Adventure on the High Sea|
A Family's Sailing Voyage
Across the Atlantic
Susan Barry Blair
Xlibris, 77 p, $10.00
Susan Blair celebrated her twelfth birthday in La Caruna, Spain. It was October 1975 and she received a guitar, candy and a cake. But the best thing about that birthday was that she was aboard the 38' family sailboat, Xlendi with her brother and her parents and the cat Sunshine, exploring the world. They were not in school.
Blair's father was an enthusiastic sailor and her mother was independent and adventurous. They had met in the RAF. The Barrys and their two children, Susan, 11 and Stuart, 10 left England from Falmouth intending to sail along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts to the Canary Islands and then cross the Atlantic to the United States. But by the time they reached La Caruna they had met so many picturesque people and heard recommendation for sailing destinations that piqued their interest that their not so concrete plans changed (and changed again several times during the trip).
After surviving a hurricane in the harbor of Santa Cruz in the Canary Islands, they decided to cross the Atlantic to Gambia on the African coast where they were appropriately awed by the flora and fauna as well as the mostly poor but kind people they met. From Gambia the Barrys sailed to Tobago, an island off the northwest coast of South America where they are heartily befriended by a local fisherman and his wife who lived near their anchorage-so they hung out there for two months.
From Tobago the Blair family island-hopped north through the Caribbean until they came to Bermuda where they encountered an enormous fleet of tall ships. It was July 1976 and the ships were gathering to sail to the United States in celebration of the country's 200th birthday. Such serendipitous good fortune was not to be ignored so the Xlendi sailed after them and landed in the US in Bar Harbor, Maine on the Fourth of July.
"From bustling Spanish ports to a volcanic island, from the far shores of a river in Africa to and island paradise and all the way to the rocky coast of New England, we had done so much in a short span of time. In a way our voyage seemed like a dream...Mine was not the life of a typical English schoolgirl bur rather a journey outside the classroom which few children would ever take," she says. They had sailed 7,442 miles since leaving home.
In 2006 Blair completed her book about the adventure. The author has very convincingly assumed the voice of an eleven year old and peppered the text with pictures of scenes of exotic ports of call and the family potting about in dinghies, lolling on the deck-even doing lessons in the cabin. An "action adventure" story targeted to 8 to 12 year old readers and calculated to lure kids away from their electronic toys (and maybe even go outside and look around at the big world), the book should be in every ship's library.