“Beyond the West Horizon”: A 1950s Home Movie of a Round the World Sailing Voyage

by Owen James Burke

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“There was never anything to suggest there were other humans on this planet” – Eric Hiscock on the couple’s TransPac voyage. Screenshot from Beyond the West Horizon.

Eric and Susan Hiscock, earlier pioneers of small-boat pleasure cruising, sailed around the world on their 30-foot cutter, Wanderer between 1952 and 1955 during a time when few took to the high seas for any reason other than necessity. The video below is a full-length feature on their journey as filmed and edited by Eric and Susan themselves.

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“I suppose that practically everybody who owns a small boat as a desire–a dream, you might say–to sail around the world.” – Eric Hiscock. Screenshot from Beyond the West Horizon.

The Hiscocks recorded Beyond the West Horizon together during their 3-year, 3-week journey round the world–their first of three. Out in the open ocean, they encounter only one other vessel throughout their entire journey. There was no radar, no emergency rescue and on all but a few stretches, almost all of the steering had to be done by hand, which meant very little sleep.

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Sailing through the Greek Isles. Screenshot from Beyond the West Horizon.

The couple, whose clever ingenuity and dauntless appetite for adventure remain immortalized in Eric’s writings (see below), followed up with two subsequent circumnavigations, and continued on sailing until Eric passed in Whangarei, New Zealand aboard Wanderer V in 1986.

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Traveling through the Suez Canal. Screenshot from Beyond the West Horizon.

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The couple encountered a band of drug-smuggling gypsies while passing through the Red Sea, and while not enthralled to make their company, found them pleasant enough to break bread with. Screenshot from Beyond the West Horizon.

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Susan Hiscock’s shell collection, compiled from their 1950s circumnavigation. Screenshot from Beyond the West Horizon.

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Eric Hiscock works the sextant, the most advanced piece of technology aboard Wanderer on that voyage. Screenshot from Beyond the West Horizon.

In the film below, you’ll see and hear actions and languages that might offend the modern sailor or scholar, but remember that it was the 1950s, and this was (and perhaps still is, in some respects) a work of art well ahead of its time. But then, as a fisherman, I can’t help but wonder why we never saw them drag a line off the transom. . . .

–OJB

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