Spindrift: A Wilderness Pilgrimage at Sea

 by Peter Reason (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016; 194 pages; $23.95 paperback, $23.95 ebook).

Review by Gregg Bruff

“Spindrift – spray blown off the crests of waves in winds of gale force and above. For sailors in a small boat, spindrift is the sign that forceful but workable conditions are becoming dangerous.”

If you have an affinity for sailing and the earth we live with, you should read Spindrift by Peter Reason. It’s that simple. Never have I found a book written by a sailor, about sailing, who can not only convey the fascinating and engaging details of a voyage, but who also can discuss and clarify big picture cultural and ecological concepts with his readers.

The voyage was not just a trip, but a Spring pilgrimage from Plymouth, England to the western coast of Ireland. Peter and a companion crossed the Celtic Sea via the Isles of Scilly to Kinsale where he dropped off his cabinmate. From there, he soloed, rounding Southwest Ireland, stopping in at several ports.

Along the way, his thoughts moved from the day-to-day pilotage of Coral, his Rustler 31 sloop, to soul-searching ideas such as our relationship with earth, slowing down and living totally in the moment, and the infinitely flexible game of a dialog with nature, the land, sea, and sky.

Peter measures his progress with wind and waves and tides, aware of the birds and rock clinging sea life as he passes by soaring Atlantic cliffs. Though his written descriptions are rich, I kept Google Earth beside me to be able to visualize the sea and landscape he was engaged with. The places he sailed were “not just pretty pictures” but places where he immersed himself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Throughout the book, Peter quotes several of my favorite authors: Gary Snyder, Thomas Berry, and Gregory Bateson, and helps us understand the Gaia Hypothesis of the earth and its residents as a synchronous whole. Reason doesn’t shy away from touchy subjects (such as fish farming in coastal waters) and examines various sides of each issue. He tackles the onerous question of running the boat engine, juggling the need to get somewhere safely with the impact of fossil fuels on a global level. These questions revolve around his lyrical approach to human sustainability on Earth.

From a sailing perspective, you are in the cockpit with him, experiencing a full range of weather, shortening sail in a gale, or running quickly on a beam reach as Coral eats up the miles. Peter experiences his share of fog and cold rain, and wrestles with his cranky inner dialogue ranging from why he made the journey to joyful bliss at seeing his first puffins.

If you have ever made a longer voyage, or dream of making one someday where you are “alone, drawing entirely on your own resources,” where you participate in “a deepening of experience and meaning,” then do yourself a favor and read Spindrift, you’ll be glad you did.

Gregg Bruff is a retired National Park Service ranger who relocated from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan and the “banana belt.” He and his wife Mimi sail a Columbia 8.3 they call Arcturus. Gregg is a landscape painter, writer, avid reader, and enjoys all things outdoors. When not sailing, he enjoys teaching classes and working with students on the high ropes challenge course at Clear Lake Education Center, where Mimi is the director.

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