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UP THAT PARTICULAR CREEK

Valentine Howells

Yachting books fall into various categories. There is the embellished and neatly decorated log, a simple and honest travelogue of passages made and places visited. There is the technical account, embellished with nautical know-how, charts and diagrams at every turn. There is the semi-mystical account a la Moitessier which seeks to capture the transcendental essence of the bluewater experience. Finally. there is the rumbustious yarning factional style of an author like Tristan Jones.

Then there is this book. At first glance it falls firmly into the Tristan Jones camp - but the book merits more than that first glance, and the reader is soon drawn into a yachting narrative like no other this reviewer has ever read.

Realisation gradually dawns as we read the first chapter that the voyage is already well under way, with Lanzarote somewhere on the starboard bow. The author muses and meanders, and although we do eventually find out where this boat is headed we are never sure where the whimsy of the skipper may take us. To educate while entertaining he includes copious (and interesting) footnotes at the end of every chapter.

Once ashore forget provisioning, vaselining eggs or haggling for fruit . . . it's off to a bar, a poker school with some dubious waterfront characters, and an all night session ending in the world's funniest dinghy disaster . . . there aren't many yachting books I've laughed out loud at.

A second stop in the Canaries to drop off one of the poker school proves interesting . . . the author's insight into character and his descriptive powers produce scenes with a depth rarely found in travel writing, all enhanced meantime by the typically Welsh, almost poetical use of language. The structure of the prose, like the structure of the book, is a constant source of surprise, a literary journey matching the nautical one.

Up That Particular Creek

And so off to that particular creek. Exactly what happens, why the Atlantic crossing is somewhat unusual and how he manages to get graphic sex into the narrative I shall leave you to discover for yourselves.

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