Running Away to Sea


At a turning point in his life, George Fetherling embarked on an adventure to sail round the world on one of the last of the tramp freighters. The four-month voyage carried him 30,000 nautical miles from Europe via the Panama Canal to the South Pacific and back by way of Singapore, Indonesia, the Indian Ocean, and Suez.

Written with dash, colour, and droll humour, Fetherling’s narrative is peopled by a rich cast of characters, from the Foreign Legionnaires of French Polynesia to the raskol gangs of Papua New Guinea. The author captures the reality of life aboard a working cargo ship – the boredom, the seclusion, the differences of nationality and culture that isolation and cramped quarters seem to exaggerate. But the routine of loneliness or tranquility is punctuated by moments of near-panic – shipboard fires, furniture-smashing storms, even a brush with pirates in the Straits of Malacca.


"His memoir of the voyage has a large, colourful cast of characters, and nicely captures the shipboard feeling of tranquil loneliness punctuated by panicky emergencies."

Globe & Mail, The

"Fetherling fashions nuanced descriptions of a seen-better-days ship, raggedy yet competent crew, screwball fellow passengers, and benign, dangerous and somewhere-in-between Third World ports of call. Yet his writing never tipples over into loading on the minutiae. (Often fatal to the pace of a travel narrative.) A similar deft balance surfaces at each new port of call. In just the right measure he blends his eyewitness rambles with historical and political background, or geological and topographical summaries, or both. The result is a highly intelligent chronicle, but delivered in an accessible and spiritedly personal way."

Winnipeg Free Press

About the Author

George Fetherling

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
George Fetherling photo

George Fetherling

George Fetherling is a poet, fiction writer, and voyager. Among his many books are Travels by Night: A Memoir of the Sixties and Running Away to Sea: Round the World on a Tramp Freighter. He published under the name Douglas Fetherling until 1999, and thereafter under the name George in honour of his late father. He lives in Vancouver.