This Fisherman’s Cottage was also an accident, like my map publishing business. After the war I tried once more to switch from flying to sailing, and looked for a cottage at various places near the sea. However, a friend offered us the Fisherman’s Cottage with a length of the Kennet for trout fishing, and the north half of Savernake Forest, 750 acres, for rough shooting. I thought that if there was another war I should at least have fish to eat in summer and game in winter. However, shortly afterwards my family turned vegetarian, and when I did the same, I was left literally with the bag. I had had gallstone trouble. I have been told this is the greatest pain known to man; I believe it. Fortunately, a man can stand only a certain amount of pain, and then passes out. The doctor wanted to operate on me, but my wife refused to let him. I was introduced to a nature-cure doctor, Gordon Latto, who said that he would stop the stones forming, but that I must go on a strict vegetarian diet for a year, besides knocking off drink and smoking, which he said was worse than drink. This was a tough regime; the gallstones gave up, but I survived. I found that I was cured of smoking, too. And I have preferred vegetarian food since then.
My New Zealand partner, Geoffrey, visited England and suggested that I should produce my picture map of London in pocket book form. Our Pocket Map and Guide of London was the result, but for two years it did not sell, and at one time I thought about dropping it. Then it started to sell, and in 1963 we produced our half millionth copy.
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I fondly imagined that I had settled into a comfortable office chair and had finished with all the difficulties, discomforts and dangers of flying and suchlike adventures. But seven years after the war I was attacked by an overpowering urge for some practical navigation. The map business was growing slowly, but would not run to a twin-engined jet, which I should need for the sort of private flying that would interest me. So I decided to go in for sailing or gliding, and plumped for sailing, because it was more sociable; the family could weekend in a yacht, but hardly in a glider.
My first sail was to the Baltic as crew for a friend. I accepted the invitation with the keenest anticipation of cruising over the waters made famous by Erskine Childers’s Riddle of the Sands, which I had re-read time after time since leaving my first school. That cruise was not a success, but it did result in my becoming an ocean racer. Rationing was still in force in England, and things like butter and cheese were scarce. After my gallstone trouble I found that the vegetarian diet had agreed with me so well that I now preferred it. However, man cannot live by bread alone. My skipper had a fine hunk of cheese, but said he wanted it to last him his whole voyage, and he used to watch me like a cat whenever I nibbled at it like a mouse. One day he took umbrage at my scraping the mildew off the surface. (I think it was due to his having spent his life in the Merchant Navy.) When we reached Holland I bought some more cheese, which I thought was the solution, but when he found out he took greater umbrage. In the end we never reached the famous sands of the ‘Riddle’. I suspected that he had never intended to go farther than Terschelling, and that the Baltic had been bait to get me to sign on.
At the end of that voyage I decided that sailing would be a misery for me if I was going to worry about the weather all the time, about getting caught out in a gale and being fearful of my gear in a blow. If I was going to sail, I must learn to do it properly. I thought that the Royal Ocean Racing Club sailors would be the ones to learn from, because they raced in all weathers. I advertised my services as a navigator in an ocean race, but nobody seemed interested in an air navigator who knew nothing of the sea. So I was forced to buy a yacht of my own in order to learn. I said nothing to Sheila about this, because I felt sure that she would disapprove when we were so hard up, but I was determined to get a yacht. I went round looking at various likely yachts for sale, and finally bought a day-sailor with the horrible name of Florence Edith. She was fitted with two comfortable seats on each side of the doghouse, where the owner and his wife could sit while out for a day’s fishing. I paid £1,150 for this yacht in September 1953, and started sailing her immediately to get in as much time as possible before the end of the year, to decide how best to convert her for ocean racing.