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Boat Girl: A Memoir of Youth, Love, and Fiberglass Paperback – October 1, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

If you are at all curious to find out what (growing up aboard a boat) is like, I urge you to read Melanie's memoir, Boat Girl, which has just been released by Beating Windward Press. She is every bit as good a writer as her dad and doesn't pull any punches. It's all in here: early memories of the drug-plagued Bahamas in the 1980s, anorexia and teen angst, the fights with her domineering, somewhat paranoid father, the sex and drinking, the struggle for identity, and--finally--the triumph of independence.
- Charles J. Doane, Sail Magazine

As a child raised aboard--and as a father who raised a child aboard--I am deeply interested in boat kids. Melanie is among our best. She is not only wonderfully wacky, she tells the truth in large and small ways. I admire her--as a writer and human being. This is a delightful book... that only a boat kid could write!
- Cap'n Fatty Goodlander, Author and Columnist, Cruising World

An inspiring and beautifully written true story of a young woman schooled in the sea.
- Dan Wakefield, author of the memoir New York in the Fifties

Melanie's Boat Girl captures the wonders and the paradoxes of growing up just offshore from American culture in a way that I haven't ever seen in a lifetime of reading about such things. So now you're one of the lucky ones. For if you too are a boat-mad kid, the story of this Boat Girl might just point you toward home.
- Tim Murphy, Editor-at-Large, Cruising World, Coauthor, Fundamentals of Marine Service Technology (ABYC, 2012)

The Florida Book Review writes: "My anchor as a reader in this vivid, swift-moving account of life on the sea is Neale's mind at work, the consciousness through which all her experiences are filtered. As she regards her father during their early travels, Neale observes, 'He fantasized, sitting on these muddy islands, about tropical islands that he could explore and conquer. Unlike him, I just wanted to explore and learn. There was no inner colonist in me.' There was a memoirist instead."
- Julie Marie Wade, Author of Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures

From the Author

For a slide show of images that didn't make it into the book, visit: melanieneale.com
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Beating Windward Press (October 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 098382522X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983825227
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm one of the lucky ones. Long before the publication of this book, long before the Short Story column that appeared in Cruising World magazine, long before the indelible Hurricane Wilma feature in Soundings, even before the college seminars and the distinguished MFA, I was lucky to know the boat-mad kid who would become the writer Melanie Neale. I am myself a boat-mad kid (a condition unbounded by age), and I say lucky because, even in a world as fluid as liveaboard sailing, kindred spirits don't find each other as often as you'd guess. Yet from the moment Melanie and I first met on an anchored boat in Narragansett Bay, we each recognized in the other one who steered by familiar stars. Melanie's Boat Girl captures the wonders and the paradoxes of growing up just offshore from American culture in a way that I haven't ever seen in lifetime of reading about such things. So now you're one of the lucky ones. For if you too are a boat-mad kid, the story of this Boat Girl might just point you toward home.
Tim Murphy
Editor-at-Large, Cruising World
Coauthor, Fundamentals of Marine Service Technology (ABYC, 2012)
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Melanie Neale opens Boat Girl at an improbalbe age, to be exact...prebirth. In this impossible remark she comments on smelling fiberglass resin. It is however, a resonant statment...fiberglass is in her blood, it is in her heart. Fiberglass being the modern miracle that opened sailing and the free spirit life to all, not just the priveliged. The boat she refers to is the one she will spend her first 19 years attached to, both ship and author coming into the world at the same time.
Throughout the memoir you can tell her heart is never far from that vessel even as she yearns to free herself from it from time to time. It is those moments that make up her life. A little girl cruising with her idealistic parents and younger sister, contemplating all the things kids contemplate, the only diffence is she did so from the V-birth of a 45 foot sailboat, and not a frilly, girly bedroom in the 'burbs.
It is from this perspective she writes of the things of youth, the carefree years, the coming of age and the angst of sexuality born of closeness. The relationships formed and forged in trust and then trunkated by sailing schedules or the necesities of the reality of modern living. Throughout the story there is a sense of loss and reunion, relationships that continue despite distance, and especially the ones that end unrequited. It is a wonderful reflection on a unique life lived with boundaries so far removed from the norm it can be difficult to visualize, but Neale's writing takes you there, reluctantly sometimes but always with a sense of eagerness. Through it all, in the end, it is a story of love, a love of people and places and especially that most unique love of all, the one for the smell of fiberglass and open water. It is a tale that is both endearing and familar and sometimes haunting. A definite read for any cruiser and especially any cruiser with kids.
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The entire time I was reading Boat Girl, I kept thinking about a quote from Louisa May Alcott from Transcendental Wild Oats and the danger of trying to live for one's principals, and how unforgiving the world can be in relation to the "other." Boat Girl is very much about the other; it's a different way of living, so foreign to most of the cubicle-clad world: a family's a attempt to leave behind convention and the scrutiny that that bold decision can invite. But Melanie's story, which takes place in exotic island settings and quaint ports up and down the coast, is about so much more. At its heart it's the story of a girl finding herself, finding her own voice, becoming her own person. The insecurities, the hopes, the broken hearts. Which takes a story about life on the rollicking waves of the high sea and very much grounds it in the cold, hard earth of growing up. And the best part is that Melanie's whole story isn't written yet. I look forward to the next chapter! HIGHLY recommend!
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Boat Girl ranks up there with the best of the contemporary memoirs--it's not just a book for people who are into sailing or for "girls" or women. There is something in it for everyone. The author speaks of the challenges of growing up in a non-traditional setting with both brutal honesty and love. It is truly an inspiring story and a must-read for all!
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Format: Paperback
This book reads like a gentle meander through the seas and around the islands that were Melanie's life, throughout her younger years. Always refreshingly frank about various situations, including those relationships that shaped her as a person and those that passed more fleetingly through her boating life. I learned much in this book - about Melanie, of course, but also about life at sea, other places, and the importance of keeping ties strong. Her friendships, despite a coming-and-going kind of existence, lasted years and years, and I don't doubt that many of them remain intact today. My knowledge of boats and boat-life is embarrassingly limited, and I love to explore books that offer me a new understanding of some topic that is strange to me (!), to find out more about something that I have never experienced, even remotely. This book provided a detailed understanding of boat life, and it was interesting to imagine a whole household contained and transported aboard a vessel, and the close proximity of family members that was forced by this. When non-boating families often struggle to maintain balance and harmony in a four-bedroomed home, this family ran their life in a limited number of (often-moving) feet. There were parts of the book I totally related to, having been raised elsewhere myself (on firm land however) and having been exposed to less constricting views on things like - you know - nakedness and such. I ended one chapter wanting to wash my clothes naked on an island, and idealistically trying to imagine that in today's times, this still happens. I dont know if it does or not, but I can hope.Read more ›
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