Ocean Hermit – sailing, solitude and stories

My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.

Along the Clipper Way by Francis Chichester – book review

With so many small boats having sailed around the world in the last 20 or 30 years, it’s easy to forget that this was considered next to impossible 50 or 60 years ago.  True, Joshua Slocum accomplished the first solo circumnavigation in 1898, but when Francis Chichester began researching for his own attempt to circumnavigate via Cape Horn he had to go back mostly to the accounts of the clipper ships for information. This book is the result of his research – an anthology of some of the best writing about sailing the route from England and around the globe via the three capes.

There’s Shackleton and Francis Drake, the Smeetons and Ann Davison, Vito Dumas and Joseph Conrad amongst many others.  I was particularly struck by the account of Dr Bombard who sailed 65 days without food or fresh water – to prove that wrecked sailors could survive without them.

Along the Clipper Way by Francis Chichester.

Chichester includes discussion of scurvy and explains that lemon juice but not lime juice is an anti-scorbutic.  The mixup came because in the West Indies a lime is called a lemon!

Ann Davison was the first woman to sail across the Atlantic single-handed (in a 23-foot boat!) and it’s a blessing that Chichester included what she had to say about solitude at sea:

“I did not know how I would react  to absolute solitude. It is an experience few of us are ever called upon to undergo and one which few of us would voluntarily choose. It is almost unimaginable, because solitude is something that normally can be broken at will. Even being on one’s own in undeveloped country, popularly supposed to epitomise loneliness, is not true solitude, for one is surrounded by trees and bush and grass and animals,  all part of the substance of one’s own living. But the sea is an alien element; one cannot live in it or on it for long, and one survives that little time by one’s own wit and judgement and the Grace of God. When a man says he loves the sea, he loves the illusion of mastery, the pride of skill, the life attendant on sea-faring, but not the sea itself. One may be moved by its beauty or its grandeur, or terrified by its immensity and power of destruction, but one cannot love it any more than one can love the atmosphere all the stars in outer space.”

Along the Clipper Way is out of print.  But if you happen to encounter a copy in a secondhand book store, as I did, it’s well worth the read if you’re interested at all in the sea.

2 comments on “Along the Clipper Way by Francis Chichester – book review

  1. Sandor
    April 7, 2012

    Dennison, this sounds like a good book. “True, Joshua Slocum accomplished the first solo circumnavigation in 1998,” Ah that’s 1898 but its an easily guessable typo. I think AYC here in Halifax has a copy of this book, I’ll check next time I go to the club.


  2. Rick Werwie
    April 10, 2012


    I like the concept that she explains about “true solitude” on the sea.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on April 2, 2012 by in Book Reviews, Sailboats, Sailing, Solitude, Voyages and tagged .
%d bloggers like this: