Julia Jones

Julia Jones

Julia Jones was born in Woodbridge, Suffolk and spent much of her childhood on board Peter Duck, the yacht that had been built for Arthur Ransome. Her bunk was created from the space where Ransome had planned to store his typewriter — it was the perfect reading spot.

Her father George Jones was a yacht broker and her uncle Jack Francis Jones a naval architect. They’d both been contributing to Yachting Monthly long before Julia and her brothers were born. In fact, if Julia’s mother-to-be hadn’t answered a Yachting Monthly advertisement, placed on behalf of the East Coast Yacht Agency, when she wanted to buy her first small yacht, the next generation would never have come into being.

Peter Duck joined the family when Julia was not quite three, ensuring happy hours spent reading afloat from earliest years. Julia studied English at university and, much later completed a PhD on magazine fiction. She’s been a bookseller, an OFSTED lay inspector, a WEA tutor, and community education organiser. Currently she runs Golden Duck – a home scale publishing business, is editor of The Deben magazine and a co-founder of John’s Campaign (dementia support) – in addition to being YM’s literary contributor.

Her career as an author began with her biography of Essex detective novelist Margery Allingham but it was the return of Peter Duck from a period away from family ownership that gave her the confidence to try writing nautical adventure fiction. The six books of the ‘Strong Winds’ series were the result and there will, eventually, be a seventh.

Meanwhile the chance discovery of a cruise typescript among her late father’s papers prompted a change of course. The date was 1939 and he was 21. With war on the horizon he had joined the RNVSR — the Yachtsman’s Reserve — and found himself on a small motor cruiser, heading for Danzig. This was August 1939! George and another RNVSR yachtsman were photographing German warships and other strategic locations. They were escorted away from German waters before they could reach Danzig.

By the time George got home to Suffolk, war had been declared and his call-up papers were waiting. He sent his warship photos to the Naval Intelligence Department. It wasn’t long before Yachting Monthly also changed, devoting a section of every issue to RNVR (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) news. Yachting Monthly’s editor, Maurice Griffiths, had also joined the RNVSR and left his deputy, Kathleen Palmer, coping almost singlehanded for the next six years. She found time to write to George encouraging him to try and get his August 1939 typescript published. But there were more urgent things to think about then.

You can read more of George’s story here (6MB PDF)

Just 80 years later Julia’s been researching the lives of some of those other yachtsmen who volunteered for unknown wartime service. Her resulting book Uncommon Courage will be published in spring 2022. It’s been a fascinating project but meanwhile her Yachting Monthly book page postbag offers constant reassurance that the spirit of adventure isn’t dead – and neither is the urge to write and read about completed voyages – whether it’s high latitude exploration or a home waters creek crawl.

Julia still owns Peter Duck, with her husband, writer Francis Wheen. It’s a particular delight to see some of her own children and grandchildren learning to love East Coast sailing. A couple of them have even had contributions published in the magazine….

Follow Julia Jones

Book Jacket for Ocean Passages and Landfalls

For those planning or dreaming about sailing further afield, this new edition of Ocean Passages and Landfalls is a valuable tool, says Julia Jones

Book jacket for the Five Year Voyage

The Five Year Voyage is a highly readable account of one couple's adventure sailing their 21 foot dinghy down the Latin American coast, says Julia Jones

Book jacket for Come Sail With Me

Come Sail With Me is about one woman's experience sailing with a virtual stranger from Spain to South America and then to the Caribbean and the lessons she learned along…

Harbouring - a desire book jacket

This celebration of Scotland's coastal mainland harbours over four volumes is a fascinating insight into history, local festivals, marinas, boating opportunities and more, says literary contributor, Julia Jones

Addicted to more adventure by Bob Shepton Book Jacket

A new collection of Bob Shepton’s adventures to high latitudes and some of the remotest places on earth is 'an immediate pleasure' to read, says literary contributor, Julia Jones

In the wake of the gods book jacket

A 'highly entertaining' clever book which allows you to sail to the sites of Greek mythology, says Yachting Monthly literary contributor, Julia Jones