You’d think someone writing a travel book about sailing across the Atlantic Ocean twice in a small boat as well as through the waterways and canals of Europe would be enthusiastic about it. Not so much in this case. Kathryn’s husband Chris loves sailing, and comes from sea-faring families. Kathryn is from the midwest and happiest on land. Despite that, she agrees to Chris’s plan to sail from Massachusetts to Europe in their thirty-foot ketch. Once there they will explore the waterways of England and Europe over three summers (leaving the boat to fly home between) and finally sailing back across the ocean to the Caribbean in the fall of their third year.
Kathryn continues to tell us she is not suited for a life on the water, doesn’t like it, doesn’t want to be there. When preparing for the trip she is more concerned about how many kinds and amounts of Pepperidge Farm cookies she can pack aboard, as well as other comfort foods than preparing in other ways. Her husband Chris does all the hard work of preparing the boat, charting their course, and getting everything ready. The entire first two sections of the book, which delve deeply into family history and their relationship, and are full of complaints and denial from Kathryn, get pretty tiresome, and I almost gave up on the book several times.
Finally, in Chapter 14, page 80, they get sailing. Kathryn continues to hate the Atlantic crossing, which is admittedly rough and scary, but does write about it well. And once they arrive in England in Chapter 20, the book becomes much more fun to read. River and canal sailing are clearly much more the thing for Kathryn, and she writes appealingly about the places they go, always being sure to include lots about the food and people they meet. Travels through Europe don’t always run so smoothly, particularly in the rivers, where their small boat is often in danger of being run down and swamped by much larger ones, but the travel experience is fascinating, and well worth reading. The final Atlantic crossing goes much better than the first one, and the continued story of their lives after the epic voyage is entertaining too.
In all, I’m glad I read this, but I do prefer travel adventure books where the writer wants to be there. Kathryn and Chris are still together, surprisingly, as I learned on her website. The book was published in 1985, and the author has written many more books, mostly for children, under the name Kathryn Lasky.