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I recently watched Deep Water, a documentary about a 1968 Sunday Times-sponsored nonstop yacht race around the world. Nine men signed up to pilot their own boats on this adventure. It was a fascinating documentary that showed the harrowing conditions these men faced, but the crux of the race really depended a lot more on how mentally stable these men had to be to survive approximately 10 months alone at sea.
One sailor, Knox-Johnson, later went on to write this memoir of his trip. You learn about the struggles of keeping his 32-foot ketch in shape without pulling into port to make repairs. On one of many occasions his boat was taking in water, so he had to go overboard to inspect the hull and jerry-rig a plug, all the while scanning about for sharks that eventually approached. Half-way around the world his fresh water supplies became contaminated and his radio broke.
And then there was his struggle against loneliness and boredom. What helped him through these times was the abundance of sea wildlife (birds, porpoises, and whales), a few good books (War and Peace and Wuthering Heights among them), and a couple of cases of brandy and beer (but not enough!).
This book was a fascinating study of the kind of personality that takes on such risks and how one manages seemingly insurmountable problems.
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