-riggers used to take down topgallant masts for the Southern Ocean. I think I read somewhere that they stowed topmasts too, although I'm not sure that's right as topsails are a pretty integral part of the rig and are our storm sails on Stavros.

Pete

westernman
13-05-11, 12:44
In theory my top mast can be taken down - but no way am I going to be doing that on the sea - let alone in rough weather.......

prv
13-05-11, 12:49
In theory my top mast can be taken down - but no way am I going to be doing that on the sea - let alone in rough weather.......

Hence doing it in advance, and putting up with slower progress in between.

Pete

oldvarnish
13-05-11, 14:29
My guess would be that Tilmann knew only too well the fragility of his boats and took every step to reduce the stress on them - hence the removal of the topmast.
In one fine phrase, he recorded 'we left Lymington and were afforded a fine view of the Isle of Wight between the planking'.

Minn
13-05-11, 15:43
He was always very concerned to minimise the stresses on the hull and gear, espescially the rudder, and was content to make slow progress. Baroque had a pole mast, i.e. the topmast was integral, and was up all the time, like a Bermuda or Marconi mast, yet he did not carry a topsail. On the other hand the trysail was kept stowed in the dinghy on deck, rather than below, as we wanted that very regularly.

My observations (and I made them very carefully) of heaving to in a pilot cutter under HW Tilman were that we made a square drift at one knot. He was concerned to maintain that, and adjusted the backed staysail and the lashed down tiller to achieve it. I wrote an article in Classic Boat about this. HWT wanted the boat forging slowly ahead so as to avoid the risk of her being thrown back on the rudder, with the risk of breaking it.

misterg
13-05-11, 18:14
Did he think the winds would always be strong, so that the topsail was never going to be of any use????

He explains the reasoning in one of the 'Eight Sailing/Mountain-Exploration Books' - it's a while since I read them, but it was in preparation for possible heavy weather IIRC.

I must also thank the contributors to this thread for the fascinating snippets about the extraordinary man they knew.

Andy

Woodlouse
14-05-11, 08:27
The lack of topsail, and topmast was as everyone has already mentioned, due to the expected weather on the trip. In the areas where Tilman preferred sailing the wind can get up to phenomenal strength with very little warning.

Having sailed a gaffer in Patagonia I can vouch for his thinking. The need for a topsail is very small, and if you can save space on board by not carrying it then so be it. If at the same time you can reduce the windage, weight and top hamper of the rig by leaving the topmast in Lymington then that is better still.