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In June 1972, the 43-foor schooner Lucette was attacked by killer whales and sank in 60 seconds. What happened next is almost incredible. In an inflatable rubber raft, with a 9 foot fiberglass dinghy to tow it, Dougal Robertson and his family were miles from any shipping lanes. They had emergency rations for only three days and no maps, compass, or instruments of any kind. In June 1972, the 43-foor schooner Lucette was attacked by killer whales and sank in 60 seconds. What happened next is almost incredible. In an inflatable rubber raft, with a 9 foot fiberglass dinghy to tow it, Dougal Robertson and his family were miles from any shipping lanes. They had emergency rations for only three days and no maps, compass, or instruments of any kind. After their raft sank under them, they crammed themselves into their tiny dinghy. For 37 days--using every technique of survival--they battled against 20-foot waves, marauding sharks, thirst, starvation, and exhaustion, adrift in the vast reaches of the Pacific before their ordeal was ended by a Japanese fishing boat. The Robertsons' strong determination shines through the pages of this extraordinary book which describes movingly their daily hopes and fears, crises and triumphs, tensions and heartbreaks.


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In June 1972, the 43-foor schooner Lucette was attacked by killer whales and sank in 60 seconds. What happened next is almost incredible. In an inflatable rubber raft, with a 9 foot fiberglass dinghy to tow it, Dougal Robertson and his family were miles from any shipping lanes. They had emergency rations for only three days and no maps, compass, or instruments of any kind. In June 1972, the 43-foor schooner Lucette was attacked by killer whales and sank in 60 seconds. What happened next is almost incredible. In an inflatable rubber raft, with a 9 foot fiberglass dinghy to tow it, Dougal Robertson and his family were miles from any shipping lanes. They had emergency rations for only three days and no maps, compass, or instruments of any kind. After their raft sank under them, they crammed themselves into their tiny dinghy. For 37 days--using every technique of survival--they battled against 20-foot waves, marauding sharks, thirst, starvation, and exhaustion, adrift in the vast reaches of the Pacific before their ordeal was ended by a Japanese fishing boat. The Robertsons' strong determination shines through the pages of this extraordinary book which describes movingly their daily hopes and fears, crises and triumphs, tensions and heartbreaks.

30 review for Survive the Savage Sea (Sailing Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    A Jaff

    I am maybe not qualified to review this book as the author is my father, but that should not detract from the fact that this is a powerful story, and an inspiration to many wether they are seafarers or not. A diluted version has been a part of national curriculum english studies in many countries including USA and Australia. There was a film made for television, and The National Geographic did a docudrama, and other TV stations did programmes over the years. It is one of the greatest survival ep I am maybe not qualified to review this book as the author is my father, but that should not detract from the fact that this is a powerful story, and an inspiration to many wether they are seafarers or not. A diluted version has been a part of national curriculum english studies in many countries including USA and Australia. There was a film made for television, and The National Geographic did a docudrama, and other TV stations did programmes over the years. It is one of the greatest survival epics of all time, maybe due to the fact that the story involves children , and it had the happy ending that everyone is grateful for. If you want to catch up with the family we have a Survive the Savage Sea Facebook page with old photos and extras from the family archives.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Trin

    The true story of a family—father (the author), mother, adult son, twin 12-year-old boys, and a twentysomething friend of theirs—who escaped their sinking yacht and then survived for 37 days on the open ocean. Thirty-seven days. This is as harrowing as you would imagine, and Robertson discusses it all with an amazing, almost-flat, frankness. Down to details like the necessity of turtle oil enemas, so if you're at all squeamish, I recommend staying away. ;-) Though of course, this book played int The true story of a family—father (the author), mother, adult son, twin 12-year-old boys, and a twentysomething friend of theirs—who escaped their sinking yacht and then survived for 37 days on the open ocean. Thirty-seven days. This is as harrowing as you would imagine, and Robertson discusses it all with an amazing, almost-flat, frankness. Down to details like the necessity of turtle oil enemas, so if you're at all squeamish, I recommend staying away. ;-) Though of course, this book played into two of my greatest fears—drowning and sharks—and I found it fascinating. The bulk of the book, describing in detail those 37 days and the many brave and innovative things the Robertson family did to survive, is nigh-unputdownable. This is unfortunately followed by an extra 40 pages or so describing how YOU TOO could survive the savage sea, and I found this less interesting, because a) that is not a situation I plan to get myself into anytime soon, and b) so much of what the last few hundred pages taught was that the only real way to survive is to be able to adapt to the specific circumstances you happen to find yourself in, and there's really no way to predict or plan for that. Also, as with all first person, true-story narratives, there's always a risk that the author will reveal something unsavory about themselves through their POV; I feel I should point out that there are a few instances of this, as Robertson seems majorly down on formal education and at one point refers his wife's "feminine irrationality"—It was the '70s! I kept trying to remind myself. A poor excuse. But if you're interested at all in survival stories or like scaring yourself with tales of sharks nipping at people's ankles, this book is incredibly gripping.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bart Breen

    Inspiring with a Message There are books that stand out in a person's life. This is such a book for me. I read this book back in the 1970's as a teenager. The story, images and lessons from it still stand out in my mind years later. That is a measure of the impact that it had on me and may have on others. I wasn't aware then how deep that went. Years later I am able to recount a great deal from that read despite the intervening time. That is a measure of its impact and the vivid nature of the imag Inspiring with a Message There are books that stand out in a person's life. This is such a book for me. I read this book back in the 1970's as a teenager. The story, images and lessons from it still stand out in my mind years later. That is a measure of the impact that it had on me and may have on others. I wasn't aware then how deep that went. Years later I am able to recount a great deal from that read despite the intervening time. That is a measure of its impact and the vivid nature of the images and experiences recounted. This is a story of survival. It is a true story. A family on a boat is set adrift when a pod of killer whales destroys their boat and they are set adrift. How they survive on a day to day basis learning the skills and discovering the hidden resources is progressively told. More than a dull recounting of the challenges that they face and the rescue that ultimately comes, this is a book that explores the relationships between family members as they reach within themselves to survive the storms, the sun, the sharks, dehydration and every other challenge that an unforgiving environment can present. I recommend this book for anyone, but in particular this is the type of book that can have an impact in the life of a young person who reads it. Especially in our western culture which is so overwrought by materialism and a sense of entitlement, this book has the ability, more-so than many others to pierce the veil of that thinking and present a story that is both riveting and also life-changing without coming across as moralistic or preaching. Minimum age to read should probably be about 12 or 13 as some of the situations and stories recounted are stark. But they are realistic and add to the impact and flavor of this excellent book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Wei

    This book was basically based on determination and some survival skills as the Father is very strict. This book relates to me as I never give up in swimming, no matter what happens or what will go down. I have been swimming for a long time, just like how long they were out at sea, a month that seemed like an entirnity. The only difference was I never swam for survival as I usually just swim for fun. Therefore, I this book semi-relates towards me, as a human being.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    A singular book--only a Scottish-farmer/master seaman/stoic lost at sea with his entire family could have survived and then reflected upon his feat in the restrained style and grand manner he dusts off for this. The captain/chief castaway/author comes across as both the one guy you would want to get stuck out to sea with and the one guy you'd never in a million years want to get stuck out to sea with. This book also points out how quickly the world changes. Survive 38 days lost at sea in 1972 and A singular book--only a Scottish-farmer/master seaman/stoic lost at sea with his entire family could have survived and then reflected upon his feat in the restrained style and grand manner he dusts off for this. The captain/chief castaway/author comes across as both the one guy you would want to get stuck out to sea with and the one guy you'd never in a million years want to get stuck out to sea with. This book also points out how quickly the world changes. Survive 38 days lost at sea in 1972 and get a 200-page best-selling book and made-for-TV movie starring Robert Urich. Survive 38 days lost at sea in 2009, and you'd get 36 hours in the news cycle, a tabloid exclusive, and maybe a reality TV show--or at least a guest appearance on 'Survivor.'

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ramsey Hootman

    One of the greatest survival stories of all time. This is a re-read; my mother actually read it to me when I was a child of about 8 or so. Recently I was searching for something to do while sitting up with my toddler, and I had stashed this away with several other books I plan to read to him once he's old enough to understand. What was intended to be a quick flip through instantly turned into a "MUST READ NOW." I recalled the broad outlines of the account, but had not remembered how incredibly g One of the greatest survival stories of all time. This is a re-read; my mother actually read it to me when I was a child of about 8 or so. Recently I was searching for something to do while sitting up with my toddler, and I had stashed this away with several other books I plan to read to him once he's old enough to understand. What was intended to be a quick flip through instantly turned into a "MUST READ NOW." I recalled the broad outlines of the account, but had not remembered how incredibly gripping every last page of this book is. If there's one thing that stands out, to me, it's the fact that *everyone* survives. There are many mishaps and setbacks, but no fatal tragedies. Dougal Robertson and his wife have got to be two of the most capable people on the face of the planet, and the fact that they manage to get their sons and another young man through this ordeal alive is nothing short of miraculous. Not much more to say beyond that... I'd recommend this book to anyone.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    I have read this book more than 15 times now. Sometimes, in between reading other books I will pick it up and read it again. Why?, I don't know. There is just something about the book that I enjoy. I can say no more than that !!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    We met one of the young boys outside his Staffordshire farm some years later. His red setter had had pups and we wanted one. He invited us in for tea. A quiet, gentle boy who made quite an impression on us. It was only when we told my cousin that he said "Oh they're famous, they are." I remember years before reading the story as I delivered papers up in Cumbria. Years later I was given an extract to teach as a reading exercise with a class. I don't remember how they did as a comprehension but it We met one of the young boys outside his Staffordshire farm some years later. His red setter had had pups and we wanted one. He invited us in for tea. A quiet, gentle boy who made quite an impression on us. It was only when we told my cousin that he said "Oh they're famous, they are." I remember years before reading the story as I delivered papers up in Cumbria. Years later I was given an extract to teach as a reading exercise with a class. I don't remember how they did as a comprehension but it inspired some excellent creative writing. I'd completely forgotten about it until it came up, again unexpectedly, in a mention in Life of Pi.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jed

    I have heard and seen so many references to this book in the survival at sea/sailing genre, that I finally located a copy and put it on my shelf to be savored, like a fine wine; slowly. So, when I hit a slump this fall, I went to my favorite TBR shelf and dusted off a classic. Dougal Robertson's writing is tight and not superfluous in the least. The book starts out with the bare basic's of a background and almost instantly launches into the Robertson family's incredible saga. He spends plenty of I have heard and seen so many references to this book in the survival at sea/sailing genre, that I finally located a copy and put it on my shelf to be savored, like a fine wine; slowly. So, when I hit a slump this fall, I went to my favorite TBR shelf and dusted off a classic. Dougal Robertson's writing is tight and not superfluous in the least. The book starts out with the bare basic's of a background and almost instantly launches into the Robertson family's incredible saga. He spends plenty of time describing what happened and how each person reacted. There is no whitewashing their actions and lays bare the gory details including his own shortcomings. Details such as deploying sea anchors, catching fish, fresh water, food, and rationing, the creatures encountered, their mental states, and how each person coped with the vagaries of shipwreck. The chapters are laid out in Before, During, and After. Robertson devotes the final chapter to deconstructing what happened and making recommendations to future mariners should they find themselves in equally dire circumstances, as well as recommendations to life saving equipment manufacturers and setting priorities for the castaway. A relatively short read but Robertson does a great job of bringing the reader along on an impossible journey. A bit dated as it happened in 1972, but still relevant today. Such a fun read for the armchair adventurer and blue water sailors alike. The book was out of print for many years but has since been reprinted several times as recently as 2002. If you're an adventure lover and haven't read Survive The Savage Sea, or find yourself in a reading slump, do yourself a favor and add this wonder filled book to your library. It pulled me out the doldrums!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    Survive the Savage Sea is a story of the author's experiences surviving at sea with his family when his yacht sunk in the Pacific Ocean on June 15th, 1972. With his wife, his three sons and a student they'd taken onboard, Dougal Robertson has to fight his way in an environment that has had hundreds of years to adapt. The tale is told in striking detail and with brutal honesty that leaves the reader absolutely no room to doubt the authenticity. As you read, you find it hard to believe that so much Survive the Savage Sea is a story of the author's experiences surviving at sea with his family when his yacht sunk in the Pacific Ocean on June 15th, 1972. With his wife, his three sons and a student they'd taken onboard, Dougal Robertson has to fight his way in an environment that has had hundreds of years to adapt. The tale is told in striking detail and with brutal honesty that leaves the reader absolutely no room to doubt the authenticity. As you read, you find it hard to believe that so much could happen in such a short period of time and you just pray that they don't come up against yet another hurdle. With each new day, you can just see them all get weaker and weaker and it's astonishing that they could still find the energy to push on in search of land after one week, two weeks, three and then four weeks at sea. A sea story told with very little boating garb, Survive the Savage Sea is a serious story of a family's will to "get these boys to land." I would definitely recommend it to anyone with a love of adventure mixed with harsh reality.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    There's a wide gulf between the terror, hunger, and thirst Robertson family experienced at sea and the pleasant time I had reading this book. That may be because the author chose to tell this tale without suspense or any narrative gimmicks. Instead this is just a day by day by day, repeat 38 times, account of surviving at sea in a raft and dinghy. My safe life on solid ground is so full of choices every day, too many inputs, and too many things to do (or that I think I have to do), that I found There's a wide gulf between the terror, hunger, and thirst Robertson family experienced at sea and the pleasant time I had reading this book. That may be because the author chose to tell this tale without suspense or any narrative gimmicks. Instead this is just a day by day by day, repeat 38 times, account of surviving at sea in a raft and dinghy. My safe life on solid ground is so full of choices every day, too many inputs, and too many things to do (or that I think I have to do), that I found it relaxing to read about a very constrained set of choices and duties (that really do have to be done)-- catch fish and turtles, patch boat, scare away the sharks, navigate, and pray for rain. If you ever find yourself on a reality show in which you have to be stuck in a raft at sea and you get to choose a companion, choose Dougal Robertson, the Pacific Ocean's most competent man.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Judi

    In June 1972, the Robertson's boat was attacked by killer whales and sank in 60 seconds. The six members of this family survive 37 days adrift in the Pacific, first in a rubber raft and then a fiberglass dingy. Without charts, compass, and with only 3 days worth of rations, they manage against 20 foot waves, sharks, thirst and starvation. When I finished ADRIFT, I was on a hunt for more sea stories, so someone gave me this one to read. This certainly satisfied my interest, proving to be another c In June 1972, the Robertson's boat was attacked by killer whales and sank in 60 seconds. The six members of this family survive 37 days adrift in the Pacific, first in a rubber raft and then a fiberglass dingy. Without charts, compass, and with only 3 days worth of rations, they manage against 20 foot waves, sharks, thirst and starvation. When I finished ADRIFT, I was on a hunt for more sea stories, so someone gave me this one to read. This certainly satisfied my interest, proving to be another compelling read. What I found particularly interesting is the three sea survival stories together. Survive the Savage Sea is about a family's survival, whereas ADRIFT is single man's plight and ALBATROSS (now called UNTAMED SEAS) is survival amongst a group of strangers.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Murphy

    Good adventure/survival story. Thanks to this book, I still think about turtle eggs and coffee enemas whenever I'm in a boat!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    This was an interesting book, telling the story of a English family’s survival while adrift in the Pacific for 37 days after their sailboat was sunk by orcas off the Galápagos Islands. It was written by the father & includes his daily account of their challenges & is told from his perspective alone. I think it would have been a much better book if it had included everyone’s voices. I spent some time Googling the family in search of a “where are they now” sort of article but didn’t come up with a This was an interesting book, telling the story of a English family’s survival while adrift in the Pacific for 37 days after their sailboat was sunk by orcas off the Galápagos Islands. It was written by the father & includes his daily account of their challenges & is told from his perspective alone. I think it would have been a much better book if it had included everyone’s voices. I spent some time Googling the family in search of a “where are they now” sort of article but didn’t come up with anything of the sort, which was a little disappointing. The eldest son did write his own book about the experience, including information about their whole trip around the world & not just the last 37 days. It would be nice to read this story from another perspective, so I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jane Fitzpatrick

    This book presents the best argument ever for the human race to have a streak of sheer bloody-mindedness. The account of the sinking of the family yacht Lucette just two days west of the Galapagos Islands. I marvelled at the level-headed and ingenious practicalities that enabled the survival of himself and his three sons, wife Lyn and extra crew Robin for 37 days in a life raft and dinghy, but the psychological journey is just as gripping. Robertson describes a crisis on the seventh day when the This book presents the best argument ever for the human race to have a streak of sheer bloody-mindedness. The account of the sinking of the family yacht Lucette just two days west of the Galapagos Islands. I marvelled at the level-headed and ingenious practicalities that enabled the survival of himself and his three sons, wife Lyn and extra crew Robin for 37 days in a life raft and dinghy, but the psychological journey is just as gripping. Robertson describes a crisis on the seventh day when their safety flares go unseen by a distant ship, and he decides 'we would have to make it on our own and to hell with them..I felt the bitter aggression of the predator fill my mind.' Despite the sometimes grim conditions Robertson's blunt narration can be quite funny.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jon Shanks

    A remarkable and inspirational account of survival against the odds, hundreds of miles from civilization or even a major shipping line for more than a month. Dougal Robinson tales their tale with a frankness which does not leave out any of the details from the physical and emotional strains that they went through whilst clinging onto the ever-diminishing hope of rescue or reaching land. Gripping stuff.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    A true story about being lost at sea. A family decides to sell everything they own to buy a boat and sail around the world. What a great learning experience for the kids! What could possibly go wrong? Somewhere out in the Pacific, hundreds of miles from land, a whale sinks their boat. No one knows they’re missing, so no one is out searching for them. They’ll have to save themselves. All they have is a rubber raft, a small dinghy, and a few tools and supplies - and determination.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    This was written in 1973 and I probably read it around 75 or so. It purports to be a true story of a shipwreck at sea and the resulting struggle for survival of the family who owned the ship. It's written by Dougal Robertson, the father of the family. The basic story is certainly true but some of the details always seemed a little "fantastic" to me. But whether it's literally true in all details or not, it was an exciting and gripping read for this teenaged boy (at the time).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    I love a true survival story and I happened to be reading this one when I had a boating accident (capsize) in the middle on the Pacific. And I was like "holy hell, we only have 2 minutes to get the life raft before the boat sinks". Luckily the boat flipped up again and all the water that had been coming in through potholes, drained out again. No holes in the hull. But this book made me feel like I was ready for anything! I could survive those savage seas! Drink that turtle blood! Yum!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eileenjp

    Fascinating account of Dougal Robertson and his family living for 37 days in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after whales attacked and sank their schooner. They lived on an inflatable rubber raft and than when that sank, a 9 foot dinghy. This is one of those books that it is hard to put down in the middle of the night when you should be sleeping. A great read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Donna B

    Harrowing. Hard to put this one down!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Yolanda

    Excellent book. Gripping, can't-put-the-book-down survival story. I highly recommend reading it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Billy

    Might have influenced me not to go on a long sail boat trip across the oceans.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Momo

    Truly an ordel but needs an editor to stay with it for the book version.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Will Duncan

    I couldn't possibly give less than 5 stars after reading all that they've been through, especially retold so well!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    Skip the last chapter. Not sure why that was added. The story is gripping. Loved it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marieke

    Awe, amazement and rapt fascination were my reactions to the trials this family experienced, as told in this true story, written by the father of the family. During the Robertson family's planned circumnavigation of the earth in 1972, their sailboat was rammed by killer whales a hundred miles off the Galapagos. The boat took one minute to sink. All six of the crew on board--mother, father, 18-year-old son, 12-year-old twins, and a college-age family friend--made it into the inflatable life raft, Awe, amazement and rapt fascination were my reactions to the trials this family experienced, as told in this true story, written by the father of the family. During the Robertson family's planned circumnavigation of the earth in 1972, their sailboat was rammed by killer whales a hundred miles off the Galapagos. The boat took one minute to sink. All six of the crew on board--mother, father, 18-year-old son, 12-year-old twins, and a college-age family friend--made it into the inflatable life raft, with a few provisions and a dinghy tethered behind. There, in that raft, and later in the dinghy itself, those six people spent 38 days surviving at sea. Lack of water was their most life-threatening problem; capsizing was another. Sharks and large fish constantly struck the floor of their raft and the wear-and-tear of being afloat finally caused so many holes in the raft that they had to abandon it after 17 days (all cramming instead into the diminutive dingy). Without any maps or compass, they used their knowledge of the local currents to sail their little craft north and east into The Doldrums where they were sure to find rainstorms. Only just in time did they catch some rain to drink, when they were all going delirious from thirst. Day after day after day, they starved and thirsted, sat cramped and anxious, their clothes disintegrating and hope of rescue disappearing. After a week, they sighted a ship passing and set off several flares, with no response. Dougal described this moment as a turning point for him, where he suddenly knew that their survival was in their own hands and that they had to try to make it to land without counting on rescue. Their tiny rations quickly ran out, and they began eating first flying fish which occasionally landed in the raft or dinghy. Then they caught a sea turtle that came to investigate their raft. Eventually Dougal managed to rig up a spear or gaff to catch the fast dorado with. He lost hook after hook trying to fish with a line, but did manage once to catch a small five-foot shark and bring it aboard. Every last detail of their survival journey is recorded day by day in this amazing book. What they talked about, argued about, dreamed about (food). How they worked together to sun-cure the fish they caught, their method of killing turtles and draining the blood to drink. The watch system they kept, and the amazing things they saw while out in the boundless Pacific. There is a photograph, grainy and slightly blurred, taken of the castaways by someone on the deck of the Japanese ship that eventually picked them up. If the story isn't gut-wrenching enough, this photograph drives it all home. There they are, sun-bronzed in tattered rags, hair matted and bleached. Their skeletal arms reach out to grab the rope offered from above. Their legs are tucked under their bodies uselessly after so long in the cramped dinghy. After such severe dehydration, they could not walk. Also pictured are remnants of their provisions from the raft--drawings on sailcloth, logs that they kept along the way. It would be heartbreaking, but they all survived. Somehow it doesn't feel like the tragedy that perhaps it should--because they lived. Instead of tragedy, it is triumph. I know I couldn't have done it. Besides not having the necessary knowledge of the sea, the waves and currents and the behavior of boats and of sea creatures, I'm not convinced that I could muster up that much determination to live. Wouldn't it be so much easier to let go, sink, go to the sharks? Robertson doesn't just end with their rescue--he writes an extensive analysis at the end, looking back on the things that most threatened their survival and commenting on how their own actions or their equipment could have been better. He criticized his own wasting of precious seconds examining the damage done to their sailboat and trying to stop the flood of water, when he should have been preparing to abandon ship. But mostly, he examines the failures of the survival equipment--raft, knife, hooks and lines, rations--and the way equipment failures could doom someone to death. They were incredibly lucky; rain fell on them when they couldn't live another day without it. Fish threw themselves into their boat. But without the knowledge that they had, and used effectively, there's no way they could have made it. When they were picked up by the Japanese ship, they had a huge store of dried fish and turtle meat, gallons of fresh water stored away, and they were sailing full speed ahead for Costa Rica. They had travelled 750 miles in the raft/dinghy already; they had 290 miles to go to reach land. They didn't need rescue at that point! That's the most amazing thing about this story. They saved themselves.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Kinzer

    An exciting read! I'm amazed how they survived for so long. And how many sea turtles they ate!!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Ideiosepius

    This book records the staggering adventure of the Robertson family (and guest) who, in 1972, had their 43-foot schooner sunk in the pacific after being struck by killer whales. The family of five and the young man crewing for them then survived an astonishing 38 days in a leaking inflatable raft and a tiny dinghy. As sea yarns go this is almost unbelievable and had it been a work of fiction I would probably have passed it by as too unlikely. This story, written by Dougal the husband, the father a This book records the staggering adventure of the Robertson family (and guest) who, in 1972, had their 43-foot schooner sunk in the pacific after being struck by killer whales. The family of five and the young man crewing for them then survived an astonishing 38 days in a leaking inflatable raft and a tiny dinghy. As sea yarns go this is almost unbelievable and had it been a work of fiction I would probably have passed it by as too unlikely. This story, written by Dougal the husband, the father and the captain, takes us through the sinking and survival. It is well written and factual, it does not over dramatise and I think it is very kind to his co-survivors. The rating of the book has given me some conflict; based on their experience, and the bravery of writing this novel the urge is to give it five stars. however purely based on the subjective reading experience it does not really rate, for me at least. This is because after all, on a day by day basis there is a lot of repetition (unavoidable of course) in the narrative so at times I found my attention drifting. Also, I had to keep reminding myself that this is from the 1970's, society has changed (for example, casual sexism that was perfectly normal in the 70's has decreased significantly), if you read older books you may have to allow for attitude changes. Additionally I had some issues with the treatment of the marine life, while I get the need to eat marine life to stay alive and don't doubt I would do it myself if it came to that, the utter glee the family seemed to experience in slaughtering marine turtles, even when they were not hungry and could not use the animals flesh turned my stomach. I had to skip some of the detailed descriptions of sawing through the poor creature's throats. That is the crux of it; I read this book for the love of the marine world, so having turtles described as "nasty looking" and Galapagos marine Iguanas "hideous" really did not rock my boat (If you will pardon the terrible pun). For people just looking for a true story of endurance and human survival this is probably a five star book with no reservations. The last chapter of the book 'The Last Analysis' was quite fascinating: In it Dougal draws from their personal experience to make suggestions for future safety features, nearly forty years later it is fascinating to have a close analysis of how very, very much safety procedures at sea have changed. Having volunteered for the Australian Coast Guard in the past gave this section an added fascination since I am familiar with some of the marine regulations in our part of the world. This last chapter will probably be most interesting to sailors and mariners.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michelle O'flynn

    This is a must-read for any sailors who plan to venture further than their coastline. A true story of survival and ingenious ways to stay alive despite the odds. Dougal Robertson was a former teacher, his wife a former nurse and their skills saved the lives of their twin boys, older teenage son, their deckhand and themselves. What do you do when three killer whales hull your boat and it sinks within less than a minute? How do you battle thirst, hunger, sharks and stay alive for weeks at a time, a This is a must-read for any sailors who plan to venture further than their coastline. A true story of survival and ingenious ways to stay alive despite the odds. Dougal Robertson was a former teacher, his wife a former nurse and their skills saved the lives of their twin boys, older teenage son, their deckhand and themselves. What do you do when three killer whales hull your boat and it sinks within less than a minute? How do you battle thirst, hunger, sharks and stay alive for weeks at a time, adrift in a raft and towing a dinghy? Why using safety pins as fishing hooks, jumping overboard to catch sea turtles and eating their eggs, oil and flesh and drinking the blood of course! Dehydration - no problems. Rig up salt water enemas - but mind you, just a little or you'll get diahorrea. These are just some of the strategies that saved 6 lives for 37 days adrift at sea. Dougal Robertson provides us with great drawing and diagrams to illustrate some of his amazing adaptations, and together with some photos puts the reader in the leaky rubber raft alongside the other survivors. Read on! This is a thrilling story, that has set the standard for survival manuals ever since.

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