The Aegre Voyage – Publishing update 17 April 2023

An update on the book, some background to Shetland boats, about our publisher, and how we kept accurate time on The Aegre.

The Aegre, a wooden Shetland boat, under construction.

The Aegre is one of the characters of this story, but I don’t attempt to humanise her. She was a Shetland boat and had enough character without any need to give her human frailties. I knew her intimately, every plank and fastening, and her behaviour in calms and storms. I learned to move with her as if we were extensions of each other. Intuitively I learnt to trust her.

But it was only after the voyage that I learned more about Shetland boats, their origins, and usage over centuries. I wasn’t surprised. Long before I’d learnt that with the sweetness of her lines, The Aegre could slip through the water with barely a ripple in the lightest of breezes, surge forward endlessly before the big sweeping swells of the trade winds, and slow down to ride out the big rollers when it all became a bit much.

So it was that gathering background material for this story, I discovered books about these boats, their building and their use in the Shetland Isles. You might be interested too.

Take a look at Adrian Osler’s ‘The Shetland Boat’ and ‘Shetland’s Boats: Origin, evolution and use’ by Marc Chivers. With Dr Adrian Osler’s permission, I’ve included some of his drawings of the construction of Shetland boats in The Aegre voyage book.

Another is ‘Small Boats of Shetland’, a delightful little book by Alison Munro. All are available from the Shetland Times Bookshop.

Cover of Small Boats of Shetland by Alison Munro

Small boat designer Iain Oughtred has created relatively easily built designs that draw heavily on Shetland boats, such as his 19’6″ Caledonia Yawl, the design of my last boat, Crazybird.

Book progress: The book is almost ready to go the printer. We are just finalising some pages; then it’ll be the grand final check before sending it off.

Cover of The Voyage of The Aegre: From Scotland to the South Seas by Nicholas Grainger

The book publisher: The Voyage of The Aegre, is being published by Vinycomb Press. Not (yet) a well-known publisher. Last year I was only able to interest one commercial publisher (other than the vanity press) but eventually, I realised that to tell the story in the way I wanted, regardless of the market, I needed to publish the book myself. Fortunately, by then, I had around me a rather expert team committed to the book’s success. We decided to publish it ourselves. But we were spread around the world.

The Vinycomb Press publishing team comprises:

  • Dr Gene Carl Feldman, kayaker and small boat sailor, NASA oceanographer and editorial adviser, with a curious link to The Aegre explained in the book. Lives near Washington, DC.
  • David Burnett, retired Gollancz publisher. Tireless, and with the wisdom of a long career in publishing. Knows everyone, based in Ludlow, UK.
  • Dr Digby James, Page Maker, fast, a church minister when he’s not page making. Lives in Oswestry, UK.
  • Sandra Bell, reader, and common sense adviser, taking on some marketing work, responds so quickly we call her Ping. Lives somewhere in the UK.
  • Myself, I write the stuff. Based in Melbourne, Australia.

And the name? It’s in honour of John Vinycomb, an engraver, illuminator, and heraldic designer, born in 1833. He published books such as ‘On the process for the production of ex-libris (book plates) (1894). He was my great-grandfather.

A photo of him working at his desk hangs on the wall beside me as I write. I’m going to create a page about some of his work on the website, but it’s not available yet.

This week on the book website, I’ve added a page about the difficulty of measuring accurate time aboard The Aegre, why it was important and how we eventually solved the problem. Our solution ended up saving our lives too. See Measuring time aboard The Aegre

Next week I’ll explain our plans to support the book with chapter notes on the website and give a glimpse of things to come.

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