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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 August 2011
By all means read this book - above all, it's a fantastic adventure. However, it also makes you consider just who might be sharing your life raft whether you like it or not, as well as valuing the simpler things in life (drinking water for example) in a very powerful way.

Do NOT be tempted to look at the map of their travails on pages 8-9! I made this mistake and it made the story very predictable. Yes - I know they got rescued so that much is known, but I didn't want to know every other significant point in summary (as detailed on the map), until after I'd got to that point in the prose.

A final point that annoyed me personally is that Dougal Robertson was not shy of criticising (or praising) others in this account; especially the former on poor Robin, the unfortunate, only non-family member caught up in the disaster.

I know I cannot begin to imagine the hardships and emotional toll such an event caused, but I definitely felt sorry for Robin in his depiction, and got the impression that the tale was rather one-sided in Dougal's favouritism towards his family.

As a matter of further interest, this book inspired me to purchase "The Grab Bag" by the Howorths, for when I sail again in the future.

Both books being useful and very interesting.
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on 28 September 2016
Honest true account of survival with a touch of 'Lord of the Flies' as you would expect when people are thrown together. If you can cope with fisheyes and turtle blood you could do it too. Nowadays, an EPIRB or PLB would get you out of trouble in no time. A good read.
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on 23 July 2012
I first read this about 20 years ago and have now read it 3 times. Its a great account of an incredible series of events. Written by someone not primarilly a writer it is a brilliantly written account. You get a real sense of the characters and the drama and for as long as it takes you to read it, you feel as though you are there with them.

The story is intriging from the start - a family who decide to completely move away from their familiar lives and its frustrations and sail round the world. But then disaster strikes and suddenly it is a story of survival. The disaster which strikes is hardly one you could easily prepare for - they had 60 seconds to prepare for more than 5 weeks adrift on the Pacific. Although you feel the story could have ended very differently (a heavy shower of rain on more than one occasion basically saving their lives), at the same time it is difficult not to admire the seamanship, understanding of the situation, and good sense of what the priorities should be. This has been criticised in the later book by Dougal Robertson's son Douglas, but I think both books need to be read if you are interested in what really happened.

Probably the single most significant decision was the direction in which they should attempt to head. Without any navigation equipment or charts, Dougal successfully navigates them to the Doldrums where they had more chance of rain, and would find the easterly current which would help them towards the central American coast. I'm not sure this decision is as obvious as it might seem - given the much closer proximity to the Galapagas Islands. What is more, due to his skills in navigation, using dead reckoning (with no aids for measuring wind speed, boat speed, direction) he plotted their daily locations with remarkable accuracy - meaning that they could intelligently estimate how long they would need their resources to last.

A significant turning point is the moment early on in their ordeal when Dougal realises that they cannot simply live with the hope of rescue - his own attitude is transformed to one of independent survival by a sobering reality. The first turtle which bobs up after this transformation suddenly becomes the first of many which was their main food supply for the next few weeks - and what they did with it is a real demonstration of how survival situations change your sense of what is acceptable! By the end, they are in a position to be confident about their own survival, which is a great testimony to their spirit, unity, hard work towards their goal, and sufficient knowledge of the environment they had to survive in.

There is inevitable frustration and anger at times (it is impossible to imagine 38 days spent in a liferaft, then 9ft dinghy with 5 other people on the brink of death for much of it) which he also honestly conveys from his own perspective - which is unavoidably subjective. You can't help but feel for the one non-family member in the crew, who comes in for the harshest cricitism, although it is written simply as an account of how Dougal felt at the time. I think it is deliberately honest and leaves the reader to make their own judgement about the subjectivity of the comments.

But the honesty and frankness about the real physical issues faced means that this account is also genuinely useful for anyone who may one day find themselves in a similar situation. Yes, it is a story now more than 40 years old - but survival stories tend to be levellers - you can't expect much help in the real issues of thirst and hunger in the middle of the Pacific from the Apple app store!

All in all a great book that I will never get rid of, and which I will probably be reading still in another 20 years if I am still here to read it. It is unlikely that I ever end up adrift in a small boat 250 west of the Galapagas Islands, but if I do, I believe I would have significantly better chances of survival for having read "Survive the Savage Sea". Thanks Dougal Robertson.
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on 29 August 2002
A tatty copy of this book languished in our bookshelf for 20 years prior to reading.
The book tells the true story of the Robertsons, a scottish family who gave up everything and decided to sale around the world. 500 miles of the pacific coast off South America the small family yacht is holed by a school of whales and sinks. The family is forced to abandon ship and survive in an inflatable life raft and small dingy. The tale takes the form of a very accurate diary of the day to day struggle.
With precious little water and food the survival skills of the father (and author) are pushed to the limit in the 38 days that the family seeks to navigate a route to dry land. Detailed descriptions of the search for food and water by various means will interest both sailors and 'land lubbers' like myself. The gruelling hardship and discomfort experienced by the family make this a particularly good read while lying in a comfortable bed or by a pool - probably not book to be taken on a cruise holiday!
A very good read.
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on 17 March 2000
A diary of events encountered by six survivors who last 33 days at sea in tropical conditions. A non-seafarer myself, I struggled to put this book down. It contains much to prepare seagoers for the trials of survival and the value of a determination to live.
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on 1 October 2010
This is one of the best tales of the sea I've ever read. Against unbelievable odds, Dougal rescues his entire family after killer whales sink his schooner in the middle of the night and in just a few minutes.
It's a fantastic story of courage, splendidly illustrated with sketches and photos from the event.
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on 7 February 2002
Very great book and true tale all about surviving at sea...not a dull moment. Have plenty of water and food beside you when you read it because their tales of thirst and starvation will only make you hungry. Easy to read in one or two days and very enjoyable.
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on 29 November 2011
An at times gripping account of a shipwrecked family of five and a student of 22 years of age survival in the Pacific ocean over a period of 38 days. The first 17 days were spent in a rubber dinghy and the remaining days in a dinghy named `Ednamair'. The account is given by the head of the family: Dougal Robertson. He comes across as a very practically able and strong character and but for him the others, left to their own devices, would have perished.

The Robertsons sold up everything: a dairy farm in North Staffordshire, at the beginning of the 1970s. The agreed mission of the family was to get out of a life of misery bought on my 15 year of declining milk yields and circumnavigate the world and by so doing provide their two young twins, in particular, with a real education. They set sail from Plymouth at the end of January 1971 and all went well until one fateful morning their 50 years old yacht `Lucette' was struck by three Killer whales, now known as Orca. The yacht sank in one minute and Douglas tells us day by day what happened after that cataclysmic event.

One becomes right there with them in the boat under the beating sun and only two pints of palatable water left between them and no prospect of rain on the horizon. The slaying of numerous turtles is vividly recounted too, which proved to be the elixir of life for them. It makes you think about how you would have faired in the same situation.

At times no details are spared, and I think here of the enemas that were given to combat dehydration and chronic constipation, but such intimate details make the account all the more real. It is an honest account, including details of bitter arguments that the author had with his wife and his sheer frustration at the seeming ineptitude of the student Robin that they had picked up along the way.

This is well worth a read and makes the reader appreciate how easily we come by life's basics: food and water.
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on 8 October 2009
Interesting reading BUT a bit out of date now. Hope the final pages regarding safety procedures and raft designs have been noted by manufacturers.
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on 26 March 2016
I wanted to read this after seeing an exhibition at the National Martime Museum. I've given it three stars as its hard reading, the author presumes the reader knows all about sailing terms and phrases, as I know zilch about sailing I didn't finish reading the book.
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