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Atlantic-Crossing Book “Long Lost Log” Is A Fascinating Story Within Many Stories

30th June 2022
Michael Chapman Pincher – virgin sailor, raconteur extraordinaire, evocative writer, testosterone-charged troubadour, survivor…..
Michael Chapman Pincher – virgin sailor, raconteur extraordinaire, evocative writer, testosterone-charged troubadour, survivor….

When Michael Chapman Pincher arrived into Howth Yacht Club yesterday for the launch of his sometimes raunchy book The Lost Log, there was a slight shadow clouding his normally sunny visage. The book is about how in 1974 he lost his sailing virginity – just about the only virginity he had left in the Virtue Locker – by crossing the Atlantic as crewman in a 37ft sloop with no previous sailing experience whatsoever, but with plenty of experience - at the age of 22 - in getting the best, and then some, out of every recreational opportunity ashore.

The slight shadow over his cheerful spirit was caused by the news from home in England that one of his daughters had just read the book, and had cancelled him as a result. The woke generation of 2022 was condemning the sexist attitudes of 1974, as Long Lost Log can seem to be unduly enthusiastic at times about how the young people of both sexes, criss-crossing the oceans as sea gypsy crews, seem to regard each other as little more than desirable and usable pieces of meat, though hopefully with brains of some usefulness attached.

In that brave new post-pill era, it was an attitude common to both sexes in the voyaging community, and in the hippy-style groups with whom they seemed to easily link with ashore. So we may not be talking about a daughter’s rejection of male chauvinism, but rather of her distaste for an era in which personal and immediate physical gratification far out-ranked any empathy for the gentler sensitivities of others.

Of course, Michael could have written the book from the perspective of 2022 and made it as woke as the day is long. But the main point of it is that it based on his 1974 dairy which went missing with an overnight girl-friend’s luggage when they parted company in a hurry in the Caribbean, as she had to rush home to Florida for her long-planned wedding - as one does. It was only while clearing her Florida attic during the pandemic that she came across the precious book 46 years later, and traced Michael through the internet to England, where he now lives about as far from the open sea as possible with a family of evidently high moral purpose.

John Farrell’s Gay Gander was of the 37ft Rose Rambler Class, developed in 1963 by Ocean Cruising Club founder (1954) Humphrey Barton, who was one of the Partners in design firm Laurent Giles & Partners of LymingtonJohn Farrell’s Gay Gander was of the 37ft Rose Rambler Class, developed in 1963 by Ocean Cruising Club founder (1954) Humphrey Barton, who was one of the Partners in design firm Laurent Giles & Partners of Lymington

Despite that, it became abundantly clear that the memoirs he’d been contemplating for a while now had a foundation and structure, but they’d have to be true to the spirit and times of 1974. There’d be no woke-washing here. So as it happened, the friend who’d got him lined up with the ocean-crossing berth in 1974 on the 37ft Rose Rambler cutter Gay Gander, owned by escaping-way-it-all Country Meath gentleman farmer and former military man John Francis Kearney Farrell, was his son Antony Farrell, who for forty years now has run the up-market Dublin Publishers Lilliput Press.

Lilliput produced the first-ever Dublin-published edition of Ulysses in 1997. So they’re one serious business to be contemplating the publication of a picaresque, often bawdy, occasionally scary, at time horrifying and surely only special-interest sailing book about the oddest trio of people – and a really fine cat called Stryder – making their way across the Atlantic in 1974, when almost everything we take for granted to make ocean voyaging more easy had yet to be invented, or at least become generally available.

At the most basic level it looked like a very dodgy commercial proposition, for although Mike is the son of Henry Chapman Pincher (1914-2014), the frighteningly legendary journalist, historian and polemicist, his own output since he returned from ocean wandering has been at “the bleeding edge of IT”. Being the guy who created those words when you RTFM is no high road to a more general literary fame.

But as it happens up in Stoneybatter or thereabouts, where Lilliput Press has its offices, another force in the local commercial scene is Wally McGuirk, who sails out of Howth with his own-built 40-footer to O’Brien Kennedy’s last design, but in the day job has been heard to describe himself as “a rackrent landlord in the morning and a philanthropist in the afternoon”.

So it seems we have a Medici in our Midst. He read the original Lost Log manuscript, arranged to meet Antony Farrell at the sacred setting of the nearby Asgard in Collins Barracks for a serous discussion, and the upshot of it was that Wally and his Howth Group of “Publishing Angels” ensured that The Long Lost Log was brought through to publication and launching in Howth Yacht Club last night, where it attracted a diverse crowd, some of whom were simply keen to see what a proper book launch was like.

For we’re more accustomed to the ways of book-making than book-publishing in Howth. In fact the last major book-launch in HYC was the publication of the Club’s Centenary History in 1995, when some madman successfully proposed that all drinks be sold at 1895 prices, which means that if you claim to remember being at the launching of the HYC Centenary Book on Saturday November 18th 1995, then clearly you weren’t there at all.

The book that tells everything, such that it may be useful to have an alternative explanation of the title in mind for certain visitorsThe book that tells everything, such that it may be useful to have an alternative explanation of the title in mind for certain visitors

Notwithstanding the often lively content of the book being launched, this was a very genteel, indeed almost woke, affair. Antony Farrell explained some of the background, but if you really want to get a full picture of it, the story is only understood by reading the book, which is superb. Renowned London antiquarian bookseller Ed Maggs, a classic yacht sailor who has an Irish base deep in the Valley of the Healy-Raes in Kerry and keeps his gaff ketch in Glengarriff, then spoke with his own unique and charmingly entertaining style. Wally McGuirk didn’t say a word, in fact he was almost invisible, for that’s his way. And then Michael Chapman gave us the full performance.

He’s a one man variety show. Beautiful readings. Lovely anecdotes. And then, s’helpmegawd, a song. It seems he was once driving along in Ireland to take part in the Sneem Story Telling Festival and it was around the time the marketing concept of the Wild Atlantic Way was being unveiled, to the horror of those of us have loved sailing and travelling the western seaboard with joy for decades, and regard its brand packaging as the height of vulgarity.

But the bould Michael Chapman, he simply composed a song about The Wild Atlantic Way as he drove along, and had worked it up so well that he was able to perform it in Sneem. He gave a fine rendition of it in Howth Yacht Club last night too, and it brought the house down.

As for the book, it was selling like hot cakes. It’s really quite something. A wonderful read, a thoughtful and heartfelt insight into a young man’s grasping of life and its infinite possibilities and confusions and the wonders of the sea and sailing. But if it happens to be on the kitchen table the next time your local clergyman calls by, tell him that The Long Lost Log is just the boring technical analysis of an ongoing accountancy crisis in a Siberian sawmill, and slip it away into the bookshelf.

The Long Lost Log

By Michael Chapman Pincher

246pp. Illustrated.

Published by The Lilliput Press.

€16

Listen in to the Lorna Siggins interview with Michael Chapman Pincher on Afloat's Wavelengths podcast here

Published in Book Review, Howth YC
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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