In late December 1956, the 46-foot wooden ketch Tzu Hang sailed from Melbourne, Australia, bound for England by way of Cape Horn. Aboard were Miles Smeeton; his wife, Beryl; and their friend John Guzzwell. At that time only a very few small sailboats had ever rounded Cape Horn, and none had sailed as far south as the route the Tzu Hang followed from Australia, just north of the Antarctic iceberg limit. Mountaineers as well as sailors, the Smeetons epitomized the adventurous spirit of the postwar years. Raban's introduction to pays homage to this fine story and explores its genesis. Miles Smeeton had been an officer in the British army in World War II and was among the many British veterans who could not adjust to home and career after the war. Unlike so many others whose marriages fell apart, however, he found that his wife's wanderlust and love of adventure exceeded his own.
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"Unique among books of maritime adventure." - Times Literary Supplement "They are the first people ever to return alive to tell the story of a boat being somersaulted....And they certainly make fascinating company for a reader with his eyes on the heights of human endeavour." - Sunday Times Jonathan Raban, Series Editor, says this about The Sailor's Classics: "After nearly two hundred years, the literature of small-boat voyaging is enormous. It is the function of The Sailor's Classics to recognize and celebrate the small number of truly important books in this library. Some have been chosen because the voyages they describe are themselves of unignorable merit; some because the sheer brilliance of their writing demands their inclusion. Most combine in equal parts serious nautical interest with literary excellence. These are books whose vigor has not dimmed with the passage of time, whose voice is as alive and meaningful now as it was on their first publication - the books that should be essential reading for every literate sailor. It is from the interweaving of discovery, emotion, adventure, peril, and repose that the pattern of sailing literature is made, and we shall do our best to honor each and every one in our selection of the best books ever written about life aboard small boats at sea.From the Back Cover:
"Unique among books of maritime adventure." New York Times Book Review
"There was a sudden sickening sense of disaster. I felt a great lurch and heel, and a thunder of sound filled my ears. I was conscious, in a terrified moment, of being driven into the front and side of my bunk with tremendous force. At the same time there was a tearing, cracking sound, as if Tzu Hang was being ripped apart, and water burst solidly, raging into the cabin."
When Tzu Hang, a 46-foot ketch, set sail from Melbourne in December 1956 bound for England, Miles and Beryl Smeeton, their Siamese cat, Pwe, and their friend, John Guzzwell, had little concept of the challenges or the terrors that awaited them. At that time very few small sailboats had successfully rounded Cape Horn, and none had sailed as far south as Tzu Hang just north of the Antarctic iceberg limit.
Six weeks later, on the night of February 12, in the icy, angry seas several hundred miles west of Cape Horn, Tzu Hang was caught from astern by a huge wave that somersaulted her. Beryl Smeeton, who had been alone at the tiller, was thrown thirty yards into the sea. Her lifeline broken, and suffering a scalp wound and a broken collarbone, she managed to swim to the wreckage of the mast and rigging in the water and pull herself close to the boat where Miles and John could heave her on board. Tzu Hang was a shambles: the tiller, rudder, doghouse, anchor, compass, and dinghies had all been ripped away; the masts had broken off level with the deck, and a tangled mass of wire shrouds, the masts, and the booms spread over the deck and into the water; and Tzu Hang was half-filled with water and close to sinking. The pumps were clogged with debris, so the laborious process of removing water from Tzu Hang twelve hours of near-constant bailing had to be done bucket by bucket. Working beyond exhaustion, the crew salvaged what they could, built a new doghouse and masts, fashioned a jury rig, and five weeks later sailed into Arauco Bay on the Chilean coast.
After ten months of making repairs to Tzu Hang in a Chilean navy yard, Miles and Beryl Smeeton (with Pwe but without John Guzzwell) sailed again toward Cape Horn and once again were capsized, dismasted, and nearly sunk by a rogue wave. Again, they survived the disaster and sailed 2,000 miles to Valparaiso, Chile.
One of the most gripping sea stories of all time, Once Is Enough recounts the adventures of Tzu Hang's crew. When it was first published in 1959, this tale of struggle and determination electrified the sailing world. What keeps it fresh and captivating is not just Smeeton's vivid re-creation of the sea's fury; his eloquent descriptions of life at sea and his colorful observations of the many people and places encountered during their journey make Once Is Enough timeless reading for sailors and armchair adventurers alike.
"Once Is Enough the story of a catastrophe twice over was Miles Smeeton's first book. It is also his best. He never wrote again with quite such compelling candor, allowing the reader to be the fourth crew member aboard Tzu Hang on the most grueling and disaster-ridden voyage in the boat's long history. . . . The strangest and most memorable thing about Once Is Enough is that it's not a heroic tale of survival, but of all things an idyll." from the introduction by Jonathan Raban
"Brigadier Smeeton's saga is the very essence of authenticity. Its message is clear and simple: Beware the sea in anger, for no small boat can conquer it, however expertly sailed." New York Times Book Review
"It is the struggle of these three indomitable sailors for survival and their extraordinary resource . . . that makes their taut journal unique among books of maritime adventure. . . . Tzu Hang and her crew add up not only to survival but to a tale full of sound and fury told by an intrepid but eminently sane survivor." Times (London) Literary Supplement
They are the first people ever to return alive to tell the story of a boat being somersaulted. . . . And they certainly make fascinating company for a reader with his eyes on the heights of human endeavor." Sunday Times
"Well and forthrightly written . . . full of real adventure and suspense. . . . One reading is not enough." Libary Journal
The Sailor's Classics recognizes and celebrates the best books ever written about life aboard small boats at sea:
Alone through the Roaring Forties, Vito Dumas
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
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