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Passage to Juneau: A S...
Jonathan Raban
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Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,067 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
With the same rigorous observation (natural and social), invigorating stylishness, and encyclopedic learning that he brought to his National Book Award-winning Bad Land, Jonathan Raban conducts readers along the Inside Passage from Seattle to Juneau. The physical distance is 1,000 miles of difficult-and often treacherous-water, which Raban navigates solo in a 35-foot sailb ...more
Kindle Edition, 449 pages
Published (first published October 12th 1999)
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Feb 07, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have gone back and forth on the rating for this one.

I like the writing. A lot, in fact. The author, Jonathan Raban, is extremely erudite and articulate, and he skillfully intertwines sailing, history, anthropology, art, and nature in a web of words in which the the reader can get lost as in the fogs and mists, eddies and currents of the waters being described.

I also like the author's premise of linking the travelogue of his journey to the exploratory sailings of the eighteenth century Spanish a
Aug 10, 2011 Babs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written. Raban is a renaissance man with an unparalleled vocabulary, magnificent command of history, and a subtle appreciation of the nauances that separate the American, British, Canadian, and Native cultural and class landscapes he traverses. Raban, is, like the sea, very serious. Despite its linguistic artistry, the book is oftimes hardgoing for non mariners. Several surprises, keep the reader interested, with a somewhat foreshadowed ending to his journey and the book. For persona ...more
Feb 12, 2008 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A watery, foggy, mildly adventurous book about a small boat trip from Seattle to Juneau. Raban covers the history of naming the geography on the coast between Seattle and Juneau, the legends of local indians, how the water shaped the people who lived on it and all kinds of other interesting things. This is not a one-sitting kind of book. It's best read over a period of months in small portions, otherwise it can become too slow - which is why I skipped the fifth star.
David P
Nov 29, 2012 David P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, history, memoir
A simple recipe: find an interesting subject--location, community, event, person--bring yourself close to it, open your eyes, ears and notebook, and once the story is captured, write and publish.

Yes, it requires an articulate writer, undeterred by obstacles, one able to smell out good stories, locate interesting persons, make them talk, and then frame it all in scintillating prose. Not a job for everyone, but when done right, the results are delightful. John McPhee was a master of this genre,
Once upon a time I lived in a fjordish crook of the Pacific Northwest, amid sea and pines and snowy mountains. And what could make me miss that landscape more than Jonathan Raban's sea journey, stopping en route in abandoned canneries, ghostly islands, Indian villages, and Alaskan boomtowns, with journeys back to George Vancouver's initial expeditions into the region. Raban is a thankfully unsentimental traveler, but he's not without his sensitivities. The sort of travelogue that makes a good co ...more
Discontinuous Permafrost
One of my favorite books. I love the encyclopedic knowledge of the sea, the travel story and the history. And I had a young daughter and was traveling a lot when I first read it. Great book, made me a follower of Raban.
Mar 18, 2013 Jeff rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As the one star indicates, I did not like this book. While the premise is good, in which the author takes a boat trip up the coast from Seattle to Juneau, while also interweaving bits of regional history (mostly focusing on the initial explorations by Vancouver), the writing is just...lacking somehow. I've read many of book with a similar mix of history and current travel and usually their seamlessly integrated. This one it's just jarring and confusing as he switches, seemingly at random, from p ...more
Apr 24, 2013 Stuart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Great book. Superficially a description of the author's 1,000 mile solo boat trip from Seattle to Juneau, the book is so much more than that. It started well, for me, with the author describing how he had chosen his boat primarily because it had mahogany bookshelves inside, shelves which he then populated with old books about the route he plans to follow. He then expands the writing format to stitch together his own cruise with that of Captain Vancouver in the 1790's, discussing the customs of t ...more
Nov 14, 2012 Maduck831 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
first off, I have absolute no experience with boats, boating, the ocean, a result my "review" may not be that informative...that said I did enjoy this book. The first 40-50 pages were a bit of a slog/took me a bit to get into the store, etc, however, from there it was enjoyable and extremely informative. Not an easy read in the sense it took some time to get through everything (book wrecked my 2012 reading pace a bit!). I found the author's writing to be really good and his explanations ...more
Stacy Bearse
Aug 02, 2012 Stacy Bearse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh wow ... "Passage to Juneau" was first published in 1999. I can't believe that a dozen years have passed without discovering this wonderful travelogue. Anyway, add Raban to my growing list of must-reads. "Passage" describes, in wonderful detail, a sailing voyage through the inland passage from Seattle to Juneau. The author travels in the wake of Captain Vancouver, who surveyed the area for England in the eighteenth century. Yes, it's a thrilling sailing story. But it's also an insightful discu ...more
Martin Budd
Jan 31, 2014 Martin Budd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I personally found this book a very meaningful and therapeutic read. A beautifully crafted book, multi-layered and bravely written. There are many interesting insights into the skills and craft of sailing, and he describes the people he meets and the voyage he makes with wonderful clarity.
The account of his father's death and funeral was deeply moving and authentic, I had just lost my Father and found that the writer was able to voice some of my unfocused feelings for me.One of Jonathan's fines
Aug 17, 2015 Asarum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perfect read for a ferry trip from Bellingham to Juneau!
Margaret Walters
Apr 17, 2015 Margaret Walters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed it.
David Watson
May 23, 2016 David Watson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer: I didn't read this from start to finish. I picked it off the shelf in a public library, thinking a few pages would suffice to fill the short amount of spare time I had. But a few pages was nowhere near enough. I started reading about half-way through and couldn't put it down. Raban's retelling of the impressions of Captain Vancouver and his crew as they sailed the inner passage, his descriptions of the passage's furious tides, his placing of Native American lore and legends into the ...more
Keith Wilson
Jul 05, 2012 Keith Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up to prepare for a trip to Alaska, but it's much more than a travelogue of a sailing voyage from Seattle to Juneau. Raban holds forth about everything from chaos theory, to the history of exploration of the Northwest, to our ideology about Native American spirituality, to the character of Alaskans. In the end he unexpectedly veers towards relationship issues, first with his father and then with his wife, something I would have liked more warning.
May 06, 2009 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Another all-time fave, this book is a treasure: a man taking time to listen to himself think, to travel in an elemental way, to commune with nature and history, and taking us along for the ride. Introspective, historically thorough and informative, Passage to Juneau is a journey I take over and over, whenever I need the comfort of a wise friend and a sense of history and discovery to help me enjoy the world again.

Mar 01, 2015 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I looked up this book because Nancy Pearl recommended it, and I have done the northern part of the Passage on a paddle wheeler cruise. I also love boats and sailing. It was something of a surprise to find his narrative weaving irregularly and without warning between his own experiences and those of Captain Vancouver on the Discovery. Partially it was fascinating. But in a very gloomy way. Raban's marriage is unraveling and Vancouver's mind was also. Very little about the trip seemed to delight R ...more
Apr 18, 2012 Kristi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I thought I had a pretty good reading vocabulary, but this guy is over the top. It almost made me put this book down, but I plowed on and got into the story. It WAS interesting, the parallels between his voyage and Captain Vancouver's. The best parts for me were when the author passed where WE have been with our boat over the past year. Perhaps I will re-read when we have completed our own trip to Juneau!
Conor Kelly
Sep 15, 2015 Conor Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mike Prochot

The historical, nautical and even naturalist details in this book carry it along. If it were not for Captain George Vancouver, Raban would have no book.


One half chapter into the book and I knew that his wife would be leaving him. By the time I got to the end of the book and confirmed my gut, I felt glad for her.

Outside of the insight to the art and cosmology of the Coastal Indian tribes and some details provided of Vancouver's voyage of exploration - the rest of the book is a
Eliot Boden
Mar 28, 2016 Eliot Boden rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I greatly enjoyed Raban's "Old Glory," which recounts an earlier trip down the Mississippi from St. Paul to New Orleans, so I was eager to read about this journey from Seattle to Juneau. I was disappointed that Raban met so few people on this trip, in contrast to Old Glory. He spent the majority of the time explaining tides and eddys and reflecting on his own life and family, with an interminable 75-page intrude when he returns to England for his father's funeral.

The title was misleading as thi
Richard Tod
Oct 08, 2015 Richard Tod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Several strings go through this book, each of which is an interesting angle on the journey up the west coast of Canada and Alaska. It includes an insight into the voyage of Capt Vancouver who meticulously mapped the seas, islands and inlets, the movement of water and its many forms, the fokelore of the Indians and a discussion on how myth is created and history lost, today's perspective of the people, industry and environment plus a self analysis of the relationship between the author and his (t ...more
Val Wilkerson
Jun 07, 2014 Val Wilkerson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-books-read
This is the story of one man's journey through the inside passage from Seattle to Juneau Alaska, alone on his 35' sailboat. Along the way he compared his trip to the voyage of Vancouver in the 1700's, and he wove in tales of the native Indians, which were thoroughly enjoyable. His choice of words allowed you to feel the dampness dripping off the trees and the swirling of the incredible tidal action. My husband and I were lucky enough to have made this trip ourselves, about 15 years before the au ...more
Dennison Berwick
Feb 06, 2010 Dennison Berwick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Northwest Coast of North America - up through the island-strewn Inside Passage of British Columbia and north to Alaska - is one of the most fascinating sailing areas in the world. Thousands of people travel up there on enormous cruise ships every summer; so when I saw that Jonathan Raban has made the voyage in his own sailboat I was eager to settle into my berth, forget the world, and enjoy a fascinating yarn of the sea by one of best contemporary English writers.

The writing is wonderful. Ho
Jonathan Raban is a wonderful writer. His ability to connect seemingly unrelated things and weave it all into an entertaining story is top notch. He creates such vivid scenarios, to the point where I felt like I was his first shipmate, riding the waves along with him. His detail is extensive and that's unfortunately where he lost me. I LOVED all the historical detail, but the exhaustive descriptions of the mechanics of sailing bored me to tears. Now, I'm not a sailor - if I were, I can imagine r ...more
Oct 25, 2007 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
taking it back to the library today, so thought i'd say something about it.

basically, the book follows raban as he boats from seattle to juneau, roughly following the journey of manic-depressive explorer Vancouver. a lot of the book is about the history and landscapes of the northwest itself and the differing interpretations of nature among indians (who feared it), explorers (who wanted to profit by it), and romantics (who wanted to love it). exchange nature for 'the unknown' and you can get the
This is a book that is staying with me. I finished it a bit over a week ago, and despite having read some others in between, this books keep pulling me back.

One little section that I found the need to re-read this morning:
In the making of waves, first the air 'deforms' the water, which then begins to 'perturb' the flow of air across it; and it is out of this delicate intercourse between the elements that the wave is born. As the ripple turns into a wavelet, its slight convexity gives the wind so
Jul 18, 2007 Tristan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travellers to coastal British Columbia/Southeast Alaska
I loved this book. It's true, there isn't a plot to keep one hooked. The long list of Library of Congress headings is an example of how wide reaching this book is, covering Raban's own voyage, a micro-biography of Raban's father, a psychological biography of George Vancouver, anecdotes of Tlingit Indian culture, several forays into marine biology of the Inside Passage.

Perhaps its my own scatterbrain characteristics that kept me from putting it down. As I was working on the Inside Passage while r
Paul Maullin
Jul 19, 2015 Paul Maullin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first Raban book, and as I recently went sailing for a week it was perfect reading.
I even understood some of the sailing jargon which would have bamboozled me before last week. Having also lived in the Pacific NW I could appreciate the setting of the travelogue. He writes with a lovely balance between vivid imagery and gloomy Englishman abroad -my favourite type of traveller.
Kathy Wade
Mar 12, 2016 Kathy Wade rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book starts s bit slow, with the history of the PNW. Once past that the author's story of sailing up the coast of Washington and Vancouver while experiencing some life changes was excellent! I love how he writes and his ability to describe the people and places along the way.
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