This strikingly illustrated 200 page book is a first-hand account of Godfrey Wicksteed’s voyages as a young Ordinary Seaman aboard two of the last British-built fullrigged sailing Barques, the TRANSOCEAN (ex Skelmorlie) of 1,603 tons built on the Clyde, and the BELLANDS (ex Forteviot) of 3,145 tons built in Liverpool, at the end of the era of commercial trading by the wind.
Wicksteed’s original sea diaries, with his sketches, diagrams and photographs taken and printed aboard, have been supplemented by extra sketches, and interviews with him when in his 90’s recorded by his niece, the editor of this book, Brenda Tyler.
Wicksteed signed on to the BELLANDS in August 1919, loading coal in Newport South Wales. The ship went out on the night tide… The diaries that he wrote every day for the next four years at sea give a vivid account of the work, the officers, his shipmates, the livestock on board, the fish and sea creatures around the ship, and the interesting ports – Fredrikstad, Melbourne, Callao, Taltal…
These ships were totally dependent on the wind, and on the compass and the sextant with much dead reckoning for ocean navigation. There was no wireless communication, or modern equipment: self-sufficiency, initiative, energy, teamwork and camaraderie amongst the fo’c’sle crews was vital for their survival and that of the ships. The officers and crew worked with the elements to trade their cargoes of Linseed, timber, wheat, nitrates… across the oceans and round the notorious Capes of Good Hope and the Horn. As we travel across the oceans we are kept alert by Wicksteed’s frequently understated, and occasionally humorous reports of each day’s progress.
He records the system under which trade had been carried on for generations; although he was aware that it would very soon cease to be commercially viable. It was a race against time to put in his sea-time to qualify as Able Seaman, Second Mate, First Mate, and to gain his Master’s certificate in 1927. But the end then came suddenly, and having acquired an engineering degree and a teaching certificate, he received the offer of a post at Gordonstoun, sail training pupils including HRH Prince Philip. Later he was First Mate on the Second MAYFLOWER, and was honorary Rigging advisor to the CUTTY SARK for almost three decades.