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Across Islands and Oceans: A Journey Alone Around the World By Sail and By Foot Paperback – January 31, 2012
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"Baldwin's crisp, clear writing carries the reader forward...the book has a reflective tone as Baldwin examines his own growth during the journey and the many lessons he learned that only the sea can teach." -Practical Sailor Magazine, July 2012
"His tales of the hikes and the people are as fascinating as the stories of his voyages and times at sea. This book is a wonderful addition to anyone's cruising bookshelf and likely to become a classic someday." -Good Old Boat Magazine
"This is the well-crafted story of a young man's voyage of self-discovery coupled with a desire to absorb and learn from the people and cultures he experiences." - Cruising World Magazine, October 2012
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Baldwin not only sailed the oceans alone, enduring storms and torturous encounters with rugged lee shores, he also explored the interior of the islands he visited. His descriptions of landscape and culture and the relationships he forged with locals add a richness to an already adventurous story.
The personalities of sailing's greatest solo sailors are referenced throughout this book. Inspired by Joshua Slocum, Bernard Moitessier, Robin Lee Graham, among a few others, Baldwin worked in a land locked steel foundry to save enough money to finance his travels. His writing is exquisite and contains the thoughtful reflections of one who spends time thinking about the larger context of humanity.
If being transported on an armchair adventure via some good reading is what you are looking for, "Across Islands and Oceans" is sure to satisfy the most discriminating reader. It is by far the best in its genre.
The author describes in vivid detail the many interesting islands, cultures, as well as the fauna and flora that inhabit the places he visits. The prose is excellent and the diction varied. Behind the writing one feels the presence of a sharp intellect.
James describes how he dealt with the different cultures he encountered and the many friends he made not by having stereotypes or preconceived expectations, but by adjusting to the local customs and conditions. He keeps the reader under suspense as to what will happen as he explores the mountains and lonely places of the islands where he anchors his boat, Atom. At one island, a deep romantic connection develops between James and a lovely local girl.
On a voyage around the world, the sailor is sure to encounter many adversities. These include difficult weather conditions and loneliness. These are described in detail, as are the ways to cope with them. I was impressed by the humanity and courage of the author as he dealt with the realities of apartheid in South Africa, and his tremendous knowledge of the peoples and animals that inhabited the lands long before man came.
For anyone contemplating a long sailing voyage or even a similar feat of circumnavigation, there are plenty of lessons in the book on how to survive storms and other adverse environmental conditions. James was a purist, surviving on vegetarian food and the minimal use of sailing technology available at that time. When the book ended, I had the feeling that I was parting with a great friend. The book is about a voyage within as much as it is about a voyage without.
Baldwin is very down to earth and doesn't try to wow you with any fancy writing. The intro is a little intense with a dream sequence to hook you, but the rest is very straight forward with plenty of detail for those of us who can't leave the harbor if our lives depended on it. Baldwin accurately describes the experience of sextant use and loneliness. I feel like other authors will try to fill in those 'boring' parts with thoughts of home or rhetoric of the solitary mind. He speaks of star gazing and positioning like an ever-perfecting art form that he improves throughout the book.
My favorite part was his native island visits in the south pacific. He describes the natives as exotic, but still approachable and kind. I also very much enjoyed the love he has for Atom, his boat. He cares for it, and it cares for him. He is very loving toward this boat, and this book makes me wish I could do the same with my own. Perhaps someday...
The timeline isn't very consistent, his crossing of the Caribbean is full of detail and seems to set a pace for the book. By the end the Atlantic crossing feels like a very short sail. Perhaps he is tired of telling the story, or assumes we're tired of hearing the story, but time did seem to speed up after the Fiji visit. (My least favorite part)
Read this book, unless you are satisfied with a landlocked life away from any doubt, risk or reward.
Most recent customer reviews
Such a great story and always am inspired by it.
I have listened to his second book and find it very good.