Could an Irish monk in the sixth century really have sailed all the way across the Atlantic in a small open boat, thus beating Columbus to the New World by almost a thousand years? Relying on the medieval text of St. Brendan, award-winning adventure writer Tim Severin painstakingly researched and built a boat identical to the leather curragh that carried Brendan on his epic voyage. He found a centuries-old, family-run tannery to prepare the ox hides in the medieval way; he undertook an exhaustive search for skilled harness makers (the only people who would know how to stitch the three-quarter-inch-thick hides together); he located one of the last pieces of Irish-grown timber tall enough to make the mainmast. But his courage and resourcefulness were truly tested on the open seas, including one heart-pounding episode when he and his crew repaired a dangerous tear in the leather hull by hanging over the side--their heads sometimes submerged under the freezing waves--to restitch the leather. A modern classic in the tradition of Kon-Tiki, The Brendan Voyage seamlessly blends high adventure and historical relevance. It has been translated into twenty-seven languages since its original publication in 1978. With a new Introduction by Malachy McCourt, author of A Monk Swimming
Severin's adventure and commitment to the historical value of his trip is comendable. I found the early parts of the book to be the most interesting as he tried to source the correct materials to build the boat. The characters involved seemed fascinating and I would've loved to learn more about them.
From a different writer, I think this book could have been much more entertaining to read. However, Severin treads a fine balance between appealing to all interests.
Following closely the information in the [Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis] the recorded history of the saint's voyage, an open curragh was made of forty-nine oxhides stitched together with a flax thread to forming a patchwork quilt and then stretched over an ash frame. The flexibility of the hide and the ash was extremely important in the sailing and survival of the craft. Two tarpaulins mid and aft provide shelter, covered storage, sleeping quarters for the five then four crew, as well as cooking and radio facilities. Saint Brendan traveled with a crew of twelve to fourteen.
Based on his interpretation of the Navigatio Severin believed the route was north to the Hebrides, then west to the Faroes, Iceland and then to Newfoundland, Canada. His account of the wild North Atlantic waters, the icebergs of Greenland, the people encountered on route would make for a wild seafaring yarn except this is nonfiction, a true life adventure!
Severin provides detailed information on his research and even the ebook contains some photos. What is missing are maps, for me a deduction of half
a star. Highly recommended Four ✨.