Book Review


A fellow small boater from England sent us a wonderful book, Sailing Just For Fun, /High adventure on a Small Budget , by A.C. Stock. This book is about Charles Stock's adventures aboard his 16 foot microcruiser, SHOAL WATERS. Though most of the author's trips took place on weekends on the Thames Estuary, the author, nonetheless, amassed an impressive 60,000 miles of sailing experiences since first setting forth in his diminutive craft in 1963.

The first half of the book is dedicated to expounding the virtues of sailing in his shallow draft cruiser along with all kinds of tips for cruising in the Thames Estuary. He points out many reasons why a little boat is better than a larger one (less expensive to operate, easier to maintain, shoal draft and so on.) However, right at the conclusion of the first chapter he simply states: "All I am trying to prove is that there is plenty of good sailing and pleasure afloat for the chap who can only afford a modest craft." It is this statement that shows what Charles is about. He is a regular guy with a wife, two kids and a modest home. He has a limited budget, and a finite amount of free time. However, he does a tremendous amount of sailing in that time with a boat that he can afford. Most of his sailing is done on weekends with the sailing season beginning in March and ending in November. His cruises range in distance from as little as 15 miles to as much as 130 miles, though the average weekend trip is 40 miles long. According to his 1996 log printed in the appendix, Shoal Waters traveled 1609 miles for the season. The most distance traveled in one season was in 1977, when 3307 miles were completed. (February - December).

The second half of the book is primarily a collection of short stories about various trips he took throughout the years. To someone like myself who has never sailed in England many of the places were completely foreign to me, and I found myself regularly referring to "The Thames Estuary" sketch at the beginning of the book to tell me where the cruises were taking place. However, titles like "Three Days of Freedom,Voyage into Constable County and Don't Just Sit; See Something!" encouraged me to read on and learn a little bit more about this intriguing cruising ground. You would think that the average person would tire of sailing around the same area for four decades, but Charles Stock never loses his zeal. With 500 square miles of prime sailing area, 12 navigable rivers and quite a few canals and offshore sandbanks to explore, there is plenty of cruising to be done. Combined with a land rich in history, it is not hard to see why Charles has spent a lifetime exploring this area. In one of the later chapters he explains why he loves these waters so much.

"The sheer joy of a little ship wooing the winds to travel over the waves is reward enough in itself, but the small boat sailor on the restless waters of the Thames Estuary gets an almost unlimited bonus from the backcloth against which he sails. Not for him the endless lonely days of sea and sky of the ocean traveller. Hour by hour and enthralling panorama of fauna, flora, trade ancient and modern, relics of wars fought yesterday and a thousand years ago, maritime architecture from St Peter's on the Wall circa 675 AD, to the modern power station at the Isle of Grain and the most enduring of all, sea defenses from ancient grass banks long since breached, to today's massive Woolwich Barrier, unfolds before him."

In conclusion, I'd like to say that this book offers a lot of advice to the small boat cruiser, especially as it pertains to the Thames Estuary. It really is amazing how many miles Charles sailed SHOAL WATERS, and how he has remained content and faithful to his little boat.