The Improbable Voyage of the Yacht Outward Leg Into, Through, and out of the Heart of Europe Summary

Tristan Jones

The Improbable Voyage of the Yacht Outward Leg Into, Through, and out of the Heart of Europe

For years Tristan Jones had nursed the dream of sailing across Europe, taking his three-hulled craft, the Outward Leg, through the rivers and canals of the Continent from the North Sea to the Black Sea--a voyage of more than two thousand miles. He had already met and matched almost every other nautical challenge, including a solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1983, only one year after his leg was amputated. He was to discover, however, that river travel is the most risky of all, particularly behind the Iron Curtain, where political dangers are as great as the river’s hazards.

Jones set out in the fall of 1984 and immediately encountered difficulties. In Amsterdam he fell, breaking three ribs and puncturing his right lung. He and his two-man crew set out again soon after, dodging barges and freighters on the Rhine, the busiest river waterway in the world. As Jones admits, rivers and canals provide one emergency after another.

He was stopped for months in Nuremberg, waiting for permission from German bureaucrats to haul the Outward Leg overland to the Danube, and while he waited and fumed he nearly lost his ship to river ice, which threatened to crush it. Once on the Danube, he sailed on, tapes of bagpipes blaring, through Vienna and past the Iron Curtain. The Czechoslovakian authorities tried to have him wrecked by a barge, the Romanians wanted to arrest him, and the Bulgarians sent out a gunboat to hijack him.

Despite the natural and man-made obstacles, Jones and the Outward Leg made the journey and became the first United States registered, oceangoing vessel to cross central Europe. THE IMPOSSIBLE VOYAGE well captures the harrowing, humorous, hectic, and ultimately inspiring career of its author.