Review: The Sea, Jimmy Beerkeg and Me by Robin Sheldon Kenny
One of our very own skippers, Robin Kenny, has published a book! A collection of short travelogues, the book is inspired by Kenny’s career working in yacht delivery, and all the people and places encountered along the way. We follow Kenny from his sailing debut on a square-rigged, ‘adventure of a lifetime’ transatlantic trip, through to the experienced, if slightly weathered, yacht captain he is today.
Kenny follows in the great tradition of travel writers, approaching the new and unknown with a dry humour and genial outlook. He attempts to occupy the role of bemused writer, watching wryly from a distance, but is repeatedly dragged back into the salty fray. However, this is also what sets Kenny’s work apart. Underscored by necessity, he balances the wonders of sailing with the banality of cleaning, faulty engines and difficult co-workers. But it works in tandem, throwing each into relief to highlight how incredible the life of a delivery skipper is, as much it is dangerous and sometimes boring.
Amongst the ever-changing world of yacht delivery stands the constant of Jimmy Beerkeg. Kenny’s mate and a slightly mythic figure, Jimmy provides commentary without giving any, raising his eyebrows where appropriate, drily informing ‘skip’ of engine failures and phantom torpedoes. He is stoic figure with an indefatigable approach towards culinary experimentation and one of the highlights of the book. In the eye of the storm stands Jimmy, confirming its madness as much as he is essential to its internal logic.
We are given an inside glance into the unique world of those working behind the scenes of paradise, and the places holidaymakers and yacht owners rarely visit. Kenny’s description of the Azores, at once the Atlantic’s best kept secret, as it is a necessary layover for travellers, encompasses the book’s overall tone. A brief trip into Namibia for an injured crew member after sailing out of Cape Town; and the infamous Pusser’s bar in Tortola mark some of the greatest hijinks, but without romanticism. Kenny’s travels are largely dictated by necessity, the places visited are a sign of engine failure more so than a completed delivery. The amount of towns he recommends off the coast of northern Spain and Portugal, perhaps a testament to the unforgiving nature of the Bay of Biscay.
Kenny meets people from all walks of life, their connection to sailing as varied as they are questionable. From cowboy owners who consider transatlantic journeys dignified fishing trips, to crew members traumatised by their time working on superyachts, Kenny meets all with an openness that characterises those who regularly grace marinas and ports across the globe. Even ‘the office’ is enigmatically, if not briefly, mentioned a couple of times – we can only hope Kenny is referring to us here at Reliance!
Whether you have logged a respectable number of nautical miles yourself or are toying with a distant dream on the horizon, this book will thoroughly entertain and inspire all who are interested in sailing. Tales of the high seas from a true industry professional, The Sea, Jimmy Beerkeg, and Me is worthwhile read.
The Sea, Jimmy Beerkeg and Me by Robin Sheldon Kenny is now available at Amazon UK.