Lit Bits

VOYAGING WITH KIDS: The Ultimate Guide for Cruising Families

Kids cover

Lin Pardey gave me a hug and handed me a copy of this book when I saw her at Annapolis, and now I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Of course, I do have to admit I am biased. I know and have worked with several of the people involved in creating the book--two of the authors, the publisher, and the editor--but I wouldn’t be pimping it if it wasn’t good. All these people are some of the best in the business.

I can think of many magazine articles I’ve read (and edited) over the years on this subject--how to live the cruising dream with kids in tow--but offhand I can’t think of any books. And the big problem with all those articles is they are always written by just one person, so you get a necessarily narrow perspective on what is ultimately an extremely multi-faceted subject. After all, there about as many different ways to be a cruising family as there are families out there cruising. (I am remembering, for example, a family of four I once met in the Canaries who were having the time of their lives--on a boat just 18 feet long!) The very cool thing about this book it that it has three different authors, all of them highly experienced cruising parents, plus they have elicited opinions and information from many dozens of other cruisers, including a big bunch of cruising kids who have since grown into adulthood.

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SEA GYPSY: Early Adventures of Peter Tangvald

Sea Gypsy cover

I continue to be fascinated by the Tangvald family: young Thomas, who sailed with his young son and pregnant wife from Puerto Rico to Brazil aboard an engineless 34-foot nativo racing sloop and was subsequently lost at sea off the South American coast sailing the same vessel singlehanded in 2014; and his father Peter, who lost two wives at sea and was himself killed along with a 7-year-old daughter after he piled up on a reef off Bonaire in 1991. So I have purchased and recently finished reading Peter Tangvald’s first book, Sea Gypsy, which was published in 1966 and has long been out of print. This does not document the infancy of Peter’s bluewater cruising career, aboard a 45-foot yawl Windflower that he sailed from England to California in 1957-58, but rather its adolescence, aboard a 32-foot cutter Dorothea on which he circumnavigated from 1959-64.

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DESPERATE VOYAGE: John Caldwell's Catastrophic Introduction to Bluewater Sailing

Desperate Voyage cover

I have met several comically unprepared bluewater sailors over the years, both in person and in the pages of classic cruising accounts like this one, but there are none can top John Caldwell. It is tempting to dismiss the title of this book of his as provocative hyperbole, like some Interweb click-bait headline, but really it is not. If anything it is understatement, and a more accurate title might run something like Insanely Desperate and Foolish Voyage.

Unlike most of us Caldwell did not come to ocean sailing through romantic aspiration, but through rank expediency. Having served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II, he found himself stranded in Panama at war’s end with no obvious way to get back to his new wife Mary in Australia, whom he had met and hastily married during his wartime wanderings. And in fact it wasn’t originally his idea to sail across the Pacific in a small boat. He got that from his cell mate after he was arrested for trying to stowaway on a ship bound for Indonesia.

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BERNARD MOITESSIER: Sailing Mysticism and The Long Way

Long Way cover

It is interesting that our three major monotheistic “revealed” religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--are all the fruit of mystic transmissions received by prophets who isolated themselves in the desert. And in Buddhism, of course, though it is not really theistic, we have a belief system based on the enlightenment of a man who isolated himself beneath a tree. But curiously, though humans (as we have discussed before) have long wandered across the watery part of our world, an inherently isolating experience, from the very beginning of our existence, we have in our history no real prophet of the sea.

I think most would agree now that the man who most closely fits the description is Bernard Moitessier, the iconoclastic French singlehander who became notorious in 1969 after he abandoned the Golden Globe, the first non-stop solo round-the-world race, so as to “save his soul.” Most sailors probably would also agree that the book Moitessier wrote about his experience, The Long Way (La longue route in the original French, 1971), though it obviously has never spawned any sort of religion, is the closest thing we have to a spiritual text.

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