Emerging from the South American wilderness following the harrowing adventures related in The Incredible Voyage, Tristan Jones finally made it home to Britain, where customs officials promptly impound his vessel - the tiny, nearly indestructible SEA DART - because he cannot pay the "import tax." In his quest to liberate SEA DART, he takes any work he can find, whether it be stoking the boilers at Harrods', regaling TV talk-show viewers with wild stories, or skippering one-day "around the lighthouse" cruises in New York. Ultimately, Jones and SEA DART appear as the honored guests of an Explorers Club dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria, then go on to "sail" triumphantly for three days through the streets of New York.
A sweet-and-sad introduction to Jones' humors for newcomers, who can then go on to more exciting doings in The Incredible Voyage and Ice! Adrift is not really about the sea but about being down-and-out and stranded in New York and London and Rio. Jones has just finished his 60,000-mile voyage from the world's lowest body of water, the Dead Sea, to its highest, Lake Titicaca in the Andes; and now he must get his little ship the Sea Dart back to sea level. When he does, the boat needs repairs, and meanwhile Jones is up against the fascists in Chile. He helps an Irish political prisoner escape sure death, winds up penniless in Montevideo, and ships the Sea Dart to London to be paid for at the other end. To scrape up a flight ticket home, he sells some of his best gear - and then finds that London's Customs people have levied a 750-pound import tax on the boat! Jones is outraged that a British citizen should be taxed to ship a British boat to a British port; but he's stymied - forced to take menial jobs and act as a Caribbean charter skipper while forwarding dribs and drabs to the Customs people. Meanwhile, his literary career begins as he flails about writing articles trying to free himself from poverty. The agent for his first book dies and the manuscript is never recovered. Then, his luck turns: an American publisher is so taken with the opening of The Incredible Voyage that he gives Jones a three-book contract. In the ripest pages here he holes un in a Bowery flophouse and a Greenwich Village basement apartment and soaks up the Bowery flophouse and out Voyage for nine months. And at the delightful climax, he goes on one page from poverty to addressing the prestigious Explorers Club in a tuxedo at the Waldorf while the Sea Dart is exhibited on the stage behind him. The Welshman is mellowing, but still a charmer. (Kirkus Reviews)