The Cruise of the Dream Ship by Ralph Stock – 1921

Torn cover of The Cruise of the Dream Ship
The remains of the cover of my copy of The Cruise of the Dream Ship

RALPH STOCK was a pioneer of modem ocean-roving in a yacht large enough to provide comfort and company, but not so large that the owner has to depend upon a paid crew. Stock’s Ogre – often called the Dream Ship – was one of the first to go through the Panama Canal from Europe to the South Seas. He showed that long voyages can be made without undue privation, without heroics, and even without the loss of a sense of humour.

Miss Mabel M. Stock, his sister, sailed with him and showed that ocean cruising could be enjoyed and not merely endured by a woman. (sic) Brother and sister were accompanied by a friend for the entire voyage from Brixham, Devon, to the Tonga Islands. – from Shipping Wonders of the World – see link below

Fighting in the trenches in France in WW1, Ralph Stock dreamed of sailing to the South Seas. A fanciful dream for a man of modest means, even more so in those days when normally only gentlemen had sea-going yachts and crews to sail them. But amidst the carnage, Stock dreamt of something simpler that would take him as far away as it was possible to go.

Somehow he makes it come to pass and heads off with his sister Peter (sic) and good friend Steve aboard a 47ft Colin Archer sloop built in 1908. With no paid hands but a piano below. Across the Atlantic and much of the Pacific. Common today, but not so in 1919.

Stock tells the story wonderfully, with engaging subtle humour throughout. The photo captions alone are masters of restraint that still make me chuckle. While he regarded himself as an amateur, he was a highly competent sailor. Apart from the sailing, he writes much about the places they paused and the people they met – a little window into another time – often with dry humour in a very English way.

The book was popular in its day. First published in 1921 and republished in 1922, 1923 and 1927. My edition is dated 1931. It’s deservedly popular. It’s a terrific read still today.

You can still find it at reasonable prices on Abe Books

But it all came to an end in Tonga. Ashore, and I quote,

“In the island capital of Nukualofa, there is a club, and from that club emerged a genial gentleman who, had I known what I know now, would never have set foot aboard the dream ship. He came, he saw, and we repaired to the club.

“Do you want to sell that boat of yours?” he asked me.

“No,” said I.

“Will you sell her?” he corrected himself.

“Not for what any sane man would care to pay,I told him.

“And what is that, may I ask?”

I named a figure sufficiently preposterous to raise a laugh from most people. But the genial gentleman did not laugh.

“You’d take no less?” he suggested bravely.

“Not a cent,” said I, “As a matter of fact —-”

“I suppose a draft on —- will satisfy you?”

“What’s that?” I stammered.

“I’ll take her,” said the genial gentleman. “I was saying that —”

But I heard no more. I had sold the dream ship!

…. then he had to break the news to Peter and Steve…

Flush with funds, Stock went on to look for another Dream Ship.

But he never found one.

I’m far from doing the story justice in the above. Online I found a website with a much better overview. Well worth a look. See Shipping Wonders of the World.

Even better, Project Gutenberg has republished it as a free ebook. Their edition has more pictures and drawings than mine too. The Cruise of the Dream Ship – an ebook from Gutenberg

Or you can find your own hardcopy at Abe Books etc

Subscribe for more background; buy the book for the whole story.

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