Below the Cape of Good Hope and south of Australia lie the feared latitudes of the "Roaring Forties", where non-stop westerly gales push huge seas, unimpeded, around and around the bottom of the world. It was into this watery hell that, in 1942, Vito Dumas set sail in a 31-foot ketch, outfitted with a makeshift gear and provisions and a stoic indifference to the privations he would endure. His 20,000-mile voyage through the vast Southern Ocean set many records, including first solo sailor to round Cape Horn and first to sail around the world with only three landfalls.
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"One of the classic small-boat voyages of all time." Jonathan Raban
In June 1942, Vito Dumas set off from Buenos Aires for a trip around the world unlike any previous circumnavigation eastward over the "impossible route," the Roaring Forties of the Southern Ocean: south of the Cape of Good Hope, south of Australia, and south of Cape Horn. His craft, the Lehg II, a 31-foot ketch named for his mistress, carried only the most makeshift gear and provisions; he refused to carry a sea anchor, a bilge pump, or more than one screwdriver, and he had so few clothes that he had to stuff them with newspaper to keep warm. He also sailed without a radio, as carrying one during wartime would have labeled him a spy.
He was the first to complete the 20,000-mile voyage single-handed, the first solo sailor to round Cape Horn and survive, and the first to sail around the world with only three landfalls (in South Africa, New Zealand, and Chile). But what sets this story apart is Dumas's powerful prose, relating elation and depression, hardship and relaxation, and, above all, his unrelenting determination in the face of adversity. The terror of sailing through massive storms without respite from the helm alternates with periods of relative calm when he reflects on the peaceful, enchanting nature of the sea. His trio of landfalls sojourns he called "calm waters where my spirit could rest" add yet another dimension to this beautiful tale. Alone through the Roaring Forties is also a tribute to Lehg II, Dumas's beloved boat. He calls her his "shipmate," and "faithful companion," "an ideal floating house of extraordinary strength and endurance," and had complete faith in her abilities and performance.
First published in 1960, Alone through the Roaring Forties is a classic tale of skilled navigation, seamanship, and great adventure, but it also demonstrates, as Dumas intended, the possibilities of global peace and friendship in a world at war. As Jonathan Raban writes in his introduction, "Dumas chose to see his circumnavigation as a test of his ordinary humanity. There are hurricane-force winds here, and hazardous waves, but . . . it is his reverence for the small things that gives Alone through the Roaring Forties its distinction as a classic."
"Other solo circumnavigators have made the world seem dauntingly larger by their harrowing exploits; Dumas makes it seem smaller. He rides lightly over the vicissitudes of his voyage, perhaps because his mission was to connect up the world at a time when it was tragically divided." from the introduction by Jonathan Raban
The Sailor's Classics recognizes and celebrates the best books ever written about life aboard small boats at sea:
40,000 Miles in a Canoe, John C. Voss
Gipsy Moth Circles the World, Francis Chichester
The Saga of Cimba, Richard Maury
The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst, Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall
Vito Dumas was born in Argentina in 1900. His several ocean voyages began in 1931 with a 74-day solo trip from France to Argentina. Subsequent to his around-the-world voyage, he circumnavigated the Atlantic in 1945 - 46 and sailed from Buenos Aires to New York in 1955 in a tiny, 2 1/2-ton boat. He was awarded the Slocum Prize, the most coveted award for ocean voyagers, in 1957.
Jonathan Raban is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the editor of The Oxford Book of the Sea and author of ten critically acclaimed books, including Passage to Juneau. He is the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Heinemann Award for Literature, and received the New York Times Editors' Choice for Book of the Year for Old Glory and Bad Land. He has been called (by The Guardian) "the finest writer afloat since Conrad."
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