Book Review: To the Ice and Beyond, by Graeme Kendall

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_to_the_ice_and_beyondIn 2005, New Zealander Graeme Kendall set out on a solo 28,000 mile journey to circumnavigate the world in his yacht. To the Ice and Beyond tells the story of his amazing journey, the planning, the execution, and what he saw and experienced along the way.

The intrepid New Zealander was 60 years old when he set out, and it had long been a dream to sail around the world. Becoming financially secure early on in his working career, he was able to custom build his yacht, the Astral Express, for the journey and pay for the trip himself.

Graeme was happy to finance the dream, “Money should buy you time – it’s no use having one without the other. Money is always there to be made, time isn’t. Money should give freedom, not be an obsession. Make a little and spend a little, that’s my philosophy.”

Graeme plotted his course with much forethought, intending to set out from New Zealand over Australia to the Indian Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, up the length of the Atlantic Ocean through the Northwest Passage in Canada, dropping back down into the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia, back down through the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. The toughest parts would be navigating the notoriously stormy Cape of Good Hope and the ice-prone waters in the Northwest Passage.

Preparations included a gun in case of a polar bear attack, weekly packs of dehydrated food prepared by a nutritionist, 140 litre tank and several bottles of emergency water, with a plan to capture rainfall along the way. Graeme used GPS, ice charts, satellite communication, and regular weather reports – modern technology that gives modern sailors a reduced risk advantage over early explorers.

His company in the wide blue oceans would be migrating birds flying alongside the boat. He saw a blue whale and a large 1.5m turtle in the waters. Huge 50,000 tonne container ships would silently glide through the waters transporting unknown product from China to America. He would be wary of pirates around Angola and sail well out into the ocean to avoid trouble. One of the best nights of the trip was seeing a group of 30 dolphins around his boat, with luminious phosphorescence clinging to their outlines – a lightshow to beat all light shows.

Graeme grabbed snatches of sleep where he could, sometimes a couple of hours nap, sometimes a 5 minute catnap, and 6-8 hours when he needed to. He would always set his radar and weather alarms to wake him up should trouble be approaching. Graeme kept exercise in the programme to keep the legs fit, with yoga and squats.

The Astral Express was caught up in Hurricane Harvey off the coast of the United States, and it makes for chilling reading as Graeme describes trying to keep the boat from rolling in the gale force winds and huge choppy swells. The power of the ocean and Mother Nature is terrifying as you imagine yourself out there. It makes you realise solo sailors need guts of steel to survive such encounters.

To the Ice and Beyond is a great read for adventure lovers, the detail behind organising such a mammoth trip is interesting and Graeme answers all the questions you might have over the course of the book. It’s a great book to have on the bedside table as the adventures he faces as he sails around the world channel into lively and limitless dreams for the reader.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

To the Ice and Beyond
by Graeme Kendall
Published by Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN 9780473353278

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