What the critics say
Reviews of Wild Seas to Greenland
Wild Seas to Greenland – reviewed by Ivor Wilkins, Breeze magazine.
In 2017, Whitbread Round the World Race winner Ross Field made an attempt on the notorious Northwest Passage with a sturdy, French aluminium cruising yacht. It was a far cry from the lightweight racing machines in which he carved an international ocean racing career. Entering harbours, it made such an intimidating impression that other yachts scrambled to get out of the way and sales of fenders soared.
The yacht called Rosemary made it to Greenland, final stepping point for the Northwest Passage attempt. However, faced with unreliable compasses and the prospect of having to handsteer through hazardous, icy high-latitudes, Field called the expedition off and returned to Ireland.
Journalist and author Rebecca Hayter crewed aboard Rosemary and has produced a self-published account of the voyage. Arctic passagemaking is serious business and anybody would be proud to include Greenland on their sailing CV. But at first glance an expedition that fails to achieve its purpose, in which nobody suffers life-threatening injuries, there are no mid-ocean capsizes, or boat-crushing encounters with ice, might seem unpromising material for a book. Everyone gets home safely.
It is testament to Hayter’s writing skill that in Wild Seas to Greenland – a sailing adventure with ocean racer Ross Field she has nevertheless woven a spellbinding story of seafaring adventure with a “warhorse of the seas”.
The fact that there were no major disasters, that problems and challenges were overcome or avoided through good seamanship, careful weather-routing and sound decision-making is the story. There are lessons here that anybody contemplating offshore passage-making would do well to absorb, particularly in relation to weather strategies.
Be assured, though, this is no dry, how-to manual. Written with a light touch, it is full of humour, honesty, fear, insight, contemplation, spirituality, yoga, even recipes – and occasional moments of sheer poetry that stop you in your tracks. “Fish guts and diesel smell like love and integrity to me,” for example, as part of an evocative description of the scruffy anchorage at Nuuk. How she and Field get on as crewmates is peppered with hilarious incidents, minor crises and mishaps.
Extracts from Field’s own emails and Facebook posts add to the texture of the narrative. Another constant voice is Hayter’s father, Adrian, who sailed single-handed from England to New Zealand in . Passages from his book, Sheila in the Wind introduce each chapter.
His daughter has produced a book of which he would have been proud.
Review by Peter Thomas, Flaxroot Productions
This book records a voyage under sail by the New Zealand author Rebecca Hayter and her sailing partner Ross Field. Starting from Lymington in the south of England, they sail to Greenland and back. But it is much more than a record of a voyage.
In relating their adventure Rebecca imparts awe for the changing moods of ocean and sky. She achieves freshness in her writing by the skilful use of original metaphor and simile while its occasional cheeky use adds sparkle and makes the book a delight to read. At times I almost believed I could feel the thump as their vessel came off the top of a big one and ploughed into the following breaking crest.
This is a book that will hold a special appeal to members of the yachting fraternity. Readers unfamiliar with boats may have some difficulty with a few of the technical terms but this shouldn’t be considered detrimental to enjoying this delightful adventure.
With extensive experience in ocean racing, Ross persuades an initially reluctant Rebecca to transit the Northwest Passage – arguably the world’s most hazardous maze of islands, ice and ocean. It runs between Northern Canada and the Arctic ocean – a graveyard of failed attempts.
The preparation for the voyage started in France with the purchase of Rosemary, an elderly aluminium vessel notable for its hull strength rather than its equipment or standard of maintenance. At what must have been eye-watering expense, the hull was refitted in preparation for the hazardous voyage ahead. Those with an interest in boats will find these preparations provide an insight into the character of Ross.
The voyage starts from Lymington – a mariner’s port I personally know well. It’s a place where weekend sailors mingle with ocean going yachtsmen and merge into, and become part of, the history of sail.
The book contains numerous excellent photographs relating to the voyage and took me a little way towards experiencing the spirit of Rebecca’s Wild Seas to Greenland. It’s a journey that along the way captures vibes of the Irish during a port call to Dingle before they face the North Atlantic storms, ice, fog and crazy compass readings as they get closer to the Magnetic North. Lacking a gyro compass meant they had to steer manually.
Knowing nothing about either Nuuk – the capital of Greenland – or Greenland’s fiords I absorbed Rebecca’s descriptions with fascination.
With the Northwest Passage closed, lacking a gyro compass and up to date charts, Ross made the decision to attempt a return journey across the North Atlantic. Pressed hard by heavy weather they sailed along isobars rather than across them thus avoiding more severe storms. This technique was supported by weather routing the North Atlantic using meteorological satellite data transmitted to them. It got them home and resulted in an outstanding story.
I recommend Rebecca Hayter’s book to any nautically obsessed readers and those interested in a seagoing adventure told with wit and humour.
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