Obituary: Susan Hiscock

Dennis L. Bird
Thursday 29 June 1995 23:02

Susan Oakes Sclater, yachtswoman: born May 1913; Royal Cruising Club medal for services to cruising 1975, Ladies' Cup 1963, 1969, honorary member 1986; MBE 1985; married 1941 Eric Hiscock (died 1986); died Yarmouth, Isle of Wight 12 May 1995.

Susan Hiscock formed one half of a famous sailing partnership. For 50 years she and her husband were renowned for their voyages, which including several circumnavigations of the globe.

She was born Susan Sclater, in 1913. At 17 she was the owner of a West Wight scow dinghy, and she met her future husband, Eric Hiscock, while sailing in the Solent.

When war broke out in 1939, he joined the Navy, serving as a Chief Petty Officer on anti-submarine patrols, but he was invalided out soon after their marriage in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, in 1941. "Why! You're half blind, man," he was told, despite his two years' satisfactory service at sea. He joined Susan working on a farm on the Berkshire downs near Wantage.

When peace returned, he took up sailing again - with a new pair of eyes. His bad sight made navigation difficult, and had restricted his cruises pre-war in his first two Wanderer yachts. "I realise now that I have married the perfect crew," he wrote in 1948. "Susan never loses her temper." On 24 July 1952 they set off round the world for the first time. Three years later they returned to their Yarmouth home and Eric Hiscock wrote Around the World in Wanderer III. Between 1939 and 1983 nearly a dozen books followed, including Cruising Under Sail (1950), Beyond the West Horizon (1963) and his wartime autobiography I Left the Navy (1945).

Wanderlust now seized hold of both the Hiscocks, and in 1959 they were off again for another three-year circumnavigation. On their return they decided to give up life on shore, and in 1968 they sailed in Wanderer IV to the west coast of America and on to New Zealand. A third cruise round the world was concluded in 1976. They never took a crew; as Susan Hiscock shrewdly observed, "Crews fall out; we don't."

They won numerous awards from the Royal Cruising Club, of which Eric Hiscock was Vice-Commodore from 1959 to 1963. Together they received the Sir Lennon Goldsmith Exploration Award in 1973, and the RCC Medal for services to cruising two years later. Susan Hiscock twice won the Ladies' Cup. National recognition followed in the New Year Honours list in 1985, when they were each appointed MBE "for services to yachting". Twenty months later Eric Hiscock died on board Wanderer V in New Zealand waters, aged 78.

Susan Hiscock stayed in the Antipodes a while longer, but eventually returned to England and bought a cottage in Yarmouth, and another West Wight scow. She won her first race at the age of 79.

Late in life she joined the Arthur Ransome Society, having long been a reader of his books. She and Eric had a Ransome motto painted over their cabin door: "Grab a chance and you won't be sorry for a might-have-been."

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