Southeast to Panama|
Robert C. Devine
Maine Authors Publishing (Perfect Paperback), 296pp, $15.95, Kindle $0.99
I met Mr. Devine at a recent writers' workshop and was immediately intrigued by his brief and modest admission that he had published a book. Bur I was even more intrigued when I learned what it was about. He had been a cruising sailor for many years and was well acquainted not only the sport/life style but also with many other cruisers. So, when his home phone rang in Maine and he heard an old friend ask him to be a member of the crew of a big old catamaran, he enthusiastically accepted.
Athena, a 68' catamaran had a spotty reputation. The previous captain resigned because of her "erratic behavior." Apparently she has a design flaw in high seas. Unusually beamy (25 feet), she draws 6' and sits so low in the water that waves become trapped beneath her superstructure which "causes a hydraulic effect that stalls forward progress." The previous captain quit and "dumped her in La Paz". She had been languishing, unattended, for six months.
The trip should take about four weeks...south along the Mexican Pacific coast, through the Panama Canal and across the Gulf of Mexico to Florida. Who could resist such an exotic trip?
Hired crew consisted of Paco, one of the most unflappable characters ever to sail a boat and young man, known to the captain, who apparently was done with Mexico and eager to get back to the States. He is reticent and has been hanging out with somewhat unsavory characters and there is a foreshadowing of problems with the law. Rumors of contraband are fueled by skulking federal agents in addition to a whole lot of sailing. In particular, the description of the passage of Athena through the Panama Canal is riveting. Not only are you on the boat as she passes through but Devine supplies a crisp and cogent history of this man-made wonder.
Southeast from Panama is straight from the author's mind and memory. It hangs together well both as a sailing story and as a mystery. He has an eye for detail and ability to explain difficult technical aspects of sailing, as well as the social and financial history of the lands they pass by. A thoroughly enjoyable read.