'So I began thinking again of those two white blanks on the map, of penguins and humming birds, of the pampas and of gauchos, in short, of Patagonia, a place where, one was told, the natives’ heads steam when they eat marmalade.'
So responded H. W. ‘Bill’ Tilman to his own realisation that the Himalaya were too high for a mountaineer now well into his fifties. He would trade extremes of altitude for the romance of the sea with, at his journey’s end, mountains and glaciers at a smaller scale; and the less explored they were, the better he would like it. Within a couple of years he had progressed from sailing a 14-foot dinghy to his own 45-foot pilot cutter Mischief, readied for her deep-sea voyaging, and recruited a crew for his most ambitious of private expeditions.
Well past her prime, Mischief carried Tilman, along with an ex-dairy farmer, two army officers and a retired civil servant, safely the length of the North and South Atlantic oceans, and through the notoriously difficult Magellan Strait, against strong prevailing winds, to their icy landfall in the far south of Chile.
The shore party spent six weeks crossing the Patagonian ice cap, in both directions, returning to find that their vessel had suffered a broken propeller. Edging north under sail only, Mischief put into Valparaiso for repairs, and finally made it home to Lymington via the Panama Canal, for a total of 20,000 nautical miles sailed, in addition to a major exploration ‘first’ all here related with the skipper’s characteristic modesty and bone-dry humour, and many photographs.