The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow
A. J. Mackinnon
Truly hilarious books are rare. Even rarer are those based on real events. Join AJ Mackinnon, your charming and eccentric guide, on an amazing voyage in a boat called Jack de Crow. Equipped with his cheerful optimism and a pith helmet, this Australian Odysseus in a dinghy travels from the borders of North Wales to the Black Sea - 4,900 kilometres over salt and fresh water, under sail, at the oars, or at the end of a tow-rope - through twelve countries, 282 locks and numerous trials and adventures, including an encounter with Balkan pirates.Along the way he experiences the kindness of strangers, gets very lost, and perfects the art of slow travel.
‘Well, setting off from here, I don’t think you’ll get very far. No one’s discovered a Northwest Passage out yet. Twice round the mere and I think you’ll be getting bored somehow.’ But it was decided. In six weeks’ time I would put the newly refurbished Mirror in the nearby Llangollen canal (a more promising through route than Whitemere) and see where I got to – Gloucester near the mouth of the Severn, I thought. Phil, that saintly man, even promised to drive down to wherever I reached and pick
a long steep ridge, and up this climb the Georgian houses of eighteenth-century Bristol – the fashionable city of Jane Austen’s novels – in every elegant shade: cream, rose, pastel golds. This too is the city of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the great engineer of the nineteenth century who strode about the country with his cigar, knocking up railways and viaducts, tunnels and termini as breezily as a boy playing at sandcastles on the seashore. I was rather hoping his flamboyant shade still haunted the
wrapped up with weatherboard and whalebone, with seashells in dusty rows and thick pale-green glass in the windows, with telescopes and hibiscus and haphazard footpaths: Madeira, Nantucket, Iona, Norfolk Island, Inish Mor … these by their geographical isolation are linked by invisible isthmuses each with another, and here too with Eel Pie Island on a sunny Wednesday morning in late October. Richmond Bridge, glowing honey gold above the green river, I passed by, and then rounded the broad bend to
particular driver has gone home and cannot be contacted; 4. A return by train to Whitstable to find that the laundromat has closed for the night with all my washing still safely inside but me outside and condemned to walk the streets shedding small crustaceans with every step and smelling like a fishing net; 5. A return to the B&B to find that the taxi company has managed to contact its driver and that, yes (praise be to Allah), my wallet has been handed in; 6. Another train journey back to
tonight there were another twenty-nine postcards to be getting on with, and that was a lot of writing. It was time to find an all-night laundromat, somewhere to sit and wait for the tide to come back in. Dead Dogs and Englishmen Spring, the sweet Spring, is the year’s pleasant king; Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring, Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing, Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo! The palm and may make country houses gay, Lambs frisk and play, the