Bluewater Walkabout: Into the Pacific|
Tina Carlson-Dreffin, 2017, PB, 172 pp, Amazon $16.95
I decided I needed a little escape from this chilly winter and was checking out sailing memoirs when I came across a few reviews for Dreffin's previous books, Bluewater Walkabout: Into Africa and Bluewater Walkabout: Into the Caribbean, I decided to read her latest. The idea of tossing everything aside and packing up to sail the world sounded pretty good, and Tina's descriptions of the boating life and island adventures didn't let me down.
Into the Pacific is the tale of Tina, her husband Peter and two sons Adam and Warren as they travel from the Bahamas to Australia in their forty-four steel catamaran Scud. Tina also is battling breast cancer and she credits a lot of her recovery process to the people and nature that she encountered. Dreffin includes interesting photographs and inspiring quotes at the beginning of each chapter, which she writes almost as if each is their own short story.
The prologue caught me up a bit from her prior books, and I could piece together contextually and through her anecdotes a basic back story, but I probably would have enjoyed this installment more had I read her other books. That being said, I found this a fun read. Dreffin endeared me to her in the first chapter while she struggles with her breast cancer diagnosis and surgery. Her honesty about her reaction, wanting to run back to the boat and hide in denial, declaring she loves greens and exercise and "abhorred red meat" seemed very real, as did her tipping back a bottle of rum the night before surgery to calm her nerves.
This is how Dreffin writes, sometimes with beautiful descriptions and other times making fun of herself. Her humor and fear are a theme throughout the memoir. Quite a few of the chapters are titled "Killer" this or that, "Killer Snakes", "Killer Birds" etc. However these encounters are mainly harmless and usually funny. There are some very serious situations as well. While in New Caledonia Tina is caught up in a protest against the French. Completely surprised by the situation she describes her terrifying flight back to the Scud. Dreffin writes "Time to run. I took off. One block passed. Then two blocks. A flip-flop exploded under the strain. I kicked off the other one and bolted on, refusing to look behind me."
Throughout their excursions Dreffin includes local lore and facts about each area. In the Cook Islands, they landed on the island of Suwarrow. A tiny island Tina describes as being able to traverse in fifteen minutes. Only the caretakers lived there, John and Victoria. John relates how they almost died from Cyclone Ofa in 1990, "the freighter sent to rescue us from the storm never arrived in time. We fought the storm while tied to palm trees..." She also goes into a somewhat grisly history of cannibalism, mysterious treasure hunts, and myriad facts about wildlife.
Dreffin has a unique voice and I found it refreshing. However at times it felt as though she would skim over details. I wished for a bit more of Tina's perspective, and at times it read a bit like a travelogue. This is understandable however when I discovered that she is in fact a travel writer and photographer. While there are some editing errors, and at times Dreffin seems more like a naive sailor rather than the seasoned ocean trekker that she is, this was the perfect antidote to the winter blues. Her book Bluewater Walkabout: Into Africa won the silver medal in nonfiction for best regional book for ebook by Independent Publishing, and I might just check it out as well.