Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Foolish Voyage: Self-Discovery at Sea (A Book Review)

In the early months of full-time cruising, one of the things that floated around the periphery of my sub-conscious as I stood watch on our overnight passages was whether or not I would be capable of single-handing Kintala in the event that something happened to Tim. My fear-driven, wild imagination nearly paralyzed me in those first few months, exacerbated by the occasional freakish weather event that required his attention on our very dangerous foredeck. We would run into single-handers as we socialized in anchorages – some male, some female, some smallish boats, some quite large – and always my reaction was awe and admiration.

It's hard to imagine what drives the soul who wishes to ply the big oceans alone, especially one in a small boat. I've been out there in big, blue water enough to understand the challenges of sea sickness, sleep deprivation, and physical exhaustion, and I have experienced those with the support of a deep relationship with a life-long partner. To take it all on willingly, alone...hard to wrap my head around it, so I was interested when I was approached to review the book AFoolish Voyage: Self-Discovery at Sea by Neil Hawkesford.

Neil's yearning for the sea was motivated in part by having suffered the similar disillusionment with corporate greed and power struggles that we did. At an early age he was dismissed from a position unjustly, found himself with a lawsuit settlement as a result, and began thinking about the sea as an alternative to his quite unhappy life. He had been inspired by the book Shrimpy by Shane Acton and had been long interested in the boat that Shane used to sail around the world, an 18-foot plywood Caprice daysailer. After looking for a similar boat, he found an 18-foot Hurley Silhouette and bought her. He named her Mor Gwas, which means “Sea Servant” in the old Cornish language. After a three-month refit he began his voyage.

A Foolish Voyage tells the story of the making of a true voyager. Neil's determination to live a life worth living inspires the reader to do the same: to challenge the status quo and to evaluate a life's direction. It is a story of achieving a dream and the hurdles one must overcome on the way. It is also a story of failure and how it impacts our lives and spirits. For some, failure is an unscalable brick wall, a devastation so complete as to halt the endeavor. For others, it is a challenging opportunity to grow. In A Foolish Voyage Neil bares his soul and allows us, the readers, to join him in the examination of our own failures if we dare.

A Foolish Voyage is a stroll through the world of the small-boat sailor in England, rich with the types of characters one always seems to find in the vicinity of small boats and replete with the heady sensations of harbours as well as the open sea. It is at once both a tale of courage as well as doubt, a vivid account of those moments that, if survived, make the stories sailors love to tell “round a pint” or two...much, much later.

While Mor Gwas' ending is not so happy, Neil picked up the pieces and built a Wharram Tiki 38 catamaran along with the help of his partner Gail. You can read about his current escapades on his blog at


Unknown said...

Just started this book, based on your review. Let me put you on to a very engaging book I just read, "Fourteen: A Daughter's Memoir of Adventure, Sailing, and Survival" by Leslie Johansen Nack. If you use a Kindle, it is not included in "Amazon Unlimited" but it is well worth the cost (about $8.70 for Kindle). Unfortunately, many good books come from people with challenging pasts and this is the case here. Anyway, get the free sample on your Kindle and see what you think.

George said...

Read it also, very engaging