by Rebecca Hayter
This book records a voyage under sail by the New Zealand author Rebecca Hayter and her sailing partner Ross Field. Starting from Lymington in the South of England they sail to Greenland and back. But it is much more than a record of a voyage.
In relating their adventure Rebecca imparts awe for the changing moods of ocean and sky. She achieves freshness in her writing by the skilful use of original metaphor and simile while its occasional cheeky use adds sparkle and makes the book a delight to read. At times I almost believed I could feel the thump as their vessel came off the top of a big one and ploughed into the following breaking crest.
This is a book that will hold a special appeal to members of the yachting fraternity. Readers unfamiliar with boats may have some difficulty with a few of the technical terms but this shouldn’t be considered detrimental to enjoying this delightful adventure.
With extensive experience in ocean racing Ross persuades an initially reluctant Rebecca to transit the Northwest Passage – arguably the World’s most hazardous maze of islands, ice and ocean. It runs between Northern Canada and the Arctic Ocean – a graveyard of failed attempts.
The preparation for the voyage started in France with the purchase of Rosemary, an elderly aluminium vessel notable for its hull strength rather than its equipment or standard of maintenance. At what must have been eye watering expense, the hull was refitted in preparation for the hazardous voyage ahead. Those with an interest in boats will find these preparations provide an insight into the character of Ross.
The voyage starts from Lymington – a mariner’s port I personally know well. It’s a place where weekend sailors mingle with ocean going yachtsmen and merge into, and become part of, the history of sail.
The book contains numerous excellent photographs relating to the voyage and took me a little way towards experiencing the spirit of Rebecca’s Wild Seas to Greenland. It’s a journey that along the way captures vibes of the Irish during a port call to Dingle before they face the North Atlantic storms, ice, fog and crazy compass readings as they get closer to the Magnetic North. Lacking a gyro compass meant they had to steer manually.
Knowing nothing about either Nuuk – the capital of Greenland – or Greenland’s fiords I absorbed Rebecca’s descriptions with fascination.
With the Northwest Passage closed, lacking a gyro compass and up to date charts, Ross made the decision to attempt a return journey across the North Atlantic. Pressed hard by heavy weather they sailed along isobars rather than across them thus avoiding more severe storms. This technique was supported by weather routing the North Atlantic using meteorological satellite data transmitted to them. It got them home and resulted in an outstanding story.
I recommend Rebecca Hayter’s book to any nautically obsessed readers and those interested in a seagoing adventure told with wit and humour.
Author: Rebecca Hayter
Publisher: Oceanspirit Publishing
Available: paper: bookshops