Sarah P’s comments: This book is a gripping account of the 1968 first ever Golden Globe Race in which nine sailors set off to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe nonstop. It had never been done and ten months later, only one of the nine men would cross the finish line and earn fame, wealth, and glory. For the others, the reward was madness, failure, and death.
How’s that for a plotline? A fascinating read even for those not interested in sailing books. This story has risen to the top of my list of blog posts because just this year they released a movie about one of the sailors in it.
British businessman, Donald Crowhurst entered the race with little funding and even less sailing knowledge. His start was difficult and things went downhill from there. The movie is aptly (in my opinion) named The Mercy and stars Colin Firth, which fact alone is enough to make me want to view it.
However, I would encourage you to read the book because A Voyage for Madmen tells the story of all the racers, the two which I found most fascinating being; Robin Knox-Johnston and the infamous Bernard Moitessier. In fact, it was reading the details of Moitessier’s race, that led me to deciding I had to read his books…
In the next few blog posts, I will share the books that these sailors have written.
‘They can’t answer the question why. They can’t make people who couldn’t do what they do – understand.‘
*I completely disagree with this cataloguing choice. This is adventure of the tallest order which is 910.4 not 797.14 (boating)!
Sarah P’s comments: Once in while I am going to deviate and include a children’s book. For years I was a children’s librarian so it’s bound to happen…
This year we sailed to Nantucket and I biked to Sankaty Head. This lighthouse has been on my bucket list ever since I first read Nightbirds on Nantucket many years ago. Written by Joan Aiken (Conrad Aiken’s daughter), the first third of the book takes place on a whaling ship from Nantucket. It’s fun, it’s authentic, and it makes a great read-aloud if you’re trying to get small fry interested in sailing and ships…
‘Oh, fierce is the ocean and wild is the sound,
But the isle of Nantucket is where I am bound-
Sweet isle of Nantucket! where the grapes are so red,
And the light flashes nightly on Sankaty Head!’
Me @ Sankaty Head, Nantucket, summer 2018
Sarah P’s comments: I’m back from sailing our boat home from North Carolina to Maine…glorious but hot! Along the way, I re-read Tinkerbelle, one of the best small boat voyaging books out there. It’s hard to say why this story is so good but a large part is due to Manry’s straight-forward but light-hearted writing style
When I researched what became of Manry I discovered that the book was so successful that he was able to buy a bigger boat and go cruising for a year with his wife and kids. Wow, great! But the year after they returned his wife died in a car crash and two years later Manry died from a massive heart attack. Those sobering facts lend weight to his ‘do what you can with what you have’ message.
If you enjoy the book and wish to know more, I am happy to report that there is a filmmaker who has created ‘The Robert Manry Project‘ with a goal of promoting Manry’s book and film footage.
Here is a YouTube video link of Manry’s arrival in Cornwall and also a Wikipedia article about him.
The dream of ocean voyaging remained in the back of my mind like an incubating microbe waiting for the right moment to flare up as a full-blown disease. Every so often, after reading some particularly gripping tale, I became afflicted with a virulent sea fever.
I had an inexplicable notion that a voyage was a kind of microcosm of life, a life within a life…It seemed to me, too, that in this abbreviated life a sailor had an opportunity to compensate for the blemishes, failures, and disasters of his life ashore.
Sailing…helps to keep a man aware of his lowly place in the universe, especially if [it] involves celestial navigation. For there is nothing to equal the astringent effect on one’s ego of a long, thoughtful look into outer space.
Sailors have seldom been envied by confirmed landlubbers.
Sarah P’s comments: Loads has already been written about this little gem of a book which is considered literature (hence the 818). However, from a water travel point of view it is a basic primer so I can’t get too far with this blog without including a post about it. If you are considering doing anything on the water, read this first…
I had to judge where I was going from where I had been…all too often I am forced to move toward [my goals] backward, like a boy in a rowboat, guiding myself by an inner sense of direction which tells me I’m tending toward the place I want to be.
To be at one with the wind is to be at home in the world…
For the truth is that to sail, to even contemplate sailing, calls for a fundamental faith in one’s self.
I seek in friends, partners, and mates what I seek in a sloop; a forgiving relationship in which I automatically compensate for their shortcomings and they for mine.
The destination…is the journey itself and not the final stopping place. How I get there is more important than whether I arrive, although I will arrive, and what I must remember is to listen to the wind, and the wind will tell me what to do.
Sarah P’s comments: Dove is the story of Robin Lee Graham’s solo circumnavigation. At the time his story was sensational because of his age; he was only sixteen when he set off (from California) in 1965. His exploits were chronicled in National Geographic and his story became a movie in 1974. Since then he has been followed by ever younger sailors which has caused questions to be raised about whether this is ethical. Whatever you think about it, their adventures make for good reading, starting with Dove. (I will be writing more about the others in subsequent posts.)
YouTube movie: The Dove
SAIL article: Robin Lee Graham on the Latest Teen Circumnavs
Wikipedia List of youth solo sailing circumnavigations
Life would be pretty monotonous if the sky was always blue.
At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.
Happiness has no frontiers, that it’s a state of mind and not a possession, not a set route through life, not a goal to be gained but something that steals in gently like an evening mist or the morning sunlight—something beyond our control.
Sarah P’s comments: Joshua Slocum sailing around the world on his sloop Spray from 1895-1898, is where it all began. As this blog is about collecting and documenting great individual sailing stories and ventures in all forms (books, movies, and now websites, blogs, podcasts, and videos), I really can’t go too far without paying homage to this story of the first (documented) solo circumnavigator…who then wrote a book about it. This book is timeless and a must-read for anyone contemplating voyaging of any kind. It is the Moby Dick of sailing literature and his adventures spawned the genre of modern sailing stories.
It’s easy to grab a copy of this book from a library or Amazon however, I love to read older versions, so here’s a picture of my favorite cover from the c1900 version:
The ebook is available for free from Project Gutenberg. There’s also a great YouTube video about Slocum’s life and adventures, and the Joshua Slocum Society (now unfortunately disbanded) site contains a wealth of information.
To young men [& women] contemplating a voyage I would say go. The tales of rough usage are for the most part exaggerations, as also are the tales of sea danger. To face the elements is, to be sure, no light matter when the sea is in its grandest mood. You must then know the sea, and know that you know it, and not forget that it was made to be sailed over.
But where, after all, would be the poetry of the sea were there no wild waves?
I once knew a writer who, after saying beautiful things about the sea, passed through a Pacific hurricane, and he became a changed man.
The days pass happily with me wherever my ship sails.
Sarah P’s comments: Yesterday, I discussed my favorite book by acclaimed circumnavigators Irving & Exy Johnson. Today, I want to talk about their movies. An interesting aspect of their unique lives was that Irving documented a lot of it using a movie camera.
One of the best sailing movies ever made (in my opinion) is The Peking Battles Cape Horn which has made it onto YouTube! This movie chronicles Irving’s stormy rounding of the Horn aboard the German windjammer in 1929 and is both a historical record of sailing and documentary filmmaking.
Johnson also kept a journal of his experience which was the basis for the book of the same name, originally published in 1929 and re-issued by the Mystic Seaport Museum (1997).
Irving & Exy went on to make many more movies some of which became National Geographic specials. All of their material is now housed at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT. They sell a narrated compilation of the Johnson’s movies: Unfurling the World . It is well-worth the $29.95 price tag as it not only contains great sailing shots but is a visual record of sailing in what is now a by-gone era.
‘Look at this, the open ocean! The forces involved are fantastic! There’s no words that I can use in any language that will tell you what it’s like. If you’ve been there it’s the only way you’ll know because the forces are beyond anything you’ve ever experienced or thought was possible.’