Small Craft Advisor Interview


Small craft advisor interview

Why the trip around?

I am a middle aged, middle class man from middle England. I have been a sailor since I was 8 years old yet I have never been right around the island I have lived on all my life.

I thought about waiting to save up enough money  to buy the right boat and enough time to do the journey properly taking up at least one summer – maybe two.

Then I realized that I was over 50 and decided to make a start before I got too old to tolerate a small boat – so I bought the Slug for £2,200 and made a start doing the repair and mainatenance as I got along..

The quality of both your footage and narration is spectacular, is this something you’ve done professionally?

30 years a broadcast journo – and I have spent a lot of time standing beside some some really, really good cameramen but I would be too ashamed to show my stuff to some properly trained film cameramen.

Has seeing so much of your country from the water changed your view of it, or for that matter, the world?

You know what amazes me most about the experience so far is that I feel sorry for all those poor bastards who have to try to do the journey in a single six week sabbatical – or even one year.  This country has 20,000 miles of coastline – to sail past all those wonderful estuaries and rivers without going up them is crazy.

With the endless creeks, rivers, and tidal estuaries—is there better country for small-boat exploration?

Dunno – from what I have seen the American and Canadian  West Coast looks pretty good – of course it was all  ours you know. The Americans annexed most of it and the Canadians took the rest.  But I forgive the Canadians because they took in nicely – the Yanks snatched it from us. 

Man I love history. I can’t wait to make a start on the perfidious Scots.

Tell us a little about your boat and why you selected her for this adventure.

Price, separate heads, inboard,  price, sits upright on the mud.. made before the French invented osmosis, did I mention price.

 I certainly did not buy her for her excessive beauty or astonishing sailing performance. She is basically a motorboat hull with a stick on it – a short stick.

More than that though she was designed by a Dutchman for a competition run by a socialist newspaper to design a yacht for the working man, so she has impeccable socialist credentials. When I was a small child the politicians were telling us that in the future energy would be too cheap to measure and that the mian problem facing the working man would be a surfeit of leisure time. Duh!

You’ve said she sails like a pig, but given your priorities do you think she represents an appropriate compromise?

All boats are a compromise – but no regrets yet . On the other hand I have not done the frightening bit around the top of Britain.

Have you ever found yourself wishing you had an even smaller boat, or has it been mostly the other way around?

The boat is not too small – although a trailer would be nice for bringing her home in the winter time for repairs. As for a larger boat I look with pity on the blokes with the big boats who have to hang around in the deep water at the entrance to our estuaries unable to go very far inland. On the other hand being able to stand up when the hatch was closed would be nice.

A two day rain shower can have you feeling pretty claustrophobic. If it rains for more than two days then I get in the car and come home untikl the weather man starts smiling again.

Any modications or strategies you’ve employed that have made your cruising significantly more comfortable?

The boat is bog standard as built – right down to the single burner gimballed gas ring.  I love my tillerpilot and the gps means that even an innumerate  buffoon can navigate successfully

Tell us about those cockpit stowage boxes.

Bosnum boxes.  In the days of sail men were rowed ashore in port for a night of carousing. The Bosun and his crew (effectively the naval police) were charged with manning the boat and also making sure the drunken ratings got  back to the ship.

Sometimes this required some strong arm tactics in getting them out of bars and brothels or even getting involved in fights.

Each ships boat had a watertight box on board  containing the necessary paperwork, some cordage for restraining drunken sailors, a few knives and a pistol.

The box was only opened in an emergency but if the  box was opened then the captain had to be informed.

I have no idea why it was called a Bosnum box as opposed to a Bosun box. But that was what I was told.

It made a handy seat and a step. My boxes make excellent containers for cockpit detritus such as binocs and beer cans. They also makle wonderful seats so that I can see over the top of the cabin roof. The starboard one is also the anchorage point for the tiller pilot.

Basically they are a wonderful idea – I commend them to you.

Do you think small boats are or can be more seaworthy than generally accepted?

You know some people have been around the world in some pretty small boats. I think that as long as the helm shuts himself down below and has enough sea room to se out the storm then small well built boats can survive almost anything. There is a power in the shape of an egg. The leaflet for the Mirror offshore – which is on the website – shows a shot of them dropping the boat from a crane. No idea why that is a good idea – but I assume the modern 40 foot French Tupperware lozenge would not survive such treatment.

But generally if the wind is strong then I like to be in harbour or at home with Mrs Winter.

What boat or boats you’ve encountered have been most interesting?

Ther e are some great local boats around our coasts – I love Thames barges – its amazing that the darned things can sail at all. East Coast smacks – wonderful as well. Hilyards, Folkboats – blimey I love them all as long as they are not a planning mobo.

Why does a bloke think he should be allowed to dash around at 30 knots in a planning 40 footer – aaaagh!

Your proceeding slowly seems to be part of the magic of the videos. How much would you have missed if your trip was a race or on a set schedule?

Absolutely everything. Not sure where the pleasure is in a long offshore passage – although I do fancy having a go at the Atlantic by myself – Just to see what such an experience would do to my head.

Do you have any tips for amateurs with regard to getting good footage while under sail?

Film lots and throw 98 per cent of it away

And we’re sure a few of our readers will want to know about your gear.  Can you tell us briefly?

I started out with a £120 Canon 205 – the cheapest dv camera I could find that had a microphone in socket.

That died after the first year.

Then  I risked taking my proper pro Sony cameras – the big one is a Sony Z1e – cost about £3,000. But it struggles with the damp and the cold. I have also starte dusing a small Xacti waterproof camera – which is brilliant for what it is.;

Any plans to offer a full length feature DVD of your trip?

Sailing is a minority sport – watching an ugly old man sailing an ugly old boat up a muddy river in Essex will only ever appeal to the more crazed members of  society – such as your readers. 

I earn my living by making and selling DVds about trucks and farming. One of my you tube films about trucks has had 8 million hits – youtube pay me about $1 per thousand

The sailing films get around 5,000 hits. 

You don’t have to have the mathematical skills of an astro-navigator to work out that there is not much mon ey to be made from sailing films.

Making a proper DVD that will work in the four formats currently I n use around the world is really tough. In addition I would then have to get the masters pressed – in four formats – make the artwork – print the address labels, put everything into jiffy bags, put the stamps on, say hello to the people in the post office on a daily basis, then deal with all the people in Uastin Texas who send me angry emails saying that the dvd I sent them was the wrong format or gave them epilepsy or was the reason why their TV blew up.

Its worth doing it for millions of truckers – not for a few hundred sailors.

 How about a book?

I have written two already. My brother told me that they were the sort of books that once you have put them down are almost impossible to pick up again. Although I will probably write one – not least because as a journalist it then makes all my sailing into a literary endeavour and it therefore becomes tax deductible.  I hope.

If any chartered accountants would like to email me and tell me that isn’t right it would be good if I could find out now rather than in five years time.

One other thing, please feel free to email me, I love sailing emails rather than ones about trucks or tractors. Also if any of the viewers want to send me pix of their boats I am running a gallery of ktl viewers boats on the website – they are amazing.

[email protected]

I am a middle aged, middle class man from middle England. I have been a sailor since I was 8 years old yet I have never been right around the island I have lived on all my life.

I decided to make a start before I got too old to tolerate a small boat. I am not a rich man, so I can't afford to do the trip all in one go - I am doing it in stages between my real job as a cameraman and video journalist.

The boat had to be cheap and tough - so I bought a 19 foot Mirror Offshore. She is nearly 50 years old and was designed by Van De Stadt for a competition being run by the Daily Mirror newspaper where the brief was to create a "yacht for the working man". She has impeccable socialist credentials.

This was at a time when Harold Wilson was promising energy would be too cheap to measure and that the main problem facing Britain's labour force would be an excess of leisure time - what happened?

The Mirror Offshore has a separate heads, an inboard Volvo diesel with a flywheel that would do justice to a tractor, a triple keel so she sits upright on the mud and a 17 foot mast which is short enough for me to raise and lower myself. She was built of fibreglass at a time before they had managed to cut so many corners that they invented osmosis. She draws just over a welly - so I can usually get by without using the $40 ebay inflatable that I keep in the stern locker.

I used to race Eboats and Sonatas so I know how well a small yacht should sail. The Mirror sails like a pig.

I intend to push her pudgy little bow up every estuary and river worth exploring along our 20,000 mile long coast. The journey might take me four, five or six years - who cares? I won't if you won't. As a cameraman I would be filming the trip anyway - and unedited film is a waste of shelf space - I might as well share it with youtube and through this website.

This forum is the most wonderful place to gather honest feedback and I thank T of TH for saying what most people think.

He is, I am sure, bang on the money when it comes to web users.

We expect it all to be free forever. There is nothing at all wrong with that.

If its not free then most of us will just take our mouse elsewhere.

And why not - there are loads of wonderful things on the web to look at.


I have really enjoyed my slow journey around the UK so far and the journey will certainly continue - the amount of time I devote to it depends on the amount of work I have.

Sometimes I have to stop to go off to film paid jobs.

Sometimes I stop because I run out of money. I am a freelance its an occupational hazard.

As a professional cameraman I would have filmed the trip anyway - just as a way of boring my wife and future grandchildren to death and to help me remember what a wonderful island we live on.

When I started, rather than risk the professional cameras with which I earn my living , I bought a £120 Canon DV camera and startted filming as I went.

I crudely chopped a few sequences together bunged them up on youtube and to my surprise found that there were about 5,000 people out there prepared to watch them.

The second year, 2009 , I decided to try to raise my game and took my High definition cameras with me. I thought that if I could earn some money from the films I could sail more and film sheep and trucks less, so I improved the filming and did a reasonably professional job of the edit.

All the filming is done as I sail but the editing is horribly time consuming. Once a film has been story boarded and scripted the long dull stuff takes over - colour balancing and audio mixing. Each 14 minute film was taking about five days to edit.

Now with the downloads I have to make four different formats - its dull, dull number crunching stuff.

The audience stuck at 5,000 hits per film.

Clearly the demand for watching an old ugly man sail an old ugly boat up a muddy estuary in Essex is pretty limited - no matter how pretty the pictures.

All the while the truck films on youtube have been getting about 70,000 hits a day. Thats right a day.

This one has had 8 million hits



You tube pays me according to the number of people who click on the adverts - it ends up at about $1 per thousand hits.

Astro navigators can do the maths themselves - I use a GPS and am therefore inumerate.

Needless to say the truck films - which were really little more than thinly disguised adverts for DVDs - were bringing in useful amounts of cash.

$70 a day is not enough to support a house and two children at university but as a freelance journo it is jolly nice to have.


As for the future - over the next few weeks I will post the next four films as downloads at 99c a time through the website

(Incidentally, the price is 99c because most of the people who watch the films are from US, Canada, NZ, Australia and Holland - everyone knows what a dollar is - no-one knows what a euro is, even fewer people know what £ is worth these days).

By Easter I shall know if enough people are prepared to pay me to take my professional cameras out with me - so far the moisture and the salt has killed about £3,000 worth of gear.

The film has been up for 36 hours and there have been 52 takers. Of the 67p each download costs I get about 50 pence. So all I need is another 5,950 takers to cover the costs of the wear and tear on the camera gear.

It has been a great experiment and it has some more time to run yet.

My next plan is to take everything off youtube and see if enough people click on the adverts on to cover the cost of the bandwidth.

If that doesn't work then I may well see if people might be prepared to pay a fixed fee for a years access - its the way the pronographers now sell their wares on the web.

But when pusgh comes to shove the problem with sailors is that there are just not enough of us. I feel sorry for the poor people trying to make a living out us sailors - the chandlers, the boatyards, the magazines and if we can find a way of avoiding spending money then we will do our utmost to keep our money in our pockets.


As for those holding out for a cheap DVD

I make those for farmers and truckers. The costs of mastering a DVD in three or four diffferent formats, creating the artwork, making the pressings, dealing with the payments, sticking them into jiffy bags, dealing with the people who claim that it never showed up or that it destroyed their dvd player and are threateneing to take legal action...

well its worth the effort for hundreds of thousands of truckers and farmers

but not worth doing for a few shallow keel sailors who like ditchcrawling.

So I guess T of TH will never find out about Oakley explosives Quay, how seals find fish in zero visibility water and how they used to dredge channels before they had invented steam dregders

.. But during those 18 minutes he won't be wathcing ktp49 he could be watching films of skateboarding parrots or reading mps expenses claims. Therre are lots of wonderful things on the web.

Whatever happens though, I and the slug will continue with the journey until I run out of money or life expectancy and will at the very least film it on the Xacti waterproof camera

Incidentally Xacti told me that if I got 10,000 hits they would give me the camera - in the end it got less than 4,000 but I liked the camera so much that I bought it anyway.

It is a wonderful peice of kit and I can honestly say that I have not been paid a penny for that endorsement.

Feedback is always useful so if if anyone wants to PM me about this post feel free - or my contact details are on the end of every film.

Its been a great experience so far - there is still plenty to play for and I intend to KeepTurningLeft and posting on this most excellent forum


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