A delightful read about a couple’s adventures while exploring European canals and sailing across the Mediterranean, Sailing There is populated with a host of eccentric characters including a bouillabaisse chef, gruff bargemen, disinterested port officials, mafia youth and, of course, other cruisers.

Pat and Ray’s one-year cruise is extended indefinitely as they become accustomed to a lifestyle full of suspiciously friendly people, culinary surprises, local wines, and emergency boat repairs. The learning curve, from the initial splashdown in Rotterdam to the far off Greek Isles, is quite steep, which leads to numerous near-disasters.

By the end of the first year, Pat and Ray are knowledgeable cruisers and don’t have to worry as much about the Mediterranean mooring system, foreign language weather reports, custom’s clearance procedures, or the “surprise” of the mistral winds. They actually have time to enjoy the history they are sailing through and many times find themselves in ports that existed 2,000 years ago.

Woven throughout the story is the running joke about how the factory-described “turnkey” yacht actually ended up being more of a “yacht kit” — some assembly required. Oh, you thought a ship’s wheel was needed? Don’t worry about those missing engine components — they’ll just break anyway. Oh yes, all the brass instruments are usually stolen prior to launch — it saves on weight. What ensues are multiple trips to the local nautical chandleries (sometimes not so local) spread across numerous countries. The scavenger hunt for parts, decent canvas makers, welders, and provisions will be familiar to anyone who owns or crews on a sailboat.

All in all, this book is a very entertaining read, and a great book to curl up with. Sailing There does a wonderful job of transporting the reader to the sunny Mediterranean and, while reading it, you can almost feel the sunshine on your back and the salt in the spray.

Sailing There: Cruising Across Europe and the Mediterranean by Patricia Vellinga (Peacock Hill Publishing, 2009, 312 pages)