There are pretty strict conventions about how to write a report about a sailing adventure: First-person narrator, simple style and grammar, abundance of technical terms connected to sailing, long passages on navigation and charts and courses, laconic comments on the extraordinary and a relaxed off-handedness about the absolutely foolish and suicidal decisions taken by the superhero-sailor(s).

Pyle mostly complies with these, although there is a suspicious lack of navigational details in his accounts. Also, there are passages which make it pretty clear, that his sailing companion (second choice, by the way) »Dave« was »slow«, »short, fat, stocky«, in general knew nothing about sailing and, towards the end of the trip, wanted it to be over as quickly as possible.

The title suggests a tour from England to Australia in an open boat, and indeed, that is exactly the foolish and suicidal bit required for a proper sailing adventure. On the very last page, one of the first persons the sailors meet in Darwin, Australia, claims »bet they bloody shipped that little boat out om a liner, and got themselves dropped off outside the harbour.« Dave (the one who apparently had lost the appetite for adventure somewhere between Singapore and Australia) laconically answers »Would have been easier, though, wouldn’t it?«

Fun fact is: To a great extent, that is exactly what Pyle and his companion did. Large parts of the tour had been done with the boat on top of a lorry, a train wagon and, indeed, on deck of proper ocean liners. And those stretches that little yellow Hermes traveled on its own keel where often done under motor or in tow. Pyle was the first to reach Australia in an open boat – but this does not mean that he had sailed all the distance.

One could feel a little cheated – or one could simply enjoy a lively and humorous, lovingly and wittily written account of a tour over half the globe at a time well before cultural globalisation. And of course: Untypically for a this kind of text, there is plenty of cat-content.