The log of the OWL was found in the library of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club late in 2011. Enquiries of the Club’s officers were unable to establish exactly how the log had come into the possession of the Club, but it was generally agreed that it had not been in the library for long. Given that the inside front cover of the log bears a Falmouth address, presumably for the owner of the OWL, and that the owner was never (so far as can now be ascertained) a member of the Club it can only be speculation to suggest that some unknown person finding the log thought it might be of interest to the Club and left it in the hallway without speaking to an officer. Subsequently found on the hall table any member or employee of the Club would have thought that it should be in the library and might have put it there.
The log, which was in very poor condition, has been restored professionally and it will be displayed in the Club. More helpfully, each page has been scanned at high resolution and the whole collected together for presentation on the Club website.
The log itself includes a good description of the OWL. The quality of its build can best be judged by the fact that over 100 years after launching she is still in use as a (very expensive) charter yacht. She has her own website (http://www.owl-location-voilier-classique-avec-skipper.fr/).
The cruise described, from Harwich to Harwich via the Kiel Canal and the southern part of the Baltic, bears obvious comparison with the Erskine Childers novel “The Riddle of the Sands“, first published in 1903. A number of British yachts made voyages inspired by the novel in the years leading up to the First World War. It seems likely that the voyage described here was among the last of those.
From internal evidence it is clear that the log seen here was written some years after the cruise described, probably in the early 1920s. That doesn’t detract from its impact, especially the description of events on the 31st July 1914.
The log consists of a pale maroon, fading to brown, hard-covered book originally intended for press cuttings. The book is approximately 370mm x 280mm and about 35mm thick. It was in poor condition externally with the cover to the spine missing completely and almost all of the stitching broken or missing. Internally it was in reasonable condition for its age with some tearing and snagging at the edges but little fading.
It consists of 12 signatures, each of 8 full sized pages (approximately 355mm x 275mm) and with 8 narrow (about 370mm x 20mm) pages. The handwritten text of the log, on feint-ruled quarto paper (10” x 8”, 254mm x 203mm), has been pasted to the narrow pages and various other illustrations have been pasted to the full-sized pages.
The log is reproduced here in the order in which it is found in the original and the “pages” are numbered accordingly, starting with page 1 as the outer front cover and so on. In the original the printed page numbers of the Press Cuttings book and the page numbers of of the handwritten account are separate. As best can be judged, the pagination used on the website puts all pages in the order in which they appeared in the original – including some loose matter of interest.
Reproduction – The technical Small Print
The log has been scanned and saved as a set of JPG files. Scanning was carried out using an Epson V550 scanner and 600dpi resolution. Pages larger than the scanner bed were scanned in sections and joined using proprietary software (ArcSoft Scan – n – Stitch Deluxe). This is a first attempt; no doubt much better results could be obtained if necessary.