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COASTWISE : CROSS SEAS.


inage83

COASTWISE : CROSS SEAS.

By Henry Reynolds 1921.

We all buy books at charity stalls at some stage hoping to find one full of pictures of lighthouses but it is not often that we find one that whilst only making passing references to them, is sufficiently gripping to make you want to read it from start to finish without putting it down. "Coastwise : Cross Seas" is that type of book.

Henry, born about 1855, first fell in love with boating when as a small child his family moved to Woodbridge, Suffolk on the River Deben. This autobiographical account of his casual sailing explorations was written when he had retired from being a schoolmaster and with the aid of his Ship's Log for accurate detail.

It has none of the expected Victorian attitudes. For example, as a small boy he borrowed boats from the local harbour to row on the river without the knowledge or consent of the owners and when his smaller brother threatened to expose him, he made him an accomplice and the pair became permanent boating partners.

Although the book covers coastal cruising in detail with the occasional trips to France; it is full of light hearted narrative of the danger and excitement as the young pair learn by trial and error the ruthlessness of the sea. He also mentions the piers, day marks, lighthouses and light vessels that guide them around the coast and brings them to life with comments such as :-

(1881)"In those days Orfordness supported two lighthouses. At 9pm we passed the low light"

(1883) " A man on the lightship (Girdler LV) asked us to post a letter. He was obliged to launch a boat and bring it to us for we could not get alongside" (They collect further letters for posting on other occasions)

(1884) "but the Beachy Head light shone clearly. It is perched up high on the top of the cliff. It showed for 15 seconds and was obscured for 1 minutes and 45 seconds. I tried counting 105 for the full eclipse"

(1895) "In the clear light of early morn the recently erected lighthouse at Withernsea was visible"

His references to Maplin, Gunfleet, Winterton and 70 other lighthouses and the lightships (too many to mention here) is the nearest any pharologist can get today of a first hand experience of 1880s and 1890s lights.


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