On 5 July 1884, the yacht Mignonette set sail from Southampton bound for Sydney. Halfway through their projected one hundred and twenty day voyage, Captain Tom Dudley and his crew of three men were beset by a monstrous storm off the coast of Africa. After four days of battling towering waves and hurricane gales, their yacht was finally crushed by a ferocious forty foot wave.
The survivors were cast adrift a thousand miles from the nearest landfall in an open thirteen foot dinghy without provisions, water or shelter from the scorching sun. When, after twenty four days, they were finally rescued by a passing yacht, the Moctezuma, only three men were left and they were in an appalling condition. The ordeal that they endured and the trial which followed their eventual return to England held the whole nation - from the lowliest ship's deckhand to Queen Victoria herself - spellbound during the following winter.
This is the true story of the voyage and the subsequent court case which outlawed for ever a practice followed since men first put to the ocean in boats: the custom of the sea.