The Besson Loyalist

EDITORS NOTE In 2008, Michael Camilleri wrote a very useful overview of Besson horns. Something happened and the information became unavailable for many years. I was able with some difficulty to track down the information on the Internet Archive at
Since it is difficult or impossible to find this information on the Archive for most people, and it is useful to those of us interested in trumpets, I reproduce it below. It will NOT be updated, I am not an expert on these horns. This is Michael Camilleri’s original text. Some of the links may not work, or they may link through to archived versions of how they appeared at the time.


The Kanstul-Besson Loyalist

Yes, another copy-cat loyalist site. In the Grand Tradition of the Schilke, Bach, and Conn Loyalist pages, and with a respectful nod of the head to Olds Central, here is all you ever wanted to know about Kanstul made Besson and French Besson trumpets.


This site is primarily about the modern Kanstul made French Besson and Besson trumpets. The real reason for this page is that these are excellent trumpets that are not well known and are under-appreciated. With such a large number of models and long history it can be confusing to figure out which Besson or French Besson instrument you are looking at, if it was Kanstul made, how good it is, and how much it might be worth. This page addresses this gap.


For information on all Meha and Brevete trumpets go to Vintage .


For reviews and info on all Besson models go here


The best source for historical and model info on Besson brass instruments is here Horn-u-copia Besson Page

The Kanstul-Besson Loyalist

A very little bit of Besson history

Enter Kanstul

Kanstul Made Besson and French Besson Trumpets

Kanstul Besson Trumpets

Besson 609

Besson 709, 809

Besson 909

French Besson Trumpets

French Besson International

French Besson Meha and Brevete (Kanstul made)

French Besson Meha and Brevete – New Generation

French Besson Classic

French Besson “Stamm” model

A note about leadpipes

Serial Numbers


Trumpets NOT made by Kanstul

Other Non-Besson Kanstul made trumpets

How did some guy in New Zealand end up playing a Stamm Besson and knowing so much about Kanstul Bessons?

Summing Up

A very little bit of Besson history

The Besson trumpets of the early 20th century were the first truly modern trumpets. The innovations in leadpipe design, bell shape, and wrap (the overall shape of the tubing and instrument) resulted in a far superior instrument to the trumpets of the day. Bach trumpets were inspired (or copied) from early Besson trumpets, and most modern trumpets closely follow the same pattern. Most modern trumpets are in fact close copies or clones of early 20th century Besson instruments.

The Besson Brevete was a very popular choice for generations of Jazz trumpeters, and was played at various times by artists like Miles Davis, Rafael Mendez (the Olds Mendez was basically a copy of his old Brevete), Lee Morgan, and Fats Navarro.

The Besson Meha was also a very popular choice, being a brighter horn more suitable for lead and big band playing, played by the famous Conrad Gozzo and others.

These original French Besson trumpets are now collectors items, and command high prices. Unfortunately they were out of production for decades until….

The best source for historical and model info on Besson brass instruments is here Horn-u-copia Besson Page

Enter Kanstul

For some unknown reason the owners of the French Besson trademark decided to make a new line of trumpet in the early 1980s. Fortunately they choose top US maker Kanstul to design and produce the line, and Kanstul faithfully recreated the original horns, and many new models too. The Besson Meha and Brevete lived again (see for loads of good information). These Kanstul made horns are beautifully made and play as well as the originals, without all the issues of 50+ year old instruments. See here for an article from The Music Trades magazine in 1983 (kindly supplied by Kanstul) Kanstul-Besson Trade Magazine Article

From the early 1980s till about 1998 all French Besson trumpets were made by Kanstul, and some other Besson models also.

Sometime around 1998 Kanstul lost or decided not to renew the contract to make some Besson instruments, and the 609 and related lines were terminated. Boosey and Hawkes became part of The Music Group and was then sold to Buffet Crampon, and Kanstul still makes the Stamm and Classic models for Buffet Crampon. There are still French Besson Meha and Brevete trumpets available new, with some called the “New Generation” model. From what I have heard these are Kanstul made but are old stock, as for some unknown reason a lot of these were stockpiled in warehouses and not distributed at the time of production.

Kanstul Made Besson and French Besson Trumpets

The Kanstul made French Besson and Besson trumpets are universally excellent instruments. Model numbers include:

Besson 609

Besson 709

Besson 809

Besson 909

French Besson International

French Besson Meha

French Besson Brevete

French Besson Classic

French Besson “Stamm”

If you see “London” anywhere on the instrument it is NOT Kanstul made.

The Kanstul ones may or may not have “USA” stamped on them somewhere – the lack of a USA marking does not indicate a non-Kanstul one to my current knowledge. They usually had “Kanstul” stamped on them somewhere or a small Kanstul “K” logo. If you find one with these markings it is Kanstul made.

The 609/709, Meha, Brevete, Classic and Stamm models were (or still are) only made by Kanstul. The International was made by Kanstul and also in the Besson plant in India (more recent models I think). Only the International model is of questionable maker.

Kanstul Besson Trumpets

Besson 609

This was a “student” line instrument that outplays most any student instrument on the market, and are as good as some pro instruments. Plays dark in tone, and has some similarities to the Olds Ambassador. Comes in a variety of configurations, the most common in lacquer with standard water keys and a 3rd valve saddle, but some have Amado water keys, 1st and 3rd slide saddles, and some are in silver plate. For the money you can’t beat these, especially the ones in silver plate. They are commonly sold on Ebay for $100-$300, depending on plating and specs and condition, often in great condition for around $150. The Kanstul 610 is basically the same instrument but newer and rarer and still available new from some shops.

If your main trumpet is too bright for orchestral playing a Besson 609 is a great choice as a cheap second instrument that will do the job well.

If you are looking for a used starter instrument or backup trumpet these are the best value for money at the moment, and I respectfully suggest that the Olds Ambassador should be passed over, and similar used Yamaha or Bach models also. For the price of a department store trumpet you get a recent model Kanstul made instrument? No contest!

Besson 709, 809

Step up intermediate models from the 609. All have 1st slide saddles and usually in silver plate. Uncommon compared to the 609, but when available often sell for the same price. In early 2008 Ferguson Music took delivery of some newly made Kanstul 709 trumpets which seem to be the same instrument.

Besson 909

A semi-pro level instrument. Even rarer than the 709 and 809 and seldom seen.


French Besson Trumpets

French Besson International

This model is a real sleeper. Originally marketed as an “intermediate” model it is intermediate in name only. It deserves a ranking as a professional level instrument and compares very well with Bach or Yamaha pro models. Tone is rich and a little on the bright side compared to a Bach 37, but is a very versatile all-around horn. Players that own them love them and play them for all styles or music.

The Kanstul made ones are INCREDIBLE value on the used market and often sell on Ebay for $200-$250, always in silver plate. Often a seller does not know what the model is or how good they are and they sell “under the radar”. On Ebay it pays to check out EVERY silver plated Besson trumpet to see if it is the International, which is usually stamped on the bell. There are usually one or two Internationals on Ebay at any one time as they are fairly common.

A post on TH from a trumpet pro shop noted that the French Besson International was VERY similar to the Kanstul CCT900, only lacking the reverse leadpipe.

The Besson International is the one model that has an uncertain pedigree. Some are Kanstul made, and some (more recent ones I think) made in the Besson plant in India and they are not easy to tell apart. The Kanstul made ones would usually have “USA”, or “Kanstul” or the Kanstul “K” mark stamped on them somewhere, sometimes the bell. If you see any of these you can be confident it is a Kanstul instrument. If not, it may be an Indian made one, or might be an unmarked Kanstul one, so may be best left alone. It is possible that the ones labelled “Besson” are Indian made, and the ones labelled “F. Besson” are Kanstul made, but I don’t know if this is correct. The Indian made ones do appear to be good instruments anyway.

There is a model called Besson International BE800 trumpet. It is not listed on the current Besson website. I do not know if these are Kanstul made or not, but I have my suspicions. One picture I have seen looks different to known Kanstul F. Besson Internationals, and have an adjustable 3rd slide pull instead of the fixed ring (well, assuming it is the correct picture). They also are described as “Besson” not “F. Besson” or “French Besson”. For my money I’m betting these are not Kanstul made – if I get reliable information I will add it. Once correspondent claims to have an F. Besson BE800 model that is Kanstul made, and Ferguson music was selling a Kanstul 800 model in early 2008, so it appears that at least some of the 800 models are Kanstul made Internationals . I suggest you either leave this model alone or make sure it has the Kanstul or USA markings. They sell for so little money and resale is usually easy so even if you do get caught out you shouldn’t lose much money if you decide to sell it on.

French Besson Meha and Brevete (Kanstul made)

Plenty of these around if you know where to look. Usually sell for from $700-$1,200, depending on condition. Occasionally you can find one for less, but these are so sought after that a lot of people are looking for bargains so this is getting rarer. See Vintage .

French Besson Meha and Brevete – New Generation

A more recent design with a Najoom leadpipe and modified bell and are Kanstul made. See Vintage The New Generation Meha was still being sold new from some shops (like Dillon Music) for around $1,200 as recently as 2006, but I think the supply has finally dried up. As far as I know these were old stock, but new unused instruments made by Kanstul some years ago.

French Besson Classic

These were designed and made in collaboration with Dennis Najoom ( as an orchestral and all around trumpet and are fine instruments. There is also a C trumpet version. Kanstul still makes these.

There are not many of these around and they usually sell for $600-700 used in great condition. At this price they are much better value than a used Bach Strad, and are an excellent choice for the orchestral or classical musician. One correspondent said the tone was more suited to chamber music than heavy symphonic playing, but that is often down to the player.

Newer ones have the model number 260 for the Bb and 560 for the C, and “New” discount prices are about $1,400. Kanstul have confirmed that that still make these for Buffet-Crampon.

French Besson “Stamm” model

The French Besson “Stamm” model was designed in conjunction with jazz artist Marvin Stamm ( He played these for many years and only recently (2006) changed to an artist model Yamaha trumpet made to his specifications.

His French Besson prototype was a tuning bell instrument with two different bells, an A bell for a rich full sound, and a B bell for a brighter sound (in early 2008 a tuning bell Stamm Besson was sold on Ebay – was it one of Marvins’ horns?). These were produced as two different fixed bell models, the BA with the A bell, and BB with the B bell. Also comes in 2 bore sizes, 0.462 and 0.464. Full model numbers are:

92BA – 0.462 bore, A bell

92BB – 0.462 bore, B bell

94BA – 0.464 bore, A bell

94BB – 0.464 bore, B bell

Then to confuse the issue Boosey and Hawkes changed the model numbers from 92/94 to 160/162. Apparently only the model numbers changed. The bore is stamped on the valve cluster, and the bell type stamped on the bell tube where it meets the 1st valve. I’m guessing the change happened in around 2000.

There are also variants with a reverse Najoom leadpipe made by M/K drawing. This is a seriously good leadpipe and would be a $150-$250 upgrade on a Bach trumpet. The normal ones have leadpipes of pedigree unknown to me – they might be factory Kanstul ones, or perhaps aftermarket ones. I’ll assume they are Kanstul ones for now.

They are all quite free blowing instruments, with comparatively light weight bells.

According to the B&H catalog the A bell is from a modified 229 mandrel and the B bell is from a modified 239 mandrel. The B bell has slightly tighter parameters and a bit more resistance than the A bell. According to the Bach loyalist the 229 bell is similar to a 43 bell, and the 239 is similar to a 65 bell (which is a dark, symphonic style bell). In other B&H literature the B bell on the French Besson Classic C corresponds to the Bach 239 bell and the A, to the 229. Go figure! 

In general people that have played the Stamm Besson consider the A model to be somewhat similar to a Bach 72 with lightweight bell (though maybe it should be considered closer to a Bach 65, but the Bach 65 is so rare most have never played one), and the B model somewhat similar to a Bach 43 with lightweight bell. This is a very rough generalisation.

Most come with two tuning slides (rounded and square) and a set of normal and heavy valves cups to vary the response and sound a bit.

These trumpets have a short reach valve cluster that is closer to the mouthpiece than usual. Still comfortable for adults, but also an easier reach for small players, and feels light and perfectly balanced.

These trumpets are real sleepers. The 92/94 models were discontinued and closed out by mail order shops at very low prices in 2005 (still a few around in some large mail order shops and some local shops). New “discount” prices for the 160/162 models are about $1,200-$1,400.

They compare equally or better to Bach or Yamaha pro instruments (personal choice really), and are very versatile trumpets. The A model is more suited to orchestral playing or anywhere you need a rich full tone, and the B model to jazz or big band playing, but that depends very much on the player – more than a few lead players use a Bach 72* for lead playing, and the A model works well for that too with the right player. You can hear some sound samples on Marvin’s website.

Kanstul have confirmed that that still make these for Buffet-Crampon, models numbers now 160 and 162.

A note about leadpipes

The French Besson Stamm models came with aftermarket leadpipes – made by for Najoom by M/K drawing ( As a custom upgrade this would cost $150-$250 alone and is a serious performance upgrade!

The Najoom reverse leadpipe Stamm models have Najoom receivers which are built over-tight with the intention that the player will have it reamed out to give optimal mouthpiece/leadpipe gap or use a mouthpiece with a smallish shank diameter. Most aren’t reamed out so the gap is too large (depending on the mouthpieces – e.g. Schilke mouthpieces go further in as their shank is smaller and are basically OK). Only a few shops have the right tools to do a top class job (a tool made by GR mouthpieces, see tutorial page on mouthpiece gap). Charlies Brass Works is one, as is Dennis Najoom.

The Stamm model standard leadpipes (only) are source unknown at the moment – chances are they are Kanstul made. These are set with a smaller gap to suit a Stork brand mouthpiece (which is what Marvin was playing at the time), which have a larger than usual shank diameter, so many mouthpieces may go in further than optimal, and some may bottom out.

The French Besson Classic comes with a Najoom leadpipe.

Don’t panic about the gap. Adjusting it can tweak the trumpet performance a bit. On most instruments the gap is highly variable anyway, and there is so much variation between mouthpiece shanks of different brands that it is a lottery which gap you get anyway. A shop can adjust the receiver gap for a small fee, or you can get a mouthpiece shank adjusted or custom made if you want to get the gap optimal.

When I had the gap set properly on my Stamm Besson (by replacing the receiver with one supplied by Gary Radtke of GR mouthpieces) there was a noticeable but small improvement in the trumpet.

Serial Numbers

Kanstul is not keen on supplying serial number info as it takes a lot of time to look them up and the records are patchy on the Besson lines anyway. Your best bet is to contact Buffet-Crampon for these Bessons, or just rely on the identification info. Kanstul records of the French Besson are better, although for 4 digit serial numbers they overlapped with other brass lines, for example the same serial number could be on a French Besson trumpet, a mellophone, and a custom Callet trumpet. All existing Kanstul French Besson trumpets have 3, 4 or 5 digit serial numbers (got to about 7,000 by 1998, now at around 40,000). Many non-Kanstul Bessons have 6 digit serial numbers or longer. If you see a 6 digit or longer serial number on a French Besson trumpet I’m guessing that it is not a Kanstul French Besson, but the 609 and similar models may have long serial numbers. Since we know that all Classic, Stamm, Meha, and Brevete models are Kanstul made there is no need to check their serial numbers.


Prices vary hugely for the Kanstul made Besson and French Besson instruments, with prices reflecting their popularity more than their intrinsic value as trumpets. The Meha and Brevete often sell in the $700-$1,200 range used as they are so well known (although occasionally sell for less), whereas the French Besson Classic or Stamm models generally are slow to sell and don’t reach such high prices. The price on the Internationals seems to have been creeping up and it is now hard to find them under $300. The Besson 609 ranges in price from about $75 to around $300, depending on the specs and condition, though ~$150 is typical for a lacquer one in very good condition.

These prices are a very rough guide as to what to expect, and may help you avoid paying more than you really should, given the current market. The Internationals in particular seem to be getting more well-known, and the expect used prices have been climbing. I suspect that the Classic and Stamm models will be slow to follow prices upwards as there are fewer of them around, and being such good trumpets people will be less inclined to sell them. In time the secret will get out…

Besson and French Besson Trumpets NOT made by Kanstul

Besson and French Besson trumpets have at various times been made in France, London, USA (Kanstul) and only recently in India. For a long time between WWI and WWII the French Besson trumpets were considered superior to the ones made in London, which is how the French Besson name became famous. Besson never stopped production in England, and still makes Brass Band instruments there, many of which are excellent instruments. Some student line Besson instruments are now made in a modern plant in India, and are still good instruments as they have maintained quality standards.

For our purposes you need to know how to spot the non-Kanstul ones. Don’t get me wrong, these non-Kanstul Bessons are all good trumpets, just not as good as the comparable Kanstul ones.

Any trumpets with ‘London’ stamped on it is not Kanstul made.

Any French Besson or F. Besson is either a vintage one made in France (or possibly London, though will be labelled as such), or a modern Kanstul version. The Meha and Brevete models sold new in shops are Kanstul made but old stock. All Stamm and Classic models are Kanstul made, and are still being made.

The International is the trickiest to identify as some are Kanstul made and some are not. See notes on the International model.

Some model numbers that are NOT Kanstul made (not exhaustive, there may be others, and some may not exist)

Besson 600

Besson 700

Besson 800(?)

Besson 900

Besson 1000

Besson 1010 or 10-10

Besson 1020 or 10-20

Besson 1110 or 11-10

And the most infamous of all is the “BESSONS” rip-off name applied to fake brass instruments made in India and sold cheap on Ebay. Fortunately they usually don’t claim French Besson, or Meha or Brevete names so are easy to spot.

Other Non-Besson Kanstul made trumpets

Kanstul makes great trumpets that sell for premium prices. They have their own complete range of professional level brass instruments, and also make trumpets for some other makers or brands. These include the famous Flip Oakes Wild Thing range, the equally famous Callet range, the controversial Zeus range, and the Max trumpet.

Kanstul has re-made a number of other classic and vintage instruments including:

·        The Burbank Trumpet, which is a remake of the full classic Benge trumpet line

·        Kanstul Chicago series – a remake of some Benge trumpet models

·        One Chicago model (1070) is very similar to the Claude Gordon Benge

·        The Kanstul Mariachi, which is a remake of the famous Conn Connstellation

All of these instruments are modern remakes faithful to the originals (and in some cases are arguably better than the originals).

Thanks Kanstul for maintaining this link with our trumpeting heritage! The sounds of the greats of our trumpeting past will not be forgotten! has been a rich source of information on Besson and French Besson trumpets. Thanks for all those people that contributed to the discussions.

Summing Up

Kanstul has until recently kept the tradition of the Vintage Besson trumpets alive, and introduced some fine new models. If you are looking for a great used horn include the Kanstul Bessons on your list. Many are unbeatable value on the used market at the moment. Some are still available at closeout prices from shops. The International, Classic, and Stamm models are as good as any other pro level instrument by Bach or Yamaha, and the 609 and similar are great as a starter or backup instrument (or even your number one trumpet). I fully expect that in time some of these trumpets will become the collectible trumpets of the 1980s and 1990s.

How to get ‘one-touch search’ on the Logitech MX Master mouse (on a Mac)

UPDATE: there is now a one touch search solution for Windows PC users, written by fellow MX Revolution fan, virtual.

Read on for the Apple Mac solution…

After nearly 12 years using the amazing Logitech MX Revolution mouse, it finally began to die. Replacing it with the Logitech MX Master mouse, I found that it didn’t have one of my favourite features – ‘one touch search’. My solution will also work with the MX Master 2s and MX Master 3 mice – as well as other multi-button Logitech mice like the MX Anywhere 2.

How it used to work

Select some text, press the ‘One-touch search’ button, and you would get a search for the selected text in your favourite browser and search engine. I used that button dozens of times a day.

But in the Logitech Options software, there is no longer an option for this, and you get the anaemic ‘Lookup’ command or, worse, an option to do a spotlight search.

I searched high and low on the internet, but no one had come up with a solution, and Logitech are unaccountably dragging their feet on this issue. But by combining an Automator service with the Keyboard shortcut action in Logi Options, I’ve got a working solution!

Here’s the solution:

  1. Create a ‘search selection’ service in Automator
  2. Assign it a keyboard shortcut in System Preferences
  3. Assign that keyboard shortcut to the button in Logi Options

First step – make a ‘search selected text service’ in Automator

  1. Open Automator and make a New>Quick Action
  2. Add a Run Shell Script action, and paste this into the shell script window: open "$(ruby -rcgi -e 'print CGI.escape $<.read.chomp')" Hat tip: Lri
  3. Save the service

Next: assign a keyboard shortcut to the service in System Preferences

  • Go to System Preferences>Keyboard>Services
  • Find the new Service you created in the Automator steps above – it will be under the ‘Text’ heading
  • Make a new keyboard shortcut for this Service – I used the rather complicated Ctrl+Cmd+Opt+Shift+F because I didn’t want it to clash with any other shortcuts and I won’t actually be typing it by hand.

Now you’re ready for the final step!

Add your shortcut as a ‘Keystroke Assignment’ in Logitech Options.

  • Select the button you want to use
  • Choose ‘Keystroke Assignment’ as the function of that button
  • Add the keystroke you created in System Preferences

You’re done! Enjoy your upgraded MX Master mouse!

How I passed my Yachtmaster Exam

In late October 2018 I took my Yachtmaster Coastal examination. I read a number of helpful blogs on the subject beforehand, and so I thought I would contribute my own experiences in case it is helpful to any other candidates. For example I enjoyed Sarah Shepherd’s report, and especially this brutally honest account “How I failed my Yachtmaster”.  My exam seems to be different to most other reports as it took place entirely at night and did not involve any significant passage, except for a last-minute one before the exam started!

A short passage to the start

I was taking the exam in an old 32ft Westerly called Karic. Karic is owned by The Sail Boat Project, and I had taken my RYA Coastal Skipper Practical course with them a few months before. I did not take a YM prep course, but spent some time getting comfortable with the boat before the day of the exam. Since we knew from the timing of the exam that it would take place entirely at night, we spent the two days mostly practicing pilotage in the dark.

On exam day, after spending the day getting the boat ready for the exam (fan belt changed, cockpit sole epoxied, ensign hoisted, danbuoy repaired) we were waiting in Chichester Harbour for the examiner. Just a few hours before he was supposed to come, he called up to say that the weather forecast had changed.

There were strong southerlies and the examiner was concerned that, if these continued, we might not be able to get out of Chichester at the time of the exam. If we could not get ‘out to sea’ the exam would not be valid. He suggested we sail to Portsmouth and do the exam there. This was a tricky proposition on a number of levels – we still had a crew member on their way to Chichester, and there were logistical issues with getting the boat back after the exam.

Although it was forecast to drop, a good force six was blowing in the harbour as we mulled this decision. It seemed wise to start out doing what the examiner suggested and he’d always seemed rather reluctant to travel over to Chichester anyway. So in the end we had a nice 3-hour sail over to Portsmouth before the exam started. As we left the wind dropped, so we were motoring out of the harbour in a flat calm, cursing the examiner’s cautiousness. It was pretty bumpy over the bar, however, and could have got rather exciting on the ebb if the wind had not moderated. A solid breeze took us across to Portsmouth with a bit of help from the engine. Haslar Marina gave us a hammerhead berth near the entrance because I told them it was for an exam, bless them.

The examiner is on board

So we started the exam, already quite tired, at about 7pm, and it ran until after 3am. Entirely in the dark. As the examiner arrived, I was cooking up some dinner, which my first mate, Ed, noted was the first time I’d cooked dinner all trip. Usually I had had my nose in a pilot book or tide table. We ate some food and then started by going through my ‘homework’ which was a passage plan to Poole from Bembridge. Because I had done this plan at home, I had not marked the route out on the ship’s chart, and was advised that I ought to have done so. All other aspects of my plan were considered OK, though.

Then we had an hour or so going through all the safety equipment and finding out if I knew how to use it. he got me to take out and demonstrate the use of all the flares, and even the fire blanket. How do you hold a fire blanket? Do you launch a parachute flare into the wind or downwind? What end cap do you remove? How do you light it? He wanted me to explain mayday procedures, demonstrate how to use the VHF radio. ‘What would the options be when you press the distress button?’. He asked me about all the electronics, what they did, how they were configured on that particular boat – AIS/GPS/Radar/Chart Plotter/Log/Depth. What would you take in a grab bag? How does an EPIRB work? He asked me the location of all the seacocks, bilge pumps, fire extinguishers.

I was asked to do engine checks, the fan belt (which we’d bought and replaced earlier that day) had worked loose and he asked me to tighten it. “How many cylinders does this engine have?” – I didn’t know (it’s 3). He also asked me how I would change gear if the gear shift cable broke – wanting me to locate this cable, which was pretty tricky – I had no idea where it was, but peering around while getting someone to shift the throttle I eventually identified it right at the back of the engine block.

Conscientious Pilot

Then we went out to do a pilotage up to Port Solent, which I had been warned about a little earlier in the day, and already had a written plan for.

On the way he asked me to identify lights, flags and sound signals, or quizzed me on anything else which came to mind. This sort of questioning is quite wearing, especially at that time of night. If my curious crew mates asked the examiner follow-up questions, he would immediately spring them on me instead. So in the end they decided that as much as they’d like to know the answer to some of these questions, I’d probably appreciate them keeping their mouths shut!

On the pilotage exercise up through Portchester Lake, towards Port Solent, we identified bearings, light characteristics and the distance between lights. As we passed unlit poles we used a torch to read off the number. All of this was conducted without GPS/Chartplotter and under sail in a moderate and forgiving breeze. The examiner stopped the exercise after a fairly short time because, he later said, ‘your pilotage was outstanding’.

Man overboard in the dark

Then there was a man overboard drill. The examiner had brought a glow stick which he tied to the usual fender and coil of rope as the ‘casualty’ and tossed it overboard. We were under sail, and I was not at the helm. It was not a great success.

The main issue was that I took the boat some distance from the casualty to give myself a nice close reach back towards it. This would have been sensible if recovering under sail, but since I was using the engine, was unnecessary. Going further from the casualty than I needed to increased the risk of losing sight of them. I should have crash tacked immediately, especially since the boat I was on hoves-to very well.

There was also delay while I send someone below to pretend to send a mayday on the VHF (I’m not sure if the exercise requires this), and some confusion as I tried to take over the helm while also instructing the helmsman to start the engine (which meant they were blocking me from the wheel). We got a torch and gave it to the person pointing at the casualty, which was seen as a nice touch, but also caused further delay.

We started the engine and motor-sailed back the the casualty, rolling up the genoa as we reached the spot, and picking the up on the leeward side.

So I got the boat back to the casualty, but taking much more time than the examiner thought I should have. The atmosphere on the boat, which had been convivial, became rather dark. “What should you have done?” the examiner asked sullenly. I gave my by now rather nervous answer. “Then why didn’t you?” he rejoined.

This, apparently, might have been curtains for an ‘Offshore’ ticket, but as I was doing a ‘Coastal’ exam I was allowed another attempt at it later.

Sailing onto a buoy, badly

We then went to pick up a mooring buoy for a ‘rest’. I was instructed to sail onto one which, peering in the dark, I could just about make out. Out of season, there were not many boats, and it being dark, they were not easy to see. One nearby boat I identified as a possible hazard, but I didn’t take note of the way the boats were lying, and therefore missed vital tidal information which would have been more obvious in the light. I was also still rather stressed out from the MOB exercise. So I was not really taking account of the tide, instead sailing the boat as if she were a dinghy on a lake. The winds were light and the boat quickly lost way when tacking, and she would bear away and slide to leeward/downtide, and only after gathering some speed on a beam reach would she would bear up again.

Because of this, at one point I had to start the engine to avoid hitting a moored boat. My first approach was not very good and, having lost ground, I tried to pick the buoy up on the windward side which did not work (and was never going to!). The second time, my line was good, but I eased the sails slightly too early and so ended up short. On my third approach I picked up the buoy perfectly at the lee shroud. Again, the examiner felt I should have performed better than this if I had been going for an ‘Offshore’ ticket.

Off the charts

The next exercise was a ‘chart’ exercise. The examiner wanted me to take the boat to an exact and arbitrary location on the chart, and drop anchor. In fact there was a misunderstanding where the examiner had stipulated a particular point (a letter in the wording on the chart) whereas the crew and I had understood I could choose any point on the sandbank. In this case I think the examiner was not clear enough, and since I had marked the exact spot on the chart I intended to take the boat, he accepted my location as being the target.

Using a combination of transits and bearings, backed up by depth soundings with tidal height adjustments, we found my ‘spot’, and dropped the hook on the correct amount of chain.

However when we checked with the GPS we were slightly out. Fortunately, the examiner remembered that one of the charted objects I had used for my position had been moved very recently. The local Gosport youth had been given to smashing the light, so they moved it slightly out to sea. Therefore my methods were considered sound and this was a good pass.

Motoring back to Haslar, the man overboard was thrown in once more, and the examiner said “I want you back next to that in 20 seconds”. Already at the wheel and with no sails up, I swung the boat around and stopped sweetly besides the glowstick.

Going backwards

Then it was back to the marina, where I was asked to berth the boat in the more awkward direction, requiring a short turn and then berthing starboard side-to when this boat kicks strongly to port in reverse. I slightly overstood the berth, so was about to turn around laboriously and try again when the examiner asked if the boat would reverse in a straight line. “I don’t think so, she kicks heavily to port” I replied. “Try it,” he suggested. At slow speeds Karic will turn very sharply to port when in reverse. But once making some decent way in reverse, she started to track straight and I was able to actually steer. After a burst of this I was able to slide gently into the berth.

Finally I had an iPad test on colregs, lights, shapes and sounds, and was asked to evaluate some recent meteorological charts.

A debrief with the examiner, and the two less-than-perfect manoeuvres were flagged up, but otherwise it was considered a very solid pass. Now it was 3.30am and I stayed up for a quick drink with my crew, and then turned in for a well-earned kip.

Justice4Grenfell ‘Three billboards’ protest

Premonition is proud to work as the web designers for the Justice4Grenfell campaign. Recently, in collaboration with some very smart folks, we helped them achieve a lot of renewed publicity.
Since the group was formed, just after the shocking fire that claimed so many lives, Premonition has looked after the Justice4Grenfell campaign website. We’ve helped the group to build their online presence from a standing start. Recently J4G were approached by a major London advertising agency (BBH) with an idea to use the protest technique from the multi-Oscar nominated film “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”. With help from this agency, the group hired three billboards on vans and drove them around London. They were parked in front of parliament, major London landmarks and in front of the tower itself. Working with the PR firm MC&T, photographs and video from this were pushed to media outlets worldwide.

Press response

The stunt was featured in most TV, press and online UK media and in many US media outlets. Online news networks covering this include:
LBC, CNN, BBC, Independent, Guardian, Standard, Mashable, NME, Metro, Daily Mail, GetWestLondon, Sputnik, Mirror, Huff Post, Business Insider, Washington Post, LadBible, Vice, ABC (australia), CBS, ibTimes, Timeout, Telegraph, and many more

Getting the website ready for the off

We were expecting a big rush of traffic, and so the infrastructure around the website needed to be beefed up. Serious peak traffic protection was put in place and the site in fact got hundreds of thousands of visits over a 2 day period without any problems of downtime. We used Cloudflare for the load balancing, and made sure that all images were served from a CDN. As a result, the website actually ran faster than it had before, even during the times of heaviest traffic.

How can I increase emailing list sign-ups on my charity website?

Although this is written for charity websites, most of the points apply to ANY site which is looking to grow its mailing list.

Many of our clients run emailing lists for their customers or supporters. Usually, they use the website to help grow the list. If growing the list isn’t a top priority, often just a single sign-up form is put in the sidebar, or on the ‘contact us’ page. Although this does give people an opportunity to sign up to your mailing list, if that’s all that you are doing you are not making the most of your traffic for sign-ups. But before we start – is it really worth the effort?

Email marketing really works

Getting you message to a growing list of people who are interested in your cause is a great way to increase donations, loyalty and engagement. It’s a helps you stay in friendly, easy contact with potential supporters who will think of you when they are ready to start supporting you, and gives you a resource to draw on when fundraising or finding volunteers.

Make content your audience want to read

You need to create regular, interesting and useful content and keep on plugging away at it. If you’re a charity, great content could include success stories (don’t forget a bit of ‘happy’, from time to time!), crisis updates and campaigns. When emailing charity supporters, pat them on the back sometimes, as well as telling them about the suffering you still need to tackle – and the money you need to do it! If you’re a business you can showcase new product lines, individual product features, or new services.

Think about your audience – not just your charity’s goals

You don’t have to confine yourself to your charity’s immediate concerns. Think about content that could be useful or interesting to your target audience, and see if you can supply it. Even if it is not directly related to making sales, if it is useful to your users then it will add value to being on your email list. 

Some email content can be recycled

Email list services like MailChimp allow you to schedule emails to send to new sign-ups, so that you can, for example, send a weekly series of introductory emails to new sign-ups without any further effort. In this way timeless content you create can be reused for new subscribers.

So how do I increase the number of sign-ups?

Now you’ve thought about your content strategy, you need to grow your audience for it. So here’s a run-down of techniques you can use to increase the number of people signing up to your list from your website.

Make it easy!

Users aren’t often going to hunt around for the email sign-up form. And if they only see it once, this might not be enough either. The key is to give them plenty of opportunities to sign up, whenever they think the site has delivered and are ready for your call to action. Giving them lots of opportunities means having multiple sign-up forms and strategies. We’ll show you some examples (coming soon).

Effective calls to action

Depending on the context and space available, you will want a short snappy one-liner, or a statement plus a few bullet points. What can your readers expect to learn? How will it benefit them? What will it help them to achieve? Use a different call to action in different spaces, because you are going to have several places where people can sign up. You should design your signup forms carefully to make sure they are on-brand but present themselves strongly to your audience. You’ll see some examples (coming soon).

Where can you put sign-up forms?

There are quite a few places you can put sign-up forms. If the emailing list is a seriously important part of your marketing strategy, you should probably use quite a few of these at once.

  • Sign-up form in a sidebar 

    The classic location, but many times users can be inclined to ignore sidebar content so for maximum conversions this isn’t enough.

  • Bar above the header

    A prominent placement, you can put a signup form right at the top of the page above the entire site.

  • Feature box on home page

    Your home page is probably one of the most busy pages on your site, so to use a part of this page to get a decent call to action in front of your visitors is often a great idea.

  • Footer or PS

    Adding a PS to a blog post makes it one of the most-read parts of an article. You can use the ‘PS effect’ to get a signup opportunity front of your visitors. Or, more conventionally, you can simply add the signup form to the footer of every page.

  • Slide-up/javascript lightbox alerts

    These techniques use scripting to make a signup form appear in the foreground of the site once the visitor has scrolled a certain distance down the page. The idea is that at this point they have found value in the site and so may be responsive to the call. They can be easily dismissed and a cookie set so that they will not appear again for 30 days (or whatever you choose). These are more ‘in your face’ than the standard sidebar box, but they are so very effective that if building your emailing list is important to you then you should consider this OR…

  • Exit-intent pop-up alerts

    Special javascript can detect when your visitor is thinking o leaving the site, and display a ‘last chance’ opportunity to sign up before they go. The advantage of this is that you do not disturb your visitor while they are reading the content, but as they leave, you display a box to try to capture their details before they leave. One disadvantage is that these systems track mouse movements to work out that the visitor is going for the exit, so they don’t work on mobile. For mobile use, the slide-ups (above) will be a better bet. You can combine the two, as long as you only have slide-ups for mobile and exit-intent for desktop users.

You can double the number of people subscribing per month

In this useful experiment, Buffer Social added multiple ways to sign up, and some more, to see what effect it would have. They doubled the rate at which people were subscribing. The top sources for them were:

  • 37% Slideup panel (But note that they did not try any other pop-up or exit intent alerts, which are also said to be extremely effective)
  • 34% Signup bar at the top of each page (they used a ‘smart’ bar which tailors its offer to the user, and allows testing of straplines)
  • 15% Feature box on the home page

Try it out yourself, or get us to help!

If you have the skills to implement this on your site, get out there and make it happen. If you need some help then give us a call. We should be able to help you double the rate at which you get visitors to subscribe to your charity website emailing list.

Website maintenance service

Premonition have just launched a maintenance service for WordPress websites.

Why you need to maintain your site

We’ve noticed that our clients tend to find it quite easy to update content on their sites, but much more daunting to keep the site core software updated.

The trouble is, if the sites are not kept up-to-date, they can be left vulnerable to hacking when security flaws are found in old software. And although updating the software is usually trouble free, there is a justified concern that it can occasionally break things. This happened recently to a client and it spurred us to create this service to protect our other clients from experiencing this in future.

In another incident, one of our clients was hit by this hacking attack, which also affected’ tens of thousands’ of other sites and was reported by the BBC: Fortunately Premonition were able to repair the damage, secure the site and have them back up and running within a few hours. But this could certainly happen to you if you’re not on top of updates and security.

Here’s a rundown on other reasons to keep your site up to date. It also includes a guide to updating the software yourself if you’d prefer to do it that way.

The new service

  • Core software Update wordpress core software within a few days of any release – immediately for security-only updates
  • Plug-ins Update all plug-ins (third party software that helps run your site) monthly as new versions become available. This is done by manually logging in.
  • Back-ups Perform regular site back-ups to roll back to in the event of any adverse event
  • Virus scan We will perform a weekly scan for malware to check if your site has been invisibly hacked.
  • Hacked sites fixed We will fix the site at no extra charge if the site is hacked.
  • Update problems fixed We will fix the site at no extra charge if there is any problem during an update, whether from a failed update attempt or a software incompatibility.

Get in touch to sign up or find out more.

My CSS discovery

While designing a website a few years ago, I discovered a way to serve CSS differentially to certain browsers. This was big news at the time to web designers who were struggling to work around certain bad behaviours from those browsers. The browser in question was Internet Explorer for Mac, and here is the page detailing the discovery. It has been dubbed ‘The Premonition Hack’

Lyrics: Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts For Soldiers

Note: This song has verses, which are not very funny and I have not included them below (you can find them here). Instead there are 2 new versions of the chorus to cover the Navy and Airforce. The new verses are much more difficult than the original, you might need to slow it down! If you sing it in public and video it I would love to see the results.

Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers

Original Chorus, R. P. Weston
Sister Susie’s sewing shirts for soldiers
Such skill at sewing shirts
Our shy young sister Susie shows!
Some soldiers send epistles,
Say they’d sooner sleep in thistles
Than the saucy, soft, short shirts for soldiers sister Susie sews.

Additional Choruses, G. Sheridan
Cecily sits shelling shrimps for sailors
At sedentary shrimp-shelling sweet Cecily excels
Some sailors send dispatches citing shoddy shrimp she catches
For the salty, sour, shrivelled shrimp sweet Cecily unshells

Pippa puts pink piping on for pilots
Pip pins pink piping parts on purple Polish pilot’s pants
But prissy Polish pilots hide the pretty pink in public
And prefer pale purple pantaloons to Pippa’s pink-piped pants

Steady on, Chaps! Sunday Afternoon, March 2nd 2014

Swing music and social dance opportunity.

Luna Lounge, Leytonstone, (map)
Sunday March 2nd 2014, 4pm-6pm



Steady on, Chaps!” play live swing music on Sunday 2nd March from 4-6 at the Luna Lounge (next to Leytonstone tube). Hot-Club style rhythm section with trumpet and vocals. It isn’t an organised social dance but there is a wooden floor and some space to dance. Free entry.

Expect classics like: Ain’t Misbehavin’, Hello Dolly, Sunny Side of the Street, All of Me, I can’t give you anything but love, and other dixie and standard jazz tunes. We will do our best to play any requests for swing/dixie/jazz material.

Responsive web design and all that jazz

You might have heard of ‘responsive web design’, one of the biggest changes to happen in web design since the demise of Flash. It’s all about getting your content to appear appropriately regardless of the device it is being looked at with. On a phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, portrait or landscape – it should adapt to all these possible viewing devices.
We’ve been building all our recent sites with this new technology and cemented our skills in this new paradigm. The exciting thing about web design is that it never stands still! One of our latest successes is the new responsive web site for alternative jazz chantress Irene Serra.

Irene Serra is a singer with roots in jazz and projects embracing cross-over pop and electronica.
We’ve given the site a dark and sultry look and spiced it up with the very latest web technology.
We’ve implemented a jquery animation, which will work on all modern devices, leaving behind the flash plug-in content of old.
A showcase responsive site, this site combines content from twitter, soundcloud and youtube, and presents it so it is viewable on all devices. The site adapts depending on the device viewing it, so it should look as good on a Tesco’s tablet (the beautifully named ‘hudl’), or last year’s Samsung, as it will on whatever Apple release next year.