Thoughts Overboard! A True Blue-Water Odyssey of Disaster and Survival by Michael J Tougias, Scribner 2010, 210 pages
BACK of BOOK BLURB: “I was frightened or astonished by every page of this beautifully told story of raging elements and human survival. And then the tale is ultimately and heartrendingly inspirational. You will not be able to put this book down.” – Dodge Morgan, first American to sail solo, nonstop, around the globe
MOTIVATION for READING: One of my boat neighbors loaned this to me after another boat neighbor read and raved. I think it is moving its way down the dock in some kind of boat-book-club. (I do not wish to imply that only boaters would be interested in this! It’s written well for a wide audience.)
FIRST SENTENCE: “The Gulf Stream is a moving mass of seawater that flows in a north-northeast trajectory off the eastern coast of the United States.”
WHAT’s it ABOUT: In early May of 2005, two unrelated sailboats – one from Connecticut headed for Bermuda and the other off the coast of North Carolina – tangle with some extremely rough weather.
page 24: “Cummings had been preparing for this voyage for several weeks, and he now knows that he let ‘the plan’ obscure his judgment. He was aware that strong winds and heavy seas could be expected, but the conditions he and McCarthy are now trying to ride out are far worse than were forecast.”
WHAT’s GOOD/NOT so GOOD: The setup is excellent, the pacing is perfect. The details are astounding. The sailors are experienced and the boats are sound, but the ocean is bigger. I understand that some criticism* exists for how things may have been handled but these are not gone into explicitly. I admire how and why Tougias explains that it is an unknown how others may have responded and the decisions that could have/should have been taken since only the players involved were THERE. And yet, Tougias is able to share the sensations that the reader IS there sharing the experience; the crazy scary awful AWE-full experience of being thrown off a small boat in 50+ foot seas hundreds of miles away from anywhere.
page 35: “Emergency procedures are written in blood.” How true.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Oh, is this TENSE! I was unsure if I would be able to handle all the tension, fear and dread I was experiencing only a few pages in. But I just had to find out what happens and was tumbled along with the crazy waves and rain and pain and cheers as rescues are attempted. Hurray for the Coast Guard and the determination of the human spirit to survive.
I was sitting at my breakfast table early last Sunday when I turned the last pages of this book. I was crying, tears streaming down my face, exhausted by the ordeals I had just read about. AND THEN, I look at the TV and see that Perfect Storm the movie was just beginning; the Andrea Gale slips out of the harbor under beautiful sunny skies. I can’t look away, I know how that one ends even if I haven’t read the book or ever (NEVER) been interested in watching (despite Mark Wahlberg and George Clooney being in the cast). The weather gets worse, and I can stand it no longer. I shut off the TV and quickly start reading my next FICTION book, Finny by Justin Kramon. Get me off the ocean now please.
page 198: “… Loch stares at the people scurrying around the fast food restaurants. The pace of civilization, and the seemingly meaningless rushing, makes Loch think that if these people thought about how fragile life is, they’d all slow down and enjoy it more.”
RATING: I just changed my rating from 4 to FIVE slices of pie. I’m still shaking.
* I am a relatively new powerboater not a sailor and have no experience nor knowledge of what it takes to handle a sailboat in any weather. Tougias does a great job of making this readable for any reader and it is not too technically geared to the sailboat crowd.