New Zealand Women Are . . .

Friday, July 13, 2012

. . . Amazing! That's what I think after reading this book while on holiday this week.

I wandered into the resort's tiny little library. Actually, just a small bookshelf, in the hopes of finding an Agatha Christie or some similar thriller, and finding nothing but Barbra Cartland-type novels I was about to flounce out of there in disappointment when I saw, tucked in amongst all the pathetic romance novels this little gem. I opened it and was hooked from the first page.

Maybe it's because of my own interest in sailing - and yes, I have to admit I did enjoy all the technical descriptions of halyards and main sails and gybing, and the little plan of the inside of the ship. But mostly I was thrilled with her story - amazed too at the courage of Naomi James - the first woman in the world to sail single-handedly around the world via Cape Horn in 1978. She made a world record. 272 days alone at sea. Imagine that! And she is a kiwi - born and raised on a farm in the Hawkes Bay.

What was inconceivable to my timid nature was her decision to do this when she was only a fairly novice sailor! She didn't even learn to swim until she was in her twenties - which in itself is unusual for a New Zealander. She has even said that she learned to sail on her trip around the world! Her diaries and accounts of her solo voyage is fascinating and gripping. I loved all the little details of what she had to eat - what she craved. How she could speak by radio to people in England and New Zealand when she was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Of the people she met in South Africa - of the elderly Dutchman who bought her oranges and a survival kit on the eve of her departure.

I loved every chapter of this book. Unfortunately it is no longer available to buy new, so as I have my copy on a long-term loan from the resort (we are regulars there, so they let me borrow it), I am having to keep my eye out for my own copy online.

She is now a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, having earned that after her success, and lives in Ireland (I believe), and from what I can find out has not sailed again since her husband was drowned after falling overboard on a race some 5 years after her voyage.

If you can find a copy of this book in the library, I heartily recomend it as a good and exciting read - she is a forgotten heroine, but her amazing courage and fortitude has inspired me this week. I've added her to my list of inspirational people I'd like to meet. But she hasn't inspired me so far that I'd want to do the same thing as her in sailing around the world solo. It was the heavy weather account in the Southern Seas that put me off. I also had to laugh at her description of New Zealand being a 'shipping hazard' as she passed below us in the middle of the night!

No, I think I'll just stick to the Hauraki Gulf for my sailing thrills.
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