What a night it was for approximately 140 SYC members and their guests at the recent Guest Speaker Night which was held in the Port Phillip Room on Wednesday 26 April. This group was treated to a very special presentation by the famed author Sandy (A.J.) Mackinnon who travelled from Geelong Grammar School’s Timbertop campus at Merrijig to be with us.
At Geelong Grammar School Sandy teaches English, Drama, Mathematics and Philosophy and certainly many of these obvious teaching abilities came to fore in his presentation delivery. He arrived in dramatic style through the crowd wearing his renowned pith helmet and led by our fellow SYC member Jeffrey Woolhouse who also delighted in the sense of this occasion by wearing his academic gown. Jeffrey must be well thanked for suggesting and initiating Sandy as our Speaker. Jeffrey approached Sandy’s publisher, Black Inc. to make the contact and then even hosted Sandy overnight in his home prior to Sandy’s return to the Victorian High Country.
Sandy spoke predominately about his first book “The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow” first published in 2002 and widely read by many of the audience who were thrilled when at the conclusion of the evening Sandy was happy to sign their books along with the books of those who purchased the novel on the night. His presentation was delivered with humour, drama, eloquence and smatterings of French, Scottish, Yugoslav and Bulgarian accents. He encouraged us to participate with questions throughout his address. To quote Sandy his book recounts how:
“A couple of quiet weeks sailing the River Severn was the intention. Somehow things got out of hand – a year later I had reached Romania and was still going … “
As publisher Black Inc. summarises: “Sandy Mackinnon equipped with his cheerful optimism and a pith helmet, this Australian Odysseus in a dinghy travels from the borders of North Wales to the Black Sea – 4,900 kilometres over salt and fresh water, under sail, at the oars, or at the end of a tow-rope – through 12 countries, 282 locks and numerous trials and adventures, including an encounter with Balkan pirates. Along the way he experiences the kindness of strangers, gets very lost, and perfects the art of slow travel.”
The National Library of Australia’s synopsis of his book details: “In 1998, A.J. Mackinnon set off from his home in England aboard the Mirror dinghy Jack de Crow with the intent of taking a one week jaunt down the Severn River; one year later, he drifted out onto the Black Sea, puzzling over where the last 365 days had gone. In his tiny craft — less than 11 feet in length — Mackinnon crossed the English Channel and traversed 3,000 miles of rivers, canals, and open sea, along the way passing through 11 countries, including war-torn Yugoslavia during a time of crisis. This book highlights the many adventures that took place during this unexpected journey, including an arrest by River Police while struggling against a night-tide under Westminster Bridge, a chance encounter with Michael Palin, a shipwreck during a storm off the east coast of Britain, the solo crossing of the English Channel, a tear-gas attack in the Budapest Metro, and even capture at the hands of Romanian river pirates in the Danube Delta.”
Those who attended the Recreational Boating Guest Speaker night were privileged to hear an amazing tale from this charming and eccentric gentleman and author. Of special note it is worth mentioning that two families with teenage children were part of the occasion and thoroughly enjoyed the address.
Thank you Sandy, Jeffrey Woolhouse and to Recreational Boating committee man George Shaw for hosting the night in the absence of Club Captain Michael Kostos.