Peter Bourke’s book, Sea Trials, is a beguiling read. Short chapters detail each of the 40 days he spent sailing the 2009 OSTAR, the Original (or Oldest) Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race. Not only does he divulge the joys and demands of a solo race across the Atlantic, Bourke also reveals himself as a contemplative man, one with an outlook of peace and gratitude toward life, one who embraces the good fortune life and sailing have given him.
“As I sip my tea I consider how very lucky I am to have the freedom to be out here in this magnificent world of wind, waves, and wonder,” he writes.
Not only a nautical memoir, Bourke ruminates on the loss of his wife to an epileptic seizure, the challenges of single parenting, his experiences with ocean crossings as a young boy and again as a young man, and holding off on his dream of solo ocean sailing until his children reached maturity. As an armchair sailor, he read sagas of great sailors (Joshua Slocum, Bernard Moitessier, and many others) and “inhaled the spirituality of solo sailing.”
He writes, “Solo sailing is not better, or worse, than sailing with a crew. It is a singular experience in every sense. It is a total immersion in the life. It is the visit to a monastery, and it changes you.”
Bourke also notes, “There’s a lot of equipment to monitor and maintain on a boat, and I need to remind myself that I am on that list. I need to push myself or I won’t stay competitive, but I need to go the distance or I’ve lost completely. Striking that balance is one of the keys.”
Each chapter begins with a quotation applicable to the circumstances of that particular day at sea. The quotes are drawn from Freud, Henry Ford, Robert E. Lee, Louis Armstrong, Confucius, and a number of others. An epilogue answers questions that were addressed to him at the press conference in his mind. Rubicon’s layout and sail plan are included, as is information on each of the boats that took place in that year’s race.
Sea Trials: a Lone Sailor’s Race Toward Home is recommended as a good story that will draw its readers in.