Book: sailing and spy thriller.

I have recently read a terrific spy story in the form of a sailing adventure called “The Riddle of the Sands”
It starts with a simple invitation to the narrator to join his friend Davies on a yachting expedition in the Baltic. It is the beginning of an extraordinary and dangerous adventure for our narrator, Carruthers, a government buearucrat. The adventure takes place in the treacherous, shifting sands of the Frisian Islands on board the Dulcibella, a converted 30 foot lifeboat with a drop centreboard.

This story strongly resonated with me as a trailer sailor, with the descriptions of going alongside, loading stores, setting sail, navigating, dealing with tides and current and of course the shifting sands and winds with the occasional storm.

In addition, it is one of the first and still one of the finest spy stories ever written, two amateur investigators and yachtsmen discover sinister preparations off the German coast. It is the forruner of all modern spy stories, descendents being Ian Fleming’s Bond books and the le Carré spy novels, and the vast array of war novels published since.

Here is a short extract from chapter two where Carruthers meets Davis and is introduced to the rough-and-ready Dulcibella for the first time. He was expecting something completly different – a luxury yacht with a crew!

‘You see,’ were Davies’s reassuring words, ‘there’s plenty of room to sit upright’ (which was strictly true; but I am not very tall, and he is short). ‘Some people make a point of head-room, but I never mind much about it. That’s the centre-board case,’ he explained, as, in stretching my legs out, my knee came into contact with a sharp edge.
I had not seen this devilish obstruction, as it was hidden beneath the table, which indeed rested on it at one end. It appeared to be a long, low triangle, running lengthways with the boat and dividing the naturally limited space into two.
‘You see, she’s a flat-bottomed boat, drawing very little water without the plate; that’s why there’s so little headroom. For deep water you lower the plate; so, in one way or another, you can go practically anywhere.’

Listen to a audio extract encompasing the same scene (but longer, 15 minutes) here.

You can download the out-of-copyright ebook here.
There is also a modern movie made of this book. If you are interested in the audio book or the movie drop me an email.
There are a whole pile of excerpts on YouTube, and the paper version is available from Amazon.

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