The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow
by A J Mackinnon
Slightly eccentric Aussie (trademark: always wears a pith helmet) quits his job teaching English
at a college in North Wales and decides it would make a nice exit if he sailed away down the river Severn for a few miles in an old Mirror dinghy
. Many months, locks, rivers, canals, and a Channel crossing later, he is still sailing, final destination
: Bulgaria and the Black Sea. The wonderful self-deprecating humor
, great adventure and memorable encounters make this a one-of-a-kind story that certainly will stay with you for a while.
by Jonathan Raban
This is an account of an extended solo cruise
through the Inside Passage
in the Pacific Northwest
, from Seattle
to Juneau in Alaska
. The wilderness and the narrative are interspersed with loggers, forest dwellers, bears, occasional tourists, as well as aboriginal and other presences both present and long past. In effortlessly evocative language, Raban interweaves a personal journey with a re-interpretation and re-tracing of the course, both mental and geographical, that European "explorers" such as "Captain Van" Vancouver and Puget took, busily charting and renaming everything in sight from the perfectly sensible Indian appellations such as "Having Great Ebb Tide" until practically all the names on the British Admiralty list were used up and enshrined on the charts
. (Meanwhile, Spanish ships created a third set of names.) Raban's journey encompasses literary musings and attempts at (mis)communication with his wife and small daughter back in Seattle
, and a nine-week interlude (brief, and an eternity) in England
reasons. Rich and rewarding reading from one of the foremost writers engaged with the sea.
Ocean of Life -- How Our Seas Are Changing
by Callum Roberts
Roberts is a professor of marine
conservation at the University of York, and a well-known authority on overfishing, the chemistry of the oceans, and the precarious (im)balance in which they are today. In his latest book he not only describes how the oceans have changed under the impact of humanity, but also points towards ways to arrest and reverse the damage (but we have to act fast).
"At the heart of this book is a deep love of the ocean and a profound concern for its viability as a resource for us all". (Nature).
Also probably worth reading (but haven't done so yet): The Unnatural History
of the Sea by the same author.
The entire Aubrey/Maturin series
by Patrick O'Brian
Richly realized tapestry of life within and without the Royal British Navy
at the beginning of the 19th century, as experienced by the two titular characters, Captain
"Lucky Jack" Aubrey and his friend, surgeon and anti-Napoleon spy Stephen Maturin. Does have some repetitive and formulaic bits (such as the introductory sections of some later volumes, and some battle scenes), but the story arc
, the author's wit, erudition and tremendous insight into human strengths and foibles held me in thrall throughout the series, even to the unfinished 21st volume (published posthumously). Ideal books
to read on a long sailing cruise
, or just sitting somewhere on a beach or a rocky promontory and looking out to sea.
Unfortunately (but maybe not surprisingly), the film "Master and Commander" although helmed by a good director (Peter Weir) with a literary flair, and featuring actors well capable of inhabiting their roles does no more than slightly scratch the surface of the Aubrey/Maturin saga. Probably nothing less than, say, a 12-part series done by the HBO/BBC team that did "Rome" could.
The Debt to Pleasure
by John Lanchester
Nothing to do with sailing or the sea, but a devilishly funny
short novel, narrated in the first person by Tarquin Winot, "a splendid creation, genuinely learned (the scholarship is dazzling), poisonously bigoted and wholly mad" (blurb). Interspersed with seductive recipes
and affording the reader the ever intensifying pleasure of discovering what this wholly unreliable (and potentially lethal) narrator equipped with the Mossad manual of surveillance and a special gift in the kitchen is really up to.
by T. Coraghessan Boyle
T.C. Boyle's first novel, and still his best in my opinion (though I can't claim that I've read them all). Imaginative, ribald, dazzling, scaldingly sharp and stylistically brilliant, the narrative is composed of scenes of (sometimes) searing power and (sometimes) side-splitting hilarity (often occurring almost simultaneously on the page), flashbacks and -forwards alighting on seedy London sewers, Scottish highlands, and deepest darkest Africa
(full of color, tribal diversity, and hair-raising diseases), where Scottish explorer Mungo Park (1771-1806) is trying to follow the Niger and "discover" its source. Weaving Dickensian (if Dickens had known mushrooms) fictional characters with historic but freely recast events
and persons, Boyle paints a tableau in words to rival anything that Hieronymus Bosch ever put on a canvas
. Certainly not to everybody's taste, but if the first few pages pull you in, then you are sure to experience a rush that inextricably pulls you along till the very end (only to maybe turn around and read it again).