On the long stretch down to Australia, I really became quite the proficient sailor. I had to steer the ship at some stage during the day. The first time I was taken to see the white wavy wake following the ship at the initial attempt, but eventually I became adept at keeping a straight course. My father was somewhat appalled at my mathematics though. He taught me the rudiments of trigonometry and how to use a sextant. Each noon, I had to ‘take the sights’ of the sun and work out the ship’s position.
Nancy Brooks was sixteen when she went to sea with her father. Despite a gypsy fortune-teller’s warning to her mother, on 2 July 1938, she signed up as Captain’s Clerk for a shilling a week on the SS Nailsea Manor. Leaving from Birkenhead in Liverpool, the ship was to circumnavigate the world. The log Nancy Fancy Pants, as she became known, types during the voyage tells tales of exotic ports, fascinating people and places, and the rope-and-grease routine of a sailor. On board, she masters navigation, the Morse code as well as all the sea knots, and she flies high on the swing the crew rig up for her. On land, she learns even more, but when a squall takes its toll one stormy night in Australia, she is unprepared for the lessons death brings. Between the neatly typed lines of her extraordinary record, she captures her own journey, of self-discovery, and love. The Skipper’s Daughter interweaves the log with Nancy’s recollections and is lovingly shared with us by her daughter, Nancy Richards.
Publication date: July 2021
A percentage of the proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to the National Sea Rescue Institute.
About the authors:
NANCY RICHARDS JUNIOR is an independent journalist and podcaster based in Cape Town, founder of Woman Zone and The Women’s Library.
NANCY RICHARDS SENIOR was a fashion consultant based in London. She died on 5 April 2008.