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This is the home page for information about Francis Brenton – the brave solo sailor.

The webpage is under construction but you can find more information on wikipedia.

Any News About Frank?

As a young boy in the late 1960’s or early 70’s my Sunday afternoons were often spent visiting my grandparents in Liverpool. For a boy of 5 or 6 it was often boring. However, I can remember that the adults were often vexed around a theme that would pop up seemingly every time.

– Any news about Uncle Frank? …My Dad would ask my grandparents.

– Nothing.

Uncle Frank was lost at sea. It turned out that uncle Frank died at sea.

Uncle Frank was my Great Uncle and I never met him. But I was determined to find out more about him. That was something I had in common with Frank, we were both curious.

It turned out that Uncle Frank was quite an adventurer.

His proper name was Francis Brenton. He has been described as One of the truly greats(1). And what he was great at was sailing the Atlantic in a dugout canoe!

As I was getting older I remember seeing the odd picture of Frank and heard the odd story.

But in my twenties I discovered Frank in earnest.

In the early 1990’s I found myself really relating to Frank. Often I would be  on a tube train in London, feeling the monotony of commuting. Some days I felt my life had become a drudge of routine and Frank’ s romantic adventures an inspiration.

One day I can sharply recall the contrast of my daily commute (17 stops on the central line from Shepherd’s Bush in West London to Stratfordin the East End) with the inspiring read of Frank’s first book, Long Sail to Haiti. I was drawn into the narrative of an ordinary English guy saving a little cash and leaving England behind to head to Spain, Morocco and Tenerife to buy a boat…and sail to America.

Some lines from the book have stuck with me the rest of my adult life. It is from when Frank first heads out on his journey.

An unexpected breeze came down from the mountain slopes, the sails billowed out, and a quiver ran through the craft as it responded. I pointed the bow towards the harbour entrance, and fairly bounced over the oily, calm waters. My emotions took over, and I let out a war whoop. It seemed sacrilegious on such a quiet and peaceful day, but that is how I felt. I was a rebel against society. My background had prepared me to work in an office or a factory but something inside me had rebelled. It was as though thongs had broken loose from my chest and I was free again.(2)

This is unbelievably inspirational but also with Frank I felt there was something warmly roguish, familiar and even comical. Yes of course it felt good that he was family but more than that Frank is a real have-ago hero, the Eddie the Eagle of the sailing world. The point is Frank had never sailed before. He decided to head straight for America before trying to practice sailing. He was scared he may crash on the Tenerife coast. Better to crash on The American coast, that way he had succeeded in his goal of crossing the Atlantic.

A few months ago I was contacted by Jon Maleta who had found some of Frank’s artifacts and had the insight to see that Frank was a brave adventurer of immense stature. Thanks Jon for making this website. It acts as a conductor, attracting the thoughts of us who feel inspired by Frank to acknowledge his legacy.

It perhaps takes the words of another Liverpudlian to describe Frank:

“A working class hero is something to be” (John Lennon)

References:

  1. A Speck on the Sea : Epic Voyages in the Most Improbable Vessels. By  William H. Longyard
  2. Long Sail to Haiti. By Francis Brenton                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Paul Morris, Sweden 3rd of October, 2011.
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