by Neville de Villiers
This is the story of a mostly solo yachting expedition by the author from England to New Zealand, via the Mediterranean, in 1980. It seems to have been a one way passage in his smallish yacht, the Doumar, as he finally reaches Whangarei and decides to settle there. The sub-title of the book labels him as a “courageous adventurer,” but perhaps it might be best to describe de Villiers as being very lucky.
The book is certainly a vivid tale, and a well remembered blow by blow account of all the action at sea. On the one hand it has an element of ‘derring do’ and the honest reflection of an amateur adventurer. On the other hand, the author leaves behind his wife and two young children, which could be seen as irresponsible in the extreme given the task he pursues after his crew abandons ship on the French canals. Indeed, it is hard to believe that it was a good decision to carry on solo, but he does survive.
Unfortunately, the book itself seems to be limited by the subject matter and the ability of the storyteller. The description of the sailing experience inevitably uses very specific terminology that the general reader won’t understand. Even with a glossary of sailing terms at the end of the book it is still difficult to follow. The author provides some biographical context at the beginning of the book but the rest is more like a diary, rather than a story. He does make the odd aside about certain aspects of his life, but without any continuity as a story. For instance, he often refers to a book by Naomi James which is apparently about her solo yachting, but doesn’t bother to give the title.
Although the cover of the book is well-designed the contents indicate the limitations of self-publishing. The sentences and paragraphs are not especially well constructed, particularly for grammar; and the book needs more proof-reading. There are hand-drawn maps at the beginning of each chapter which are inadequate really, and while the other illustrations are better drawings they don’t add much to the book. The author’s photographs have come out well but are mostly too small to be effective.
So this is one for the yachties mostly, as a tribute to a man’s relationship with his beloved boat, but it could have been the basis for a broader memoir of more interest.
Author: Neville de Villiers
Publisher: Neville de Villiers in association with Wild Side Publishing
Available: ask at Paper Plus and independent bookshops