horatioGreat to attend the launch of Horatio Clare’s brilliant new book Down to the Sea in Ships, which recounts his time as writer-in-residence on two Danish container ships. Horatio featured in conversation, and was his normal wry and witty self as he told tales of his time on the ships, and described the loneliness, the excitement, and, interestingly, the maleness of the experience – this was a place, he noted, that male emotional reticence, often (rightly) decried, was a rational and positive response to the environment the sailors found themselves in.

It was particularly interesting to hear him talk about what amounts to a training in leadership – again male leadership – as the captain of the first boat, took one of the young sailors under his wing during a harrowing pass beside another ship (‘he was navigating by the controls, the maps, the stars and by instinct’ to paraphrase Horatio). Here Horatio saw the roots of how societies form castes and civilisations – sea-faring communities often had the earliest hierarchical social structures, and here, at sea, the building continues – fascinating.

Anyway, the book is terrific – don’t take my word for it, here’s Philip Hoare going large on it in The Telegraph. If you only buy one book about container ships this year, make it this one. Or Deep Sea and Foreign Going by Rose George, which Horatio says is also very good!