A Sailor's Tales by Captain William Wells

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A Sailor's Tales by Captain William Wells

Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The fascinating life story of a New Zealander who came to this country for nautical training and soon became a pilot - taking ships large and small into ports. The author is an enthusiast for all that he does and it was a pleasure to read the book.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 158 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Wells Associates
ISBN: 978-0956290403

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Captain William Wells was born in New Zealand where his father ran a successful carpentry business, but his heart wasn't in following his father into the family firm or in most of the lessons at school. He was an enthusiastic sportsman but what enthralled him most were the ships sailing out of Wellington harbour, which he could see from his bedroom window. Without his parents' knowledge he applied for a scholarship which allowed six boys each year to travel to the UK and undertake their basic nautical training. Billy Wells, who previously had only got 2% in his English exam (his name was spelled correctly) had the second highest score in the country and was soon on his way to England.

Possibly the most difficult thing for young Billy was thinking of what he was doing as work and even some half a century later his enthusiasm for what he was doing shines through. He had the aptitude and was willing to work hard so promotion followed promotion and it wasn't that long before he had his own command. Much as he loved this he felt that his future was in a different direction. He wanted to be a pilot – the man who brings ships great and small into ports all over the world. Most of the book is about Captain Wells' experiences as a pilot.

There is something endlessly fascinating about reading or listening to (I'll come back to this later!) someone who loves their job and is good at it. They explain, without jargon, what they did and why. They know how it figured the greater scheme of things and understand how it developed and changed over the years. The anecdotes might illustrate the life they lived but there's also a wider picture which emerges and this is the pleasure of A Sailor's Tales. We don't just see Captain Wells' life but the development of the pilotage service in various parts of the world –and the recent changes which might affect its efficiency.

It is, though, a real pleasure to read the individual anecdotes. I found myself telling the stories to my husband, showing him pictures of the various vessels and even, at one point, demonstrating how a large ship could be brought into a relatively narrow dock with the aid of a mouse and mouse pad. I left my husband looking at some of the many pictures and came back later to find him engrossed in the stories. It's a couple of days now since I finished the book and I've found myself thinking back over what I've read.

This is a man who is rightly proud of what he has achieved in his life, but it isn't a book of self-praise. After his retirement from the Pilot Service Captain Wells turned to public speaking and has devoted his considerable enthusiasms to that. Have a look at his website and you can see what he's been doing. I'm unlikely to get to one of his talks – many are on cruise ships and being caught in a force nine crossing the Bay of Biscay was more than enough for me, even on the QE2 – and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to read what many lucky people will have the chance to hear.

For further reading you might enjoy Three Ways to Capsize a Boat: An Optimist Afloat by Chris Stewart, or for another story of an eventful life, try Road to the Dales: The Story of a Yorkshire Lad by Gervase Phinn.

Buy A Sailor's Tales by Captain William Wells at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Sailor's Tales by Captain William Wells at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy A Sailor's Tales by Captain William Wells at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Sailor's Tales by Captain William Wells at Amazon.com.


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