There’s nothing like a bit of robust name-calling to get the new boating season off to a flying start...

There?s nothing like a bit of robust name-calling to get the new boating season off to a flying start. Mr Stock?s wonderfully vitriolic tirade against motorboaters in last month?s issue has produced a fusillade of indignant responses, and on p27 we reproduce, with thanks, a selection of the more printable material.

Along with compulsory licensing, marine diesel taxation, French lock-keepers and the vicious political infighting that afflicts Wisbech Motor Boat Club?s catering committee (I might have made that last one up), power versus sail is a subject guaranteed to produce spirited, passionate and occasionally ill-tempered exchanges on our Letters pages. Which is, of course, what letters pages are for.

Mr Stock?s epistle dealt with his unfortunate experiences in the Solent in August last year (when, with the America?s Cup Jubilee and the Festival of the Sea, these waters were busier than they have probably ever been). Whether or not one chooses to question Mr Stock?s judgement in braving these conditions in a 16ft sailboat with no engine, this has little bearing on the case, as of course we all have the right to cruise wherever we like.

When the water gets as congested as it does in certain South Coast hot spots in high summer, taking charge of a boat can be a tense and nerve-racking business. It?s generally worse for sailing people, because they end up feeling like targets in a huge mobile shooting gallery, but it?s not just their problem, it?s ours too. Yes, we may joke that their craft are restricted in their ability to manoeuvre (under sail) and limited in their ability to move at all (under power), but if there is ever a serious incident that attracts the attention of our over-zealous legislators in Westminster, as one of our correspondents points out this month, then the implications could be far-reaching. And though, ironically, any legal changes would undoubtedly affect the Mr Stocks of the boating community as well as the rest of us, this would be of little comfort should such a sorry scenario come to pass.