Aged just 23, and already set on a life of adventure, I signed up as an able seaman on the square-rigger Endeavour II, bound from Australia to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. It was the realisation of a boyhood dream. The dream was cruelly shattered when the ship was caught in a fierce tropical storm off the coast of northern New Zealand. For several days, the young crew fought in horrific conditions to keep the ship off the hostile cliffs to leeward. Our efforts were in vain. Nothing could save the ship as it was driven towards the shore. At one in the morning the ship finally struck land. With mountainous seas and storm force winds there was little chance of survival. Death seemed inevitable; the ordeal over. In fact it had hardly begun...
Having narrowly survived this formative experience, I resolved that from then on I would only ever go to sea on my own terms, single-handed and in small, easily manageable yachts. I built the 19’ ocean cruiser Roc and sailed her in the 1974 Trans Tasman Single-handed Yacht Race, only the sixth ever solo ocean race. In the early part of this voyage Roc was rolled in huge seas, the main steering was damaged and the self-steering smashed beyond repair. I hand-steered the tiny, cockpit-less yacht for nearly 30 days, only to encounter one of the worst storms recorded off the east coast of Australia.
I went on to sail many thousands of ocean miles, all the while refining my simple approach. In 2006 I sailed my junk-rigged Corribee Mingming in the very first Jester Transatlantic Challenge. In contrast to the two previous voyages this was a passage of calms, frustrations and mature reflection. This book is a distillation of over 50 years of sailing experience, describing small-boat voyaging from a unique and deeply considered perspective.
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