Small boat adventuring in all of its glory can be found in the pages of The Voyages of Bumble Chugger, writes Julia Jones

The Voyages of Bumble Chugger
Robin and Gillie Whittle
Wop-wops Publishing, £24 (+p&p)

The name Bumble Chugger doesn’t exactly conjure visions of adventure yet this is an adventurous book.

Robin and Gillie Whittle bought their Cornish Shrimper when they were both still working and living in Surbiton.

First excursions were small scale – Thames Ditton to Teddington Lock but it was not long before they set off for the first of many rallies organised by the Shrimper Association.

This was in Chichester harbour in gusty conditions. An injury to Gillie’s hand forced them to withdraw early yet they were undeterred.

Similarly Robin kept his nerve after a frightening December  sail on his own in choppy conditions in the dark from Itchenor to Cowes.

The following year he and Gillie, undaunted, returned to the Isle of Wight, entered the Round the Island race with two of their children, then crossed the Channel to Normandy. 

From then they appear not to have looked back.

Every summer included not just rallies and local family holidays but excursions to more distant cruising areas.

This is the beauty of a trailer-sailor.

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You can tow the little boat to a convenient starting point – using it as an overnight caravan on the way – then launch directly into the area to be explored.

If necessary, the boat and its trailer can be taken on a ferry.

In this way Robin and Gillie were able to make the most of brief holiday weeks to sail round the Isle of Mull, visiting Iona, then the following year to join a Shrimper Week in Brest, sailing to Douarnenez.

When Robin retired in 2002, they set out on a month-long exploration of Sweden.

The Queen’s Golden Jubilee was celebrated, patriotically, in the Hammarbyslussen to the west of Stockholm.

Cynics mutter that cruising in foreign waters is merely finding more exotic places to fix your boat.

There’s no doubt that Robin’s practicality was a key factor in the success of these trips – not just fixing things but improving and adapting the initially rather basic systems on Bumble Chugger.

Gillie’s contribution can be guessed at by her positive, appreciative, insightful writing as she tells the tales of their adventures.

If you are going to be sharing a tiny space for several weeks, often with uncertain weather, these qualities are as important as remembering to bring a spare cotter pin to reattach the prop.

This is an unpretentious but lavishly illustrated, home-produced book (with watercolours as well as photos) that should inspire other small-scale adventurers. 

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