Sunday, January 03, 2016

Book Review: The Lonely Sea and the Sky by Francis Chichester

I've read quite a bit about Robin Knox-Johnston but much less about his solo circumnavigating predecessor, Francis Chichester, so picked up this book hoping to learn more about his historic voyage on Gipsy Moth IV.

However it turned out this was the book of his life up to Gipsy Moth IV, so while there were several sailing adventures there wasn't the one I was hoping to learn about.

But it was still an interesting read. It starts with a description of a hard childhood and then an aimless youth in which he tried a wide range of careers from mining to farming. Finally it was as a property developer in New Zealand that he had the time and money for his real passions: flying and sailing.

He flew single handed from London to Sydney in 1929 - 30, across the Tasmin Sea in 1931 and then later that year from Australia up to Japan as he tried to complete his flight around the world. There were quite a few prangs, include one pretty nasty one, and an interesting take on celestial navigation from the air ("off-course navigation").

Then he got sick, seriously sick, with lung cancer.

One of the strong messages I got from this book was that life can begin again. For he successfully battled that illness and in his late fifties back in the UK took up long distance offshore sailing.

So it need not be too late and it is worth fighting on. As someone who's spent quite a bit of last year off sick that was a positive message.

An interesting read about a famous sailor, clearly a tough coot.

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