Nick's Reviews > Sailing Alone around the World

Sailing Alone around the World by Joshua Slocum
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's review
Jan 15, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: age-of-sail, lost-in-wonder, ecstatic-visions, forgotten-struggles
Read in August, 2014

"To face the elements is, to be sure, no light matter when the sea is in its grandest mood. You must then know the sea, and know that you know it, and not forget that it was made to be sailed over."
These words near the close of Slocum's memoir capture for me all my fascination with this time in human history--the mastery of a craft long since dead, or at the least bronzed and lifeless; the seaman at home on land, comfortable perhaps, but beguiled by dreams painted in fog and aquamarine; a dance of proficiency at the edge of its competence, dallying at the edge of disaster for no other reason than the excellence it calls forth. Slocum, unbenknownst to me until I came across this volume at a display near the cashier at a bookstore, has made lively and fresh the struggles of navigation of which I'd read but simply had no clue as to their substance. I'd read about passing through the Straits of Magellan, and its deadly dangers, but until I pictured the desolation of Tierra del Fuego, and the terrible loneliness of the place (punctuated only by natives looking to trade or find easy prey), and the unpredictability of the harsh weather here described, it was all an empty gesture. For "at lonely stations like this hearts grow responsive and sympathetic, and even poetic." Each outpost of civilization, more or less refined in comparison to the company kept on the open seas, presents its parade of characters and snippets of conversation treasured up by a man who speaks only to himself, if at all, for months at a time. All of it observed disinterestedly, for it won't be long before the sails are set again and the journey continues: only to return from whence it started. A bit of a fairy tale perhaps, or as best can be mustered in these latter days.
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08/23/2014 marked as: read

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