Running Away to Sea: Round the World on a Tramp Freighter

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9780771031151: Running Away to Sea: Round the World on a Tramp Freighter

At a low point in his life, the prolific Canadian writer Douglas Fetherling sought to clear his head by taking the kind of trip that many of us dream about – going round the world on one of the last of the tramp freighters. The four-month voyage carried him (and a handful of other travellers) some thirty thousand nautical miles, from Europe via the Panama Canal to the South Pacific, a region with a future as fragile as its past is romantic. There the ship, a converted Russian ice-breaker renamed The Pride of Great Yarmouth, traded at some of the most fabled – and some of the most disreputable – ports in the southern hemisphere. The return voyage, by way of Singapore, Indonesia, the Indian Ocean, and Suez, was just as memorable.

Written with dash, colour, and droll humour, Fetherling’s narrative is peopled by a rich cast of characters, from the Foreign Legionnaires of French Polynesia to the raskol gangs of Papua New Guinea. Most memorable perhaps are the men and women who continue to follow the millennia-old life of the sea. This is the world of Ordinaries and Able-Bodied Seamen, but also of hopeful young officer cadets – to say nothing of, in this particular instance, a temperamental cook, a computer genius with a nose-ring, and a young Russian woman who believes herself the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe.

Fetherling captures the reality of life aboard a working cargo ship – the boredom, the seclusion, the differences of nationality and culture that isolation and cramped quarters seem to exaggerate. But he also describes how the routine of loneliness or tranquillity is punctuated by moments of near-panic – shipboard fires, furniture-smashing storms, even a brush with pirates in the Strait of Malacca.

Running Away to Sea is literary travel-writing in the grand old tradition.

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From the Back Cover:

“A truly wonderful book. Fetherling at his best.”
–Bill Bryson

“A splendid seadog’s yarn....Like John McPhee’s Looking for a Ship or Gavin Young’s Slow Boat to China, this wonderful, well-crafted book is ideal reading for a desert island or an armchair.”
Kitchener-Waterloo Record

About the Author:

Douglas Fetherling, who has produced other travel narratives on Russia and East Asia, is a poet, fiction writer, editor, and teacher. His other books include Selected Poems and the much-acclaimed Travels by Night: A Memoir of the Sixties. He lives in Toronto most of the time.

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Fetherling, Douglas
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