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My Voyage around Spray Reviews

          5 January 2011
          This is a memorable piece of Australian literature. I had expected a collection of sailor's yarns, mostly adventure and more often perhaps
          too technical for the average dumb landsman.

          The funny thing is that I got it: from early sailing- Val must have been ten or younger then-on Brisbane's Moreton Bay, to selling his beloved
          yacht Spray at a bargain price when he was veteran of living in Port Macquarie.

          However, I enjoyed a lot more besides. I read the about the author's father as a prominent figure in the earliest formation of Australian intelligence
          services. He also has some interesting memories of the war after Pearl Harbour and the Americans hit the sleepy town of Brisbane in 1941-42.

          I read about early newspapers in Port Macquarie and the rather dreary townships we had before we got rich and used Victa Motor Mowers
          and owned in-ground swimming pools to improve the gardening, the exercise and the view.

          Above all, the writer is a journalist of some decades experience around the world. Some journalists never learn to write English but this one
          certainly has. He is a delight to read and without the reader really knowing it, he gets a course in Australian history and the history of a few other
          countries such as Britain and Canada, without ever feeling the pain of learning. This is a book you will be glad to read and you will hope
          for a sequel from a writer who does his job so well. Grab a copy while you have the change.

          James Cumes, retired Australian diplomat, Vienna

10 September 2010

Retired journalist Val Wake has led a colourful life and has rubbed shoulders with all manner of people around the world: dignitaries, spies, heroes and heroines, adventurers and more.

His story is brimming with these experiences and takes us from the icy expanse of the Canadian Arctic to the rolling grasses of the English West Country and the sparkling waters of Australia's Port Macquarie.

This is Wake's third book, the first being a biography of his father, Robert Wake, who was one of Australia's first spies and a founder director of the spy agency ASIO, while the second book explored the native rights movement in Artic Canada.

But this third book is about the author's love of sailing, his love of the great blue beyond. In colourful detail, Wake remembers the first stirrings of his love for the maritime. In 1939 he was a four-year-old in Brisbane and was given a metal pedal car by his parents. He loved that car until the day he saw some boys in boats and marvelled at the way they could travel effortlessly without the need for exhaustive peddling.

One of Wake's greatest inspirations is a sailor called Captain Joshua Slocum who sailed solo around the world in a single-masted sloop named Spray. Slocum spent three years rebuilding the vessel before he set sail in 1895 at the age of 51.

When the author retired at Port Macquarie it wasn't long until he had his own vessel, which he re-named Spray, and his adventures began. His tales are not all about his magnificent sailing and competitive adventures but also about the politics of regional communities and local groups. Wake does not care for "big fish, small pond" characters and prefers to "sail alone" when it comes to a retiring life.

There are many fascinating books yet in this storyteller and researcher.


- Wendy O'Hanlon - Acres Australia

           20 August 2010         

           Val Wake has lived the gypsy life that many would envy. Beginning his working life as a journalist, he had lived in Canada
           England and in 1996, settled back in Australia. The Wakes have travelled extensively and unsurprisingly, somewhere along the
           Val developed a passion for sailing.

Val first discovered the magic of boats in 1939 when the Brisbane River broke its banks.  Living in Auchenflower at the time, and after witnessing the appeal of a vessel gliding effortlessly over the brown waters, his pedal car suddenly lost its appeal.

When the Americans arrived in Brisbane during the war, the face of the river changed as well.  With them came the battleships and submarines.  Val can remember when his father arranged for him and his brother, Andrew, to take a tour of an American submarine.

Val’s father was in charge of the Brisbane port, and as the war continued, his circle of friends grew.  One friend took the three Wakes’ on a fishing trip around Moreton Island. So began Val’s love of the sea which would result in his world-travelling, once by sea and once by air.

After travelling to England at 19 years of age, Val’s childhood dream of sailing was put on hold as his career took various turns.  In 1971, however, he read a book by Captain Joshua Slocum titled Sailing Alone Around the World.  This rekindled the childhood dream of sailing.

When looking for a place to retire in the 90s, the Wakes checked out Port Macquarie, a place which seemed to tick all the right boxes.  In the intervening years, Val writes an entertaining account of his life which always seems to have some sort of affinity with the sea.


"A young boy's childhood dream endured through to his retiring years – the sea, the salt and the spray – this book is an entertaining and interesting account of a life that has always seemed to have a boat lurking in the background."

John Morrow's Pick of the Week

Cover Comment

'This book digs deep into the abiding spirit of Australians. It portrays us as a people, fiercely competitive in sport and imbued with egalitarian sentiments and a quest for the fair go. In the freedom of sailng boats, the author finds himself. And there is no more important discovery to be made in this life.'

Retired High Court Judge, the Hon. Michael Kirby, AC,CMG