Winter Reading for Sailors

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Okay, I know all our readers in southern parts don’t have to stop sailing over winter, but at least us Northerners get to stoke up a warm fire and sit back for some escapist reading during these frigid evenings. Thanks to some long flights, I got a head start with a handful of new books.

Perhaps escapism isn’t quite the term for the emotions you’ll experience reading One Wild Song, Paul Heiney’s moving tale of a journey undertaken to come to terms with a grievous loss. After Heiney’s 23-year-old son Nicholas took his own life, the author embarked on an 18,000 mile high-latitude voyage, mostly solo. The subtitle “a voyage in a lost son’s wake” gives away Heiney’s wish to reconnect with his seafaring son’s memory. It’s a tale of adventure strongly told in a thoroughly British fashion, never maudlin, but always inspiring.

The Box Wine Sailors describes a voyage of a markedly different stripe. Portland, Oregon, landlubbers Amy McCullough and her boyfriend, Jimmie, decided to buy a cheap old Newport 27, learn to sail it, and head down the coast to Mexico, where they would live on the thinnest of shoestrings for a year. So they did, and here are the “misadventures of a broke young couple at sea.” The couple had never sailed on the ocean before crossing the Columbia River Bar and pointing the bow south, and the tale of their first encounter with Pacific waves had me in stitches.

McCullough is an uninhibited and engaging storyteller and the book fairly sizzles with joie de vivre. I wish all 20-somethings did something like this—the world would be filled with better-adjusted human beings.

Which brings me to Voyaging with Kids, a collaboration between two cruising moms—Sailfeed blogger Behan Gifford and Sarah Dawn Johnson—and Michael Robertson. If you’re contemplating lengthy cruises with your offspring, you really should read this comprehensive, profusely illustrated guide. It will answer just about every question you could think of, plus some you’d not know to ask until it’s too late. Even better, it’s a great endorsement for the lifestyle. I’ve known plenty of whiny, entitled land-based brats, but I’ve never met a cruiser kid I didn’t like, and if you read the many comments written by the youngsters themselves you’ll know why. I’d give this book an E for Essential for neophyte cruising families.

[advertisement]Joshua Slocum’s enduring classic Sailing Alone Around the World has been published in many formats, but probably none as attractively presented as this “The Illustrated Edition” coffee table book. It is packed with color photographs and period charts and sketches of the many stopovers and landfalls of Slocum’s epic voyage. These really bring the journey to life. Too weighty a tome to pack on a plane or even to keep onboard, it’ll serve you well on a cold night as you sip a glass of Scotch in your armchair while dreaming of oceans unsailed.

They Said it...

I watched the flight of clouds, the relics of the gale, as they drifted slowly eastward; I should have liked to go with them to see what awaited me further on. I wished for the power to amend or to avoid so many errors, to be able to direct lost humanity onto the right path, to achieve something beyond normal human capacity … I felt an urge for unity and harmony with the majesty of the starlit night around me; and words were pitifully inadequate, almost an insult to the grandeur there unfolded. I sang an Ave Maria.

—Vito Dumas, Alone Through the Roaring Forties

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