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Wayward Sailor: In Search of the Real Tristan Jones Paperback – 1 Jul 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional (1 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071440283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071440288
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.8 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,217,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"An arresting study of a sailor who invented himself as a modern hero and kept embellishing the legend until truth and fiction were impossible to pinpoint...Should appeal to all those who love adventure..." - Publishers Weekly "Valuable, compelling, and sobering." - Sailing "I was enchanted from start to finish by Wayward Sailor." - John Rousmaniere, author, After the Storm and Fastnet, Force 10"

From the Back Cover

The Life of Sailing's Best-Known Storyteller is the Most Incredible Tristan Jones Story of All

No one really knew Tristan Jones. He was larger than life, perhaps the most successful sailing writer of the twentieth century, and by his own account the greatest sailor. But he was not who he said he was. He told us what he wanted us to believe, and he told the tales so well that we either believed or suspended disbelief. As Anthony Dalton reveals in this uncompromising yet admiring biography, the real Tristan Jones was both a lesser and a greater man than his invention. Self-educated, self-taught, enormously creative, he was himself his most creative act.

"A thoroughly researched and absorbing account of Tristan Jones's lives—the one he created for himself, and the one he actually lived. This is a necessary book for anyone who has read Tristan Jones's stories with enjoyment or suspicion, or both."—Derek Lundy, author, Godforsaken Sea and The Way of a Ship

"I was enchanted from start to finish by Anthony Dalton's biography, in which he proves that Tristan Jones's most brilliant creation was his own fascinating life story."—John Rousmaniere, author, After the Storm; Fastnet, Force 10; and The Annapolis Book of Seamanship

"[An] arresting study. . . . Dalton achieves stark poignancy. . . . Jones's story as related here should appeal to all those who love adventure, as well as to those who enjoy analyzing the wreckage of damaged, enigmatic and fascinating personalities."—Publishers Weekly

Anthony Dalton has been a professional expedition leader and adventure guide. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and Fellow of the Explorers Club, his articles have been published in Classic Boat, MotorBoats Monthly, Ocean Navigator, SAIL, Sailing, Sea, and Yachting.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sailtie on 19 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
Its always good to read something that confirms your own views so I guess this coloured my view of The Wayward Sailor. Nevertheless Mr Dalton's book stands up well. It seems to be well researched and is entertainingly written. The fact that it debunks Jones to a large degree, showing up the falsity of many of his claims he does not ignore the genuine achievements of the man. I would recommend The Wayward Sailor to anyone who has read any of Jones' books. For those who have not - read a couple first then read this.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In 2012 I read Tristan Jones’ ‘Ice’, an enjoyable tale of sailing adventures in the high Arctic though having read all of Tilmans’ books it was clear that ‘Ice’ was, if not completely fanciful, significantly embroidered. As Dalton shows in this excellent biography, my suspicions were correct as Jones was serving on a Royal Navy based in Singapore, aboard ship, and in southern England throughout the period he claimed to have been in the Arctic.
Though some have taken this biography which Dalton claims was originally ‘intended to be a tribute to Tristan Jones…. to be an admiring look at his life’, to be an attack on Tristan Jones it is nothing more than a balanced look at a fascinating life. I also think that Dalton, although he de-bunks a number of myths is sympathetic to Jones. That Arthur ‘Tristan’ Jones was something of a rogue is hard to dispute after reading this book but equally it is hard to dispute that his was a life well lived and that in spite of many of the wild claims made in his books that he still achieved an awful lot in not a particularly long life (he was 66 and a double amputee when he died in 1995).
Dalton’s biography uses interviews with Jones’ friends and acquaintances plus private letters and the log books kept by Jones himself to separate fact from the fictions woven by Jones in his best-selling sailing books. For many, Tristan Jones was reputed to be one of the great small-boat mariners of the twentieth century. This is plainly a fiction though his actual achievements were still impressive. Dalton estimates that he sailed well over 70 000 miles in small boats mostly as skipper of a small crew – he rarely sailed solo (against Jones claimed 345 000 miles under sail in small boats,180 000 of which he claimed to have been alone) this is still an impressive tally.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stan on 30 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
Well-written, researched and possibly timely, this book tells the 'true' story of a sailing hero who, it seems, created his own legend. The book is fascinating but if you revere Tristan Jones - as many do - prepare for disappointment.

I am not sure I wasn't better off before...
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jeremy heffer on 5 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Really goes to show just what a liar and scum bag Tristan Jones was, this man was false from start to finish and people should know that he doesn't deserve his place as one of the country's great sailors.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Tony Dalton sets the record straight with his new bio. 30 April 2003
By Donald R. Swartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have been in contact with Anthony Dalton over the last couple of years while he was writing this biography of Tristan Jones...Some believe every word he writes in his books, some who knew him doubt many of the stories he wrote. Finally, Tony Dalton has traveled all over the world collecting the facts. He has documented the cold truth in this extraordinary researched biography. I must admit that his conclusions are not the ones I wished for, but the truth is very often hard to accept. I have corresponded with many people who knew Tristan personally, and many have told me that what Tony recorded in his new book is true. Regardless, if you want to read some wonderful stories, read some of Tristan Jones books. Fact or fiction, I loved every one.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Some surprising revelations 30 Sept. 2003
By David Dunn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I've only read four of Tristan Jone's books, with the first being The Incredible Voyage. I wasn't far into the book before it became obvious that there was a lot of fabrication and embellishment going on there. ICE! was even more far-fetched. And as Dalton pointed out in Wayward Sailor, the book ICE! was entirely fiction.
Dalton's book serves to confirm what many of us already knew: Tristan Jones was less than truthful. What I was surprised to hear, though, is that Jones wasn't a very nice person in real life, either. He had far more enemies than friends and spent much of his time as an obnoxious drunk. He was not a trustwothy person; for example, he took "Outward Leg", a boat belonging to its manufacturer, and left it abandoned and trashed before completing the agreed route.
But, nevertherless, I will still buy Tristan's books and plan to read them all. Tristan's writing skills are a bit rough around the edges, but he does tell a great story. The important thing is that the books are entertaining and everything in them must be taken with a grain of salt. I would recommend the books to everyone.
While Tristan Jones greatly exagerated his "record voyages" and did not sail anywhere near the miles he claimed, he was still a great seamen and writer.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Informative expose' of a fabulous faker 12 Aug. 2008
By moose/squirrel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating biography of an infuriating poseur. Tristan Jones, Royal Navy, had great skill as a teller of autobiographical tales of danger at sea and adventures ashore. Unfortunately, as Anthony Dalton demonstrates in a book that started out as an attempt to spread Jones's fame, it turns out that most (and possibly all) of his spellbinding tales are untrue. He made them up. They didn't happen.

Old salts are expected to tell "sea stories." Memoirists, however, are not. It will come as a real disappointment to anyone who, like me, enjoyed the hell out of Jones's books, to discover that such wonderful reads like Ice! and The Incredible Voyage are effectively no more than tall tales. They remain great tall tales, I admit (so great you just want to keep on believing them), but fiction should be labeled as such.

Public records revealed to Anthony Dalton that the old sea dog, who died in 1995, simply was not where he claimed to be when he claimed to be there. Dalton himself was reluctant to accept the evidence until it became overwhelming.

Example: Jones wrote a compelling "memoir" entitled Heart of Oak about serving in the Royal Navy in World War II. It's so good that even the prominent, crotchety critic Paul Fussell mentioned its virtues. Turns out Navy records show that Tristan Jones didn't even join the RN till World War II was over. And so it goes.

I used to be a big fan of his, too.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Faint praise, faint truth 11 Dec. 2009
By sr - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
All biography is fiction. This work is no exception. Its focus is both the demonstrated and imagined deceptions and personal failings of another author/adventurer. I say imagined since Mr. Dalton isn't Tristan Jones, apparently never met Mr. Jones, and wasn't present for any of the events he describes in that life. In this book he nevertheless defends a set of openly expressed condemnations based only on his reading of log entries, interviews, and some published reminiscences by others.

A reader of this book will hear almost nothing of Tristan Jones' actual voice. Only Dalton's representation of it at its most abusive. We see little warmth in this portrait of a short-statured rum-drunk sailor, and none of the humor. We're shown scraps of generosity only if explained by self-serving motives. The bulk of this book is devoted to enumerating every mean turn of character, deceit, irresponsibility, act of brutish behavior, and personal failure that could be collected and apparently independently verified.

Unfortunately, many of the supposed facts recorded here are obviously opinion, and estimation, not hard history. The book is peppered with Tristan "would haves," "must haves," and "certainlys." Jones' log books are referred to but not presented.

In one example of biographical estimation, the author describes a world chart tossed overboard by Jones when cleaning ship that is covered with lines indicating, not voyages, according to Dalton, but faked voyages.

Yet, a less judgmental reader might think they were contemplated routes. Dalton never saw the chart he imagines as proof of fraud (nor do we). And if it was some kind of fabricated evidence for fake journeys, why didn't Jones keep it instead of discarding it overboard in order to make room on Sea Dart for supplies for the voyage to Lake Titicaca, and across South America? Was he attempting to fool a flounder?

Lest we suspect this exposé's underlying motivation was in part authorial jealousy, we are thrown some occasional bones to punctuate the gloom. Jones' actual verifiable sailing feats were in fact admirable, according to Dalton, . . . if only he hadn't .....(fill in the blank). It is apparently necessary that readers also know, according to Dalton, that Jones dressed poorly, was born out of wedlock, was homosexual, an alcoholic, and smelled bad. Apparently, no reading of Jones' The Incredible Voyage would be complete without this important information.

There are many things to read cautiously in this exposé. At a tragic personal moment, Jones' long time sailing companion is found dead in a Thai parking lot of a heroin overdose. The book's conclusion, based on absolutely no evidence presented in its pages, is that his friend according to Dalton, was murdered by a drug lord of "The Golden Triangle." Jones is labeled a coward by the author on the basis that he didn't come to the same conclusion and publicize it to the world.

Likewise the fact that Jones referred to the cause of death as heart failure, rather than immediately announcing his friend's heroin overdose might have other explanations than fear. What about denial, grief, sensitivity for his friend's memory, depression, shame or even a complexity of emotion? Was the man that shallow or is the biographer? The plain fact is, neither we, nor this book's author knows what Tristan Jones felt or thought at any time about anything. And that most certainly cannot and should not be reduced by some simplistic third hand estimation to a fiction itself.

But what about Jones' literary fabrications? Should we put up with them? Well, if you feel that the centuries-old tradition of telling tales of the sea in an overblown fashion must finally come to an end in the cynically rationalist and supposedly truth-seeking millennium we now face, then this exposé is the book for you. Tristan Jones is hereby de-bunked. Better take these pages at face value then as well.

For me, delusional by preference, the value of this spoonful of soured medicine was hard to figure. Does it help? I don't know. Jones' Incredible Voyage, it must be said, made the world a bigger place than it really was. While Dalton's work has made it much smaller than it is. Thus, to be even handed, I've been forced to award only four stars to the former, taking away one for the untruths it contained. . . and hand it over to the latter for its veracity, humor, and humanity.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Short Easy Read....... 2 Aug. 2005
By Graeme J. W. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
...that de-bunks the Tristian Jones self created "persona". It is clear that the end of the book was hard to write and researching the latter parts of TJ's life was made harder by his isolation abroad coupled with TJ's recognition that he was in the process of getting "caught out" and so made his life hard to research. This makes the end of the book rather flat - but it is worth it in its own right for the first two thirds.
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