This was the first book I read by Tristan Jones, and I was instantly captivated by the incredible adventures he undertook. Not only that, but his wit, tenacity, general philosophy of life and his excellent writing style make it an enthralling read and gave me many many sleepless nights! It really is extremely hard to put this down, to decide to take your boat across the war-torn middle east to sail on the lowest sea in the world, then to sail across the other side of the world and have it transported to the highest lake in the world is an unbelievably ridiculous notion. But he does it, and like so many of his other 'ridiculous' plans which form his other books, it is the strength of his character, his determination and his sheer STUBBORNESS which helps him succeed. A visionary man, who has become my personal hero, this book (and all his others) provide not just a ripping yarn but incredible inspiration to go and fulfill your dreams.
What an unexpected delight of a book! Apparently, Tristan Jones is legendary in sailing circles. Not being a sailor, I'd never heard of him until I bought this book. The premise is quite simple. It's simply the tale of Tristan's attempt to set an unbeatable sailing altitude record, by taking his yacht to Israel and having it taken overland and plonked in the Dead Sea - the lowest body of water in the world. Then taking it back to the ocean and sailing it to South America, there to figure out a way of having it taken up to Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world. What unfolds, however, is an astonishing account of his six year (!) odyssey. Boy, is this guy stubborn! Despite numerous minor (and several major) mishaps, he remains determined to reach his objective. Although I have nothing more than a passing interest in sailing, I found this book absolutely gripping. More than a dull account of the long voyage, Tristan tells the tale with wit, humour and is clearly gifted at conveying the atmosphere and mood in any situation. Essentially, against a large field of other extremely enjoyable and enlightening books, I can honestly say that this now takes its place as the best book I have ever read (supplanting the superb 'Between Silk & Cyanide' in the process). It has something for everyone, and several long passages that deserve to be remembered in years to come as outstanding pieces of writing. I'm now rapidly working my way through most of his other books. If you want humour, buy it. If you want to learn a bit about life at sea, buy it. If you want to know about just about anywhere in Europe, the Middle East, Africa or South America, buy it. If you want to learn some facts about South American native Indians that you probably won't find anywhere else, buy it. Most of all, if you want an entertaining, educational, enlightening, inspiring book that is also so gripping you won't want to put it down, just buy it. You definitely won't regret it.
Tristan Jones spins a yarn so captivating that one should be forgiven for shunning all contact with the outside world until the very last word has been savoured. He is a true sailor and adventurer who lets nothing get in the way of his ultimate goal of sailing on the highest and lowest waters on earth. This is a tale which shows where tenacity and not a hint of madness can get you so you'll find it cautionary or inspirational. Jones is physically and mentally as tough as they get, which is lucky, because he needs every ounce of his power and knowledge on this journey. If I have just one criticism it's that he can perhaps seem egocentric at times sometimes referring to the reader's assumed view of him. Part of the pleasure of this tale is marvelling at the mind that conceived such a journey and had strength to carry it through; his comments on what we think can make him seem conceited. Perhaps, however, this is good enough to permit his occasional gasconism. Tristan Jones' tome has a firm place on my "Favourite books" shelf.
An extra ordinary tale - a boys own adventure of a man who just does. I suspect if he could have written slightly better or had a wish to self promte he would be one of the well known British adventures. He only gives less than a page of description to a spider that burrowed into his arm and could have killed him!! The story of a man whos life was a one long adventure
‘The Incredible Voyage’, published in 1977, tells the story of Jones’ 6 year long journey (in 2 boats – ‘Barbara’ and ‘Sea Dart’)to obtain the "vertical sailing record of the world". Having sailed his boat on the earth's lowest stretch of water, the Dead Sea, at 1,250 feet below sea-level, Jones determined to sail the highest, Lake Titicaca, 12,580 ft amsl in the Andes. Incredible may be an accurate description , given Jones’ known penchant for mixing fact and fiction, and it is now known that he did not sail on the Dead Sea though he did haul Sea Dart form the coast of Peru to Lake Titicaca and then exited South America via the Rivers Paraguay and Plate.
‘The Incredible Voyage’ tells the tale of how Jones and Conrad Jelinik sailed across the Atlantic then trucked Arthur Cohen’s ‘Barbara’ through Israel to the Dead Sea (fiction) then to the Red Sea (fact) before travelling in the Indian Ocean down the West Coast of Africa and then across the Atlantic in order to gain access to Lake Titicaca via the Amazon. Jones’ tells how he and Jelinik failed to progress in the Amazon and were beaten back to the Caribbean from where Jelinik flew home. At the time of the voyage Jones was acting as skipper of ‘Barbara’ on behalf of her owner who in reality would ask Jones’ to meet him and his guests at a variety of ports with from where they would carry out a few days sailing. Jones’ mentions none of this but inspite of some over dramatization he tells a good and enjoyable story. Sometimes his turn of phrase grates to modern ears in its forced machismo but it is easy enough to gloss over these failings.
In real life Jones and Jelinik went their separate ways once Jones’ contract as Skipper of ‘Barbara’ came to an end on reaching the Caribbean and it was here that Jones purchased ‘Sea Dart’ a 23 footer that would indeed complete an incredible journey. Jones tells a gripping yarn of taking ‘Sea Dart’ through the Panama canal and then down the coast of South America – beating relentlessly against wind and current before fetching up in Peru and transporting ‘Sea Dart’ overland to Lake Titicaca then spending several months ‘exploring’ the lake before continuing the journey overland and by river to fetch up eventually in Argentina. This story is enjoyable and to a large extent factual, although the Quechan Indian (Huanapoco) whom Jones’ claimed to travel with him was a work of fiction as were the numerous terms Jones is thrown in gaol and the struggle through the Mato Grosso is significantly over embellished.
A couple of stories do really jar. In particular the fictional account of Jones visit to the Bolivian Yacht Club which he paints as an outpost of escaped Nazis (crew of the Graf Spee). His literary treatment of people who extended him a hand of welcome and who in reality had been born and bred in Bolivia is unsettling and frankly mean spirited.
For me it is a shame that so much of this story is fiction. Jones’ achievement in not only sailing such a small vessel as ‘Sea Dart’ so far (I am not a sailor but a friend who is tells me he would take such a vessel on day trips only!) and of taking an ocean going vessel from West to East across South America was in itself a fantastic achievement worthy of its own telling without embellishment. As Anthony Dalton says in ‘Wayward Sailor: ‘Despite her skipper's transgressions, Sea Dart had become the first oceangoing sailboat to travel the width of South America, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. She almost certainly had the right to be known as the first such vessel to sail on Lake Titicaca, and to sail the rivers of the Mato Grosso. Tristan's falsifications aside, the twenty-one-month voyage from Bequia to Buenos Aires, calling at nine countries, was a magnificent achievement-not only for the diminutive Sea Dart, but also for her stubborn, determined captain.’
Overall an enjoyable read but perhaps of its time.
As a fellow yachting sailor, albeit a modern day one and in relative comfort, I appreciated Tristan Jones' intrepid and adventurous spirit and loved his "there is a way around everything" attitude to making his dream come true. How many people can say at the end of their lives - "I did what I wanted to do and what a life it was"!? A fascinating story and one I can only begin to emulate, but it inspires me to keep trying.
Exactly what it says on the book, 'The Incredible Voyage' one of those 'can't put down' books, a tale of a mans need to sail on the lowest and highest waters in the world and the trials and tribulations of everything in between, including a riveting account of the first and probably only ever crossing from west to east of a sea worthy boat across the south american continent ! A must have read !