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    Villiers, "Sons of Sindbad".
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2006 Oct 21, 20:30 +0100

    Alan Villiers wrote a lot of books about the sea and ships, and I have
    read many of them. But not "Sons of Sindbad" (the American version was
    entitled "Sons of Sinbad") which appeared, just before Word War 2. I
    have been looking out for a copy for years now, but there are few
    around, those being unduly expensive. There was just a single edition,
    in 1940, with few printed, and a US reprint in 1969, but that's all
    
    Until now, that is. Arabian Publishing has recently provided a new
    edition, at about �25 in UK, and I have just enjoyed reading it. And
    it might well appeal to some navlist members. Not for any
    ocean-navigation content, however. It covers a longish voyage, in a
    Kuwaiti dhow, from Aden , down the coast of East Africa to the South
    of Zanzibar, and then a return passage to Kuwait, made in 1938. That
    was a coasting voyage, with only a couple of days out of sight of
    land. Their simple navigation techniques were not sufficient to allow
    for crossing an ocean.
    
    Those were really the last days of sail, which is why Villiers was
    there. Then all the dhows were wind-powered, whereas now, none are.
    Those small vessels (less than 200 tons, mostly) were completely
    self-reliant, operated on a shoestring. The master and crew are
    perceived with much affection by Villiers, who describes well their
    superstitions and religious obsessions, and their confident skills as
    mariners.
    
    There are wonderful photos of the crew shinning up the great lateen
    yard to handle an immense sail, without footropes or any safety-gear.
    And the crudity and simplicity of the lashups and fittings; all
    knocked-together on board, as the ropes were.
    
    In general the dhows seemed always to go about by wearing, there being
    only one mention of a tack, occasioned by lack of sea-room. Villiers'
    account of that tack was a bit disappointing, to me, in its lack of
    technical detail. I would have liked to learn more about what exactly
    happens, in those dodgy moments as the lateen yard is shifted across,
    perhaps with the aid of a diagram or two. My own experience of lateen
    rig is limited to a tourist felucca on the Nile; in that case, it
    seemed that the yard was never shifted across, and on one tack the
    sail then had to rest against the short mast, rather than belly out as
    it properly should.
    
    I like Alan Villiers' style; he is always very direct, never pompous,
    restricts himself to simple words, just as befits an Australian. But I
    have to admit that he can be prolix and repetitive, and the book
    could, with advantage, have been trimmed of about 30% of its wordage.
    
    The book has an intelligent and perceptive introduction by Alan Facey,
    and the 50 photos show various types of dhow, many shipboard
    goings-on, and scenes from the coastal ports encountered on the
    journey.
    
    ===================
    
    That's not all. A companion volume, "Sons of Sindbad, the photographs"
    has just been published by the National Maritime Museum, at Greenwich,
    London, who hold the copyright to Villiers' photos. This is a
    large-format volume, to do justice to the pictures, some of which are
    very fine, and it's printed well on good paper. These are, nearly all,
    photos that do not appear in the other volume. Unfortunately, some of
    the captions are a bit lacking in hard information, without Villiers
    being around today to describe what he took. The pictures are
    accompanied by chunks of text from the other book, so if you acquire
    both, as I have, you will get quite a lot twice over. It conveys a
    good idea of what life was like under sail, in Arab vessels, before
    the war, but not nearly such a good idea as Villiers must have
    obtained, by spending best part of a year travelling in them.
    
    It will set you back about �30, or its dollar-equivalent.
    
    There's a tantalising mention that the NMM holds over 150
    16-millimetre black-and-white films that Villiers took on his many
    travels.
    
    George.
    
    contact George Huxtable at george@huxtable.u-net.com
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    contact George Huxtable at george@huxtable.u-net.com
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    
    
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