Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Friday, 20 May 2011

Surviving the savage sea

I will be above board about this: It's almost a week since I last blogged and I'm struggling to find my blogging 'legs'. I guess I really need to pump out my blogging bilge and refocus.
You see, I can't quite get my bearings; I feel a bit adrift from what's gone before.
But now I've started, I'll let go and haul.

About five years ago, Cesar heard of a book that he fancied reading, called 'The Last Voyage of the Lucette', about a family who had been shipwrecked. He duly read it and spent some time urging both Mateo and me to read it too. Mateo made a start but left off reading without really getting into it. I wasn't 'hooked' at all and didn't even read the blurb.

Somehow, it's one of the books that has found it's way to the apartment here. We'd picked a couple of boxes at random, from the many that contained books, as we came down from Valladolid to Alcala. Most of the books belong to Mateo, from the bookcase in his bedroom in England. This particular book must have still been on the shelves from when he last looked at it.

Having read all my Christmas books and the books I picked up in Oxfam when I last visited England, looking around the house, I found my choice was between 'The Lucette' or one of the 'Artemis Fowl' series, which is (apparently) about a genius teenager who doesn't always behave very well.... the author, Eoin Colfer, has described the series as 'Die Hard with fairies'. I just didn't fancy this as my bedtime reading material.

So, 'The Last Voyage of the Lucette' it was.

Without giving away too much of the story - clearly you understand that at least one member of the family of six that set out on the voyage around the world did make it back - otherwise there would be no book at all. Well actually, two members had to have made it back, because two books have been written - 'Survive the Savage Sea' was the first one, written by Dougal Robertson, the father. His son, Douglas, wrote the book I've just read.

I'm not writing a book review here - but I have to say that I understand why Mateo didn't persevere with it a few years ago - it's not easy reading. Written by a sailor, there is a more than a scattering of nautical expressions, details about boats that would only interest the most avid of seafarers and a lot of compass co-ordinates. The literary style is unusual and I found I was struggling to trust the narrator - essential in a story such as this. But then I worked out why. The story is told in the first person - and it is the father, Dougal, we think we are listening to. However, the book is a reworking of Dougal's original version, and so what we have here is the strange and sometimes uncomfortable combination of two voices - of both the father and the son. A relationship that had some very strained and difficult moments; two very different men.

Once I'd established this, I skimmed along through the book, tacking nicely between the occasionally conflicting styles, disliking Dougal and admiring Douglas in equal measures. The voyage was fraught from the outset - the family very nearly drowned on their first night out from Portsmouth. They didn't though - and continued on their way to have over a year of the most amazing adventures, opportunities and relative freedom from worldy trappings. And I was getting into the style.

And then, the disaster struck. Not one of the usual - frightful storm, whirlwind tornado, about to be run over by a tanker - sort of disaster that the family had faced thus far.
No. The Lucette was sunk in the middle of the Pacific Ocean by a herd? of killer whales. The family - or those still onboard - included Dougal, his wife Lyn, Douglas and the twins, Neil and Sandy. Also onboard was Robin, a young man who had joined them recently and who was a most unseaworthy sort of chap and with whom I had all the sympathy in the world. All of them managed to get into the life-raft - which they had with them by a miracle - and also managed to salvage their little 9 foot dinghy. This dinghy eventually carried all six people to the end of the story as the raft also succumbed to the sea and sank.

I sat up one night reading until after 3am, nibbling on a half a digestive biscuit and sipping tiny sips of water. (I was really hungry, but in deference to the awful situation the family were in, I couldn't indulge in anything more filling.)

And now, I've finished the book.

If you're interested in the story, take a look at the website about the family. And the Sunday Herald also published an interesting and sympathetic interview with Douglas in 2005.

The book has made me think about a lot of things - family, dealing with difficult situations, faith, society, people, death and life. And about the act of thoughtfulness, concern and generosity, shown by the Icelanders, - because whilst the Robertsons had given little enough thought for their own safety, someone else had considered it very seriously. And although most things in my life are not 'life-and-death' issues,  I think perhaps in a small way, I will stop and think that from time to time, I don't always know what is best for me and my family and will pay a little more attention to the opinions of others. They might be handing me a life-saver.

Well, that's what I'm taking from all my reading!
Something a little more light-hearted next, methinks!!


  1. Remind me to come back to this... it sounds good, and I want to see those links. This is one of those days when I want to sit here and really absorb your post, but GAH! I am supposed to do about forty two things. So, your post, and maybe? this book are going on my list of "Enjoy Later!"
    Have a great day, and thank you, friend.

  2. Sounds like an interesting read to me Annie. May need to come back and read it myself, although at the moment I've got a stack already in line. Not been making time to read recently.

    I hope the blogging blockage as now cleared!

  3. Try the Artemis Fowl one next it's actually really good :-)

    I've been a bit slow blogging lately, only doing one post a week although I have loads of posts half written. We all get slow times and feel we're losing focus but once you've done a year or so you don't stop because now you feel a responsibility to write it!

    K xxxx

  4. You're right Karen - about the blogging.
    (It'll take a bit more to convince me of Artemis Fowl!)
    Just now I'm so sleepy all the time - think it's the change in weather and increase in heat which I haven't really got used to yet - and so I am not blogging as much as usual. I'm sleeping!

  5. Well, you can't write properly if you're sleepy, Annie, so perhaps when you've caught up with your sleep, inspiration will return. I doubt I'll read your book, despite your great post, as I'm afraid I haven't a lot of patience with people who put themselves, and even worse, their family, in danger like that. Gosh, that sounds pompous, but I hope you know what I mean.....

  6. It was a case of needs must - fortunately, I've received two books in the post which are much more my thing! Ax


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