Explore your Inner Captain: Great Reads about Nautical Pioneers

Ah, sailing: the full sail puffed up with pride, the wind whipping through my hair, the salty scent of brackish water. At least, for the next 89 minutes. Then I have to return the rental boat. 

The beautiful waterways in and around Seattle inspire us with dreams of great voyages, whether you’ve got  Old Salty moored in Lake Union or you don’t know a tiller from a topmast. If, like me, you just can’t get enough time on the water this summer, these stories of nautical pioneers are sure to slake your thirst for seafaring adventures. 

Pirate of Exquisite MindA Pirate of Exquisite Mind:  The Life of William Dampier, Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer by Diana and Michael Preston
This real-life Jack Sparrow resembles our favorite fictional pirates: even as he sets sail for daring and exotic adventures, he maintains a rich ethical and intellectual life.  Better still, he has left the lasting legacy of a real man.  If you’ve ever used a barbecue, seen a zebra, or read Gulliver’s Travels, you have touched the journey of this fantastic figure. 

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time by Dava Sobel
Eccentric geniuses, fierce competition, large sums of money and dysfunctional relationships.  This compelling history of the struggle to discover an accurate way of measuring longitude while at sea would have made the best reality TV of the 1700s. 

Sailing alone around the worldSailing Alone around the World by Joshua Slocum
The first man to circumnavigate the globe by himself shares the joys and terrors of his historic voyage.  His detailed nautical descriptions will appeal to the most seasoned sailor, but his knack for encapsulating a natural wonder or a tense situation in a few poignant words can’t miss with the landlubber. 

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
A fantastic introduction to seafaring for adults and children.  The life story of Nathaniel Bowditch, a mathematical prodigy who profoundly affected nautical almanacs, also conveys a wealth of information about ships and sailing.  Bowditch’s extraordinary ability to pursue his dreams despite overwhelming obstacles is a powerful example which transcends the maritime context. 

        ~ Audrey, Central Library

Women on the Water

SailingThe first voice came to me as we anchored in the peaceful silence of Squirrel Cove, B. C.   In The Curve of Time, Wylie Blanchet’s classic Northwest boating  story of the remote boating community of British Columbia in the 1930’s, she was telling me of the summers long ago when she took her five children exploring the waters on the inside of Vancouver Island and the West Coast of British Columbia.  She talked to me of the daily common adventures with rough water, difficult anchorages, wild animals, wild children and the ghosts she had seen in this very same spot.

After years of watching from the shore, I had the  opportunity to join the boating community.  Exploring the beautiful waters of our Pacific Northwest naturally has led to exploring the writings of women boaters.  If you’ve ever dreamed of escaping your land locked life for the freedom, adventure and self-discovery of life on the water, these are stories by women who have done just that.  The unique voices blend with bravery, humor and insight to underscore the observation by Cathy Converse in Following the Curve of Time, “Cruising teaches humility, and the elements caution against impatience and flippancy.”   There’s a great many wonderful women on the water choices, so I’ve keep my list of recommendations to those with a Pacific LadyPacific Northwest connection.

Pacific Lady by Sharon Sites Adam (currently living in Portland, OR)  is the facinating tale of the voyage of the first woman to sail alone across the Pacific Ocean.

 Back Under Sail Back under Sail: Recovering the Spirit of Adventure by Magael Scherer is the  story of the Seattle author’s experience of a 5-day race in Alaska to heal from a nearly fatal rape three years earlier that stole her sense of freedom and adventure.

If the Shoe FitsIf the Shoe Fits: the Adventures of a Reluctant Boatfrau by Rae Ellen Lee is her account of how she and her husband a vacation in the Virgin Islands then leave Montana to become live-aboards in Bellingham, Washington.  With honesty and humor she recounts the shake  down period with both the boat and their relationship.

Deep Water Passage Deep Water Passage  by Ann Linnea, current Whidbey Island resident, tells the story of Linnea’s physical and spiritual quest to circumnavigate Lake Superior by kayak at age 43.visionswild

 Visions of the Wild by Maria Coffey is the  beautifully illustrated (with photographs by her husband) work that recounts the couple’s circumnavigation of Vancouver Island by kayak.

Red Sky in Mourning Red Sky in Mourning by Tami Oldham Ashcraft, now living in the San Juan Islands, is her true story of surviving 41 days alone at sea after her boat dismasted.  

            ~    Christine F, Central Library