Once is Enough

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May 21, 2003


Mixed media product, 224 pages


0071414312 / 9780071414319


Your Price



Main description

The Sailor's Classics library introduces a new generation of readers to the best books ever written about small boats under sail

When the 46-foot Tzu Hang sailed from Australia into the vast Southern Ocean in December 1956, her crew of three couldn't know what terror awaited them.

Table of contents

Introduction by Jonathan Raban One. Preparations in Melbourne Two. False Start Three. Through the Bass Strait Four. Across the South Tasman Five. Into the Southern Ocean Six. The Way of a Ship Seven. This Is Survival Training! Eight. Recovery Nine. The Trek North Ten. First Days in Chile Eleven. Repairs in Talcahuano Twelve. Still in Talcahuano Thirteen. To Coronel Again Fourteen. Not Again! Fifteen. There's a Wind from the South Sixteen. Epilogue Appendix. Management in Heavy Weather

Author comments

Miles Smeeton was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1906. In 1939, he and his wife Beryl attempted to climb 25,263-foot Tirich Mir, in the Himalaya, with Tenzing Norgay. Although they failed, Beryl achieved renown as one of the first women to climb so high. A career army officer, Miles served with distinction in World War II. In 1951, the Smeetons bought Tzu Hang in England and, though they had just learned to sail, sailed her to Canada. They next voyaged to the South Pacific, and Miles later wrote about that adventure in The Sea Was Our Village. In 1956, Miles and Beryl Smeeton embarked on the voyage described in Once Is Enough. In 1967, they made a third--and successful--Cape Horn attempt, sailing east to west. The Smeetons later founded the Cochrane Ecological Institute in Alberta, Canada, still run by their daughter.

Jonathan Raban is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the editor of The Oxford Book of the Sea, and author of ten critically acclaimed books, including Passage to Juneau. He is the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Heinemann Award For Literature, and received the New York Times Editors' Choice for Book of the Year for Old Glory and Bad Land. He has been called (by The Guardian) "the finest writer afloat since Conrad."

Back cover copy

"Unique among books of maritime adventure."--New York Times Book Review

When Tzu Hang, a 46-foot ketch, set sail from Melbourne, Australia, in December 1956 bound for England, Miles and Beryl Smeeton and their friend John Guzzwell had little concept of the challenges or terrors that awaited them. At that time very few small sailboats had successfully rounded Cape Horn, and none had sailed as far south as Tzu Hang--just north of the Antarctic iceberg limit.

Six weeks later, in the icy seas several hundred miles west of Cape Horn, Tzu Hang was caught from astern by a huge wave that somersaulted her. Beryl Smeeton, who had been alone at the tiller, was thrown thirty yards into the sea. Despite a broken collarbone, she managed to swim to the wreckage of masts and rigging in the water where Miles and John could heave her on board. Tzu Hang was a shambles: the tiller, rudder, doghouse, anchor, compass, and dinghies had all been ripped away; the masts had broken off level with the deck; and the boat was close to sinking. Working beyond exhaustion, the crew emptied the water bucket by bucket, salvaged what they could, built a new doghouse, fashioned a jury rig, and five weeks later sailed into Arauco Bay on the Chilean coast.

After ten months of repair work in a Chilean navy yard, Miles and Beryl Smeeton (without John Guzzwell) sailed again toward Cape Horn and again were capsized, dismasted, and nearly sunk by a rogue wave. Once more, they survived the disaster and sailed 2,000 miles to Valparaiso, Chile.

When it was first published in 1959, Once Is Enough electrified the sailing world. But what keeps it fresh and captivating is not just Smeeton's vivid re-creation of the sea's fury. His eloquent descriptions of ordinary life at sea make Once Is Enough timeless reading for sailors and armchair adventurers alike.

"It is the struggle of these three indomitable sailors for survival and their extraordinary resource . . . that makes their taut journal unique among books of maritime adventure. . . . Tzu Hang and her crew add up not only to survival but to a tale full of sound and fury told by an intrepid but eminently sane survivor."--Times (London) Literary Supplement

"The strangest and most memorable thing about Once Is Enough is that it's not a heroic tale of survival, but--of all things--an idyll."--from the introduction by Jonathan Raban

"Brigadier Smeeton's saga is the very essence of authenticity. Its message is clear and simple: Beware the sea in anger, for no small boat can conquer it, however expertly sailed."--New York Times Book Review

"They are the first people ever to return alive to tell the story of a boat being somersaulted. . . . And they certainly make fascinating company for a reader with his eyes on the heights of human endeavor."--Sunday Times

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