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The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow

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This is an account of a journey made from North Shropshire in England to Sulina on the Black Sea, sailing and rowing over three thousand miles in a small Mirror dinghy. It was in many ways purely an accident that it happened at all. I originally intended to spend a quiet two weeks travelling just the sixty miles or so down to Gloucester on the River Severn. Somehow things got out of hand - a year later I had reached Romania and was still going...


I don’t recall who nominated this book for the last BGO group read of 2012, but it caught my interest straight away, as the Mirror dinghy, with is red sails had been a familiar sight on rivers, lakes and reservoirs in the early seventies, when I was first introduced to dinghy sailing by Mr meg. The idea of such an epic voyage in a little cockleshell of a boat intrigued me, and it had to be a fairly eccentric sailor who attempted it.


Eccentric seems quite an apt description of Sandy Mackinnon, and intrepid. The adventures he has in his little boat, Jack de Crow, are told in a very lighthearted way, although many of them would have proved quite daunting for most people.

His casual attitude to maps/charts and forward planning annoyed me at first, but as he seemed to ‘get away with it’ so much of the time I began to share his casual attitude.


I did enjoy the way Sandy entertained himself as he rowed (mostly rowed, as many of the waterways were too narrow or busy to tack across). He sang well known hymns, and bits of G&S; recited poems (and learned all of Keats’ poems off by heart en route); referenced the Bible, Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolkien and CS Lewis: All in all, gave the impression that he would be an amusing and interesting acquaintance (if a little exhausting, maybe)


Most of the people he met seemed to be more than willing to offer him food, shelter and assistance with running repairs to Jack, and most of the book is a romp.

Things are a bit more serious and scary when he reaches eastern Europe, where there is more suspicion and poverty, and the necessity for permits and visas gives less scope for impulsive halts or detours. Nonetheless, he reaches his final destination, the Black sea, overcomes the last bit of bureaucracy and bring his journey to a close.


Mackinnon has adopted "I Exaggerate for Effect" as his personal motto, and no doubt there has been a good deal of tweaking and polishing to make this memoir an enjoyable adventure tale

However, I think it fits best as a travelogue, so here it is.

I do recommend it heartily

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