Susan Blair, the subject as well as the author of Adventure on the High Sea is today an occupational therapist who lives with her husband and two sons in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She explained that her book was inspired by her own children. She wanted them to know how adventurous their grandparents were back in the 1970s and especially their grandmother who died from Alzheimer's in 2003. In several places in the book she calls her mother "the bravest woman I have ever known."
Her father, however, now calls the voyage a "grossly irresponsible adventure." Blair, herself remembers, aside from the wonders of the trip, that it was a real treat not to be in school.
"My parents were always adventurous," says Blair. "My dad left home when he was 16 and joined the RAF. He was always a dreamer but he gained the skills and the confidence in the air force. They never lived for retirement. Life was one big adventure. They were never afraid to do the most menial tasks to support the adventure. My mom worked for a while cleaning toilets in a boys boarding school."
The Barrys settled on the North Carolina coast. "They fell in love with the area," says Blair. Inevitably, her dad got into several aspects of the boating business, brokerage, charters and eventually ran a marina. Susan and her brother Stuart finished school in their adopted country. "The administrators put me in with my age group. The first year was hard…I talked funny and wore bargain clothes because we had no money. Kids can be cruel but I made the honor roll."
Blair says she would like to retrace the entire journey but not necessarily in a sailboat. She'd fly. Her husband has recently left the corporate world to pursue a career in freelance photography. "I'd like to see how the places I remember have changed and he could take the pictures." (The original pictures of the trip were taken with a Kodak Instamatic.) But that's in the future, after their two boys finish college.
The Blairs have enjoyed sailing their 34' Hunter Ceili in a nearby lake but they have recently transported it to the coast where they intend to sail the outer banks with their youngest son this summer. Susan's father cruises in a trawler these days with his new wife whom he met "somewhere off Savannah" when her own boat had some trouble and he offered to help. She's a licensed captain herself.
The exciting news in the Blair family is that Harcourt School Publishers has picked up the book and will be distributing it to every public school in the country. "There's a dearth of adventure books for kids. This is true adventure with real kids," she says.
Blair is currently "shopping around" her second manuscript called Sunshine the Sailor Cat and has been working on the story of the Barry family's adventures once they left Bar Harbor at the end of Adventure. "We state-hopped," she says. "We picked blueberries in Maine and apples in Massachusetts. We sailed into New York Harbor and toured the city and so on down the coast and finally ended up in Hilton Head, North Carolina where my parents had a friend."