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The Boat Who Wouldn't Float

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  1,357 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
It seemed like a good idea. Tired of everyday life ashore, Farley Mowat would find a sturdy boat in Newfoundland and roam the salt sea over, free as a bird. What he found was the worst boat in the world, and she nearly drove him mad. The Happy Adventure, despite all that Farley and his Newfoundland helpers could do, leaked like a sieve. Her engine only worked when she felt ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 1st 1984 by Starfire (first published 1969)
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Sailing Cruising
13th out of 184 books — 133 voters
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Nautical Novels
33rd out of 232 books — 250 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Debbie Zapata
Dec 18, 2015 Debbie Zapata rated it really liked it
Shelves: saturday
Auctions are thrilling and dangerous places. On the spur of the moment you can buy all sorts of things you did not know you needed until the bidding starts. This is part of the reason Farley Mowat became the proud owner of most of the nautical equipment being auctioned off at a defunct Canadian chandler's shop back in the early 1960's.

And what do you do with tons of nifty equipment and supplies? Find a boat to match it, of course. Then you dream of sailing off to Bermuda or some other southern
Heather Pearson
Nov 26, 2012 Heather Pearson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian
I can't recall the last time I so thoroughly enjoyed a book. This one held me in rapt attention. From the opening lines through to the final word. I've read that Farley Mowat is a 'natural story teller' and I totally agree. I burst out in laughter so many times while reading this book, and often in public places. Thankfully most everyone on the plane was sleeping while I was trying unsuccessfully to contain my chuckles.

What did I find so amusing you might ask. Well, just about everything Mr. Mow
Jul 29, 2014 Chip rated it really liked it
After reading the absolutely wonderful Never Cry Wolf, I went looking for another Mowat to read. I found this and loved it. Thirty years later, I decided to re-read it. It still holds up. My wife commented at one point, when I was laughing at something in the book, that she remembered me laughing out loud the first time I read it, too.

In some ways, it was even better this time. Because I had an ebook version of it, I could pop over to Google Maps and Wikipedia and follow along as Mowat visited r
Douglas Karlson
Feb 07, 2016 Douglas Karlson rated it liked it
I would have given it 3 1/2 stars but rounded down to 3. I have meant to read this book for a long time and finally got to it. It's a quick read, a memoir by the well known Farley Mowat, about the author buying an old 30-foot-or-so fishing schooner in Newfoundland and his years of problems with the boat. Reading the book, I couldn't figure out why he would put up with a boat that caused him to spend more time in boatyards than actually sailing it. He bought the boat cheap and had to do a lot of ...more
Aug 07, 2008 Jonathon rated it it was amazing
What a book. My brother gave this to me a few years ago, and it blew me away. This is for the kid in all of us "grown" men that still wants to go out and see if we can turn our ideas into adventures. A highly entertaining tale.

By the way, my brothers boats all float, and they are stylish to boot.

Feb 21, 2010 Steve rated it it was amazing
One of the classic sailing novels of all time.
Anyone who's an inexperienced sailor that's spent time sailing a boat that needs a lot of repair will appreciate this book.
Farley Mowatt's sense of humor in seemingly impossible circumstances makes this book a joy to read.
Feb 14, 2009 Kevmass rated it it was amazing
One of the few books that had me laughing out loud while I was reading it. My grandfather suggested in to me and told me it made him laugh. I was sceptical but found myself looking foolish while reading it on a bus trying to keep myself from cracking up.
Jun 01, 2015 C. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is unstoppably funny twenty-two pages in. I laughed, re-read lines, and imagined to whom I might spread the humour! These real events show exactly from whence come his intimate familiarity and respect for Newfies. When “The Black Joke” was being composed in 1962, Farley was there with Jack having ‘Happy Adventure’ refurbished. Goodness, the 1960s were a backwards era on that island! We acquaint this journey intimately; truly from stem to stern. I wish I could ask him and perhaps could ask J ...more
Andrew Maxwell
Sep 02, 2014 Andrew Maxwell rated it it was amazing
A touching ode to Canada’s Maritime provinces (and, as such, a pretty good companion to the Stan Rogers book). This book covers Mowat’s experiences in the late 1960s, at the same time that the events covered in A Whale for the Killing took place. Perhaps this is markedly less substantial than Whale? But I wouldn’t really make that argument. The second half of the book, on the St. Pierre and Miquelon Islands south of Newfoundland, is really beautiful, with some of Mowat’s most evocative descripti ...more
Marty Greenwell
Jul 27, 2014 Marty Greenwell rated it really liked it
Picked this up in a used bookshop in Stratford, Ontario. Wanted a Canadian book to read on vacation while we were in Canada. Found out that Farley Mowat is a famous Canadian author who recently died at the age of near 93. I enjoyed the discussions of Mowat telling the tale of deciding to buy a boat in the 60s from Newfoundlers who, though living on the sea, didn't exactly make it easy. The boat always needed to be bailed. The author puts it across that inanimate objects (boats, cars, etc.) take ...more
Jul 15, 2012 Owen rated it it was amazing
This is a tremendous sea yarn told by an old salt with many years of sailing under his belt. Farley Mowat is not well known as a sailor perhaps, but as someone who has skippered his way along the Newfoundland coast and survived, he must be reasonably authentic. Like many inland-born Canadians, Mowat had not sailed a small boat at sea before arriving in Newfoundland after the war. However, he had done a lot of sailing on Lake Superior in his boyhood and youth, on a yacht his father owned and sail ...more
Oct 21, 2011 Dianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Farley Mowat is a wonderfully entertaining writer. His books are more fun than anything I've come across in a long time; if you haven't read them you are missing out on some of the liveliest, and often looniest, reads out there.

This time he's telling the story of his sailboat and the unbelievably crazy experiences he had with it. If it was fiction I'd say it was overdone, too far fetched to make a credible story, but all these things actually happened, and thankfully he had the urge to write th
Stuart Weibel
Dec 31, 2010 Stuart Weibel rated it really liked it
Farley Mowat writes, always, it seems, with wry wit and love in his heart. This book was handed down to me (an autographed copy, no less, with dust jacket intact) by my Mother. Billed as a must-read for any wooden boat owner, the real star of the book is Newfoundland and her people. The sailing in this area sounds challenging to say the least. The climate is dominated by fog that can be brutal and deadly, in combination with lee shores that admit few mistakes.
Exploring the places Mowat writes a
May 17, 2015 Dylan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I thought I had read this many many years ago but now I'm not so sure; so much of it is concerned with drinking and other, drier subjects that I can't imagine it would have held my interest as a child. At any rate, I didn't remember any of it. On the whole I thought it was fun, light reading bolstered by a lot of interesting cultural and historical tidbits about Eastern Canada - with one caveat. Farley Mowat, though a national treasure to many, has a somewhat controversial reputation as an autho ...more
Nov 12, 2012 Carol rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, memoir, canada, 2012
Farley Mowat and his friend Jack buy an old-fashioned wooden boat, fix it up and sail around the Maritime provinces of eastern Canada.

Disaster strikes with such consistency that I smiled weakly at parts that were intended to bring out guffaws. Although Mowat regularly poked fun at himself, I didn't have the sympathy for him that I wanted to have.

I did enjoy the local color, getting a feel for the ports of Newfoundland.

Favorite quotes:

For thirty seconds, I felt the exhilaration that comes to e
Jun 10, 2014 Sam rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book that I rediscovered- I remember reading it as a child and loving the humor; now I can appreciate it again. Most wonderful book indeed! There were parts when I was laughing out loud, and yet the entire spirit of the story was so close to the earth, so real; it will remain for me one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. Highly recommend! Its so worth reading.
East Bay J
More Mowat, please. A fine, rambling tale, The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float tells the story of Farley Mowat and his trials, tribulations and triumphs with a stubborn schooner with a mind if her own. Mowat’s writing is laced with a lot of old school humor. You might think of it as your dad’s humor or even your granddad’s but it’s right up my alley. It sounds like the man just went out and had fun, though perusal of other of Mowat’s books illustrates otherwise. He alludes to the events of A Whale For T ...more
Sep 26, 2015 Joann rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015-challenge
I really wanted to love this book but I didn't. I read a Farley Mowat book when I was a teenager but can't remember how I felt about it. As a well-known Canadian author, I wanted to try him again. I found I just really couldn't get into the book. From other reviews I thought it was going to be very funny but I found it only slightly amusing. I really think it must be me though since there are some wonderful reviews on it.
Raymond Conway
Sep 02, 2014 Raymond Conway rated it liked it
I bought the book while on holiday in the Maritimes. It was my very first Farley Mowat book! It was a great holiday read, which left me planning when I could rejoin the mis-adventures of the Happy Adventure! By the halfway mark, I had bought a bottle of rum and was enjoying the read, Mowat-style!!
May 03, 2015 Barbara rated it really liked it
Classic Farley Mowat even though it seems to be one of his earlier books. It certainly chronicles one of his earlier life experiences and I enjoyed the reference to his other book - A Whale for the Killing - as that story is embedded into this one. It did change my impression of Mowat, as I would not have considered him such a dedicated drinker as he paints himself to be in this book. In vino veritas?
Huw Collingbourne
Sep 24, 2016 Huw Collingbourne rated it liked it
Farley Mowat writes well. The book is infused with subtle humour and some sentences are so enjoyable that they are worth reading again for the sheer fun of it. But ultimately this tale of an unseaworthy boat is too slight to justify an entire book.
Jan 24, 2016 Christine rated it it was amazing
One of the funniest books I've read in awhile -- although boaters may be the only people to fully comprehend the reality behind the humor.
Jessica D
This has to be a new favorite of Mowats along with Never Cry Wolf for amazing storytelling and many chortles of delight.
Jul 19, 2009 Leah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Meg, Debbie
Shelves: nonfiction
First edition, signed.

Farley Mowat has the happy knack for making himself the butt of humorous stories which seem just unlikely enough to be true. I admit that much of the sailing jargon was lost on me, but Mowat's skill is such that I was able to laugh along, if not as heartily as a seafaring reader.
There is a similarity of style between Farley Mowat and James Thurber. If you like one of the two, I highly recommend reading something by the other.
Carol Palmer
Oct 20, 2015 Carol Palmer rated it liked it
If I ever had the urge to buy a boat, this book would convince me that it is a terrible idea.
Jan 10, 2015 Gail rated it really liked it
A love song to a wreck of a boat and to the Newfoundland people.
Mark Smiley
Jan 18, 2014 Mark Smiley rated it really liked it
Well, I thought this was a non-fiction book but the fly leaf calls it a "folk tale". Either way, it spoke to me, made me laugh,Cade me doubt that I would ever undertake a boating adventure. Very humerous and full of epic imagery. I should read more of this ilk.
Jun 29, 2014 Josiah added it
This is the funniest book I've ever read.
Oct 22, 2010 Mary-Beth rated it really liked it
This was an excellently funny book. The boat is a real character in the novel and as Mowat grows more and more superstitious about it it gains more character. This is basically about Mowat deciding to purchase a sailing ship without knowing anything at all about seamanship and traveling about Newfoundland completely soused. Half the time they barely escape sinking and imminent death. He picks up a lot of different passengers for company and makes fun of each one thoroughly. I had a great time re ...more
May 16, 2016 Bonnie added it
So funny! I love dry witty humour.
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Farley McGill Mowat was a conservationist and one of Canada's most widely-read authors.
Many of his most popular works have been memoirs of his childhood, his war service, and his work as a naturalist. His works have been translated into 52 languages and he has sold more than 14 million books.
Mowat studied biology at the University of Toronto. During a field trip to the Arctic, Mowat became outrag
More about Farley Mowat...

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“...the three cardinal tenets of rum drinking in Newfoundland. The first of these is that as soon as a bottle is placed on a table it must be opened. This is done to "let the air get at it and carry off the black vapors." The second tenet is that a bottle, once opened, must never be restoppered, because of the belief that it will then go bad. No bottle of rum has ever gone bad in Newfoundland, but none has ever been restoppered, so there is no way of knowing whether this belief is reasonable. The final tenet is that an open bottle must be drunk as rapidly as possible "before all to-good goes out of it.” 6 likes
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