Resources, Sailing Knowledge

Book Review: A World of my Own

A World of my Own is Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s account of his 1968/1969 voyage around the world aboard his 32′ ketch, Suhaili. It was known at the time, of course, that circumnavigation was possible. What made Sir Robin’s attempt unique was the fact that he would perform the feat solo, non-stop, without any outside assistance. From the date of his departure on June 14th 1968, it would be 313 days before he would set foot on land again.

To contextualise the scale of the challenge he faced, in the interval that Sir Robin was circumnavigating, Apollo 11 completed its historic voyage to the moon. Yet until Sir Robin returned home, humanity remained uncertain as to whether a non-stop solo circumnavigation was possible.

A photo of the cover of "A World of my Own" by Robin Knox-Johnston

The purpose of this blog is to discuss preparations for a sailing voyage. When I review this book I want to do so from the perspective of how informative I found it with respect to sailing and learning about life at sea. With that in mind, this book was obviously not written to be a textbook, but it is still highly informative throughout.

In my opinion, the most valuable pages are in the front and back matter of the book. The first chapter describes the construction of Suhaili and provides wonderfully clear diagrams of her sail arrangement and her layout below decks. Measurements such as her beam, draft, and tonnage are present making it very easy to imagine the tiny world which Sir Robin inhabited.

The back matter lists the supplies that Sir Robin brought on the voyage including food, tools, navigational charts, and books. Perhaps the most insightful section is his “Pilot Notes” where he reflects on the voyage as a whole, commenting on what worked well, and what he would change given the chance. It’s great to see Sir Robin’s thoughts on his voyage. They’re very simple but they do highlight some of his key sources of discomfort.

Combined these sections provide abridged summary the environment inhabited at sea, the luxuries that really matter, and the tools that one cannot do without.

The content of the rest of the book details the day-to-day challenges faced aboard Suhaili. Injuries, nasty weather, emergency repairs, and efforts to stay sane during extreme isolation are all documented. Sir Robin’s strength of character is clear on every page, which is a lesson in itself, as it demonstrates the attitude required to become an excellent sailor.

Although the kind of sailing I would like to do is very different from that undertaken by Sir Robin, I still learned a lot from reading this account. I’ve definitely been inspired, and am looking forward to my own voyage with a renewed sense of excitement.From a learning perspective, i

Before I close this post, I would like to mention that Sir Robin has organised his own round-the-world voyage which operates from the UK. His Clipper Round The World Voyage is a yacht race for novice sailors that includes a full sail-training programme. His organisation is a goldmine of information. Their YouTube channel has tons of interesting watching, including a simple exercise programme to help you get ready to tackle the waves. At the time of writing they are accepting applications for their next race, so check them out if you’re interested in an adventure.

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