Riddle of the Waves, by Steven Price Brown

Turn to Starboard: A great British institution

Riddle of the Waves is an intriguing read that takes us into the heart of a hitherto unknown, hidden-gem of British society; the military sailing charity Turn to Starboard. The raison d'etre of this noble charity is to introduce veterans to the comradeship and purpose of the sea, so that they may rediscover a sense of clarity and direction, and transfer the new-found skills and confidence to their own lives – on both land and sea. Its doors are open to both serving and retired soldiers and the only stipulations it requires are that you’ve served on an operational tour; or have received an in-service wound – be it physical or mental; or are searching for something meaningful in life and are called to the respite of the sea.

The author of this impressive work, Steven Price Brown, is a former Grenadier Guardsman who served in Afghanistan at the height of the insurgency and more than qualified on every count; if ever a man needed Turn to Starboard, it was him. In short order, once returned from Afghanistan and retired from the army he found himself adrift in society, homeless and alone, and suffering the burgeoning effects of PTSD. A chance pointer in the direction of Turn to Starboard was quite literally the only thing that kept him afloat and the charity became his lifeline. A rare combination of both artist and adventurer, he took to sailing like a duck to water and was selected to take part in Turn to Starboard’s inaugural big challenge; a gruelling circumnavigation of the entire UK coastline that would take several months to plan, train for and execute. And the reason it would be so gruelling? A virtually novice crew would be completing it on an old-style ‘Tall Ship’ and the last remaining Merseyside Pilot Schooner, The Spirit of Falmouth, especially renamed for the voyage.

The book is quite simply a wonderful, uplifting tale that makes you proud to be British and even prouder to have been a soldier. As the ship makes its healing journey around our glorious coastline the author intersperses the on-board action, engine breakdowns and technical troubles with powerful, moving profiles of those on-board and fascinating insights to the ports, towns and harbours they take shelter in along the way. Some of the crew have had incredibly difficult and arduous journeys in life – both before and after their service – and that’s putting it mildly indeed. There are men on board who’ve known the joys of supreme physical fitness and the heights of adventure in various climes, then suffered the agonising lows of broken backs, amputated limbs and crushed spirits, yet still came back to perform heroically on this trip. But not only that; with the support of this amazing charity some of these men have gone on to become fully qualified RYA Yachtmasters – ‘Captains for hire’, in their own right.

I have had the privilege of meeting and sailing with some of the individuals featured in this book and can confirm they are every bit as mischievous and charismatic as portrayed. In 2015 I spent two weeks with them doing my RYA Competent Crew course and count it as one of the best experiences of my life. Shaun Pascoe, the inspirational founder of the charity, is one of the most impressive individuals I’ve ever met and Price-Brown captures his spirit perfectly. Mr. Pascoe is a former RAF Squadron Leader who was in charge of medical evacuations out of Afghanistan and if ever there was a man that encapsulates what it means to be a ‘truly great Brit’, then it is he. I commend both the man and his life-affirming organisation to you in the highest terms.

For the soldiers’ and aspiring sailors’ amongst you: Turn to Starboard and right your course.

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Uncanny just chatting to a chap who has been doing some training with turn to starboard this morning
Bumping the thread a bit, but I've just spent a fascinating evening with Shaun Pascoe, founder of Turn to Starboard. Going from strength to strength, and always keen to find more Service and retired personnel - and their families - who could benefit from the experience.
He’s a great Englishman and one of the very best. A calming influence on all around him with a real sense of maturity and concern for whoever visits his brilliant setup in Falmouth. Shaun’s taken novice sailors and turned them into seasoned Yachtmasters with brilliant careers and high times ahead of them. I only met him a handful of times and have left it at Competent Crew – for now – but he made a very big impression on me as one of those types once-met never-forgotten, in the best of senses.

I think you can tell a lot about a man and leader by the calibre of the men and women he develops to serve under him; without fail, every single one of Shaun’s crew are a very impressive bunch indeed – some of them supremely so. That says a heck of a lot about what Shaun’s accomplished down in sunny Falmouth with the Turn to Starboard ethos.

Thanks for bumping the thread Harry – brilliant post Sir and I’m glad you got to meet Shaun, an honour indeed!


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Shaun spoke in front of an audience of about 70, about his MERT experiences, how he studied lessons learned in-theatre about how to make small teams work optimally and how to apply those lessons in a business environment, how techniques perfected in military operations have been transferred into the NHS, and on T2S. All delivered at a level that could be understood by people to whom such concepts must have appeared alien, yet all were captivated.


Book Reviewer
Thanks for this information. I have no personal involvement or interest in this project, but it certainly makes a change to read something inspiring on this site. I hope this venture goes from strength to strength.

If nothing else, I will certainly look forward to reading the book.