A.J. Mackinnon
Black Inc books, 2014

This has to be one of my favourite sailing books. I think it’s the combination of the amazing achievement and the beautiful, lyrical prose with which the tale is described.

Anyone who has ever owned a Mirror dinghy, the recognisable red-sailed boat in which the voyager travels, will appreciate the enormity of Mackinnon’s undertaking. Furthermore, the story is made even more incredible as the author sets out with no further thoughts than to spend a few lazy days on a local river!

Armed with little more than a backpack, a map, a pith helmet, and a sense of humour, Mackinnon takes on an incredible journey across to Europe, crossing seas, rivers and lakes in a vessel that should never have made it further than London! The story typifies the adventurous, Australian spirit, as the author takes a simple notion to sail a few miles down-river and turns his journey into a year-long adventure. And yet the author’s sailing achievement is not the only thing to be admired.

The book is written in the most beautiful, flowing descriptions of every place and every waterway that he explores, so that the read becomes very much a visual experience. Every chapter commences with a literary quote, reflecting the author’s English teaching background and his wonderful command of the English language. Not only that, his knowledge of the natural environment is extraordinary. Flowers, trees and plants along with birds and waterfowl of every description are included in the journey, allowing the reader to picture the voyage every step of the way.

The journey itself is re-told not only in beautiful prose but with cheerfulness and humour that allows the reader to be immersed alongside the author and to laugh at every mishap.
“I have been travelling for five hours now, and I really am expecting to see signs of Europe. It is quite a large place, I believe.”

From dried-up river beds, to dangerous currents, kidnapping by pirates and being baffled by bureaucracy, Mackinnon depends on the generosity of complete strangers in every country through which he passes. All done on a shoestring budget, and never with the intention nor preparation of a major voyage. No Tech giants or other corporate sponsors were involved, just the kindness of strangers and a willingness to take on a challenge and say ‘why not?’

A book I have read several times and intend to read again and again.