Also, Notes on Chapter 5: Another London Winter in the book The Voyage of The Aegre are now available. They cover more on the decision not to take a liferaft, choosing a short-wave radio receiver, and buying a sextant.
Chapter 4 of The Voyage of The Aegre is about how Julie and I found The Aegre, and after a trial sail bought her. In the notes on Chapter 4, I go into some detail about her standing lug rig which may not interest everyone. So if you think the difference between a dipping and a standing lug refers to a hearing problem, and a throat-tripping line is something a serial killer might use, then maybe this is not for you. Instead, wait for the Notes on Chapter 5 which I promise will be of wider interest. Coming soon.
Plus I’ve added a new page, Once is enough, to the Aegre website, Lesser Known Inspiring Reads.
Once is enough is not a reflection on The Aegre experience, but about Miles Smeeton’s book, titled Once is enough. It’s wrong to regard it as ‘lesser known’ except it was published in 1956, so 68 years ago. This amazing tale may have slipped people’s minds, so I thought I’d put together a short reminder.
Miles and Berryl Smeeton, sailing a 46ft ketch, were famously pitchpoled (turned end over end) and dismasted 900 miles northwest of Cape Horn. They struggled to Chile repaired the boat and set out again. And well, again things didn’t go quite as planned. See the link below.
The audiobook is being progressively rolled out to other audiobook retailers and will soon be available on Amazon Audible.
Notes for Chapter 3 of The Voyage of The Aegre- A London winter and Scottish summer.
Notes for Chapter 3 have been added to the book website. They comprise a short expansion on beginning to learn about navigation (as mentioned in Chapter Three) and notes from Brian King, an enthusiastic sailing instructor I met at Ridgway’s Adventure School in Scotland in 1972 and also wrote about in Chapter 3. A year later, Brian met yachtsman Bernard Moitessier in New Zealand. Moitessier invited Brian to live aboard his yacht, Joshua, for a time. They talked for days. Brian passed me some of his notes, which I have reproduced with his permission in the Notes on Chapter 3.
Moitessier’s yacht Joshua in 2006 in La Rochelle. Photo: Remi Jouan https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1282464
Notes for Chapter Two of the book, The Voyage of The Aegre, have been added to the book website here.
The Notes give background to my first summer working at the John Ridgway School of Adventure at Ardmore, NW Scotland, during which my first ideas for The Aegre voyage started to develop.
John Ridgway beside the 1966 Atlantic rowboat, English Rose III
Key contributors, expanded on in the Notes with more photos, were the row across the Atlantic by John Ridgway and Chay Blyth in 1966; sailing English Rose IV, the yacht Ridgway was loaned to enter the first solo non-stop round the World race in 1968, and the experience and camaraderie of the Instructor team at the Adventure School.
You can jump straight to the Chapter Two Notes here.
Earlier versions of the story long before publication had a different title, was longer and had Chapter Notes
Chapter Notes are being added to the book website
Earlier versions of The Voyage of The Aegre, before publication, had various titles, were longer, and included additional notes for each chapter.
However, when it came to publication, cost constraints, market expectations, and publisher pressure led me to change the title, make substantial cuts to the manuscript, and remove the chapter notes. It seemed a pity then, but I think the book as published is the better for it.
However now the book is established in the market and readers are frequently writing to me, I’ve decided to progressively publish updated versions of the Chapter Notes on the book website. These will be under ‘The Book’ tab, but you can jump directly to the Notes for the first chapter, ‘Learning to Live’.
I’ll progressively publish the Notes for each chapter
The book is now listed on Goodreads. It’s free to join Goodreads, and anyone can then post ratings and reviews. So if you enjoyed the book and would like to help others discover it, please add it to your Goodreads file and give it a rating and even a review. Thank you! Goodreads also provides a forum for discussing a book and asking the author questions. I’ll try to answer any questions posed about The Aegre voyage. I’ve also listed a few of my own favourite books.
If you’ve already read the book, you might enjoy seeing the Guestbook that we kept on The Aegre. I’ve added it to The Aegre book website. We didn’t have a proper guestbook but asked visitors to the boat to sign inside the covers of a photo album we created about The Aegre. The covers survived the capsize, more or less, and below the image of each page, I’ve listed the names I can identify. Maybe you or someone you know is there? Take a look.
If you bought the book from Amazon, please rate it or even write a few words about it. Ratings and reviews influence how Amazon positions a book and the exposure it gets. Your support will help the book. Thank you.
And Varua? Varua is the 70ft brigantine made famous by William Albert Robinson in his book ‘To The Great Southern Sea’ (Peter Davies – London, 1957) which in addition to being a great sea voyaging story, has excellent detailed appendices on every aspect of Varua and heavy weather sailing.
In this Post: a video of a talk about the voyage and the book and links to new reviews of the book in three leading magazines.
Julie waits with the newly decked Aegre for the tide to come in on the Scourie beach. May 1973
In September 2023 the Wooden Boat Association of Victoria (Australia) invited me to talk about The Aegre voyage and the book at their monthly meeting, ‘in conversation’ with President Peter Batchelor.
Nick Grainger in conversation with Peter Batchelor at the (Victoria, Australia) Wooden Boat Association meeting, September 2023
The VIC WBA meet at the Albert Park Yacht Club in central Melbourne. I joined the club when I first moved to Melbourne with my family thirty years ago. Embarrassingly I distinguished myself on my first visit by capsizing our skittish Oughtred John Dory with my two little girls aboard on Albert Park Lake in full view of the clubroom! But at least we could stand up and walk to the bank that day.
Reviews of the book have recently appeared or are about to appear in four noteworthy magazines. Each picks up on a different aspect of the story.
The Nov/Dec 2023 issue of Wooden Boat has a review of The Aegre book
Wooden Boat magazine’s November/December issue contains a lengthy review of The Voyage of The Aegre book by leading sailing photo/journalist Nic Compton, past Editor of Classic Boat magazine, concluding that…
Not only is this a compelling story, but Nick tells it in a relaxed and chatty style… There’s no doubt in my mind that this book will quickly join the library of classic survival stories, alongside tomes such as Survive the Savage Sea, by Dougal Robertson, and 117 Days Adrift, by Maurice and Maralyn Bailey.
Practical Boat Owner magazine Editor Katy Stickland also gave the thumbs up to the book, putting it at the top of her list of Christmas reading recommendations on the PBO website.
Katy commented that this was before modern instruments and GPS, and although the story of their time afloat, including their capsize off Tahiti which left the boat dismasted, is a gripping read about survival at sea, it is the details of the preparation of the boat that many Practical Boat Owner readers will find the most fascinating.
Writing in the Dinghy Cruising Association Autumn Journal, Matthew Sullivan concludes his lengthy review by writing:
The Voyage of the Aegre is not only an account of a journey but also a moving tale of two young people growing up together, forging a relationship in extraordinary circumstances, and facing down unimaginably difficult challenges with inspirational courage.
The Voyage of The Aegre reviewed by Matthew Sullivan in the Dinghy Cruising Association Journal, Autumn 2023
On the other side of the world John Macfarlane, a sailing journalist with Boating New Zealand magazine, has written a review of the book for the November issue, but you’ll have to wait till later in October to read that.
Writing about the capsize of The Aegre, the drawing depiction of it in the book and how the drawing led to a review of the book in Australia’s Afloat magazine.
In severe conditions, The Aegre was capsized and dismasted about 150 miles southwest of Tahiti.
About 4am The Aegre was capsized
A deep sea capsize isn’t something most sailors want to think about, and yet holds some macabre fascination. What happened? Did they survive? Perhaps the reader is thinking it could happen to them one day, and maybe they should pay attention.
For us, it was no Saturday afternoon event on the bay, with a rescue boat nearby, but 04:15 far out in the Pacific, with no possible help in any direction.
I was asleep below, and Julie on watch in the cockpit. The weather had been worsening for 24 hours. By midnight the conditions were extremely bad, but we thought we had had as bad before. We were sailing slowly downwind under our tiny flax jib, slightly across the very large swell, the tops of which were breaking, and rolling forward with a roar, but rarely coming on board, The Aegre lifting to them as she always had, as they swept under the boat.
We changed watch at midnight as I describe in the Prologue to the book. I handed over to Julie, stripped off my wet weather gear, pulled the hatch shut behind me and collapsed on the bunk where I was nearly instantly asleep.
Four hours later it all went wrong.
Writing the story of what happened next, not just in the next hour, but over the next day, and the next, thirty-one days in all before we made it to land, I drew heavily on a diary we kept, writing in pencil in our Nautical Almanac which was the driest paper we could find. I still have it today, though now it’s barely legible.
A page from the diary we kept after the capsiz
But long ago Julie and I typed out a transcript of it. With this at hand, I could relive it, and tell the story of what we did and how it felt to overcome the initial fear of exhaustion and drowning if the boat rolled again as the storm reached its peak. But then as that crisis slowly passed it was replaced by the fear that without our sextant to navigate with, (lost just after the capsize) we might never find land, while our food and water slowly dwindled.
As I explain in the story, we pieced together all the navigation resources and knowledge we had and evolved a theory of how we could determine our position, and from there set a course for the most appropriate island(s). But the theory wasn’t in any textbook I’d ever read. I kept wondering if I was missing some essential reality. Would it work and take us to land? Or had I got it all wrong? But it was the best we could think of, and we pinned our lives on it.
Out there, as the weather eventually improved and we sailed on, we tried to trust our sextantless navigational thinking, but surrounded by the empty horizon day after day while our food and water diminished, we couldn’t help wondering if this was how it would all end? We made lists of things we would do if we survived, and as I write in the book, life assumed a new value.
Is there anything to be learnt from reading about the capsize experience of Julie and me in the book? Yes, probably. We ourselves applied knowledge gained from stories of other voyagers in crisis, and this probably saved our lives.
The drawing of The Aegre capsize above is by maritime artist and author John Quirke. I met John at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart, Tasmania, in February 2023. John was there to present at the ‘Meet the Authors’ Festival session, where he gave a wry and yet hilarious introduction to his latest book, ‘Quirky History – Maritime Moments most history books don’t mention’. (If you’ve ever wondered how the Somali Camel Corps captured a German U-boat in 1944, this is for you – available at all good book shops).
Quirky History by John Quirke
I was there myself spruiking my soon-to-be-published Aegre Voyage book. We got chatting and he offered to not only do the capsize drawing but also to feature my book in his regular column in the Australian magazine ‘Afloat’. You can read his review here.
Now that The Voyage of The Aegre has been published I’m progressively adding more background about the voyage and the book to the website.
After all these years isn’t my memory a little hazy?
One of the questions I’m asked about writing the story of The Aegre Voyage 50 years after it happened is how I managed to remember so much. Isn’t my memory a little hazy?
Part of the diary written after the mid-Pacific capsize 9 Sept 1974
To answer this I’ve created a page about how I gathered materials and re-immersed myself in the story, how the book evolved and the assistance I was given. I’ve included an example of a letter home written on a long passage (one of many), old photos and a page of the log we kept after the capsize. See Writing the story after all these years.
The Cruise of The Kate
I’ve also added to the website information about an inspiring but little-known book today, The Cruise of The Kate by E E Middleton. Early in my story of The Voyage of The Aegre, I mention how I was influenced by Middleton’s account of a solo voyage around England in 1869 in an engineless flush-decked 23ft yawl.
In my opinion, it’s still as inspiring a read for the small boat sailor as when it was written 153 years ago.
It’s an amazing story you can learn more about here and also see more pictures of The Kate.
To learn how you can buy the Voyage of the Aegre book please go here.
The book: The Voyage of The Aegre launched in Scotland to positive reviews.
The Voyage of The Aegre book was launched in Lerwick, Shetland, during the Tall Ships Festival, 26-29 July 2023. See Shetland Launch to read all about it and listen to an interview with author Nick Grainger streamed by 60North Radio.
Nick in front of the Shetland Times Bookshop, Lerwick, Shetland
Following the Lerwick visit, Nick travelled to Scourie, the small village on the northwest coast of Scotland, the departure point of The Aegre, to tell the voyage story. A sentimental journey after 50 years. Read about it here.
Positive reviews have been coming in from yachting journalists and general readers, see Reviews.