I like to read. I particularly like to read about the sea; what better place than the The Captains House, to lose yourself in nautical adventures, which very often started or ended in Falmouth? If you don’t bring any books with you there are quite a few in the house, but you are also only three minutes walk away from one of the “best small bookshops in Cornwall”. You can’t miss it, I really don’t need to give you directions as you’ll bump into it on your first foray into town, but the address is 34 Arwenack Street. Tash, who owns this retail gem, told me that she was given this accolade recently, but I have forgotten by whom. She has a lot of old and rather difficult-to-come-by books for sale and many of them are about the sea. I thought I’d tell you about a few of my recent favourites that I have bought from her:

  • Messing About In Boats, by Surgeon Rear-Admiral John R. Muir, first published in 1938; it is a charming record of a life which always involved sailing and John’s various adventures in one boat or another. At one time he bought a boat in Falmouth. He sailed mostly on his own and has lovely tales of his time at sea: of his many boats and crews; being caught in the Portland Bill race; and a frightening and exceptionally nasty squall in the Channel. It is all so otherworldly; at one time, he mentions the fact that yachts were now being built with engines, but he didn’t really see the need for them! Charmingly matter-of-fact and nautical storytelling magic.


  • The Cruise of the Amaryllis, by G.H.P Muhlhauser, was written in 1924 and it tells the story of a journey of 31, 159 miles, around the world, starting and ending in the town of my birth, Dartmouth in Devon. After his return, he began to write the book from his notes but sadly died before he finished; on page 251, as the narrative has him in Timor, there is this paragraph in italics at the bottom of the page – At this point Lt. Mulhauser’s narrative came to an end. The rest of the story of the cruise is told in extracts chosen form his diary and from letters which have been kindly lent by friends. This change of viewpoint and pace could have been a modern narrative technique, it works so well; having this different perspective and “voice” at the end of the journey is perfect.


  • Fifty South to Fifty South, by Warwick. M. Tompkins was also written in 1938, and it tells the story of Warwick’s journey around Cape Horn in his schooner Wander Bird, which left Gloucester, New England, in June 1936 and arrived in San Francisco in February 1937. Warwick took his family with him on the journey and his two young children are rather incredible stars of both the book and the film he made of the journey which is, frankly, one of the most captivating and charming sea stories I have watched – watch it here… The last part of the book contains various advice on sailing and a nautical glossary which is brilliantly dated, like the process of literally “pouring oil on troubled waters” which is both described in the book and shown in the film. The images of the young children, living and playing at sea on this old schooner, hanging from the rigging and sliding down the decks in a storm, are truly inspiring.

If you like the sea, you’ll enjoy all of the books above; and you’ll love the Captains House.