Alone Through the Roaring Forties is the story of Vito Dumas's wartime voyage from Argentina eastward around the globe in the 31-foot canoe-sterned ketch Lehg II. By any measure, it was a remarkable, unprecedented voyage over what Dumas justly called "the impossible route" - south of the Cape of Good Hope, south of Australia, south of Cape Horn. Leaving Buenos Aires in June 1942, he made the 20,000-mile voyage singlehanded, becoming the first to do so. He was also the first solo sailor to round Cape Horn and survive, and the first to sail around the world with only three landfalls. Dumas completed his high-latitude voyage through the great Southern Ocean, where prevailing westerly gales push huge seas unimpeded around and around the bottom of the globe. His gear and provisions were makeshift - he suffered inordinately because his tattered clothing provided no protection from the cold wind and water - but his boat, though very small, was tough and well mannered. He was awarded the Slocum Prize in 1957 "to honour the extraordinary voyages made by the greatest solitary navigator in the world." Alone Through the Roaring Forties was first published in Spanish, then in French, and finally, in 1960, in English. Somehow through its translations it retained the qualities not just of a great voyage, but of a great book. It reflects the force of Dumas's personality, the ups and downs of elation and depression, hardship and relaxation, and above all, his unrelenting determination in the face of adversities. It is a story of skilled navigation and seamanship and of great adventure, and it is the godfather of all later stories about daring the vast, forbidding Southern Ocean in frail sailboats - including, most recently, Derek Lundy's Godforsaken Sea. Any sailor in the Roaring Forties must reach an accommodation with the sea at its most challenging and inhospitable. Dumas was the first to do so alone in a small boat, and it is that struggle which informs every page of his book, placing it among The Sailor's Classics. Jonathan Raban's introduction places this great book, out of print for many years, in its deserved place of eminence in the literature of the sea. Rich with details of Dumas's life and motivations, the introduction will help readers appreciate the magnitude of Dumas's trail-blazing accomplishment, his reasons for undertaking it, and its significance for the generations of adventurers that have followed.
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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, since carrying one during wartime might have labeled him a spy.
He was the first to complete the 20,000-mile voyage singlehanded, 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, recording 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 enchanting nature of the sea. His trio of landfalls sojourns he called "calm waters where my spirit could rest" add yet another distinction 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."
"One of the greatest voyages ever made by a solo sailor. Dumas's three-stop solo circumnavigation of the world, at latitudes infamous for their extended gales and appallingly high seas, was accomplished in a cruising ketch, less than 32 feet in length, without self-steering gear, in the middle of a major war. . . . It is his reverence for the small things that gives Alone Through the Roaring Forties its distinction as a classic. This most harrowing of voyages is presented by its author as a story of Everyman on a modest sea pilgrimage. . . . Other solo circumnavigators have made the world seem dauntingly larger by their harrowing exploits; Dumas makes it seem smaller." from the introduction by Jonathan RabanAbout the Author:
Vito Dumas was born in Argentina in 1900. He was an avid swimmer in his youth, reportedly making a 42-kilometer, 25-hour swim across the Rio Plate estuary from Uruguay to Argentina at the age of twenty-three. At the same time he developed a love of sailing, at least in part, his translator hints, as an escape from difficult family circumstances. Dumas's 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. When not at sea he was a farmer and rancher by livelihood, painter and musician by avocation. He was awarded the Slocum Prize, the most coveted award for ocean voyagers, in 1957. Like many lone voyagers he had definite ideas and idiosyncrasies, refusing to carry a sea anchor, a bilge pump, or more than one screw driver on board. Dumas died in Argentina. Born in England in 1942, Jonathan Raban taught English literature before becoming a full-time writer in 1969. He first lived in America as a visiting professor at Smith College in 1972. A full-time writer since 1969, his books include Soft City (1973), Arabia Through the Looking Glass (1979), Old Glory: A Voyage Down the Mississippi (1981 - winner of the W.H. Heinemann Award for Literature and the Thomas Cook Award), Foreign Land (1985), Coasting: A Private Voyage (1986), For Love and Money (1987), Hunting Mister Heartbreak: A Discovery of America (1990 - winner of the Thomas Cook Award), and Bad Land: An American Romance (1996 - a New York Times Editors' Choice for Book of the Year; winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award; winner of the PEN West Creative Nonfiction Award; winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award). Paul Theroux called Bad Land "a masterpiece," and a recent Kirkus review of Raban's newest book, Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings (November 1999), calls him "one of the English-speaking world's great travelers and travel writers." Raban began sailing in the early 1980s. He has sailed alone around Britain and has spent much time afloat on the coastal seas of Europe. Since moving to Seattle in 1990, he sails a twenty-year-old Swedish ketch on the rim of the North Pacific. He edited The Oxford Book of the Sea in 1992. The Guardian has called him "the finest writer afloat since Conrad."
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