Occasionally you see a book and it’s a combination of the cover, the title and a memory you have of a different book which you enjoyed. I was wandering in a book shop and there was a pile of paperbacks, ‘A Voyage For Madmen‘ by Peter Nichols. It was the story of the the 1968–1969 Sunday Times Golden Globe round-the-world yacht race,; what was different about it was that it was was non-stop and single-handed.
Several years ago, our book club read the story of one of the contestants, Donald Crowhurst who set off with all the others but when he realised he couldn’t possibly sail round the world, he pretended that he was doing so, radioing back false positions. It was a tragic story, and his end was unknown – although the boat was found. We watched a film of his story (not the recent movie but a factual account) We all enjoyed both the book and the film, so when i saw the peter Nichols book which was about all the competitors, and about the race itself, I bought it.
I guess the title ‘A Voyage For Madmen‘ made an impression on me as I can’t think of anything more frightening than to sail pretty much anywhere on my own… and to think of a person who was capable of doing that, then maybe indeed they must be a little mad. The story intrigues me because I remember the race being held, and I remember following it in the newspaper, and the shock when first of all Crowhurst went missing, and then when it was discovered he’d just been sailing round and round the Atlantic.
I stared reading the book today, and I was gripped and delighted by it – so well-written, so clear and so descriptive… I already feel a little seasick with the description of what one of the yachtsmen, Bernard Moitessier experienced even before he entered the race! The language Nichols uses is so descriptive and yet it’s also conversational and very engaging. At one point he uses the word ‘glim’ which conveys that special light of dawn, especially when the sun is coming up over the sea.
This is what Wiktionary says about the word:
From Middle English glim, glimme (“radiance; shining brightness”), of uncertain further origin. Perhaps from Old English gleomu (“splendor”) and/or Old Norse glim, *glima, both apparently from Proto-Germanic *glimō, from Proto-Indo-European gley- (“to gleam, shimmer, glow”)
However, when i came across the word ‘iffy’ I had to smile – it is such a lovely word and so perfectly conveys something which is not quite right, not quite kosher, something a little bit dodgy… or someone, such as Donald Crowhurst!