Sink the Birkenhead

Message from author Nicholas Dekker

“Authors know all too well the vast amount of work that is needed to get their books to the reader. Today it becomes harder still because the Bigtime publishers such as Heineman, Simon & Schusters, etc. only publish known authors and shy away from unknown talent such as I, who is not even a young writer.
I had to live quite a long life before I decided that I had a few stories to tell. Not for a moment do I consider myself as one of these literary creatures that listen to themselves write their far-ranging thoughts and imaginations and are applauded by others who want to be considered at the same Everest like intelligence as the author. I am just a storyteller who, sofar, has written three tales based on knowledge acquired during more than seventy years.
I found the writing the easiest part of getting a book to the market. When you think you’ve finished your story, you find that you need an editor, a typesetter, a designer, copy editor, proofreader and someone to design a cover before you can print. To make it short, not knowing where to find and pay all these people I performed all these functions myself and then found a printer who did a proper job for not too much money. In order to make my books still more affordable I also produced  an e-version and so you can now buy my titles as eBooks for half the price as the Paper books.”

Topsail schooner ‘Artemis’ RotterdamThe photo on the left depicts a topsail schooner ‘Artemis’ Rotterdam. I bought that vessel in 1965 but then she only had the fore lower mast left of her three masts and I had my work cut out for the next years to put masts, rigging and sails back on the 300ton schooner. Although I’m a seaman and a fairly competent shipwright I lacked a great deal of knowledge to perform this job. In order for such a craft to function efficiently, masts, rigging and sails must be built as a structure where the stresses must be compatible between the different components, as well in a light breeze or a force 10 gale.

Fortunately in our western way of life we have books on everything and many more books have been produced to describe the construction of ships than any other industry. That should, of course, not surprise us as during the last 500 years Europeans had used wooden sailing ships to subdue the rest of the world, using the oceans as their highway. Wind, wood and water were used by diligent brains to produce remarkable ships and all this knowledge has been painstakingly recorded in tens of thousands of books.

Thus it came about that before I could start rerigging my old ‘Artemis’ I had to acquire a lot of books showing me how to make masts and topmasts, yards and booms, what kind of rigging to use and a thousand things more. If I tell you that it was a fascinating study and labour, that isn’t even a tenth of it. To my mind, shipwrighting is the noblest art in woodworking using the least amount of tools, the shipwright’s eye being the most important. On a well wrought wooden vessel are no straight lines nor 90° angles, the wood must be shaped into curves and odd angles for the craft to accomodate herself to the sea. For instance there is no formula to determine the sheer of a ship, only the builder’s eye can make a success of this line.

Anyway, I could go on like that but all I want to tell you that I bought a lot of good maritime and nautical books 50-60 years ago and that now I have no real use for them anymore as my 300ton topmast schooner building days are over. Therefore I now offer these books for sale on this website and will describe them as best as I can. As I live in South Africa I will quote prices in Rands as that money does not appear to be more unstable than the rest.

I write regular blogs about the human condition and the events of my life.

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