This is the perfect book for these times. When you can’t get out cruising on your own boat (very far, anyway), voyage logs like this one help to cure stuck-on-land blues. The title doesn’t lie: it’s the full log of Lone Eagle, a 36-foot Pacific Seacraft Mariah sailed by the author, Rob, and his (new at the time) partner, Gillian, from Washington, D.C. to Australia, via Central America and the South Pacific.
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Starting with the decision to go (recently divorced, tired of the rat race – not an uncommon story), the first third of the book describes in excruciatingly accurate detail the author’s journey to get himself and his boat ready for cruising. From installing a Monitor windvane to a new engine to a watermaker, these chapters may convince you to sail an engineless boat with a good rain catching system.
But the author perseveres and sets off down the ICW, met at various points along the way with his new sweetheart, Gillian. She joins him and the boat for good in Florida, and together they explore Cuba, the Yucatan, Belize, Guatemala. They hole up in the Rio Dulce for a few months, then on to Panama and across the South Pacific.
Just like any good cruising yarn, this one has highs and lows, storms and calms, friends and foes…you get the idea. The Log of Lone Eagle would read better had it met the desk of an editor before going to publication. The author also writes about himself in the third person, a unique angle for a memoir, which made him less accessible to this reader, at least at first. And all that stuff he installed back in the US? He has to fix it, a lot. It’s painful and tedious to read at times, but having been there, it makes the tale ring true.
Despite these distractions, the storytelling is top-notch. The author has a real knack with telling a good sea yarn – I dare you try to put the book down when the couple are approaching Cayo Cajones in 30-knot winds. I don’t think I’ve ever read so engrossing an account of jibing in a gale. There are near-groundings, broken gear, entering tricky harbors under sail with a crook engine. Guns and pirates, too – I told you this was one solid tale. Then the couple are drinking their morning coffee in a calm anchorage, taking in their new surroundings, and the reader’s heart rate can finally slow. I was often thankful I was armchair sailing this one.
And just when you think they’ve cleared all the hurdles, you realize there is more… The author’s telling of what they endured rivals the best climaxes in novels I’ve read. I won’t give the ending away, but suffice it to say they survived to tell the tale, and with one hell of a log to look back on. I’m grateful the author shared it with us.