“Grab a chance and you won’t be sorry for a might-have-been.”
Eric and Susan Hiscock are probably the most famous of the cruising couples of all time. Together they received the Sir Lennon Goldsmith Exploration Award in 1973, the Royal Cruising Club Medal for services to cruising in 1975 and became Members of the British Empire (MBE) in 1985. The couple popularized ocean voyaging as a lifestyle and were the first to demonstrate the lifestyle could be financially viable through writing and lecturing. Both were born on the Isle of Wight, England. Eric in 1908 and Susan in 1913.
Eric’s first boat, Wanderer, an 18-foot wooden gaff-rigged sloop was built in 1890. For as long as Hiscock sailed, “Wanderer” was the name he gave his vessels. In 1936 he commissioned Laurent Giles to design the 21-foot Wanderer II.
Eric joined the Royal Navy during World War II though was discharged because of the poor eyesight that had limited the length of his pre-war cruises aboard Wanderer. Horizons for Eric broadened in 1941 when he married Susan Sclater, then master of her own West Wight scow dingy. Their honeymoon voyage aboard Wanderer II took the couple to the Azores, then along the coast of Spain and France. Their shared love of voyaging led them back to Giles in 1956, commissioning him to draw the lines for their 30-foot marconi-rigged sloop Wanderer III. They spent their next 17 years aboard, becoming the first couple to circumnavigate the globe twice.
Their next circumnavigation, in Wanderer IV, began in England and up the west coast of North America to Victoria via the Panama Canal. From Victoria they set off to New Zealand via Hawaii.
The couple had an Arthur Ransome motto from his children’s books Swallows and Amazon “Grab a chance and you won’t be sorry for a might-have-been.” painted over the cabin door of Wanderer V.
Eric passed away in New Zealand aboard Wanderer V at age 78 in 1986. Susan returned to Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, and bought a small cottage, In 1987 she won her first solo small boat race aboard another West Wight scow dingy. Susan passed in May of 1995.
The couple wrote more than 12 books that have became a source of inspiration and information to generations of sailors.