Most of my writing is about my travels. Mostly very slow travels. For some years now I've been plodding round the seas of northern Europe aboard a small sailing boat. To date I've published five accounts of these trips. In 2023 I published two books about travels on other people's boats, 'Sail's Pace' and 'Nautical Tortoise'. These are volumes 1 and 2 of what will eventually be a three volume series entitled 'A to Oz'. They describe my infinitesimally slow sail from Arctic Norway to French Polynesia.
For years I poked around in some of the more obscure parts of some developing countries, hitch-hiking and travelling by boat, train and bus. Some of the buses were slower than my boat. The record was 12 hours to go 11 miles in the Shan State in northern Burma. I'll soon be publishing two volumes entitled "Travels with my Rant" and "The Front of Beyond". These will include tales about hopping across dodgy borders in places like East Timor and Nicaragua.
Whilst travel may broaden some minds and narrow others, travelling slowly and alone changes your perspective on the world around you. I like to think it hones the senses and heightens the critical faculties. Others have agreed that yes, it does make me rant on and on about everything.
My travel writings are not gripping tales of derring-do and one man's survival in a savage wilderness against all the odds. I am, in fact, something of a wimp. Neither do they consciously seek to maintain the mythology and exoticism of travel to far flung parts.
The fact is that more or less everywhere on earth people wear jeans and ride scooters. The documentary makers must have a hell of a job editing the world so that it's full of tribal head-dresses and loin cloths. Culture shock isn't all it's cracked up to be and nowhere on the planet is as alien as it appears to be from a distance. Except Manchester of course.
I've tried to give a flavour of the places I've visited and to discuss those aspects of their landscape, environment, people, culture, economy and politics which make them interesting.
In 2014 I published a sort of pilot book entitled "165 Rocks and Other Stuff to Tie your Boat to in Eastern Sweden and Finland". It's full of photos, maps, descriptions and waypoints for, as the name suggests, 165 Scandinavian rocks and other harbours. It's getting a bit out of date now, so I wouldn't bother buying it if I were you. Wait until I publish the much revised and expanded version, which I'm working on now.
“The Idiot Farm” is the story of my sailing trip round what most people would probably call Mainland Britain in my wee yacht. This took place over 12 years and was incredibly slow, sporadic and wimpy. As well as the coast of the UK and a tiny bit of eastern Ireland, I bang on quite a bit about cruising the inland waters of the Netherlands.
‘The Front of Beyond’ is a collection of travellers’ tales. It describes my wanderings around East Asia and elsewhere. In China I tried to nip across borders in militarised zones. I stuck my nose into parts of Burma where the authorities didn’t want me to go. I delved into parts of Kurdistan. I had a look at the Sahara, being chased by the army. I hitched and bussed across borders in East Africa.
“Travels with my Rant” describes my wanderings around some of the more obscure bits of East Timor, the Indonesian islands of Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi and Borneo, Central America and parts of India. It is a series of travellers tales about uncomfortable and sometimes slightly worrying journeys, sometimes in places which few other western touros reach.
This is the story of my cruise from Edinburgh to the Russian border aboard my 27ft yacht ‘Zophiel’. In 2012 we left the Forth to cross the North Sea. Though we had intended to go to Denmark, wimpiness and poor navigation took us to Holland instead. I sailed to the Baltic, cruising the islands of Sweden and Finland as far as Russia. I returned, via Estonia and the east of Sweden, to Holland.
This is the story of a circumnavigation of Ireland aboard my 27ft yacht in 2011.
From the Forth I went round Ireland anti-clockwise, which people tell me is the ’wrong way round’. Most of the journey was sailed solo.
I skirted a lot of the bits of the ‘Celtic Fringe’. By sea Celtdom doesn't look so much a 'fringe' as the centre, a fact which I rant about quite a lot
This is the story of a trip to the Norwegian Arctic aboard my 27ft yacht.
In 2008 we crossed the North Sea from the Firth of Forth, then cruised north to the Lofoten Islands and back. Most of the journey was sailed solo.
It's a tale about a perfectly ordinary journey through some of the most stunning scenery - and easiest cruising waters - in the world.
“Skagerrak and Back” is the story of my North Sea circuit aboard my 27ft yacht.
This is not a tale of astonishing derring-do and bravery in the face of insurmountable odds. Neither does it purport to be a pilot book or sailing directions. It’s just the story of an achieveable summer cruise aboard a seaworthy wee boat.