TAKE two adventurous Englishmen, a desire to float clear across Europe and an assortment of watercraft, conventional and otherwise.
The result? The offspring of this rare blending is a highly entertaining travel memoir that is in equal measure informative, instructional and hilarious.
When community planner and long-time recreational sailor Trevor Cherrett and his offsider Pete decide to bring to life their shared dream, neither can foresee exactly how their exploration of three of the continent’s great rivers will unfold. All the pair can say with certainty is that they are determined to see through their pledge to journey together to the far eastern fringe of Europe. Having dismissed the idea of making the trip in a boat of their own, they agree to take a combination of whatever waterborne transport they can secure along the way.
What ensues is a three-year, five-stage pilgrimage from the North Sea to Romania’s Black Sea coast, bisecting the seven countries that hug the banks of a 3500km span of the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.
The tone of Cherrett’s narrative is set in the opening pages, when an inauspicious start in the Netherlands sees the friends struggle so severely with unfamiliar technology, techniques and language that they risk capsizing the project on their first afternoon afloat.
Cherrett’s pen-sketches of the towns and cities through which the pair sail are lively, colourful and down-to-earth.
He describes with self-deprecating humour and humility the embarrassing, frustrating and heartwarming incidents that eventuate, writing at an engagingly personal level yet providing a thoughtful, sensitive and knowledgeable general commentary on European history, culture and politics in an era of significant change. This context makes Slow Boats to Europe a fascinating insight for sailors and landlubbers alike.
The inclusion of route maps and dozens of photographs throughout the book adds to its appeal.