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Crab’s Odyssey: Malta to Istanbul in an Open Boat

(8 customer reviews)




It began with the shipwreck of the ferry taking them to join their newly purchased boat on Malta, and ended with them finding an authoritative Ancient Greek historian wrong about the Bosphorus passage. Two ordinary second-year students at Somerville College Oxford and their assorted crews sailed more than 1,500 miles in an open boat over four summers.

Joining them at different junctures was a medley of fellow-sailors. To pick up crew at pre-arranged rendezvous at fortnightly intervals in the 1950s was a juggling act that for one crew member took three nights, eight trains and a ferry. But they only mislaid one – and in the search came close to losing the skipper.

There were no plans for a journey to Istanbul at the outset, but the further they sailed, the more their ambitions grew. There were six major crossings – sometimes with non-stop bailing. The book vividly recalls a Mediterranean Europe emerging from WWII.

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8 reviews for Crab’s Odyssey: Malta to Istanbul in an Open Boat

  1. Amazon Reviews

    A wonderful account of sailing an open boat from Malta to Istanbul and then back down to Rhodes by a group of Oxford undergraduates. The account of these Mediterranean countries emerging from the horrors of WWII in the 1950’s is a fascinating document of the times and a reminder of how Europe once was in these precarious times. It’s difficult to imagine now in our era of sailing yachts equipped with all sorts of gadgets and safety equipment just what a voyage like this was like, the dangers, the simplicity of life on board, of just cooking on board a small open boat with a primus. Anyone who has an interest in sailing small boats and in the history of the time should read it. Beautifully written and well recommended.

  2. Amazon Reviews

    Crab’s Odyssey is the beautifully written and immensely readable story of two hugely competent, resourceful (and brave) young Oxford undergraduates, Sally Humphreys and Penny Minney, sailing an old open lifeboat (Crab, so called because she was originally painted the same grey colour as naval anti-louse cream!) around the north east Mediterranean over four summers in the late 1950s.
    Their “Odyssey” took them from Malta to Sicily and Greece, through the Greek Islands to Istanbul and up the Bosphorus nearly to the Black Sea (entry was forbidden by Turkey at that time) to Rhodes and finally back to the Greek mainland. They were 20 years old when they started, Crab was only 17 feet long, with small sails, four oars and an outboard motor of rather limited power. And in those days the annual currency allowance for British citizens travelling abroad was £50, which they managed on for four months each summer.
    What shines out of this for me is the immense humanity and hospitality of everyone involved – from the poorest Greek fishing and farming families to the rich and aristocratic in the yacht clubs and, of course Crab’s crew.
    I would recommend it to you most warmly.

  3. Amazon Reviews

    This is so much more than a book for those interested in sailing. I know little or nothing about sailing and I loved it. In fact, I couldn’t put it down. It takes me into so many worlds outside my experience into the land of adventure, danger, excitement; from drab Britain in the 1950s to a series of voyages over 4 summers in the Mediterranean and up the Bosphorous in the tiniest of boats, where the changing crew have to embark on difficult journeys to meet up with the boat in an age before mobile telephones. It starts with a ferry wreck and ends with a life threatening storm. Penny Minney has such a light touch – informative, funny, romantic. This book deserves to be taken up by a major publisher to become a modern classic.

  4. Amazon Reviews

    This is a remarkable story; two undergraduates in their early twenties travel from Malta to the Bosphorus in an old lifeboat modified for sailing. There are no comforts on board, but exhilaration in abundance. Penny and Sally are joined by friends for different legs of the journey; the varying crew members each contributing new aspects to the voyage. Penny Minney’s writing is fresh and unsentimental; as though the events occurred last year, but in the last chapter surviving crew members touchingly recall these exploits of sixty years ago. I urge everyone to read this book!

  5. Amazon Reviews

    Scholars and Amazons and ancient mariners; I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure. Gourmet meals cooked on a primus from local produce in an open boat that skimmed down the storm lashed waves like ‘a tea tray’ hurtling downstairs in the Beano. A memorable visit to ‘The Island of Monks’ who would not allow any female on their mountain not even a goat! A great read evocatively illustrated with beautiful colour photographs.

  6. Amazon Reviews

    This is the fascinating odyssey of two intrepid Oxford undergraduettes who bought a 17 foot lifeboat in Malta in the 1950s, rigged it as an open sailing boat, and over four summers with shifts of crew sailed to Sicily, Italy and Corfu in the Adriatic, then through the Corinth Canal and into the Aegean, reaching Istanbul before returning to Piraeus via the islands off Turkey and in the southern Aegean. Both girls were classics students, and the sailing epics are enriched by asides giving the historical and mythological contexts of places visited, without breaking the very readable flow of the main adventure. Penny Minney is the daughter of the author Richard Hughes.

  7. Amazon Reviews (verified owner)

    Amazon Reviews on 5 October 2017
    Format: Paperback
    Crab’s Odyssey takes the reader into a world of ‘Swallows and Amazons,’ of healthy fun and pure adventure that existed 60 years ago without stringent health and safety rules. Two brave girls decided to sail around the Mediterranean in a lifeboat, and the experience was so rewarding that voyages of exploration consumed summer vacations for the adventurous students and their friends.

    The fascinating original photos, letters and extracts from the Ship’s Log enhance the narrative, helping you to imagine the scenes and learn about the history of Ancient Greece. I was hooked from the start: “When you are travelling, there is a moment when you are suspended between travelling purposively and the unknown.”

    I enjoyed getting to know the characters and it made me want to sail with them — although I’d be scared to sleep on the narrow ledge so close to the water! There are also astute observations which made me smile. Sally writes after the shipwreck of the ferry: “Parents are terrible worriers at the best of times.”

    In a letter, Penny’s father (author Richard Hughes) writes: “I wonder whether when you get to the end of these four months of sailing, you’ll find you are different people.” How true: the adventure has stayed with them all their lives and rightly so: Once a sailor, always a sailor!

  8. Tom Minney (verified owner)

    From Marcel Ciupa: “I knew a little about Crab’s adventure from R.P. Graves’s biography of Richard Hughes and from Penny’s own book on her father, and I was impressed enough! Yet to read this lively day-to-day account of each of the four trips is much more: it is wholly captivating. One feels great sympathy for the girls and their crew, their pluck and resourcefulness. And their ‘Spartan’ mode of travel made it the exact opposite of what the travel industry sells today: no comfort, but such a wealth of discoveries and contacts with the inhabitants, informed by their love of Greece’s ancient history and culture. One can only be grateful to Penny for gathering memories and reviving this unique adventure.”

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