Join This Adventure!
I write mostly about fiction, as my regular readers know, but once in a while I’m attracted to a non-fiction, especially memoir. Though Sailing With Impunity will especially appeal to sailors, and I am very much a city-bred landlubber for whom sailing the Pacific in anything but a cruise ship would be unthinkable. But I loved Kon Tiki when I was young and adventurous, and this book took me back to those days.
In this book, as in Tubob, the story of her Peace Corp years, Mary Trimble has the knack of pulling you into her life so totally that you are walking her shoes, burning in the sun, shivering in the wet, clinging to the halyards in the gales. But this is not the story of the young and reckless; I, who have never sailed anything larger than a dinghy, am in awe of the Trimbles’ preparation—from boat to cookware, food to rigging and the knowledge of the sea they display before they set out.
Since the first stage of the trip is among the roughest, we are immediately caught up in the overwhelming force of the sea, the perseverance required to battle weather (and seasickness) that makes the simplest of tasks, such as going to the bathroom, hazardous. We echo Trimble’s exclamation, “And this was supposed to be fun?” We are as relieved as they to reach Southern waters and the sun, discard our wet gear and reflect on the importance of knowledgeable preparation.
When the Trimbles reach Samoa, the story shifts from the sea to the people and cultures of the island and the yachting community anchored there for the winter. As in Tubob again, Mary conveys effectively her own joy in meeting the people and customs of other cultures and engages us as well. Again, the gift of detail brings us in close and personal. Among the “yachties” the Trimbles become the gurus and we encounter the reckless abandon with which some take off across the sea—and the terrifying effects. Over and over we are impressed with the Trimbles’ skill, both technical skill in managing their boat and its contents.
By the time they head for home, the reader has been taken from utter bliss of the South Pacific islands and warmth of the people, through a harrowing cyclone to solitary enjoyment of uninhabited wilderness. And then to the sea in all of its magnificence and wrath again as they head north for their reunion with family and friends.
The knowledge of boat and sea, brought home by the detailing, will delight sailors—as well as bringing home the skill and preparation needed before undertaking such a voyage. But the details of equipping and handling the boat never buried the story for non-sailors like me; I was fascinated throughout, and their months with the people of the islands provided contrast—up close and personal. I feel I have shared an adventure.