Wayward Sailor : In Search of the Real Tristan Jones

Author(s): Anthony Dalton


He died in 1995, but his nautical adventure books continue to bring entertainment and escape to legions of fans worldwide. He was larger than life, perhaps the most successful sailing writer of the twentieth century. But, as Anthony Daltons meticulously researched biography reveals, Tristan Jones was not who he said he was.

Wayward Sailor began as an uncomplicated tribute to a great adventurer and writer, but one line of inquiry branched to another, plunging Dalton into a three-year odyssey of his own. With the cooperation of Tristans friends and supporters, Dalton pursued Tristans life through correspondence, logbooks, government documents, and interviews worldwide. With each new revelation, Tristans voyage through life seemed more and more like his greatest adventure.

His real name was Arthur Jones. He was born in Liverpool in 1929, the illegitimate son of a working-class Lancashire girl, and he grew up in orphanages with little education. Too young to see action in the World War II naval battles he would later write about so movingly, he joined the Royal Navy in 1946 and served fourteen unremarkable years.

Arthur Jones then bought an old sailboat and tried his hand at smuggling whiskey cross-Channel. In his early thirties he sailed into a Mediterranean limbo, scraping a living from charters by day and haunting the bars of Ibiza by night. When he was drunk, which was often, he could be loud and obnoxious and had the scars to prove it. He had no family, no attachments, no accomplishments.

Then came a midlife sea change. Arthur Jones looked into his future, imagined greatness, and began to claw his way to it. Having taught himself to sail, he taught himself to write. He was a natural at both. As Tristan Jones, in his midforties, he sailed out of Brazils Mato Grosso and into a Greenwich Village apartment to write six books in three years and reinvent his past.

The Tristan Jones of his books was born in a storm at sea in 1924 on his fathers tramp steamer; was torpedoed three time in epic World War II engagements; completed the first circumnavigation of Iceland; traveled farther north and farther up the Amazon River than any sailor before him; and sailed more than 400,000 miles, 180,000 of them solo. Readers loved his books and crowded his lectures and signings. He had a bards voice and a street performers delivery. He had more renown than he could have dreamed.

Having invented a life, Tristan Jones tried to live it. After the amputation of his left leg in 1982 he sailed more than halfway around the world. He lost his right leg in 1991 yet still returned briefly to sea. But as his body failed him, so too did his spirits. It was as if the life from which hed bodily lifted himself were pulling him down again. He died a bitter man.

Wayward Sailor is the biography Tristan Jones did not want. His books were autobiographical, he said; there was no more to tell. But there was. Wayward Sailor is the last Tristan Jones story and the most incredible one of all: the story of a man who invented himself.

2003. First edition, first printing. A fine, unmarked copy in a fine, unclipped d/w.


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Anthony Dalton has been a fulltime freelance writer and photographer for fifteen years. He was previously a professional expedition leader and adventure guide and between 1969 and 1980 organized and led long-range expeditions in the Sahara (including a television documentary for CBC-TV), West Africa, and the deserts of the Middle East, plus camel treks in Mauritania, Algeria, and Mali. He has conducted a near-fatal solo voyage by small boat around the west and north coasts of Arctic Alaska, made river expeditions with Bangladeshi naturalists in search of the Royal Bengal tiger, and paddled wilderness rivers of northern Canada. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and Fellow of the Explorers Club, his articles have been published in Classic Boat, MotorBoats Monthly, Pacific Yachting, Ocean Navigator, SAIL, Sailing, Sea, and Yachting.

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. The Early Years2. Tristan's Navy3. With Cresswell and Banjo4. Barbara's Long Cruise5. Israel and Hostile Shores6. Indian Ocean Saga7. The Amazon and a New Banjo8. Tristan Meets Sea Dart9. Cruising to Peru10. Reaching for the Stars11. A New Life12. Cold Facts, Arctic Fiction13. Blending Fiction with Fact14. Down but Not Out15. Once More, Down to the Sea16. A Heart of Oak17. Cold Rivers, Warm Seas18. Exploring Thailand19. The Strange Death of Thomas Ettenhuber20. Another Devastating Blow21. Wounded Pride22. The Saga of Gabriel23. The Sound of a Different Drum24. The End of a Long Voyage25. AfterwordNotesSelected BibliographyAnnotated Tristan Jones BibliographyIndexPhotographs appear following page 206

General Fields

  • : 9780071402514
  • : McGraw Hill
  • : McGraw Hill
  • : 0.76
  • : April 2003
  • : 236mm X 163mm X 33mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 45ill.4M.
  • : 350
  • : 910.45092
  • : Hardback
  • : Anthony Dalton