Last Voyages by Nicholas Gray
This compilation of sailors last voyages, naturally finishes with sad and tragic events; however it does capture the pioneering spirit in an era of few navigation aids, the use of new materials in boat construction, especially in catamarans, and scant regard for individual safety. We are all beneficiaries, today, of lessons learnt in boat development, in particular in ocean and global racing. The author took to sailing at an early age and whilst racing became acquainted with a number of the well-known yachtsmen whose endeavours gained the public’s attention. The loss of Eric Tabarly and Rob James, whose wife Naomi achieved around the world fame are included.
This presents as soft-back book of 5 by 7 inches and with its eye-catching cover of Philip Walwyn’s beautiful gaff cutter ‘Katie’ under full sail, is a book that just begs to be picked up for a quick read. However, it is difficult to assign this book to a particular genre for Nicholas Gray does not tell us a story in the sense that there is a beginning, middle and end but in only 236 pages and eleven chapters Gray sets out breath-taking accounts of events that led to the tragic sea-faring deaths of seventeen people – and Nicholas Gray is absolutely qualified to write such a unique book. An experienced sailor himself with thousands of sea-miles behind him, Gray has variously owned, sailed, crewed in and raced many yachts and he had either met some of the subjects revealed in his book or he has known people who knew them.
It is clear that the eventually tragic subjects and their histories have been diligently researched and Gray’s legal mind has objectively examined the evidence. He sets out a series of difficult subjects in a captivating easy to read style, each page crammed with information and insights.
So who would benefit from reading this book? Well this is a ‘must read’ for sailors and of course for anyone contemplating a serious sea voyage or off-shore race. The hidden theme in this book however, is the insight that Nicholas Gray brings to bear on the psychological weaknesses and almost blind strengths of those personalities and the inward struggles that led inevitably to those last and fatal voyages. This is a book that should be read by everyone who is fascinated by human behaviour or who is studying psychology – Psycho-analysts will love it.
My only criticism relates to the print quality of some of the monochrome plates, but having said that, I look forward with anticipation to the next book by Nicholas Gray.