What the critics say

Reviews of Wild Seas to Greenland

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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 [1950]. Passages from his book, Sheila in the Wind introduce each chapter.
His daughter has produced a book of which he would have been proud.

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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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NZ Booklovers Q&A with Rebecca Hayter

Tell us about Wild Seas to Greenland


Wild Seas to Greenland is a four-month story of Ross Field, a tough, professional ocean racer who decided that his retirement would involve expedition cruising. He turned his 35 years of ocean racing experience to the refit of an even tougher 20-year-old aluminium yacht that no one else wanted and set sail for the North West Passage, with me on board.

As a yachting journalist of nearly 30 years, I wanted to take the story deeper, including details of Ross Field’s decision process as he applied his own DIY hard graft and informed selection of modern technology to bring the boat to her potential, and to make the journey safer and more comfortable.

In the North Atlantic, I observed Ross’s storm tactics and his use of modern weather routing systems which, he says, are the greatest advance in ocean safety.

I started writing for yachting readers, but it has become a story for all adventurers at heart. By writing a book rather than a series of magazine articles, I could set free my sailing-writing wings; it’s pretty candid in parts and Ross is a fascinating character – decisive, skilled, intelligent and funny.

Greenland is a rugged, Arctic destination seldom visited by Kiwi yachts. After a brief exploration, we were back into the ocean for even bigger storms.

As Wild Seas to Greenland developed, I included brief excerpts from Sheila in the Wind, written by my father, Adrian Hayter, who sailed around the world single-handed in the 1950s.

Like Dad, Ross Field and I experienced the ocean wilderness. Unlike Dad, we had latest weather routing technology and plenty of food; we didn't have to eat the barnacles off the bottom of the boat.

  

What inspired you to write this book?

I had hoped to write a series of magazine articles about the voyage but although I sold several articles in New Zealand and overseas, I was unable to sell a series of the voyage. I believed the voyage was an extremely unusual opportunity: a famous sailor, a major DIY refit, latest technology and a rare destination, written by a yachting journalist who could cover the technical depth where it counted. I supported Ross Field’s view that his knowledge could help to save lives at sea, and I couldn’t bear to see the material go unused.

When I couldn’t sell the series of articles, I started writing the book as a reluctant option, but Wild Seas to Greenland has evolved into far more than I envisaged, including my foray into self-publishing.


What research was involved?

Most of the research happened naturally during the voyage. Afterwards, I interviewed Ross Field and his son Campbell Field at length about technical details, especially the weather routing. I spent about four months on those chapters, so that it would be easily readable. I interviewed several other technical experts on equipment on the boat and researched the history of the North West Passage and Greenland. I also contacted the harbour master in Greenland.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

Initially the process was piecemeal as I was trying to publish it as a series of articles. I had some success: Small Boat to Greenland ran in North and South magazine which won Highly Commended in Philippines Airlines Best New Zealand Travel Feature, and several articles were published in boating magazines in Australia and USA. Writing the book was a back-burner process and I had multiple files on my computer at various stages. When Covid happened, I made it my lockdown project and finished it over the next few months.

I decided fairly early on to self-publish. I knew it would be a useful learning curve, and that as a magazine editor I had skills to ensure a polished product and yachting contacts to help me promote it. I love having the book the way I want it, instead of a publisher’s view. The self-publishing decision led to building a website, so it’s been a much bigger process than I imagined.


If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

It sounds a cliché but I’d have Spartacus from Khachaturian, the theme from The Onedin Line. It’s such stirring music that captures the drama of a storm.

I’d also choose Guadeloupe written by Tom Russell and sung by Gretchen Peters. It’s poignant and spiritual, which also relates to being at sea. There is a line: I am the least of all your pilgrims here; I am most in need of hope. Sometimes being a speck on the ocean makes me feel exhilarated; at other times, like a tiny traveller in the great order of things.


What did you enjoy the most about writing Wild Seas to Greenland?

I always say that writing a book is like pushing a wheelbarrow to the top of a hill. It gets harder and harder, but then suddenly you’re cruising down the other side and the book is finding its own path. That’s a fun stage.

Some chapters were based on articles I’d already written, so they were relatively easy, but they bring changes of mood. The chapter in Ireland started life as a short story and is quite different from the rest, but it fits with the change in scenery. It is one of my favourite chapters.

I love the title. I went through hundreds of ideas and had pretty much resigned myself to settling for second-best. One morning I was washing the dishes and wildseastogreenland slipped through my mind. I nearly missed it and had to mentally make a grab for it. Straight away, I knew it was perfect.


What was favourite part of this journey in real life?

I can easily recall coming back across the North Atlantic two-handed, with only Ross and me on board. It was like being up on the shoulders of the planet, and it’s amazing to stand in the cockpit at night, knowing there are only a few other human beings on ships within 1000 miles. There’s a line in the book: Even though I looked forward to being There, I knew how lucky I was to be Here. I think that sums it up.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I was at home alone. I stood on the deck and looked out to sea and just absorbed the feeling.

 
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NZ Booklovers Q & A with Rebecca Hayter

NZ Booklovers Q&A

Tell us a little about Wild Seas to Greenland


On the surface, Wild Seas to Greenland is a four-month story of Ross Field, a tough, professional ocean racer who decided that his retirement would involve expedition cruising. He turned his 35 years of ocean racing experience to the refit of an even tougher 20-year-old aluminium yacht that no one else wanted and set sail for the North West Passage, with me on board.

As a yachting journalist of nearly 30 years, I wanted to take the story deeper, including details of Ross Field’s decision process as he applied his own DIY hard graft and informed selection of modern technology to bring the boat to her potential, and to make the journey safer and more comfortable.

In the North Atlantic, I observed Ross’s storm tactics and his use of modern weather routing systems which, he says, are the greatest advance in ocean safety.

I started writing for yachting readers, but it has become a story for all adventurers at heart. By writing a book rather than a series of magazine articles, I could set free my sailing-writing wings; it’s pretty candid in parts and Ross is a fascinating character – decisive, skilled, intelligent and funny.

Greenland is a rugged, Arctic destination seldom visited by Kiwi yachts. After a brief exploration, we were back into the ocean for even bigger storms.

As Wild Seas to Greenland developed, I included brief excerpts from Sheila in the Wind, written by my father, Adrian Hayter, who sailed around the world single-handed in the 1950s.

Like Dad, Ross Field and I experienced the ocean wilderness. Unlike Dad, we had latest weather routing technology and plenty of food; we didn't have to eat the barnacles off the bottom of the boat.

What inspired you to write this book?

I had hoped to write a series of magazine articles about the voyage but although I sold several articles in New Zealand and overseas, I was unable to sell a series of the voyage. I believed the voyage was an extremely unusual opportunity: a famous sailor, a major DIY refit, latest technology and a rare destination, written by a yachting journalist who could cover the technical depth where it counted. I supported Ross Field’s view that his knowledge could help to save lives at sea, and I couldn’t bear to see the material go unused.

When I couldn’t sell the series of articles, I started writing the book as a reluctant option, but Wild Seas to Greenland has evolved into far more than I envisaged, including my foray into self-publishing.

What research was involved?

Most of the research happened naturally during the voyage. Afterwards, I interviewed Ross Field and his son Campbell Field at length about technical details, especially the weather routing. I spent about four months on those chapters, so that it would be easily readable. I interviewed several other technical experts on equipment on the boat and researched the history of the North West Passage and Greenland. I also contacted the harbour master in Greenland.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

Initially the process was piecemeal as I was trying to publish it as a series of articles. I had some success: Small Boat to Greenland ran in North and South magazine which won Highly Commended in Philippines Airlines Best New Zealand Travel Feature, and several articles were published in boating magazines in Australia and USA. Writing the book was a back-burner process and I had multiple files on my computer at various stages. When Covid happened, I made it my lockdown project and finished it over the next few months.

I decided fairly early on to self-publish. I knew it would be a useful learning curve, and that as a magazine editor I had skills to ensure a polished product and yachting contacts to help me promote it. I love having the book the way I want it, instead of a publisher’s view. The self-publishing decision led to building a website, so it’s been a much bigger process than I imagined.

If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

It sounds a cliché but I’d have Spartacus from Khachaturian, the theme from The Onedin Line. It’s such stirring music that captures the drama of a storm.

I’d also choose Guadeloupe written by Tom Russell and sung by Gretchen Peters. It’s poignant and spiritual, which also relates to being at sea. There is a line: I am the least of all your pilgrims here; I am most in need of hope. Sometimes being a speck on the ocean makes me feel exhilarated; at other times, like a tiny traveller in the great order of things.

What did you enjoy the most about writing Wild Seas to Greenland?

I always say that writing a book is like pushing a wheelbarrow to the top of a hill. It gets harder and harder, but then suddenly you’re cruising down the other side and the book is finding its own path. That’s a fun stage.

Some chapters were based on articles I’d already written, so they were relatively easy, but they bring changes of mood. The chapter in Ireland started life as a short story and is quite different from the rest, but it fits with the change in scenery. It is one of my favourite chapters.

I love the title. I went through hundreds of ideas and had pretty much resigned myself to settling for second-best. One morning I was washing the dishes and wildseastogreenland slipped through my mind. I nearly missed it and had to mentally make a grab for it. Straight away, I knew it was perfect.

What was favourite part of this journey in real life?

I can easily recall coming back across the North Atlantic two-handed, with only Ross and me on board. It was like being up on the shoulders of the planet, and it’s amazing to stand in the cockpit at night, knowing there are only a few other human beings on ships within 1000 miles. There’s a line in the book: Even though I looked forward to being There, I knew how lucky I was to be Here. I think that sums it up.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I was at home alone. I stood on the deck and looked out to sea and just absorbed the feeling.



What’s next on the agenda for you?

I have been working on my first novel for nearly 20 years, but I’m close to completion and I’m determined to finish it this year.


Thanks for the opportunity to write about Wild Seas to Greenland.

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