It’s 1973. Nick and Julie Grainger have nervously set sail in their 6.55m Shetland-style boat from Scourie in NW Scotland towards Madeira off the West Coast of Africa. Aged 23 and 19 respectively, the pair have little offshore sailing experience but hope their passion, enthusiasm and careful planning will compensate.

Thus begins the voyage of The Aegre.

The Graingers had bought The Aegre in Scotland while they were working at John Ridgway’s Adventure School. The double-ended traditional Shetland-style open boat is not dissimilar to a whaleboat and is very seaworthy. The Graingers convert The Aegre into a budget ocean cruiser by building a flush deck, a small cockpit and twin buoyancy compartments.

The book details the Graingers’ adventures in sailing south to Madeira, across the Atlantic to Barbados and Grenada, traversing the Panama Canal, and then onto Tahiti via the Marquesas. Despite The Aegre’s small size, she copes surprisingly well in the open ocean, and the couple have no real problems reaching Tahiti.

This changes on their next leg to Raratonga when a storm three days out capsizes The Aegre. With The Aegre’s interior completely flooded and kept afloat solely by her buoyancy compartments, the couple survives the night by frantic bailing. The cold light of day reveals the damage: besides The Aegre’s rig and sails, the Graingers have lost their inflatable dinghy, most of their food and water, nearly all their navigation equipment and much else.

Advertisement

After erecting a jury rig, in an amazing feat of seamanship and navigation, the couple reached safety in Pago Pago in Samoa 31 days later.

The book’s very well-written and, once started, hard to put down. The Voyage of The Aegre will make a truly excellent Christmas gift for the sailor in the house. Highly recommended. BNZ

– Reviewed by John Macfarlane