Dick Durham


Books by Dick Durham


The Last Sailorman, the biography of Bob Roberts, published by Terence Dalton in 1989. 

‘Nowhere on the London River was the Cambria’s stem rubbed more thoroughly into 1970 than at the Tilbury Grain Terminal. This fully automated cereal dispensing leviathan almost sank the barge on one of her early visits there.

We had orders to load 150 tons of maize for Fingringhoe. At close to low water the Cambria had just surged back on her mooring springs when a huge steel pipe snaked down at us from somewhere far above, accompanied by a cacophony of discordant bells. Fortunately we had uncovered the barge, for no sooner had the pipe articulated itself into the firing position than 45 tons of maize roared out in 10 minutes. The grain shot into the starboard quarter and the Cambria dipped over alarmingly. I could see the black bilge water splash up the lining of the hold out onto the maize, only to be immediately covered with more grain.’

On and Offshore, Cruising the Thames and the East Coast, a cruising guide to the Thames and the coasts of Essex, Suffolk and Kent following in the wake of 19 th Century yachtsman Frank Cowper, published by Ashford Press Publishing in 1989.

‘Almita is now surging up the Barrow Deep, a moderate north-easterly wind helping her log eight knots with the tide. Halfway up this deep ship route the Knock John sand lies for most of the year hidden by the sea. It was here in 1980 the Mi Amigo foundered in an easterly storm. She was the home of Britain’s first pirate radio station; Radio Caroline’s inane jingles and prattling disc-jockeys first burst onto our airwaves at Easter 1964. Stewart Payne, who used to work on the Mi Amigo, told me that her crew used to play football on the little bit of the Knock John which does dry.

‘”There were only two days a year when you ever saw it,” he said. In true pirate style the DJs kept playing taped music as the ship sank. The Sheerness lifeboat took 12 hours in mountainous seas to get to her and take the crew off. The last melody the old ship ever played was her theme tune, Caroline.’


Where the river meets the sea, One hundred years of the Sussex Yacht Club, published by St Edmundsbury Press in 1991.

‘Brian Hitchen made no secret of his profession, that of helming one of Britain’s national tabloids, The Daily Star. He renamed his Westerly 26, Scoop. And the yacht was actually put to use sleuthing: two yacht club members were enlisted by Brian to sail the boat to Southampton where she was berthed to keep surveillance on a drug-laden foreign motor-cruiser, much to the disgust of the reporter and photographer despatched for the job. They were more accustomed to the soft beds of a four-star hotel. The tip-off from one of the paper’s informants proved a little too hot. Irritated Customs investigators found themselves monitoring activities aboard Scoop as well as their target.’


The Magician of the Swatchways, a biography of Maurice Griffiths, published by IPC in 1994.   

‘Havengore and its environs are the same today as they were in 1923 when Maurice first sailed them: “we turned off to port and found ourselves hurrying along the narrowest and most winding little creek that I had ever sailed in. At one point our boom end rustled through the long sedge grass on the high bank to leeward, while a good yard or so to windward the water grew agitated at the edge of the mud as we approached, receded a few inches as we swept past and then joined a series of little short waves that followed from our quarter and ran, curling and chuckling, up the slope of the mud.

‘Far away in the river, “London’s shipping, hull down and faint, was converging from the four corners of the earth. That night Wild Lone took the ground when the water had run out of the creek, and three miles of level, yellow sand separated her from the Thames – the strange, mysterious Maplins.”’


Peyton, The world’s greatest yachting cartoonist, published by Adlard Coles Nautical in 2009.   

‘The ferry had a big fender, wide enough to walk along, all round her topside. Just above it, an amidships door was open and some men were framed in its light. From the deck above, some one flung down a rope, Sugar Creek’s crosstrees were carried away by the Suffolk’s fender. She rolled, rose up on the swell and the same fender came crashing down hard on her bulwarks, stoving them in with a  crashing and a tearing of timber.

‘Kath handed the children out of the hatch and saw them lifted up towards the the square of light, where a man in a string vest was leaning down with his arms outstretched. The children were being carried away by two burly sailors and I ran after them like an ewe deprived of its lambs, Kath recalled.

“We’ve been shipwrecked, like Rupert Bear,’” Hilary said with intense satisfaction.’


Amazing Sailing Stories, an anthology of exciting yarns from around the world, published by Wiley Nautical in 2011.

‘The oppressive night time silence was broken every now and then by the useless plopping of the leadline until the mate, Bartholemew Brown, cried out “Ten fathoms”. As he did so a horrible splintering noise was heard as the jib-boom on the bow of the ship snapped off against a protruding crag. The 180ft long General Grant recoiled from the impact and drifted stern first for half a mile until she smashed into another cliff edge, damaging her rudder and tearing off her spanker boom which crashed on deck fracturing two ribs of the crewman at the wheel. Now embayed by the two overhanging headlands, several hundred feet high, the ship having bounced off the cliff for the second time, had turned bow first towards the shore and drifted into a deep volcanic cave, which swallowed her completely as though she were a ship in a bottle.’