The Sailor’s Wife
Review: Karen Watkins
As a descendant of Britain’s greatest maritime hero it was Nelson Girdlestone’s dream to build his own yacht and sail the world in her.
And luckily for him he met and married a woman who shared his sense of adventure.
Nelson was not wealthy enough to buy his own yacht and set himself the goal of building the 43-foot Alter Ego.
In a corner of their Constantia property, Nelson spent years sawing, screwing and gluing, always over budget.
The story begins in the 1980s, a time of turmoil that gripped the country with the power of an Afrikaner Nationalist government.
It was a time of economic sanctions, conflict, protests and unemployment.
Nelson’s business constructing tennis courts is not exempt from the country’s turmoil and bankruptcy looms. The only answer is to sell the yacht. Which he does. When a pair of thieves purchase it and pay with a rubber cheque Nelson’s dream is shattered. A worldwide search ensues but it’s like searching for a cork in the ocean.
Several months later, with the help of Interpol, the yacht is found in Grenada in the Caribbean.
Fetching it is not easy what with their green and gold South African passports and hiring a lawyer. The two men are prosecuted and found guilty of theft but instead of being extradited to South Africa as was suggested in court, they are flown to sanctuary in Ireland by the Irish government.
Nelson and two of his three sons come together to get the yacht into trim again after taking possession of it in a disgusting state.
They sail the yacht to St Martin (Sint Maarten), part of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea. Wife Maureen, who authored the book, joins them carrying a heavy suitcase filled with spare parts.
The couple then take advantage of the situation and enjoy a nomadic cruising lifestyle in the magical Caribbean and Mediterranean oceans, sailing from one beautiful place to another.
With the political situation improving back home, they return to be with their sons and set up operations in a newly- constructed V&A Waterfront.
This book is an easy read with lots of adventure and humour and is sure to give travellers itchy feet.