Tributes have been paid to yachting journalist and regular Yachting Monthly contributor Brian Black, who has tragically died in an accident

Renowned Arctic sailor, environmentalist and yachting journalist Brian Black has died.

Brian’s entertaining and insightful writing has graced the pages of Yachting Monthly for years, and inspired many to follow in his footsteps.

His passion for high latitude sailing, as well as his regular cruising grounds of the west coast of Scotland and Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland made him a firm favourite with readers and YM staff.

Yachting Monthly editor, Theo Stocker said: ‘Brian was a hugely valued contributor to Yachting Monthly over several decades.

‘His writing and his pictures brought life and expertise to the magazine, but more than that he was a pleasure to work with and a wonderfully warm person to know.

‘He will be sorely missed and our thoughts are with his family.’

YM’s former editor Kieran Flatt said: ‘Brian was one of my heroes. He was a remarkable sailor – a bold, skillful, tenacious and resourceful voyager who achieved so much with no fanfare or fuss.

‘He was also a brilliant writer and talented photojournalist who always returned from his adventures in the high Arctic with compelling stories and the most amazing pictures.

‘To many of us, he was an inspiration.’

Brian initially worked for Ireland’s national and radio broadcaster RTE before a 20 year career as a journalist with UTV.

He went on to make several natural history programmes and went freelance, which gave him the time to start his Arctic sailing career.

Sailing in the Faroe Islands

Brian cruising the Faroe Islands. Credit: Brian Black

Since the mid-1990s, he has sailed the high latitudes, mostly aboard his own boat, from his home port of Strangford Lough.

His most recent yacht was his Seastream 34 ketch, Pavane.

In his last piece for Yachting Monthly, which will be published in the October 2020 issue, Brian has written about his 50 years of sailing, mostly shared with his beloved wife, Lesley, who sadly died last year, and their children Kieron and Sarah.

Reflecting on his first voyage to Greenland, Brian recalled it ‘took me into serious trouble’.

‘I’ll never forget the deep elemental growling of the pack-ice, it was alive with menace. I lost my nerve and retreated to Iceland, one step ahead of a Force 9 storm: a good decision and a lucky one.

Brian aboard Seafra

Brian loved cruising the west coast of Scotland. Credit: Sarah Brown

‘Since then I’ve been back many times to thrill at Greenland’s iron coast, the deserted fjords, the isolation, the sense that no human has ever seen this before, which is a fanciful notion because it was the whalers in the 19th century who got there first.

‘Even so, we plotted many new anchorages and first time passages that opened as the ice retreated due to global warming.

‘And yes, I’ll admit it; there were quite a few narrow escapes as well.’

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Throughout his life Brian was deeply concerned with global warming and the impact on the Arctic.

He was also a member of the Irish Cruising Club and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Brian and his Dalmatian Fletcher

Family cruising with his Dalmatian, Fletcher. Credit: Brian Black

The Irish Cruising Club’s Norman Kean said Brian was ‘an accomplished explorer, a consummate seaman and a relentless advocate of environmental conservation.’

‘His reports from his many Arctic voyages vividly and effectively drew attention to the catastrophic effects of global warming.

‘My own favourite memory of him was of the time we took a local boat out to check some newly discovered and extremely surprising rocks in Strangford Narrows.

‘When the echosounder trace spiked at the position of the first one, Brian’s eyes went like saucers.

A surprised Brian

Brian’s reaction to the rocks at Strangford. Credit: Norman Kean

‘This man had sailed to Greenland many times through gales, ice and fog, had threaded uncharted sounds fringed by unstable ice and rock, and here he was taken totally aback by some newfound rocks on his own doorstep,’ added Kean.

Brian died yesterday (4 August 2020) when his car accidentally ran off the pier and into the harbour at his home village of Strangford.

He is survived by his two children Kieron and Sarah, and wider family circle.