The Travels of Bumble Chugger: book review


Small boat adventure in all its glory can be found in the pages of The Voyages of Bumble Chugger, writes Julia Jones

The Travels of Bumble Chugger
Robin and Gillie Whittle
Wop-wops edition, £24 (+p&p)

The name Bumble Chugger doesn’t exactly evoke visions of adventure, but it is an adventure book.

Robin and Gillie Whittle bought their Cornish Shrimper while still working and living in Surbiton.

The first excursions were on a small scale – Thames Ditton at Teddington Lock, but it wasn’t long before they set off on the first of many rallies organized by the Shrimper Association.

It was in Chichester Harbor in gusty conditions. A hand injury to Gillie forced them to retire early but they were undeterred.

Likewise, Robin kept her composure after a scary December sail in choppy conditions in the darkness from Itchenor to Cowes.

The following year, he and Gillie intrepidly returned to the Isle of Wight, competed in the Round the Island race with two of their children, then crossed the English Channel to Normandy.

Since then, they seem not to have looked back.

Each summer included not only rallies and local family vacations, but also excursions to more distant cruising areas.

That’s the beauty of a sailor-trailer.

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Cover of the book From the ground floor to the sea

From the Loft Floor to the Sea traces the construction of Falmouth’s pilot cutter, Pellew, from drawings to launch…

You can tow the little boat to a convenient starting point – using it as an overnight caravan on the way – then launch straight into the area to explore.

If necessary, the boat and its trailer can be taken on a ferry.

Robin and Gillie were thus able to take advantage of short weeks of vacation to tour the Isle of Mull by visiting Iona, then the following year to participate in a Shrimper Week in Brest towards Douarnenez.

When Robin retired in 2002, they embarked on a month-long exploration in Sweden.

The Queen’s Golden Jubilee was celebrated, patriotically, in the Hammarbyslussen west of Stockholm.

Cynics whisper that sailing in foreign waters is just about finding more exotic places to repair your boat.

There is no doubt that Robin’s practicality was a key factor in the success of these trips – not only to fix things, but also to improve and adapt the initially rather basic systems on Bumble Chugger.

Gillie’s contribution can be guessed by her positive, grateful and insightful writing as she tells the stories of their adventures.

If you’re going to be sharing a tiny space for several weeks, often with uncertain weather, these qualities are as important as remembering to bring a spare cotter pin to reattach the propeller.

This is an unassuming but lavishly illustrated homemade book (with watercolors as well as photos) that should inspire other small-scale adventurers.

Available from [email protected]

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