Cambridge bookseller Gordon Cook to sail across world at 76
A CAMBRIDGE bookseller who once took his family on a 17-year sailing trip is now preparing to set sail across the globe again - at the age of 76.
In 1976 Gordon Cook, who runs the Internet Bookshop in Cambridge, and his wife Mary and children Sue and Jon voyaged along the route taken by his namesake Captain James Cook 200 years earlier.
The family miraculously escaped death when their schooner Wavewalker was capsized and badly damaged by monstrous waves in the Indian Ocean.
Two years ago Gordon, of Moreton Valence, wrote a book about the family's exploits, Schooner to the Southern Oceans, and will soon be publishing a sequel about Captain Cook's further travels to Hawaii, where he was killed.
Now, after setting up the successful internet bookshop since his return to the UK in 1993, Gordon has got the wanderlust again - and this time plans to circumnavigate the globe alone.
In the next few weeks, the grandfather of six will be flying to New York to inspect a 39-foot schooner which he believes will be ideal for his single-handed voyage.
If the vessel Quaker II meets his expectations he will be setting sail in it from Long Island to Gloucester Docks to prepare for the expedition.
The seasoned sailor said he realised he will be risking his life all over again.
"But too many people get to my age and don't want to do anything," he said. "This is a challenge I have always wanted to face and I feel the time is right.
"Nothing is worth giving up for the sake of a couple of extra years in an old folks home.
"Anyway, much as I love this country I hate the short dark days of winter and if all goes well I shall be enjoying the sunshine of the South Pacific instead next year."
Having survived four cyclones and a tsunami in the past he will be prepared for whatever the seas throw at him as he sails first to Madeira and the Canaries and then to the Caribbean, he said.
From there he plans to take the Panama Canal to get to the Galapgos islands followed by Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand and Australia.
His route back will take him to South Africa and then up the west coast of Africa and home to the UK.
"It will be nearly 40,000 miles," said Gordon. "My wife doesn't like the idea of long voyages any more but the plan is that when I get to some of the nicer ports of call she will join me for a few weeks at a time for some local sailing."
When Gordon and his family set off on his schooner Wavewalker in 1976, the plan was to spend three years on the trip.
Disaster struck for the family in massive seas near remote Isle Amsterdam in the southern Indian Ocean.
Gordon was thrown overboard and suffered multiple broken ribs as the boat capsized - but the vessel righted itself and he was able to climb back on board.
Sue had suffered a fractured skull but Gordon was able to patch up the boat well enough to get to Isle Amsterdam where a French military doctor operated on his daughter.
Eventually the journey stretched to 17 years, with the children getting their education from a correspondence course based in Brisbane.
Both Gordon's children now have eminent jobs and families of their own, with three children each.
Jon is a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Defence while Sue is the first ever woman director of McKinsey's Management Consultants.
They and their families will be taking turns to fly out to join him and his wife for holidays on the seven-berth schooner, he said.
"They haven't done too badly without formal education," said Gordon.
"Jon is on his fourth Masters degree at the moment. Sue did a PHD in zoology before being head-hunted by McKinsey's. I like to think I saved them from the British education system!"
Comments are closed on this article.