Attitude is the only difference between an ordeal and an adventure. That’s the adage Bob Bitchin lives by as he ventures across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in his 1981 Formosa 56, the Lost Soul. Highlighting five years and 45,000 miles in a compact, analogy-laden book, Bob takes the reader from California to French Polynesia and back in a mere 83 pages; followed by another 51 pages of cruising down the West Coast and through the Caribbean on to the Azores; and then he squeezes in the Mediterranean and return passages, back to California, in the final 100 pages.
Not surprisingly, the reader will find this book a smorgasbord of all-too-brief summaries of passagemaking, boat maintenance, port descriptions, shoreside excursions, individual biographies, and thoughts on life in general. Other authors may write an entire book on a single topic or region. For sailors who have already followed the exploits/expletives of Bob Bitchin in his numerous Latitudes & Attitudes magazine articles, this book is redundant.
This book is, in most cases, a word-for-word repetition of those articles that have appeared in the magazine since it was founded by the author in March of 1997.
What happens when a 350-pound tattooed biker-turned-sailor goes cruising? Bob, admittedly, trails the wake of an indulgent, decadent, cruising lifestyle. Misadventures range from being in a Costa Rican prison to reckless, near-catastrophic, passes through reefs. I can’t help but believe that this is the image the black-clad biker wants to portray. I suspect Bob Bitchin is as much a savvy businessman as he is a competent cruiser. It takes seamanship and proficiency to salvage a large cruising boat that had been neglected for years, extensively modify and outfit it for extended bluewater passagemaking, then maintain it and cruise halfway around the world. After returning, Bob started a successful new cruising magazine, now in its fourth year. Both efforts take planning, discipline, and business focus.
Unsuccessful at selling the Lost Soul after his return in 1995, the author has recently completed an extensive overhaul of his boat and will, no doubt, be headed offshore again, seeking more of the “bluest, whitest, greenest” islands on earth to party on.
Like a controversial movie that some applaud and others scorn, Letters from the Lost Soul will not have ambivalent readers. If you like the magazine, I recommend the book.
Letters From The Lost Soul: A Five Year Voyage of Discovery and Adventure by Bob Bitchin (Sheridan House Publications; 2000; 288 pages)