Published by Adlard Coles Nautical, Bloomsbury
Tom Cunliffe and I share one thing; like Tom’s Dad, my Dad shoved me into a sailing boat on the Norfolk Broads when I had just entered my teens. As Tom has observed, you either learnt fast or came to grief. Neither of us came to grief, but to Tom, traditional boats became a lifetime passion. With his wife, he has sailed “gaffers” all over the Atlantic, and from the Caribbean to Russia. But Tom does more than sail “gaffers”; he is a prolific author, and has written numerous sailing books from The Complete Ocean Skipper to Inshore Navigation. So, when a much needed second edition of Hand, Reef and Steer – Traditional skills for classic boats is published, all serious sailors should take note.
Of course, this is a book about the skills needed for sailing and looking after classic boats. But if your boat is not wooden, does not have tan sails and lacks a gaff, there is still a pile of information here for everyone. Tom covers masts and spars, standing and running rigging, and sails of all types. He gives very practical advice on the choices, how to set up rigging, how to handle ropes, a lot more crucial to a traditional sailor, and the management of sails, from hoisting, making the rig work and shortening. He deals with light and heavy weather sailing, and practical manoeuvring. As he explains, the heavier displacement, the position of the main mast, and the other features of a traditional boat, can make a number of manoeuvers, such as anchoring, and heaving up the anchor, a lot easier than the more modern and lighter boat. The book is very fully illustrated with photographs and diagrams throughout making the textual guidance clear to follow.
In the last part of the book there is a lot of useful information on materials and products, preservation methods, and tips for the content of the ditty bag, which any sailor will find useful. What is the best grease for galvanised shackle threads, how do you maintain galvanised wire, and whether or not to serve splices, are all questions fully answered, and more.
Tom Cunliffe is a far more experienced and knowledgeable sailor than most of us will ever be. He is also an extremely good writer. I learnt a lot reading this book, and I can thoroughly recommend to it to both traditional boat sailors and others.