‘I felt like one who had first betrayed and then deserted a stricken friend; a friend with whom for the past fourteen years I had spent more time at sea than on land, and who, when not at sea, had seldom been out of my thoughts.’
The first of the three voyages described in In Mischief’s Wake gives H.W. ‘Bill’ Tilman’s account of the final voyage and loss of Mischief, the Bristol Channel pilot cutter in which he had sailed over 100,000 miles to high latitudes in both Arctic and Antarctic waters.
Back home, refusing to accept defeat and going against the advice of his surveyor, he takes ownership of Sea Breeze, built in 1899; ‘a bit long in the tooth, but no more so, in fact a year less, than her prospective owner’. After extensive remedial work, his first attempt at departure had to be cut short when the crew ‘enjoyed a view of the Isle of Wight between two of the waterline planks’. After yet more expense, Sea Breeze made landfall in Iceland before heading north toward the East Greenland coast in good shape and well stocked with supplies. A mere forty miles from the entrance to Scoresby Sound, Tilman’s long-sought-after objective, ‘a polite mutiny’ forced him to abandon the voyage and head home.
The following year, with a crew game for all challenges, a series of adventures on the west coast of Greenland gave Tilman a voyage he considered ‘certainly the happiest’, in a boat which was proving to be a worthy successor to his beloved Mischief.