In memory of Peter Cumberlidge (1951-2019)

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One of the finest boating writers of his generation, Peter Cumberlidge passed away last month following a lengthy battle with cancer

Motor Boat & Yachting is deeply saddened to share the news that Peter Cumberlidge has passed away at the age of 67.

For the last 38 years Peter has been lighting up the pages of MBY with colourful, life-affirming tales about the joys of cruising. That light has now been extinguished after Peter lost his battle with cancer last month.

It’s hard to believe that until a few weeks ago he was still sending in copy, correcting proofs and suggesting story ideas for the months ahead. It’s a testament to his remarkable work ethic and the tireless support of his wife and first mate Jane that the September issue of MBY appeared as usual with a typically uplifting column and seven-page feature, both written from Peter’s hospital bed. Such was his determination not to let his readers down that it never occurred to him to take a break until the decision was taken from him.

His choice of career stemmed from a lifelong passion for boating in all its rich and varied forms. The moment he discovered he could combine his two great joys of cruising and writing, he knew he’d found his calling. An avid sailor as well as a motorboater, he submitted his first magazine article in 1981 – a vivid story about cruising on his beloved 1936 gaff cutter Stormalong – and by 1983 he was writing full time for MBY’s sister magazines Yachting Monthly and Practical Boat Owner.

His first article for MBY was published less than a year later in the form of a beautifully written and brilliantly observed commentary on the unsuspected literary talents hidden within the pages of the Admiralty Pilot guides.

“These worthy and reliable tomes, compiled by professional seamen with a sense of style, can transport you wherever you feel like wandering, amongst all manners of dangers and in any combination of climatic conditions,” was how Peter introduced the subject – a sentiment that could well apply to Peter’s own much livelier writing style.

Tom Willis, editor of MBY from 1985-1990 recalls that Peter’s copy “blew in like a fresh south westerly, instantly making the turgid 4,000-word pieces from red-faced old buffers that we usually received seem redundant overnight”.

It wasn’t just Peter’s determination to make every word count that marked him out as the definitive cruising writer of his generation, it was his uncanny ability to make it feel like you were on board with him. Whether it was the sense of excitement that comes with making landfall somewhere new or his evocative descriptions of a deserted Mediterranean bay, it was as if you were seeing it all through his eyes.

But above all it was Peter’s love of good food and fine wine that ran through his copy like a rich seam of gold. On occasions it seemed as if his cruising itineraries were built around getting from one favourite pub or restaurant to the next, while enjoying the many coastal delights en route.

It’s no exaggeration to say that over the course of his career Peter’s countless magazine articles and nine different books have done more to encourage people to get afloat and make the most of their boat’s cruising potential than any other writer of his generation. He will be sorely missed, not just by all of us at MBY, but by the many thousands of readers, who for a few minutes every month let themselves be carried away on one of his joyous adventures.

Bon voyage Peter. There will never be another like you.

If you’d like to show your gratitude for Peter’s help and advice, Jane Cumberlidge has set up a JustGiving page in his name to support the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and help young cancer sufferers go boating.