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The Long Way

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The Long Way is Bernard Moitessier's own incredible story of his participation in the first Golden Globe Race, a solo, non-stop circumnavigation rounding the three great Capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin, and the Horn. For seven months, the veteran seafarer battled storms, doldrums, gear-failures, knock-downs, as well as overwhelming fatigue and loneliness. Then, nearing the finish, Moitessier pulled out of the race and sailed on for another three months before ending his 37,455-mile journey in Tahiti. Not once had he touched land.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1971

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About the author

Bernard Moitessier

12 books37 followers
Bernard Georges Moitessier was a French sailor and writer, most notable for his participation in the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first non-stop, singlehanded, round the world yacht race.

Bernard Georges Moitessier est un navigateur et écrivain français, auteur de plusieurs livres relatant ses voyages. En 1968, il participe à la première course autour du monde, en solitaire et sans escale, le Golden Globe Challenge.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 156 reviews
Profile Image for Artnoose McMoose.
Author 1 book34 followers
October 27, 2014
If you haven't yet read the book A Voyage For Madmen about the Sunday Time Golden Globe circumnavigational race, you should read that first and then read this, an account by one of the participants. Bernard Moitessier was not just a participant in this incredible event, he was the lone participant who once he completed one single-handed loop around the three capes, decided to give Western Civilization the finger and keep on sailing, giving up all prizes and monies associated with officially winning the race (but securing a book deal, of course).

There are of course numerous technical passages about sailing, which are a bit overwhelming for the non-sailor. There was also sometimes a little thought in the back of my mind that with this trip, he essentially leaves his wife and kids, for good. "But all the world's children have become my children; it is so wonderful that I would like them to feel it the way I do." And who knows, maybe someday they eventually came to terms with it, but I can't imagine his wife used that rationale when explaining to the kids why their dad wasn't coming back. Oh, and the descriptions of jettisoning unnecessary goods to lighten the weight of the boat was sometimes a little weird to read--- jerrycans of chemicals, etc.

In general though, it was a moving narration of a man's extended trip through a natural environment. I enjoyed all the interactions with animals, and of course the sea.

"With a clumsy and premature gesture I risked breaking something very fragile. Wait a while longer, don't rush things, don't force things. Wait until the waves of friendship, made of invisible vibrations, reach their full maturity. You can spoil everything, trying to go faster than nature."
28 reviews
June 12, 2012
Funny that I had not read this book previously. My brother asked me to read something at his wedding that was nautical and talked about life, this was his first thought for inspiration.

Moitessier conveys his love for the sea and sailing. Central to the book is what it means to be a creature living on this planet. This is the story of a solitary voyage, racing around the planet in a small boat. The other competitors are nearly absent. What is present is the sea, the boat, Moitessier, and his thoughts and memories.

The author talks to us about the experience of being alone out on the water and how it causes him to reflect on his relationships with other people and with society. He claims space for the "vagabond" who lives outside of the "monster" that society has become.

Perfect book for me. I'm shopping for boats ;)
Profile Image for Toby Litt.
Author 97 books176 followers
March 29, 2022
First published in 1973, if The Long Way is dated, it's in a melancholy way. The book ends - after Moitessier's circumnavigation and more - with the wise sailor encountering environmental destruction on Tahiti. He becomes engaged, politicized, after months of selfish (in a good way) voyaging. Just him, the Joshua his boat, the porpoises, the sea robins, the sky, sea, sun and moon. But you can't help but feel, if we could dial the planet back to the state it was in in 1973, we would be a long way towards some kind of eco-sanity. Not perfect, but nowhere near the point we are now.

Some moments in The Long Way jar painfully. Moitessier's departure from his wife and children. His avoidance of them throughout his time away. Also, the amount of stuff he chucks over the side of the boat - to save weight. He does not have a contemporary sensibility. He gleefully smokes his way around the world. He is not a saint. But he's on a genuine quest for something. Hence his famous message to the Sunday Times:

'Dear Robert: The Horn was rounded February 5, and today is March 18. I am continuing non-stop towards the Pacific Islands because I am happy at sea, and perhaps also to save my soul.'

(This is a forerunner of Bruce Chatwin's invented telegram to his editor 'Have gone to Patagonia'.)

The Long Way is one of the great books about the satisfactions of isolated dedication to a task. It is full of contradictions. Moitessier is both at rest but also involved in a gung-ho race - against other solo sailors but also against the seasons. Moitessier is a yoga-performing hippie sympathiser, but he's also a very old kind of macho.

I re-read this, listening to Dave Crosby's 'The Lee Shore' in a fairly obsessive way. If you're a city-dweller who wants to run away to sea, that combination is the best I can offer.

And if you're engaged on any long project (for example, writing a novel or recovering from an illness), Moitessier is a great companion to have in your solitude.

'One thing at a time, as in the days when I was building Joshua. If I had wanted to build all the boat at once, the enormity of the task would have crushed me. I had to put all I had into the hull alone, without thinking about the rest. It would follow... with the help of the Gods.

'Sailing non-stop around the world. I do not think anyone has the means of pulling it off - at the start.'
Profile Image for Cliff Moyce.
195 reviews12 followers
March 10, 2020
So much more than a book about participating in a famous sailing race. This is an amazing meditation on how to live in harmony with our beautiful planet, written by someone who saw more of it than most. Don’t expect rip-roaring excitement (being so calm means he makes the impossible sound easy) but do expect to be haunted by his words. Haunted in a good way and haunted in a bad way. The environmental message of this book has never been more important.
Don’t worry if you are not a sailor as there is an excellent glossary of sailing terms at the back of the book.
Profile Image for Dan.
Author 4 books435 followers
April 14, 2016
I wanted to like this, but ultimately it wasn't for me.

The first half was a pretty standard sea tale consisting of weather updates, sea conditions, etc—your basic log entry stuff—peppered in over a lot of talk about the freedom of the sea and the sort of vague spirituality that engenders. Not bad. There were a few choice quotes and moments of rumination. But the second half really went off the hippy-dippy deep end. There was a lot of talk about the "Monster," which, as best as I can figure, is the personification of humanity's avarice. There's a fine line between working with technology—say embracing a boat designed to harness the wind for the express purpose of allowing a yachtsman to circumnavigate the globe single-handedly—and decrying technology's ability to divorce mankind from nature. Moitessier chooses instead to approach the subject in blunt terms. At one point he goes on this long rant—at least I think he was talking about himself; I wasn't paying too much attention by then—about how he's going to donate all the proceeds from the book to the Pope, so the Pope can use it to safeguard the Earth from this "Monster." I pretty much gave up reading at that point, but since I was close to the end, I figured why not hate-read this to the end.

If you're looking for warmed over hippie philosophy with a salty flavor, this is for you. If not, avoid it like so many shoals for a deep-keeled boat.

If you liked this, make sure to follow me on Goodreads for more reviews!
74 reviews
October 30, 2014
I came to this book after reading A Voyage for Madmen. I was just fascinated to learn more about someone who sails alone around the world, without touching land and when almost home decides "Nah. Let's just keep sailing".

The book doesn't disappoint but here is a man so obsessed he must have been impossible to live with. I have seen film of an interview with his wife and she says (I'm paraphrasing here) "That's Bernard. It's just the way he is and you have to accept that". Strikes me that she is just as remarkable a woman as he is a man.
Profile Image for Leonidas Giakoumakis.
1 review1 follower
January 4, 2022
I wanted to read this book since I watched the documentary, Deep Water, about the first around the word sailing race. The author was one of the top contenders who decided to keep going for a second circumnavigation instead of cruising to the finish line and likely winning the race. The book is a ship's log of the ~ 10 months spend at sea, annotated with the author's thoughts and mental state. It inspires you to sail in open waters and live on a boat sailing the oceans. I found it very pleasant to read however, I was somewhat disappointed with the part where the author decides to not to finish the race. He also hardly speaks about the end of the race; only one out of of nine finished, everyone retired or had to be rescued and one committed suicide.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kitson.
51 reviews1 follower
January 1, 2008
In 1968 the London Sunday Times sponsored a circumnavigating the globe single handed sailing race. At that time, no one had sailed around the world alone without stopping. With the media attention there was even more of the romanticism always intwined in The Sea.

The race, however, would come to expose all the real and terrible tragedy of "nature". Alone in that empty, mystical plain of ungovernable, unfathomable wild, one man would step off his boat's deck sinking forever into the oblivion. Moitessier, leading at the time, elected to turn his boat around and just keep going. Winning was really and truly not the point.

The second half of the twentieth century had no shortage of false mystics touting philosophies and lifestyles they knew nothing about. Moitessier was real and knew what the fuck he was talking about.
Profile Image for Mirjam.
281 reviews10 followers
January 31, 2021
Zeilboeken hebben bij mij altijd een streepje voor. Zo ook dit exemplaar. Tijdens het lezen, golvend op mijn stoel of in mijn bed, vergat ik de tijd en voelde ik de golven, hoorde ik het klapperen van het zeil en het geluid van brekende golven.
Een heerlijk verhaal met achterin voor de liefhebber technische uitleg over materiaal, voeding en onderhoud van het schip.
Profile Image for Premal Vora.
154 reviews3 followers
December 13, 2017
In 1968, the Sunday Times of the UK held the first (and only) Golden Globe race: sailors had to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe in a sailboat race with the sailboat staying within certain specifications. The race began and ended in Plymouth, UK. No fancy navigational aids were allowed(there was no GPS then in any case), no radio, nothing. To mark the 50th anniversary of that race, another will be held beginning in the summer of 2018. This is an appropriate time to read or revisit Bernard Moitessier's book, The Long Way, describing his own experience in that race.

Moitessier was already an experienced sailor and well known in the sailing world and had friends who were also participating in the race. Moitessier had a 39' steel ketch, Joshua, named after Joshua Slocum who was the world's first solo circumnavigator. I believe Joshua was 10 years old when Moitessier started from Plymouth on August 22, 1968. We are privy to all that goes through the solo sailor's mind and all that happens to his boat on this voyage. Moitessier went around the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) in October 1968, crossed Cape Leeuwin (Australia) in early December 1968 and Cape Horn (Chile) in February 1969. In March 1969 he reached a point off the south-western coast of Africa where he had previously been. During this time, he encountered numerous challenges including several gales and his boat being knocked down twice (the main mast hitting the water due to a large wave hitting the boat broadsides). However, he also encountered many beautiful sights on the open ocean: fish, birds, the stars, the moon, and just the water.

After crossing Cape Horn, and navigating much of the Atlantic Ocean to reach the point off the south western coast of Africa, Moitessier is mentally and physically exhausted. This is when things get a bit weird. For about 8 months, he has had virtually no contact with humans except for handing off a couple of messages to passing fishermen. We know right from the introductory chapter that he has a loving wife and children waiting for him back in Plymouth. The right thing for him to do would be to head north and make for the Ascension Islands, then onto Europe and Plymouth so he can complete the race and be reunited with his family. Here's a passage that describes his thoughts at that time: "Saint Helena is 1300 miles away. Just looking at the chart, I can feel all the gentleness of the trade wind in the cabin. It caresses me, so soft, so good. I look a bit further north: Ascension Island, 1700 miles, almost on the direct route. In that case, better make it Ascension. If I can work things out with the heavens to catch the trades without delay, I should make Ascension in two weeks at the outside, sleeping twenty hours a day if I feel like it. Two weeks! What a relief for all my loved ones! And for me! I feel good now that a decision has been taken that is reasonable for all concerned."

Then on the next page, "I have set course for the Pacific again...last night was too hard to take, I felt really sick at the thought of getting back to Europe, back to the snakepit." If you want to be present when someone sane turns insane read this part of the book. Particularly if you speak and read French because Moitessier being French himself has reproduced his original diary in French in this book. The English translation is good, but I'm assuming it can't beat the original.

Moitessier actually skipped Europe and rounded Cape of Good Hope again, Cape Leeuwin again and ended up in Tahiti! To (barely) understand what led him to do this, read this book. So, officially he never did finish the race. Only one person who started the race actually finished it and he has become a hero to all aspiring sailors (Robin Knox Johnson). Some of the others who started have their own stories of course, and one, Daniel Crowhurst, became mentally ill and committed suicide.

This is obviously a fascinating race and the 50th anniversary and the re-running of the race appears to be a promising and interesting event to look forward to. If you choose to follow the race as it unfolds in 2018, do read this book to get some context -- it will make your journey all the more richer.

This book gave me a lot of courage to try out things on my own for it isn't always easy to get others to subscribe to your dreams. As a storybook, it's just mediocre because there isn't much high drama here of the type one expects in a novel. But for sailors...a must read!
Profile Image for Tim.
46 reviews4 followers
July 18, 2015
I really enjoyed the early parts of this book and the appendix which focus on his trip famous trip a time and a half around the world. There was a nice balance between the technical aspects of sailing and the psychological adventure of the long voyage.
However, he really lost me around the time he made his decision to keep going around Good Hope for a second time. He presents his decision as "how could I not" and "I know I have to keep going" but without any compelling internal or external reason. I found myself put off by the profound self-absorption with which he assured us (and himself) that his wife and children would understand that he needed to go to Tahiti instead of home to them.
The last part of the narrative was pretty disjointed and trippy, talking to birds, ceding his royalties to the Pope, raging against "The Monster". The last chapters read much more like a hippie (his word) manifesto than a sailing memoir.
I read this because I was curious about the man and his voyage after reading A Voyage for Madmen. I don't regret the read, but in terms of sailing memoirs, Josh Sloacum's Sailing Alone around the World is a lot more satisfying.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ben.
967 reviews81 followers
March 28, 2020
This is an interesting story (though other stories about the Golden Globe Race should be read first). Moitessier writes well, and with detail. When reading, I felt that he did not sufficiently explain his decision to keep going—but this is addressed in the last chapters.

> Caught unawares, a flying fish shoots straight up in a twenty foot leap into the air. A huge barracuda takes off after it and snatches the flying fish at the top of the arc. The really amazing thing was seeing the barracuda contorting its entire body and beating its tail, modifying its trajectory to follow the prey, which had angled off to the left at the top of its leap. I felt sorry for the little one, but was so struck by the terrible beauty of a master-stroke that I let out a big 'Aaah!'

> The stars are twinkling very brightly up there in the night. When I was a kid, an old Indochinese fisherman explained to me why the stars twinkle, and why they twinkle very strongly when the wind is going to come back. But I can't tell that story tonight, I'm too sleepy.

> Joshua passes through groups of more than a hundred of these very little birds, about the size of robins, with silvery plumage, whose quick turns and sideslips remind me of swallows before a storm. Their undersides are white, the tails dark grey, and a big W marks the tops of their wings. They zig-zag along the water, often putting a leg down as if to help them turn. No relation to the tiny black and white petrels, who play in the air as lightly as butterflies. They too often turn by pushing a foot against the water.

> I hear familiar whistlings and hurry out, as always when porpoises are around. I don't think I've ever seen so many at once. The water is white with their splashing, furrowed in all directions by the knives of their dorsal fins. There must be close to a hundred. … A tight line of 25 porpoises swimming abreast goes from stern to stem on the starboard side, in three breaths, then the whole group veers right and rushes off at right angles, all the fins cutting the water together and in the same breath taken on the fly. I watch, wonderstruck. More than ten times they repeat the same thing. Even if the sun were to return, I could not tear myself away from all this joy, all this life, to get out the Beaulieu. I have never seen such a perfect ballet. And each time, it is to the right that they rush off, whipping the sea white for thirty yards. They are obeying a precise command, that is for sure. I can't tell if it is always the same group of 20 or 25, there are too many porpoises to keep track. They seem nervous; I do not understand. The others seem nervous too, splashing along in zig-zags, beating the water with their tails, instead of playing with the bow, the way they usually do. The entire sea rings with their whistling. … Something pulls me, something pushes me. I look at the compass. Joshua is running downwind at 7 knots straight for Stewart Island, hidden in the stratus. The steady west wind had shifted around to the south without my realizing it. The course change was not apparent because of the quiet sea, without any swell, on which Joshua neither rolled nor tossed. Usually, Joshua always lets me know of course changes without my having to look at the compass if the sky is overcast. This time, she couldn't. … There are as many porpoises as before. But now they play with. Joshua , fanned out ahead, in single file alongside, with the very lithe, very gay movements I have always known. And then something wonderful happens: a big black and white porpoise jumps ten or twelve feet in the air in a fantastic somersault, with two complete rolls. And he lands flat, tail forward. Three times he does his double roll, bursting with a tremendous joy, as if he were shouting to me and all the other porpoises: 'The man understood that we were trying to tell him to sail to the right … you understood … you understood … keep on like that, it's all clear ahead!' … My porpoises have been swimming around Joshua for over two hours. The ones I have met in the past rarely stayed more than a quarter of an hour before going on their way. When they leave, all at once, two of them remain behind until twilight, a total of five full hours. They swim as if a little bored, one on the right, the other on the left. For three hours longer they swim like that, each isolated on his own side, without playing, setting their speed by Joshua 's, two or three yards from the boat. I have never seen anything like it. Porpoises have never kept me company this long. I am sure they were given the order to stay with me until Joshua was absolutely out of danger.

> Plymouth so close, barely 10,000 miles to the north … but leaving from Plymouth and returning to Plymouth now seems like leaving from nowhere to go nowhere.

> Lots of people believe that the bulldozer and the concrete mixer don't think. They're wrong: they do think. They think that if they don't have any work to do, they won't earn any money, and then their slaves won't be able to buy the fuel and oil they need to go on living and go on thinking serious thoughts. They think human beings are pretty retarded, still making their babies in joy and love and pain. Their procreation technique is much more efficient: they work flat out without ever getting tired, and that means profits, and their slaves hurry to make more bulldozers and concrete mixers which are born fully grown, ready to work without wasting a minute

> Our nation would not collect gold medals at the Olympics, but the gold medal supermen would listen to our anthem. And they would seek citizenship so as not to be superior any more. Then the manufacturers of cars, and oil, and super giant planes, and bombs, and generals, and all-the-rest would gradually begin to feel that the turning has been finally taken, that it is a thousand times truer to have men guided by heart and instinct than the twisted gimmicks of money and politics.
Profile Image for James Fields.
25 reviews
August 4, 2018
Lost at sea.

This is a log book of a mind too long left alone. It's part madness, part sailing, and part rant. I wish I had read it when I was younger so the angst and despair could've been closer to me. It's a good bookthough, so I don't regret reading it.

The appendix reads like a different book and was a pure pleasure. The author takes us on a technical tour of the boat, the sails, the rigging, the weather in the 40s and so much more. This part is a necessary read for any would-be sailor or those who dream of the life.
Profile Image for Mel Luna.
312 reviews10 followers
December 19, 2012
Oh Moitessier, you are such a romantic! A french hippie poet vagabond. This book is pure nectar, poetry, adventure, love of life in script. But I had to knock half a star off for going overboard with the tangents about the "Machine." Not that I don't agree in spirit, it just rubbed me the wrong way, felt badly written, trite. It actually hurts me to say that about this incredible book. Read it, do! I'll read it again just to hang out with this precious man.
Profile Image for Paul Peterson.
221 reviews11 followers
September 22, 2020
In 1968 the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race offered prizes to the first solo sailor to make it around the world, non-stop, and also for the fastest such circumnavigation. 9 sailors set out...only one finished, but this man, Moitessier, was in position to win at least one prize before chosing to keep on around the globe another 1/2 turn. Fascinating read and very well-written.

I read the book expecting a detailed explanation as to why this guy would enter the race, sail around the 3 capes at the bottom of our planet, and then quit before claiming his prize. In short, he loved sailing. He loved his boat, the sea, the birds and fish. He didn't need prize money and saw it as kind of a silly thing to do what he loved for the money.

Another fascinating story to come out of this race is about Donald Crowhurst, a sailor who started out unprepared and suffered a mental breakdown. He committed suicide in the Atlantic Ocean rather than return home.

Fave quotes from this book..."The sheet winches creak, the water murmurs on the bottom as 'Joshua' gather way and begins to come alive...People who do not know that a sailboat is a living creature will never understand anything about boats and the sea."

"The old-timers in the great days of sail come to mind; for centuries they furrowed the oceans in trade of discovery. But always for the sea. I reflect on what they bequeathed us in nautical documents, where words stand for the sea and sky, where arrows try to tell of currents and winds, of the anguish and joys of those sailors, as if that could be done, as if experience of the great laws of the sea could be passed along, as if the vibrations of the sea could go through you with only words and arrows."

"I wonder if my apparent lack of fatigue could be a kind of hypnotic trance born of contact with this great sea, giving off so many pure forces, rustling with the ghosts of all the beautiful sailing ships that died around here and now escort us. I am full of life, like the sea I contemplate so intensely. I feel it watching me as well, and that we are nonetheless friends."

"I like the Cape Town announcer. When he warns of a gale, you can feel the worry in his voice... ... He is communicating with people at sea, and one feels he gives us all he has to give. He brings humanity to his work."

"In the beginning they could not understand my insistence on getting away from the compass, that god of the West. But in exchange, they began to hear the sky and sea talking with the boat. And when blue-tinted land appeared on the horizon, looking as it did to the mariners of old, all nimbed with mystery, a few of them felt that our rigorous techniques should leave a door open to those gods which the modern world tries so hard to exclude."

"At times I would close my eyes after reading a line, a paragraph, a page, when it stirred a special response in me. I feel now that the people who wrote those books were expressing themselves not only with words and ideas, but with vibrations. And those vibrations go far beyond our puny little man-made words."

"How long will it last, this peace I have found at sea? It is all of life that I contemplate -- sun, clouds, time that passes and abides. Occasionally it is also that other world, foreign now, that I left centuries ago. The modern, artificial world where man has been turned into a money-making machine to satisfy false needs, false joys."

"I am not sleepy; I spend a long time in the cockpit watching the sea. The Horn is so close, the sea so beautiful it really breathes. A moonbeam bounces off a cloud far to the south, becoming a slender spire of softly glowing light rising straight up in the sky. I am wonderstruck. How did the moon pull off such a lovely trick?"

"Memories of my childhood rise up in warm waves. I gently shoo them away. Now is not the time. They come back, go away easily when I ask them to leave me alone with the Horn tonight, come back again to caress me with infinite tenderness...the long barefoot walks with my brothers through the Indochinese forest for wild honey...the bee-stings...the slingshot hunts...the Gulf of Siam with our slender canoes...strange, the sky of Indochina and that of the Horn, so close that they almost touch."

"A sailor's geography is not always that of the cartographer, for whom a cape is a cape, with a latitude and longitude. For the sailor, a great cape is both a very simple and an extremely complicated whole of rocks, currents, breaking seas and huge waves, fair winds and gales, joys and fears, fatigue, dreams, painful hands, empty stomachs, wonderful moments, and suffering at times."

"But how can I tell them? How can I tell them that the sounds of water and the flecks of foam on the sea are like the sounds of stone and wind, and helped me find my way? How can I tell them all those nameless things...leading me to the real earth? Tell them an not frighten them, without their thinking I have lost my mind."

"In olden times, the Alchemist would shape his matter and re-shape it, and shape it again, for a long, long time. A very long, long time. And people thought he wanted to find the Magic Stone, the one that turns Things into Gold.
What the Alchemist was really seeking was not the Magic Stone but to change himself, through time and patience, and still more time. And sometimes he went too far."
62 reviews3 followers
February 16, 2010
Or the adventures of a totally free spirit, told in a simple and charming way. Moitessier was first in the race around the globe and chose not to land and reap the glory but rather keep on sailing.
Profile Image for William Graney.
Author 12 books41 followers
July 16, 2012
This is a an amazing saga and the writer delivers the story in a captivating style that is not the least bit egotistical. This is one I'll never forget.
Profile Image for Marc Roberson.
22 reviews1 follower
September 28, 2016
When you read this book, all you can do is smell the salt air, feel the motion of the ocean and experience complete and unadulterated enthusiasm for the act of putting yourself in this position.

Profile Image for Ray.
154 reviews
December 2, 2016
The last few chapters made the entire book for me. The world could use a few more barefoot, hippie, vagabond French poets like Moitessier.
Profile Image for Andreas.
623 reviews37 followers
September 6, 2021
After A Voyage for Madmen it was only logical to read the first hand experience from Bernard Moitessier himself. Through the pages you can sense the love and connection with the sea. As a keen observer the birds and waves tell him all he needs to know about his surroundings and the rest is complemented by experience and precaution. E.g. he takes icebergs very serious and stays away from the danger zone. He is aware of reefs and doesn't approach them when conditions are bad, and he doesn't relax too early while going around the capes.

Despite all skills, the Sea is capricious and demands a lot. In a surprisingly poetic writing Moitessier ponders about living and the meaning of life, recognizes the monstrous perversion that it becomes when you lose the connection to nature and is spiritually lost. This was in 1969 and he was almost 44 years old. I guess today you would call this a typical midlife crisis and the struggle resonated strongly with me.

His famous letter that announced that he would quit the race went:

Dear Robert: The Horn was rounded February 5, and today is March 18. I am continuing non-stop towards the Pacific Islands because I am happy at sea, and perhaps also to save my soul.


When writing about his thoughts he clearly acknowledges that he might lose everything by going too far, quoting from Hemmingway's The Old Man and the Sea.

To abandon his wife and kids was a curious decision from today's standpoint. Maybe they as well represented the life he didn't want to live, or maybe as so many sailors before him he has lost his heart to the Sea. If you look back, true adventurers or conquerors have always been away for months and years so it either shows a certain type of man, or maybe it's us who have been changed by the modern world.

At the end of the book there are many tips for sailing the big oceans and keeping care of a boat. I can see why this was useful 50 years ago but these days the only thing that sparked my interest were the comments about food and fishing.

4 out of 5 stars for this unique adventure trip.
84 reviews14 followers
March 29, 2020
Récit du voyage d'un marin fou, d'un défi lancé par le Sunday Times : le tour du monde à la voile en solitaire, en doublant les trois caps, Bonne-Espérance, Leeuwin et le cap Horn.
Bernard Moitessier avec d'autres relève le défi et nous livre ce journal de bord, avec le corps-à-corps du marin avec les éléments et avec soi, les petites joies autour d'un café solitaire, ou une dorade pêchée au large.
Une première partie qui ressemble à un long bulletin météo de Plymouth à Bonne-Espérance, puis le récit devient plus poétique au fil des rencontres australes, poissons volants, phoques et autres albatros.
Le livre est par endroits un concentré de littérature spécialisée pour marins. L'auteur est vraisemblablement meilleur marin qu'écrivain (on aimerait parfois que St-Exupéry soit marin à ses heures) il arrive néanmoins à distiller cette "sagesse d'Orient" en s'approchant de son Indochine natale qui donne toute sa saveur à ce livre.
En laissant le dernier cap dans le sillage, une interrogation, un choix à faire: prendre la direction de l'Europe ou continuer sa circonvolution en quête de "sa vérité".
Le vieux marin décide de tourner le dos au "Monstre" de l'Occident, au prix du Sunday Times, son or et son argent et mettre le cap vers l'Orient, où il livre dans cette partie sa réflexion sur la civilisation, l'argent, le travail...
Au final, un tour du monde et demi pour nous faire découvrir que le voilier de l'Humanité se dirige droit vers un iceberg (déjà depuis longtemps, le récit date de 1968) et l'embarcation risque de chavirer si la sagesse ne la fait pas se diriger vers une latitude plus clémente, un atoll paisible (Tahiti comme pour le vieux marin fou).
February 17, 2018
I was excited to read this, having learned about Moitessier a few months earlier and developing more of an interest as I learned about him.

As a non-sailor, but a person with an interest in the cruising lifestyle as well as a respect for Moitessier's decision to continue sailing on after rounding the horn, this book did not disappoint.

A little sailing knowledge helps understand Moistessier's activities, especially in the beginning, where the book is more technically-focused. I took about an hour to learn some basic sailing theory and terminology and could follow along alright.

The book picked up for me around Moitessier's entrance into the Indian Ocean. Here he is at his peak in blending the day-to-day technical aspects of sailing with ruminations on his thinking and role in the world.

From there through to entering the Atlantic, the book is at its best. As others have mentioned, the last portion of the book gets a little metaphysically heavy; I got the feeling that Moitessier didn't really know how to end his story and definitively state some final concrete conclusion he came to on his trip. However, the Steinbeck references at the end of the book sealed the deal for me, a huge Steinbeck and East of Eden fan.

The appendix, while I'm sure is now quite outdated, was also worth reading. It provided some great insights into life at sea as well as details about the last part of the trip, which Moitessier sort of glosses over in the actual text of the book.

Overall, definitely worth reading if my situation resembles yours at all.
Profile Image for Lara.
144 reviews
May 28, 2021
I enjoyed reading this book even though a good 50% of it was technical sailing jargon that left me completely at sea!

Because I will never sail around the world myself, I rely on folks like Bernard Moitessier to do it in my stead, and report back on his experiences. I mean, don't get me wrong, he isn't anyone I'd want to actually spend any time with, as I imagine it takes a person of colossal ego, with truly clinical levels of selfishness, to even contemplate doing such a thing. The fact that he decided to keep going for another 4 months after completing his 6 month circumnavigation, leaving his wife and children to wonder where the heck he was (before the days of cell phones) because "they would understand" and "he had to save his soul" just illustrates my point. Guys like him can thrive at the limits of human endurance, but probably aren't so good at human relationships. Sill, he had a contribution to make to us all. His moments of profound transcendence alone at sea inspire me vicariously by demonstrating what we as human beings are capable of. And that is really beautiful.

Later edit:

I just read the following in A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols, and it so perfectly articulates what I was getting at above that I'm adding it here:

"In his book The Ulysses Factor, British author J. R. L. Anderson writes about the lone hero figure in society, the rare character who by his or her exploits stimulates powerful mass excitement. Homer's Ulysses is the classic archetype. Anderson believes this 'Ulysses factor'--a powerful drive made up of imagination, self-discipline, selfishness, endurance, fear, courage, and perhaps most of all, social instability--is a genetic instinct in all of us, but dormant in most. Yet we respond strongly and vicariously to the evidence of it in the few whom this instinct drives to unusual endeavors."
Profile Image for Jacob Wearsch.
24 reviews
October 5, 2022
A breakup letter to western thought. Bernard Moitessier attempts to be the first person to sail solo around the world without stopping. Without means of communication with his fellow man, he is left adrift in a sea of uncertainty and doubt. In doing so, he cuts the threads tying him to what he calls civilization and redefines western values.
After making a full circumnavigation he decides to forgo the prize money, drop from the race, and attempt a second loop. Through near-disasters, unlikely interactions with animals, and memories of a world left behind, Bernard Moitessier elucidates those subtle projections we call critiques of civilization by giving the monster a name and face.
Combining eastern thought from his childhood in Vietnam with excerpts from Steinbeck's "East of Eden", Moitessier weaves lessons into this adventurous account of Joshua's passage across the globe. This is a story of courage and hunger, where man's indefatigable spirit is on full display. A must read for those who enjoyed "A Voyage for Madmen."
January 18, 2023
Considered a “must-read” for anyone who loves sailing, this is written as a journal of his experience over his 10 month ordeal of solo circumnavigating the world. This is a fascinating account of blue water sailing in the 1960’s, when navigation was only by sextant, communication almost non-existent, and the numerous problems encountered were overcome by personal grit. The book is also an introspective into Moitessier’s own psychology as he completes the 37,000 mile voyage by himself, with virtually no interactions with another human being along the way.

The book is good and I recommend it - although I benefitted considerably from reading the Wikipedia article on Moitessier, as his own writing significantly downplays his own accomplishments and his true motivations for this incredible voyage.
5 reviews
December 30, 2021
Too melancholy for my current mood

I wanted to be inspired by this classic tale of sailing, triumph, and independence and certainly was by some parts. I was pleased to find that I agree with many of Moitessier's ideas about the earth, environmentalism, sailing, and self maintenance. I found his descriptions of pleasure, joy, and elation to be insightful. I had a hard time however, slogging through his melancholy, dissilusionment, and depression. I had an even harder time identifying with him when he abandoned his wife and children because he was happy at sea and to possibly save his soul. While Moitessier is a truly remarkable sailor and individual, this story was a bit too melancholy for me during the COVID 19 pandemic.
April 7, 2021
An interesting read, for sure. I would have to say that I primarily enjoyed the sailing portions of the book (which did make up a majority), and the descriptions of all things open ocean racing related. Moitessier clearly was more at peace/at home while out to sea, and I wonder about his relationship with his wife (although she must have know who he was, and what he was about) - some of his decisions seem selfish. Ultimately a person is in control of his/her/their own happiness, and I guess that is what worked for him. All said and done the book is a well written, and very intriguing tale of what a solo open ocean sailor can go through, both physically and mentally!
Profile Image for Sarah.
701 reviews6 followers
December 30, 2022
Well, well, well. Give it another half star before I come back to earth (or back to land). And go find 'A Voyage for Madmen' to re-read right now.

I don't usually do quotes..... but from halfway through: "Where is Nigel? Where is Loick? Where is Bill King? And Knox Johnstone? Was he really the one the three Hobart fishermen had heard about? I have been without news of anyone for so long. More than six months without knowing about my comrades of the long way...".

And I always like a book with maps and the course plotted across them. Plymouth 22nd August 1968 to Tahiti 21st June 1969 with an extra loop around the world!
Profile Image for Paul Smith.
3 reviews
March 26, 2020
"Of course I will continue toward the Pacific... ...Maybe I will be able to go beyond my dream, to get inside of it, where the true thing is, the only really precious fur, the one that keeps you warm forever. Find it, or perhaps never return."

Moitessier beautifully weaves a tapestry of rootedness and truth. It's no longer a wonder how this was the book that inspired Philippe Jeantot. Through the heart of Moitessier, I see the allure of round-the-world solo sailing. A pursuit demanding oneself dive to the depths their soul and return, pushed beyond limits never imagined, therein never realized and therefore never confined to.
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