My Old Man and the Sea: A Father and Son Sail Around Cape Horn

by David Hays

Paperback, 1996



Call number




Harper Perennial (1996), Edition: Reprint, 227 pages


Some fathers and sons go fishing together. Some play ball. David Hays and Daniel Hays sailed 17,000 miles through the world's most feared and fabled waters in a little boat they built together. This is their story.

User reviews

LibraryThing member oldman
This is the story of a trip around The Horn, the end of South America. It is the only way to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific without going through the Panama Canal. It is more than that though. The sailors are father and son and take turns writing so that we have a picture of what both of them
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feel about the boat, the sea and each other. The whole story is told - the idea, buying the hull and outfitting the boat, sailing through the Caribibean, the Canal and then around the Horn back to home.

This is an easy read, I finished it in a few days. I was not overwhelmed with the descriptions of the outfitting nor of the trip itself. Maybe I needed to be there to appreciate what they did. Compared to the SAIL OF THE GYPSY - the one man trip around the world by Sir Chichester this book did not tell how the sailors felt about their choice of sailing nor the difficulties of the sail itself which was well covered in the GYPSY.

I would give this book 2 1/2 stars. An okay beach read, but not worth re-reading.
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LibraryThing member ecw0647
My Old Man and the Sea by David and Daniel Hays is about a father and son (respectively) and the growth of their love and respect for each other, and perhaps not inconsistently, the flowering of their independence. That in itself is not so unusual, but most fathers and sons don't build 25 ft
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sailing yachts to sail around Cape Horn.
The tip of South America has probably the worst weather for any kind of sea vessel of any place on earth. It can take months to beat and tack back and forth against the howling winds that sweep unhindered by any land mass around the bottom of the globe. They were not so foolish as to sail from east to west, so they took a short cut through the Canal on to Easter Island then back around from the west via the Horn. Their voyage covered 17,000 miles and lasted 317 days.

They had an interesting system of reefing the sails for various kinds of weather. It was color-coded with a mnemonic system that related to fear levels. "Red for the first reef stands for 'mere general fear.' [fifteen knot wind] If it blows over twenty, one turns green with nauseating terror, and secures the green line, which is the second reef. Next if it's blowing over thirty knots and shock has set in (the blood has left your extremities), you pull the blue line for the third reef. If the wind picks up more than that, you're scared to death. White is appropriate. That makes the sail tiny."

The voyage continues as father and son explore their past and prior relationship. David remembers Dan's constant pranks at boarding school that necessitated a plea to the headmaster for reinstatement. Dan fears his father's age and other inadequacies - cooking is a jointly recognized incompetence of his, only half-jokingly referred to as "time spent in the galley area, after which, the food scraped out of the utensils and off the walls is served."

David speculates why small boat voyages became a British specialty after the war: " ... the cold and damp and bad food on a tiny boat were indistinguishable from home; they didn't realize that they weren't in their living rooms."
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LibraryThing member hhornblower
Not bad. It's a bit uneven, as the narrator bounces back forth between the father and son. Hasn't aged very well, seems to be a bit "of its time". All in all though, a quick enjoyable read. More of a relationship development story than an exploration, man against nature, kind of thing. Long live
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

227 p.; 8.5 inches


0060976969 / 9780060976965

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