A Voyage Along the Wild Coasts of the British IslesBook - 2004
From Land's End to Cape Clear, at the southwestern tip of Ireland, past Roaringwater Bay and Cod's Head, on past Inishvickillane and Inishtooskert, up through the Hebrides, to Orkney and on to the Faeroes, stretches the richest and wildest coastline in Europe, an Atlantic-battered world.
Wanting to experience the feeling that only the ocean can give you, of being "a single hair on the world's skin," Adam Nicolson set off to sail this coast in the Auk, a 42-foot wooden ketch, heading off on a 1,500-mile voyage through what he hoped would be a sequence of revelatory landscapes. He was not disappointed.
Seamanship is more than a travel journal. What Nicolson has written describes an inner journey as much as an outer one. He writes of his own yearning for wild and open spaces, but his year is strung between the competing claims of leaving and belonging, of thinking that no life could be more exhilarating than battling a big Atlantic gale and of the desire for harbor and home, for the comforts of stillness.
Disasters and revelations greet him at every turn; sacred landscapes and modern visionaries; encounters with the animals living on the wild edge of the Atlantic; a moment at which the prospect of death comes strolling on board the Auk and others in which the strains of this ocean-edge existence threaten his friendship with George Fairhurst, who was sailing with him. Above all, it is about the gaps that open up between those who go and those who stay at home.
Seamanship, in the end, is not about the sea; it's about being alive.