“A great sea story – once you find it

A Foolish Voyage: Self-Discovery At Sea,”
by Neil Hawkesford; self-published, 2015; 155 pp.

Reviewed by Sandy Marsters
For Points East

When we first meet Neil Hawkesford, he is hanging upside down from his seatbelt in his wrecked car after running off the road during a rally competition. If you stick with this book, which is a huge challenge, you will come to be surprised that he was even wearing a helmet or a seatbelt.

Anyway, he and his navigator are fine. The car is a total loss (no worries – it’s a Ford Escort). Once you get to know him, it will also not surprise you that he wrecked something. But I foreshadow. Somebody had to, because the author certainly wasn’t going to do it.

Except now he has a problem. Well, many problems, but one in particular at the moment.

“I was broke and there was no way I could afford to get the car repaired.” This will also come as no surprise once we get to know Neil a little better.

So what’s the story here and why is it being reviewed in a boating rag? Good question. You will find out, but first you’ll have to slog through 105 pages. That’s 105 of 150 pages. Yes, you can skip directly to page 105. The good news is that then you will get to a great sailing tale worthy of a boating magazine. But not a book.

Ok, so with his car wrecked, Neil looks to the future. “I’d lived and breathed rallying for years, it was going to leave a big hole in my life.” (Sidebar: Yes, that’s a run-on sentence. One of the many dangers of self-publishing, in addition to not getting to the point sometime in the first 105 pages). “As I sat and watched the other cars pass by I wondered how (yes, there’s a comma missing after . . . oh, never mind) on earth I was going to fill it.”

Answer: With a boat. A 17-foot, 3-inch British Silhouette MKIII with twin keels so it can sit up in British mud. Neil named it Mor Gwas, Cornish for “Sea Servant.”

Ok, off we go to Page 105.

Oh, first, here is something he will (barely) live to regret thinking: “It’s a beautiful thing that the principles of sail and sailing remain the pretty much the same whatever boat you’re on. You just need to find the right bit of rope, haul on it and find some wind.” Sure. Easy.

Continuing to fill the hole in his life, Neil decides to sail his little boat solo from Falmouth, England across the notoriously nasty Bay of Biscay to Baiona in Northern Spain. A low that was supposed to move away doesn’t. Uh-oh!

This is where the story begins. Or should have. In a moment like this:

“Fear brought the bile up from my stomach and I dry retched over the cockpit side. Things were getting serious.” You have to love British understatement.

It doesn’t get any better for Neil.

Since he wrote this book, I’m not spoiling things by saying he lived. But it was close, and only because he met some very brave and very kind people.

Worth a read? Sure. It’s free. On Kindle. Just skip the first two-thirds of the book.

Co-founder of Points East, Sandy Marsters is also the magazine’s former editor.

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