Wise, funny and beautifully written, The Water in Between is an inspiring-and cautionary-tale for anyone who has ever wanted to escape into another life.
A stint in the army and a broken heart lead Kevin Patterson, who has never sailed before, to buy a 37-foot sailboat. He recruits a more experienced sailor-another brokenhearted guy-and together they set sail for Tahiti, hoping to burn away their miseries in hard miles at sea.
At first Patterson finds life under sail distinctly less heroic than the travel literature that has inspired him. But when his companion remains behind, Patterson single-handedly sails his boat across the North Pacific and through a perilous four-day gale, truly testing himself against the elements.
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During the dark days Kevin Patterson spent in the Canadian army on a desolate artillery base, his only solace--besides alcohol--was reading. He began to read travel literature--Redmond O'Hanlon, Eric Newby, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Paul Theroux--and became attracted to the idea of the solitary nomad. Then he read Bruce Chatwin: first In Patagonia, then The Songlines--"and I was done for."
Looking back, I think that after reading Chatwin it became inevitable that I would set out for a blank horizon and an inhospitable environment. But a desire for withdrawal into desolate topography comes from some place other than a writer's evocative suggestion. And is fed by something other than optimism.
A broken heart following a brief but painful love affair drove Patterson to the end of the pier--and onto a 20-year-old, 37-foot ferro-cement sailboat called the Sea Mouse. No, he didn't know how to sail. He'd never been at sea before. But he was convinced it would be easy to learn, and that he needed to be alone at sea. In the end, Patterson set sail with a stranger--another man trying to leave everything behind him, but one who knew how to sail--to journey from British Columbia to Tahiti.
The Water In Between recounts their voyage. At times wryly funny, Patterson's tale is more often tinged with melancholy. The sailors meet other travelers, visit remote locales, and survive both storm and calm. Through it all, the shadowy presence of Bruce Chatwin remains at Patterson's side--and sometimes hangs around his neck like an albatross. Perhaps solitude was not the solution? As a storm raged around him, Patterson "sat there on my bouncing boat with an intimation of disquiet--if even Chatwin couldn't realize his ideal, what was I doing here, emulating him?"
Although landlubbers may be confused by some of the nautical language ("I hoisted a reefed mizzen sail and sheeted in tightly"), the strength and the heart of this book is Patterson's prose. His honest writing makes for smooth reading, but the inclusion of dozens of lengthy quotations from Patterson's favorite authors sometimes leaves the text choppy. Readers may also feel they've been left adrift by the abrupt ending. And if it's adventure you seek, look elsewhere (try The Perfect Storm or Fastnet, Force 10 for that). Those conditions aside, The Water In Between is a beautiful, somewhat haunting book--a thought-provoking meditation on solitude and the call of the wild unknown. --Sunny DelaneyFrom the Back Cover:
"A first rate, quietly enthralling account othat belongs on the shelf with Theroux's Happy Isles of Oceania, Raban's sailings, and the work of landlubber Chatwin." -Christopher Buckley, The New York Times Book Review
"[A]n old fashioned story of personal adventure that probes its own themes with subversive intelligence." -The New York Times
"If a klutz like Patterson can sail to the South Seas, so can you. But writing about it this well is something else again." -Outside
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