Lockdown literature! | Tecla

Lockdown literature!

We have asked you to let us know what you are up to in these lockdown times and what you would recommend to keep the sailing Spirit going! One of our expedition members send us this amazing short list of literature to keep your sailors heart beating in this lockdown time. Thank you Richard! Stay safe in South Africa!

I found the following five books informative and inspiring, way beyond being merely a good read.

The Lost Men by Kelly Tyler-Lewis.

Shackleton’s ill-fated 1914 expedition to cross Antarctica is famous for many things, including the fact that he ‘never lost a single man’. However this is being slightly economical with the truth. The expedition actually consisted of two parts and the story of the Ross Sea Party on the Aurora, that went to meet Shackleton on the other side of the continent has been all but forgotten. This meticulously researched but very readable book is that story, which is every bit as remarkable as the one of the party led by Shackleton himself. However they didn’t all survive, although they accomplished everything they set out to do despite overwhelming hardships including being stranded when the Aurora was torn away from her mooring by pack ice and had to return to New Zealand. Read on!

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick.

This is the true-life story that inspired the legend of Moby Dick. After the whaleship Essex was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in the Pacific in 1820, the survivors faced a harrowing battle for survival, eventually resorting to cannibalism. The story has also been made into a film but the film strays significantly from the facts. In my opinion the book is far better.

The Way of a Ship by Allan Villiers

(Note: There appears to be another book with the same title by Derek Lundy. It is the one by Allan Villiers that I am recommending.)

Many think that the last ships of the Great Age of Sail were the clippers, but in fact a few of the huge steel cargo carrying square riggers, the Cape Horners, were still plying their trade up until the period between the World Wars. A reviewer on Amazon calls this book ‘THE primer for understanding square rigged sailing ships’ and comments as follows:

‘Most comprehensive book on square rigged sailing, covers the ships, the men, the economics and the captains of the late sailing age (clippers to steel sailing ships). Provides both broad scope and detail on aspects of rigging and shiphandling. Required reading when this reviewer was Bosun on the brig “Unicorn”‘

I learnt many things from this book, including the fact that the sailors of these great vessels could only claim to have ’rounded the Horn’ if they had done it from East to West!

Thinking Up A Hurricane by Martinique Stilwell

‘This book is the unique coming of age memoir of Martinique Stilwell’s recounting of her true life gypsy childhood. It is poignant and funny and heartbreaking all at the same time. In the spring of 1977 Frank Stilwell launched Vingila, 17 tons of welded together 11-millimetre steel plates, in Durban harbour. An electrician by trade, Frank’s experience of sailing amounted to not very much – an unpleasant spell on a Scottish fishing trawler as a young man and a brief holiday on someone else’s yacht off the coast of Mozambique a couple of years before. Never one to be daunted by a challenge or to be resisted in any way, he took his nine year old twins, Robert and Nicky, out of school, persuaded his wife Maureen that they would all learn how to sail and cope with life on the open seas as they went, and prepared to follow his dream of circumnavigating the world. Facing real danger from the elements and at first having to live more by their wits than their skills, the Stilwell family set off boldly, determined to become part of a community of sailors and adventurers who spend more time on the ocean than they do on dry land. With the wisdom and innocence of a child’s point of view, it is a powerful yet tender story of physical and emotional adversity, of family dysfunction and the ties that bind, and of the shackles and exhilarating freedom of growing up different.’ (Google reviews.)

There is a copy of this book in the library on board the Tecla. The author, who now lives in Cape Town, was due to come on board when the ship docked there in April 2020 and add her autograph. Sadly the South African lockdown just beat her to it.

The Bounty Mutiny by Captain William Bligh.

This story has been often told and it would seem Bligh has been unfairly demonised, particularly by the film industry, so it is good to read his own account of the mutiny and its aftermath. It must have taken a remarkable man to preserve the lives of all 17 of his fellow sailors during what has been described as the most incredible voyage ever undertaken in an open boat, over 3600 miles in 41 days, to safety in Indonesia.


Do you have any activities to add to our to do list for this lockdown?!