At various times in my life, from my twenties to my fifties, I planned to travel through France by boat. As real life gradually rendered the achievement of this ambition ever more unlikely, I took to reading in a random way books by people who had done it. About twenty years ago I came across a large paperback called Isabel and the Sea. I knew nothing about it or its author George Millar, but I consumed it greedily, loving every word. It was the classic ‘through France and across the Mediterranean by boat’ book. Later, I tracked down and consumed equally greedily all the other books that George Millar had written, most of which were then out of print.