Book Review: Survive the Savage Sea by Dougal Robertson

survive the savage sea book

Pages: 195

Published by: Book Club Associates

Survive the Savage Sea by Dougal Robertson is a book I stumbled upon completely by chance. At Worthing train station there’s a little book shelf where you can buy a book (for a donation). Usually when I take a look before my train every morning nothing really catches my eye, but this book was an exception.

Here’s what I thought of this true story of being lost at sea.

Dougal Robertson and his family (wife Lyn and four children: Anne, Douglas, Neil and Sandy) lived in Falmouth, England. Dougal and Lyn worked as dairy farmers. It was a hard and often unforgiving life, and they started to feel that they should be broadening their families horizons.

Formerly in the British Merchant Navy, Dougal was an adept sailor. So, after some deliberation, the Robertson family made the incredibly brave decision of selling their farm home and buying the rather modest sailing boat, the Lucette. Their plan? To sail around around the world!

Here you can see the Robertson family aboard the Lucette:

The next year and a half of their lives is a pleasant and exciting one as they sail across the Atlantic, stopping at various different beautiful and exotic places in the Caribbean along the way.

Falling in love with The Bahamas (and possibly a certain local) Anne, the eldest child, decides to depart from the journey here, and wishing her family a fond farewell, see’s them off on the next leg of their journey.

During transit of the Panama Canal, Robin Williams (not that Robin Williams!) joins the journey. A fairly inexperienced crew member, Robin gets on well with the Robertson’s, and decides he too wouldn’t mind seeing the world.

Things go along quite swimmingly (pardon the awful pun), until the 15th June 1972 when disaster strikes. A pod of Killer Whales holed the bottom of the boat. The Lucette sinks, around 200 miles west of the Galapagos Islands.

Luckily, the crew of 6 manage to make it on to a small inflatable life raft with a solid-hull dinghy. Most everything had been destroyed with the Lucette, and they had an extremely meagre inventory of tools and provisions.

What ensues in the wake of this disaster is one of the most incredible, harrowing and inspiring survival stories I have ever read. It is with sheer determination, skills and will to live that these inexplicably brave people survive the savage sea as they await their rescue!

The Roberton’s (and Robin) survive for 38 days at sea! They had to be resourceful, living off whatever they could catch (mostly Dorado and sea turtles). They supported each other, and passed the time by singing beloved songs and telling imaginative stories.

With every page I read, I was awed and blown away with how humans can adapt, and just how far we will go to survive.

It’s a book full of suspense, worry and heartbreak. It will disgust you, amuse you and also lift your spirits in places. We triumph when they triumph, knowing their every small victory may mean the difference between their life and death.

When everything hangs so enticingly in the balance, you can’t help but get sucked in. I finished this book in less than 2 days as I just had to know what happened!

I just cannot believe it’s a true story. More than anything though, this book will definitely make you thankful that you’ve never had to experience a situation like this. It may also make you question whether you’d be able to show the same strength, courage and fierce resolve as these survivors. I think we’d all love to think we could survive the savage sea, but could we?

On their 38th day at sea, the crew were sighted by Japanese fishing trawler Tokanaru as they rowed their way to the Panama Canal. My heart leapt for joy when I read this. Through the tremendous struggle of these 6 people you really feel you get to know them, and I was wholeheartedly rooting for them by the end.

The Robertson family with the Japanese who rescued them:

In this edition there also pictures, which added so much depth to the story and really solidified the picture Dougal (who is a great author) paints in your head. I’ve added a couple of these images throughout (those that I could find).

I’d honestly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be scooped up and taken along for a rollercoaster ride that is shocking and terrifying at every turn – no less because it all actually happened!

Oh, and if you’re wondering, you’ll be happy to know that no, they didn’t have to result to eating each other in order to survive. What an incredible bunch of people!

An incredible story, right? What’s your favourite story of pure determination and survival? I’d love to know. Comment below!

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