If you want inspiration to head out to sea in search of adventure, it isn’t hard to find books full of tales of dramatic marine experiences.
Here is just a small list of the many books you might dive into, to help inspire your next expedition into the blue expanse.
The Last Grain Race
A young Eric Newby, eager for adventure, signed up for the 1938 grain run, in which ships sailed to Australia from the UK to pick up the harvest and then raced back to sell it. It was not the romantic life he had envisaged.
He sarcastically recounts his time spent with rough Finns and other Europeans, many of whom did not share his language. Eventually, Newby is forced to fight the nearest person to prove himself worthy of their respect.
Little did Newby know that his entertaining tales of experiences at sea aboard Moshulu would be about the last grain race, before the second world war broke out. It gives an incredible insight into a different world and is delivered in a less serious tone than many similar books.
The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst
In 1968, the last great remaining “first” to be achieved was to sail around the world, solo and non-stop. No one knew if it was possible for a person to last that long alone, let alone if a boat could withstand the physical challenges of such a voyage. The British Sunday Times newspaper sponsored The Golden Globe Race, the first non-stop, single-handed, round-the-world yacht race.
Among the adventurous sailors who entered was Donald Crowhurst. He captured the nation’s imagination. Britons love an underdog and Crowhurst was just that. He had next to no experience but as the race progressed it looked as if he was set to win the prize for fastest (if not first, as they all started at different times) circumnavigation.
He never arrived. Instead, his empty but intact boat was found floating in mid-Atlantic. Only his diary was left to explain his fate. The book is an intriguing reconstruction of what is thought to have occurred to him, suggesting his progress around the planet was not all as had been assumed.
A Voyage for Madmen
Crowhurst was not the only one to Golden Globe Race challenge. He was one of nine and each of them had incredible stories to tell, even though only one of them finished.
When commentators at the time speculated if the human mind could bear the isolation, they were not far wrong. Of the four who made it beyond the Atlantic (including Crowhurst) one finished, one had his boat sunk and later committed suicide, one took his own life while still at sea and one decided society wasn’t for him and sailed on halfway around the world again before ever setting foot on land.
It is an incredible account of a crazy epoch in sailing’s history that culminated in the achievements of winner Robin Knox-Johnston.
Troubled teenager Tania Aebi was wandering aimlessly through life. Her motivated, but estranged, father, had saved money for her to go to college but began to realise the tuition would be wasted on her.
He gave his daughter a choice. He offered to pay for her education, or he could use the money to buy her a boat on the condition she sailed it solo around the world in an attempt to set the record for the youngest solo circumnavigation. On her return, he would sell the boat and have the money for college if she chose to continue her formal education after the trip.
Tania chose to take up the marine challenge. The only problem was she did not know how to sail. The teenager had sailed with her father before, but never bothered to pay close attention to his instructions.
She bumbles through the first few passages, reaching her destinations by luck as much as skill as she gets to grips with the art of sailing. As she sees the world alone at sea, changes come over her on this epic adventure.
John Caldwell met the love of his life in Australia while he was serving in the US military during the second world war. As the conflict drew to a close, he envisaged a life with her Down Under. But a couple more assignments left him in the US with no way of getting back to Australia.
He grew desperate, and even tried to stow away on a ship. Eventually, in 1946, he bought a boat and with no experience whatsoever sailed across the Pacific back to his loved one. The journey is full of peril, introspection and love.