Vale Dag Pike, famed mariner, journalist and author

Renowned maritime author Dag Pike with a copy of his book The History of Navigation (Photo: Pen and Sword Books official Facebook page)
Renowned maritime author Dag Pike with a copy of his book The History of Navigation (Photo: Pen and Sword Books official Facebook page)

I am sorry to advise that our former long-term correspondent and columnist Dag Pike died last Sunday at the age of 88. I first met Dag in 1980. Soon after, he started writing for the Baird Publications group. That was the start of a more than twenty-year association that included many adventures and a few notable achievements.

Most notable of those, undoubtedly, was a series of articles Dag wrote for Work Boat World on the shortcomings of many of the North Sea and English Channel ferries in 1986. Those articles and their results inspired my passion for ferry safety, particularly after we received a series of ever more threatening letters from the solicitors for the Townsend Thoresen ferry company. Dag had not actually mentioned that company by name but its managers decided we had defamed them by inference. Needless to say, we spurned Townsend's threats until, completely co-incidentally, one of their ships, Herald of Free Enterprise, by then flying the flag of P&O ferries, capsized off Zeebrugge with 197 fatalities early in 1987.

Many of the failings Dag had highlighted were evident in the Herald catastrophe. Needless to say, we heard no more from Townsend Thoresen or P&O Ferries or their thuggish solicitors. Not so much as an apology or an acknowledgement of Dag's prescience.

Not much later, Dag predicted similar problems with the River Thames tourist ferries, which were then mostly elderly and badly converted Fairmile gunboats left over from World War II. Again, he was prescient as the ferry Marchioness soon collided with a dredger and sank, killing many innocent young passengers.

Apart from his predictive abilities, Dag was a mine of marine information, particularly about smaller and faster craft. He loved offshore powerboat racing and actually, as navigator, set a couple of transatlantic speed records.

He was a long time adviser to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and was directly employed by them for a few years. He wrote more than forty books on various aspects of power boating, cruising and marine safety. All were well received and influential.

One of my favourite memories of Dag concerns a visit to New Orleans in the early nineties. We were about to set out for a visit to the Silver Ships yard on a bayou in Morgan City in western Louisiana. Someone we met, on hearing our plans, said, "Be sure to pack a piece." Dag replied, "What's a piece?" Our new friend advised "At least a .44 magnum!"

Vale Dag Pike, a great mariner and journalist.

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Baird Maritime / Work Boat World