Readers who relish tales of action and white-knuckle thrills will find a lot to love about British adventurer Dom Mee’s adrenaline-fuelled debut, Kiting the Hurricane.
This non-fiction title details Mee’s real-life and ultimately doomed Kite Quest 200 expedition, where he attempted to become the first person in history to cross an ocean in a kite-powered boat.
Prior to this, the ex-commando had notched up a reputation as a world-class formula one yacht racer with the Royal Navy offshore sailing team, completing many offshore races including the Fastnet and the Sydney to Hobart races – considered to be the toughest in the world.
He was also no stranger to maritime adventures, having joined fellow Royal Marine Tim Welford in 2001 in a record-breaking bid to row across the North Pacific.
Alas, this was scuppered by a collision with a fishing trawler, but in 2003 Mee successfully kayaked solo into the high arctic during the worst ice conditions the locals had seen for 20 years, battling polar bears as they were par for the course and reaching the North Magnetic Pole.
Any one of these side stories could warrant a book of their own, but the point is that when, in August 2005, he set off in a tiny, 14ft kite-powered boat named “Little Murka” from St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada, he was well prepared for the challenges of the open ocean.
Mee expected to cross the 2,000-mile stretch of the Atlantic Ocean to the Devon coast within five weeks, with the 10m kite driving the craft forward with a maximum speed of 13 knots.
However, mother nature had other plans and unbeknown to him, Mee was sailing straight into what would go down as the worst hurricane season in history.
Written in a quasi-diary format, the first part of Kiting The Hurricane covers the background to the start of the expedition, going over the 18 months of meticulous planning and preparation required for such an epic voyage – including the commissioning of Little Murka, a custom-built boat that was designed not to sink.
After a raucous farewell party the night before, Mee sets off from the harbour with every expectation of achieving his place in the record books.
Things start off well enough but then the storm clouds, literally, start to appear on the horizon. From here on, the tension starts to rise and the author’s detailed, vivid prose perfectly captures the scene as the situation inexorably deteriorates.
Initial frustration with being slowed down by the weather turns into concern and then genuine fear. At first, Dom displays an adventure’s bravado in dealing with the rising waves and winds but when a former commando – trained to survive in all environments – starts to worry then you know things are genuinely bleak.
In all, he encounters the tail ends of FIVE hurricanes: Katrina, Maria, Nate and Ophelia and Rita. The book jumps between Mee’s first-hand accounts of his experiences on board and third-person descriptions of the havoc the hurricanes are wreaking closer to shore.
Mee’s blow-by-blow account of his attempts to weather storm after killer storm aboard his tiny vessel makes for an unparalleled high tension page-turner. Written in the present tense, you feel like you are there alongside him braving the full fury of the ocean.
Trapped on the notorious Grand Banks off the east coast of Newfoundland, Little Murka is finally overcome by Hurricane Rita – a monster of a storm that has gone on record as the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane in history.
The 95mph winds and enormous ocean swells 60ft high prove too much. Little Murka loses its sea anchor – the only thing helping ride out the storm – and the boat is subsequently tossed around like a toy.
Though designed to be self-righting, the sheer force of the storm floods the boat, capsizing it and throwing its skipper into the freezing ocean, where an immense battle for survival plays out with all bets off.
To say anymore would be to spoil the thrill but it is important to note that the book is not without its humorous moments and the author lightens the tone of the book throughout with his conversational, sea-dog voice and anecdotes about boozy nights out or the soul-saving potential of bacon butties.
The reassuring presence of unofficial companion ‘Peter the Petril’ also serves to lift readers’ spirits just as the perils at sea threaten to engulf them.
Mee’s memoir could have been full of self-pity at an historic bid for glory gone wrong, but instead he has turned it into a breath-taking tale with a strong personal philosophy of getting knocked down and getting straight back up again.
The book ends, happily, with a later great seafaring success, and hints at a second volume to recount his next adventures fighting pirates with the world’s largest private fleet.
Unafraid to write frankly of the financial and emotional chaos wrought by his uncompromising career choices, Mee returns frequently to themes of enduring friendship, serendipity and the power of the human spirit.
Fittingly, the author has inserted inspirational quotes – from sources that range from Inuit chiefs to Plato, via Shakespeare and Stephen Hawking – at key moments in the book, and the overall message is that life is to be lived, not to be spent making idle plans.
Perhaps the happiest twist of fate is in the reappearance of Mee’s beloved ‘Little Murka’ herself – a full year after she was lost at sea.
As someone who has looked death in the face and come roaring back to life, Mee certainly has a story worth telling. For anyone fascinated by the sea or those who push themselves to the limit then this blow-by-blow account of a singular seafaring adventure is not to be missed.
Kiting the Hurricane by Dom Mee is available in paperback, priced £5.58, and eBook, priced £2.26. To order a copy, or for more information, visit www.dommee.co.uk.
admin :: Jan.20.2016 ::
Special Features ::
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