5 JUNE 1909, Page 23


MOST yachtsmen do not come truly to understand their yachts because they never sail them alone. Of course yachts, strictly so called, are too large for single-handed sailing, and an owner has perforce to bring in the assistance of paid hands, who are like the Biblical hirelings ; but two or three or more part-owners sometimes manage their own craft if she be of suitable size, and the present writer has cruised more than once when he was crew as well as guest. A man does not know his house till he has lived in it alone ; and if this be true of a house, which has something like a personality of its own—though a personality cautiously displayed and quite obscured by the presence of the dominant personalities of human beings in company—it is still more true of a ship, which, like Pygmalion's Galatea, comes to life immediately the sailor's art is expressed in and through her. There are many small yawl-rigged boats built to-day for single-handed sailing, and the man who has enough nerve to put to sea alone, and who is a good enough companion for himself, will experience a sense of purified self-sufficiency, an independenee, and an equality with the forces of Nature which cannot be given perhaps in quite the same way by any other sport. This man, too, gets to know every rope and beam and piece of canvas which serves or protects him as few men understand inanimate things. Whyte-Melville has celebrated the intimacy between a man and his horse as of a man communing with his friend, but has any one expressed the deeply tested associa- tions of a man and his sailing-boat P It is a subject for a poet. Perhaps Mr. Newbolt will kindly put to sea alone, remain at the tiller throughout a night, weather a heavy blow, and write down the feelings he entertains towards his boat afterwards.

We have all heard of adventurous old salts who cruise across the Atlantic, or even round the world, in small boats alone, but one may have the essence of the experience without possessing that amount of triple brass. If proof is wanted, it may be found in the little record of single-handed sailing by the Rev. P. O. Kempson called The Green Finch' Cruise which forms the subject of this notice. Mr. Kempaon does not pretend to be skilled in navigation, though he has the "boat- sense," having spent all his life in and out of boats. But it is precisely the possibility of any Englishman who cares to do so being able quickly to acquire the rudiments of sailing and put off alone which is attractive. Every reader may feel that

potentially he is the master of his own craft, and can rove the seas as freely as the gulls. Ibis said that yachting as a pastime is less in fashion than formerly. This may well be when motoring has made what was always an expensive luxury out of the question for most of those who "must have" a motor in any case. But the art of sailing in small boats is another matter, and it has been brought to higher perfection in the last few years than ever before. If there are said to be signs of degeneracy in many sports, this is a case which may be cited with confidence and pleasure to the contrary. Apart from small boats, now is the time for any one who wishes to buy a small-sized yacht. Never were the prices so low, and the cost of keeping up a ten- or fifteen-ton boat is much smaller than many people suppose. The cost of owning or hiring such a boat (only fifteen feet long) as Mr. Kempson used is inconsiderable—there are few cheaper sports—and it is only a question whether a man loves the sea enough to cabin himself in what is not much larger than a looker. "A man who is two feet six inches high," as Mr. Kempson writes, "can stand upright in it." He says that it matters little whether the single-handed boat is yawl or sloop rigged, but that the chief sail must be an ordinary main-sail as distinguished from a lug-sail. The present writer greatly prefers a yawl-rig. In bad weather the boat can be managed under the jib and mizzen, without the main-sail, as snugly and easily as one could desire. The supreme virtue of the main- sail, of course, is that by the simple act of lowering the peak all the vice can be taken out of the sail in a squall, whereas this is not true of any of the three forms of lug-sail. A main- sail has throat and peak halyards, but a lug-sail has only one halyard, which makes it an awkward, and even dangerous, sail to lower in a hurry. A balance-lug is a very pretty sail, and sets as flat as a board ; but it has none of the "lift,"

• Tho ' Groot Finch' Cruise. By the Rev. F. C. Kempen, Londi Edward Arnold. [Gs. net.] and consequent elasticity, of a main-sail. Altogether, for single-handed cruising there is nothing to be said for a lug-sail and everything for a main-sail.

One of the beat single-handed amateur sailors in England cruised three years ago all through the winter. He often sailed by night as well as day, sleeping at the tiller, and be weathered at least one storm which had made considerable sized steam-vessels run for shelter. He used to say that the one thing .he really feared was falling overboard when be had to go forward along the slippery decks in his sea-boots. The thought of that, he would say, would appal him so much that he tried to keep his thoughts from the subject. Otherwise he never appeared to have a fear or a misgiving. He had a well- found boat, rather under-canvassed, with the buoyancy of a cork, and unsinkable. Could a man be safer anywhere if be always allowed himself sea-room when in doubt P Mr. Kempson never went out of sight of land, yet he found at the end of a short holiday that he bad left many Solent harbours still to explore another time. We might add that when he has explored them he might visit the cruising-grounds of Essex. They have not the gaiety and splendour of the Solent, but they have many advantages of quietness and . shelter.

Mr. Kempson has the whole heart of the matter in him. He perceives the joy of working to windward against the tide, and feels the elation of victory at tricking all the opposing forces and making them serve his end. We wish be had said more of that short, vicious, light-green sea which gets up with extraordinary suddenness in the.Solent when the .wind. blows hard against the tide, particularly the ebb-tide. The shocks of the waves come with the rapidity of a quick- firing gun, and a man who has steered a boat for some hours against them can guess what the strain of intense watchful- ness over a long period must be. Out at sea there is a swing and rhythm in the motion of waves which give a man time to be deliberate, but in the Solent the attack on a small boat is unremitting on a bad day. Yet Mr. Kempson, if he often prefers digressions to the narrative we expect and want, enjoys vividly every moment afloat. We know it is useless to ask those who have not an instinctive attraction to the sea to join in his 'delights. Those who are fascinated by the sea will understand ; those who are indifferent whether they spend a holiday inland, or who would even prefer to be inland, speak of pleasure in a different language. Mr. Kempson loves the contemplation of his craft even when lyini at anchor in a dead calm ; he is impressed by the evidences of his own handiwork in washing up, and tidying up, and mopping up, and stowing away; he knows the pleasure of triumphing by forethought and method over the chaos which might appear in a small boat without those qualities; he loves even reckoning up the appliances of his single- handed domestic labours and setting them forth in Rabelaisian lists. He has real gusto, and all his phrases come from the "lexicon of youth." Naturally he was pleased when he had improvised a substitute for a smashed lamp out of a glass jam-pot r and a nightlight to serve as a "No anchorage is the same in the morning as at night," he says. That one sentence proves that he sees the vision which is apparently denied to many. During the night ships have come in and ships have gone out; the colour of the sky and the water has changed; the tide has submerged what was before visible, or laid bare what was invisible; and the sea- birds are resting or feeding, as the case may be. The world of water is transformed as a landscape can never be. And where can you watch the formation of cyclonic change so well as over the sea? Inland you sea the clouds charged with menaces or fair promises only after they have taken shape above the hills, woods, or houses, but on the sea you behold the marshalling of Nature's forces in clear-cut images on the horizon. You perceive the whole process as though a general opposed to you in the field should carry out his dispositions obligingly under your eyes. And there is no such escape from worry as is to be had on board a sailing-boat at night. There is no noise and no dust; only the delicious melody of the water rippling against the bows, or perhaps the vibration of the anchor-cable in the mob of the tide, and the gentle humming of a breeze in the rigging; and all round you are the riding lights of shipping, which make the most gracious illuminations in the world.