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Cork Boat

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  365 ratings  ·  75 reviews
165,321 corks
1 boat

Most people have childhood dreams; few ever pursue them. At the age of 34, John Pollack quit a prestigious speechwriting job on Capitol Hill to pursue an idea he had harbored since the age of six: to build a boat out of wine corks and take it on an epic journey.

In Cork Boat, Pollack tells the charming and uplifting story of this unlikely adventure. Overc
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published January 6th 2004 by Pantheon (first published January 6th 2003)
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Community Reviews

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The author, a former speechwriter for a Congressman and Clinton, quits his job to build a boat made out of 165,000-plus corks held together by rubber bands, which he then sails with friends down the Douro River in Portugal. It sounds like a fairy tale, and it almost is, a heart-warming true fantasy story of childhood dreams and adult sacrifice and priorities and adventure. Pollack is, of course, a gifted writer, adept at spinning a tale and interweaving personal reminisces, anecdotes and a few s ...more
Mar 04, 2008 Becky rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like their inspirations quirky
As a child, one of John Pollack's favorite bedtime stories was Holling C. Holling's Paddle-to-the-Sea, the story of a carved toy canoe that, over the course of several years, makes its way from the north shore of Lake Superior, through the Great Lakes, out the St. Lawrence river and, finally, to the Atlantic. Kind strangers aid the canoe's perilous journey and, in the happiest of eventualities, the man who was once the boy who carved the canoe learns of its progress.

Cork Boat, a recounting of Jo
We listened to this as an audiobook, from Audible. It was about a guy who decides to build a boat out of corks, in order to sail it down the Douro River in Portugal.

The premise was really fun, but I think it needed editing. He got lost in the details, such as squabbles with his fellow boat builder (Garth), transportation logistics, design schematics, etc. He also included tangents about various jobs he did, some of which were very interesting. He was a speech writer, so sometimes his writing rea
I was just as excited by the idea of a boat made of corks as the author was, and tho the book itself isn't mind-blowing, and sometimes events seem a bit cliche or have been filtered down to a timeline, much of the detail condensed away, still the energy and the plain fact that this guy really built and sailed this wacky craft, that all cant be just written away. Couple things tho, this book will leave a slight aftertaste of 'I guess you can do anything if you dont have to worry about money.' Als ...more
The description would have you believe that the author selflessly pursued his passion of fashioning a boat entirely from cork. The premise sounds whimsical and romantic. The reality of the book is that he realizes that he cannot accomplish this on his own and ends up soliciting mass donations of cork from businesses, and even having others work on building the boat when it was inconvenient for him to do so. The description of the work in progress ended up being neither romantic nor whimsical... ...more
John Pollack's project of building a boat from corks and sailing it around Europe was almost, but not quite, worth writing a book about. He ends up padding it with way too much personal detail about the people who helped him and the like. But he gamely puts in some humor and interest into it, so it's not boring, just somewhat unexciting overall. I'll round up to three stars because it's kind of fun.
Do you remember your fondest childhood dream? John Pollack never forgot his, even after he grew up and became a speechwriter for the Clinton White House -- and even more unusual, he ended up ditching it all to go out and make that dream come true.

The dream? Building a boat out of corks. It sounds silly, and it really could have been, but Pollack's account of the adventure that took him from a sweaty D.C. garage all the way to a river in Portugal is as heartwarming and inspirational as it is humo
Lyman Phillips
Oct 30, 2007 Lyman Phillips rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ANyone interested in how things work
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't know what it says about me, but I loved this story o how a person followed a childhood dream and does something really unusual - build a boat from wine corks and floats it down the river in Portugal (where all the good corks come from - remember the story of Ferdinand the bull?).

While telling this story, we take enchanting detours into the history of corks and rubberbands and all sorts of ephemera. It is not as boring as it sounds - not at all.

A nice light read. Absorbing, uplifting and
Steve N.
Jan 14, 2015 Steve N. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who wish to be inspired, and those who want to see an odd and real project
Our childhood dreams often never make a reality. Sometimes it’s laziness. Other times, it loses its importance, or it’s just not possible. John Pollack, a former speechwriter who worked for the government, decides give up his job to pursue his childhood dream, to build a life-sized boat out of corks. Cork Boat is a nonfiction autobiography by John Pollack, published by Pantheon. Pollack’s book strongly represents the power of a community, as Pollack did not build the boat by himself, but with f ...more
I learned that there are many character traits that Mr. Pollack and I unfortunately don't share. That is why he is so successful.
A little boy notices the buoyancy of a single cork, and a quirky childhood dream is born. This book is a memoir of John Pollack's early life, his years as a Democratic speechwriter in Washington, and an account of the collaboration involved in the design and construction of the "playful, goofy absurdity" that becomes the cork boat. The account includes a little tragedy, a bit of history, a quest to find enough corks (over 165,000), and a side trip to Antarctica (without the boat). Ultimately the ...more
Barb H.
Great Ann Arbor references. Wonderful if you love boats, sailing, politics....
Jan C
Jul 24, 2010 Jan C rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: dreamers
Shelves: adventure, water
I love this book.

As a boy, JP had a dream of a cork boat. His first sank back home in Ann Arbor but he has a dream for life.

And it isn't until the Republicans get elected (he was a speech writer at the White House) that he has the opportunity to go back to his dream - he has time on his hands and no job to speak of; although he does do a turn as a speech writer for Sen. Levin (MI) and apparently goes off to Antarctica - but I guess that's another book, because all he does here is tell us he ha
Cork Boat is about following through with an amazingly difficult project against huge obstacles. I can’t believe how much work went into it’s construction, how much dedication Pollack and his friend Garth showed, and how many people really pooled around their project to help them. It’s really an inspiring story, but you really feel the grit of how many things really got in their way. Part of the frustration from Pollack’s point of view that really shows through is his strained relationship with ...more
To paraphrase a famous anagram : A man, a plan, a cork boat :o)
Kooky book about kookier idea - sail down a river using only a boat made up entirely of corks. That's what John Pollack first came up with as a child - started saving up corks in order to make a boat. He didn't know whether it'd be possible to make a boat, much less whether it'd float, or even exactly where he'd float it, but he kept at it through various struggles and difficulties. Of course, i'm sure it didn't hurt that at differen
For me, the biggest danger in reading books of unlikely adventure in beautiful locales is that I'm immediately struck with the intense desire to do something amazing and travel the world. This is exactly what happened when I read Cork Boat. It's the story of John Pollack and Garth Goldstein, and their unusual project of building a replica Norse longboat completely out of wine and champagne corks. John Pollack, who came up with the idea as a child, spent his entire life saving corks with the inte ...more
Sarah Sammis
The summer that my son was born John Pollack and a crew of friends sailed a self built cork boat up a river in Portugal. Some of the event was covered on NPR but I completely missed it. I came across the story through BookCrossing when the memoir of the ship's construction was offered up at one of last year's meetings.

The book is an interesting glimpse at the way things were in the 1990s and early 2000s. Now by 2007 things have already so changed since the time that Pollack decided to finally fo
Juliann Wetz
Ugh, this was absolutely the wrong book to read while I'm suffering from restlessness, winter blah's, and wanderlust. I am so, so envious of John Pollack and all the incredible things he's done with his life.

Think about it. In this book he decides to build a boat out of wine corks. Realizing that he can't secure enough corks all by himself, he asks bars and restaurants around the D.C. area to save them, too. Then he writes to the Cork Supply Co. and they donate all he needs. So he builds the bo
Mik Hetu
A quiet but interesting adventure of building and voyaging a boat almost entirely of wine bottle corks.
If you’ve ever attempted a creative project that didn’t immediately have the support of your friends and family, a project that made you yourself wonder if you had lost your mind, then you’ll love this book!
John Pollack was a presidential speech writer who, after a change in the White House administration, lost his job and raised his spirits by resurrecting a boyhood dream of building a usa
Donna Kubiak
Just a wonderful adventure book about an unlikely accumulation of corks that were necessary to. Yield the cork boat. I loved the story and the authors tenacity in collecting the corks, building the boat, and finding the place to sail it!!?
Ah, inspiration comes in odd forms sometimes, doesn't it?? I found John's writing easy with just a hint of pompousness that complimented instead of took away from the story. It was refreshing to hear a voice that knows himself so well and isn't afraid to show his true colors. I do believe there was some embellishment here and there though, my only complaint-sometimes it was unbelievable. Do I want to build a cork boat after having read this? No. But I'll keep saving my corks for other unknown re ...more
An enjoyable memoir of a silly but fun project -- the building of a cork boat (no metaphor). With the help of Cork Supply USA and the collection of corks by a variety of individuals and businesses, the author and his friends manage to build an extremely heavy, vaguely seaworthy boat. With further sponsorship from Cork Supply USA, they take the boat to Portugal for a sail down the river. The author says that people either "got" the project or didn't -- I think I mostly fall into the didn't catego ...more
Pamela Pickering
An enjoyable, light, easy read. A friend recommended it to me after I expressed an interest in visiting Portugal. The author gives a good account of his attempt of reaching a childhood dream of building a boat made of wine corks. I was impressed by his tenacity. He ecountered and overcame many hurdles. It was amazing how he found people to him through the barriers he faced after hearing about his project. The actual sailing of the boat was the most entertaining part of the book for me--especiall ...more
Dec 04, 2011 Jill rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
This was a fun, fast paced book about a man and his boyhood dream of building a boat out of wine corks. It was an inspiring story for me - a story of someone who built not just a boat, but a community of people who were willing to do crazy things to see his dream come true. As such, the story was about more than just the boat - it was about working hard, relationships, family, and best of all: silliness.

I think this would make a fun graduation gift for someone finishing college or maybe even hig
This is a true story about a young man who literally builds a boat out of corks. It's an interesting story of why he did it and his perserverance to make it happen. I'm not spoiling the story by telling you that it actually does get built as there is a picture of it on the cover of the book. He ends up sailing it down the Duoro River in Portugal. Great descriptions of the Portugese villages and countryside. (Joe, let us know when you will be there again as i'm ready to go back!) It's well-writte ...more
My second "man building boat for a lifelong dream journey" book in a month. I've just picked them up from my library's new books shelf, so I'm not sure why the trend. This book was a decent read. The author was a political speechwriter so it had interesting political bits as well as revealing the whole process of building a four-person Viking long boat entirely out of wine bottle corks and rubber bands and then traveling down the Douro River in Portugal. It was a bit stressful hearing about it a ...more
I listened to this on audio, which I think added to my enjoyment. Pollock is the narrator for the audio version and hearing his story directly from him made me feel more connected to the story. Making the cork boat a childhood dream of the author's, from finding all the corks to sailing it in Portugal, was quite the endeavor with many obstacles. At times I got a little teary thinking about the struggle. I enjoyed the story, and I enjoyed the audio version. It was easy to listen to Pollock while ...more
I loved this book but then I have always been a huge fan of "The Kon-tiki"! Such an ingenious idea and fascinating to be on the journey of discovery with the author. Everything intrigued me, from the design phase to the actual launch a lot of which can be attributed to the author's very well written account.
I live only a few miles away from where this crazy cork boat was constructed and I don't remember ever hearing about it at the time. Truth be told, the book caught my eye while perusing the travel section at a used book store - but I'm really glad it did. The author is a former White House speech writer so he really has a way with words. In my opinion, this book has the perfect amount of emotion, silly/whimsy and odd facts. It was a quick, fun read and maybe someday... I do have a growing collec ...more
Yaffa Shira
I found this book on a bench on the sidewalk, it had a hand written inscriptin from the author to his two nephews, (obviously livning in Israel). I loved the book, I loved the dream and the push to make it come true!! I felt like I met this guy! I had wanted to identify more strongly with him and his family, but there was no Judaism in the book at all, and I suspect none in his life, other than his name, and his cousin's name, Tamar, and the fact that I knew he had two nephews living in Israel!! ...more
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