Across Islands and Oceans|
A Journey Alone Around the World By Sail and By Foot
Atom Voyages, 369 pp, $9.95
This book would be a bargain at twice the price. The author recalls a two year round the world sail in a 28-foot Pearson Triton sloop (built in 1963). The voyage took place between 1984 and 1986. Do not dismiss it as just another hair-raising tale of derring-do. Having grown up in Detroit, watching sailboats on Lake Michigan and "had never stepped into a sailboat larger than a dingy", Baldwin decided, at the ripe old age of twenty, to buy the "best second-hand boat I could afford. If necessary, I'd travel alone, as long and as far as my meager talents could take me." Two years later he accomplished that goal. Twenty-five years later he "decided to share his stories before they're forgotten."
"My plan was to sail direct for Panama, transit the canal and cross the South Pacific to Australia, or perhaps New Guinea, where I would wait out the Southern Hemisphere's cyclone season. The following year I'd cross the Indian Ocean to South Africa and round the Cape of Good Hope during the summer months... From Cape Town it was more or less an easy downwind run across the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea to return to Florida where I'd begun."
His voyage was not one of daring do, but rather of self-discovery. The wind and the sea were not his only challenges. He also stopped and lived and worked on fourteen mainland ports and islands along the way. On his first passage, from May 2 to 16, 1984, he sailed from Miami to Colon, Panama. From May14-26 of 1986 he sailed from Martinique to Fort Lauderdale. His average speed was 106 miles per day, for a total of 25,643 miles in 243 sailing days.
Baldwin's account of his sailing experience is quite calm and matter-of-fact, even about the blows and sail rending. It is how he experiences the island stops that are the true life of the party. He hikes across every island he stops at and meets intriguing characters. The people and the topography are the focus of Baldwin's attention and his descriptions are vivid and detailed. He literally takes you with him and that's the best kind of travel book. (It's almost incidental that he's traveling in a 28' sailboat, but then, I imagine there's only so much conversation with one's self that is worth recording.) Islands like Hiva Oa, Bora Bora, Papua, New Guinea, Cocos, St Helena, and Martinique stir the imagination.
Truly, this is a great read and I wondered why it had taken Baldwin so long to publish his story, so I went to his web site and found the answer. The man has never stopped sailing or working on boats. In 1987 he sailed Atom from Florida to Hong Kong, sailed as navigator on a 75 foot junk between Hong Kong, Macau and the coast of China. Remaining in southeast Asia for seven years he sailed, wrote about his adventures, and worked at a yacht yard in Taiwan and Thailand.
Today, he and his wife, Mei, are based in Brunswick, Georgia where his company, Cruising Yacht Services specializes in sailboat refits and act as consultants for extended offshore cruising. And yes, they do intend to take another "extended voyage."