Released: 28/06/2018

ISBN: 9781789014075

Format: Paperback

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"Scratch", A Salcombe Boy

who ran away to sea aged fourteen


An inspiring tale of one man’s courage and determination...


Easter 1963. The end of the school holidays are approaching, but instead of returning to school, Billy “Scratch” Hitchen ran away to sea - he was just fourteen years old. Before the age of nineteen, he had sailed around the world five times.


“Scratch” Salcombe Boy takes us on a wild ride around the world: from the mountainous seas off Cape Horn, to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, from the most southerly tip of New Zealand to the North Atlantic and Canada, from oil drilling and exploration in Argentina to the construction of oil pipelines in the swamps and jungles of West Africa. In 1973, Scratch finally returned home to Salcombe in South Devon and went on to spend the next three decades fishing in every sea area, from Dover to Rockall.


As Scratch tells the story, the reader will be drawn to the charismatic writing and inspired by the sheer determination of the man who overcame many obstacles, not least his lifelong struggles with dyslexia. Without reference to any written document or diary, the story he tells is written from the heart and carried in his soul. Readers who delight in sea exploration and travel, as well as vivid, well-written autobiographies, will enjoy this fascinating life well lived.

Salcombe History Society


Western Morning News


This is an extraordinary tale of survival on the high seas, told with humour and relish.
Charismatic captain Bill Hitchen launches his readers on a tidal wave of anecdote and adventure.
After running away to sea at 14, steering the Queen Mary into New York at 19 and braving stinking jungles in search of oil, he skippers his own fishing boat around Britain’s stormiest coasts.
Readers will be on the edge of their seats as one by one, his nine lives vanish into the watery depths.

by Tony Boullemier

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