Welcome to my blog

I publish them regularly on topics based around my enduring love for all matters maritime. I keep them short and light, so they should be no longer to read than the time it takes to drink a coffee. If you want to receive them, please subscribe below

The Man who Counted the Wind

As a child, I inherited an ancient radio from my Scottish grandfather. It was a substantial block of cream and brown Bakelite, fronted by a glass plate that listed radio stations which had long since ceased to transmit. When turned on, a glow like a forge emerged from the back and after a patient minute or so, the valves would grow warm and it would slowly come to life. On long wave, late at night, I would listen to the British Met Office’s shipping forecast. Digital radio may be crisp and clear, but it lacks the phenomenal reach of long wave, able to probe far out over the ocean to fishing trawlers and merchant ships buffeting their way through angry, slate-grey water. “Viking, northwest ga

Google and the death of knowledge

Don’t get me wrong, I love Google. As a writer of historical novels, it is the search engine that I have open on my PC as I work, ready to be dipped into to check a fact or study an image. It once provided me with a moment of pure serendipity. I needed to find some plants native to Barbados to add colour to a scene on a sugar plantation. Through Google I learnt of the Cannonball Tree, which fitted perfectly into a passage of dialogue that included some naval officers. The following day my wife and I took our daughters to visit Kew Gardens in London. In the main hot house, while waiting under a tree for the others, I glanced down to see the specimen’s name. Within twenty four hours of learnin

The Age of Sugar

Take a look at the image of George Washington on the back of a one dollar bill. A magnifying glass will help you to see it properly. Observe the tightly closed lips, and the bulging cheeks of the great man. The reason for his curious appearance is that America’s first president had only one of his original teeth left at the time of his inauguration, and in the portrait is struggling to control his new set of dentures. He was not alone in having acute dental problems. The 18th century was the Age of Sugar. Mankind has long suffered from a sweet tooth but, for much of human history, had little more than dried fruit and honey with which to indulge it. The introduction of the sugarcane plant to

The Heroic Bean-Counter

When the Queen Elizabeth class of Dreadnoughts were launched they were the most powerful warships afloat. The capital ships built during the arms race that proceeded WW1 divided into two broad categories. The majority of them consisted of heavily armoured, but slow, battleships. Dashing ahead of them into battle was the second type, fast, but poorly protected, battle cruisers. The Royal Navy were the first to realise that there was a way to combine these two ships into a class of fast battleships. If you built a Dreadnought that was big enough, it would be possible to have a ship that had both impressive speed and excellent protection, and so the Queen Elizabeths were born. These ships were

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