Alain Gerbault: Fight of the Firecrest

April 13, 2013

41WRU6f43fL._AA160_Another of my cerise Penguins here, from 1938, and one I didn’t know about until I found it at a wonderful secondhand bookshop – Aardvark Books – in Southern Shropshire/ Herefordshire.

I knew about Gerbault‘s curious nautical nomadism from reading the early books of my favourite travel writer Ella Maillart; she did some sailing in the 1920s and knew Gerbault (she and her friend get a very brief, anonymous mention in this book). He tells of his single-handed journey through storms and hurricanes as he sailed from Gibraltar to New York in 1923, one of the very first to make the journey single-handed. His love of his boat is evident, and there’s lots of information that only sailors will make sense of, but the adventure, the thrill, the enjoyment and the dangers are all graphically conveyed in this account; his love of solitude is very clear, though harder to understand, until perhaps one reflects that he is another of those young people perhaps indelibly marked by their experiences in the Great War.

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