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Black Wave: A Family's Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them Hardcover – July 1, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 2003, after two years at sea, the 55-foot catamaran sailed by the Silverwoods, a suburban California family that chucked it all to sail around the world, hit a reef off the South Pacific island of Scilly (now known as Manuae), putting the life of Jean and John and their four children (ages five to 16) in peril. The first part of the book is written from Jean's perspective as she opens with the wreck and then moves smoothly between the family's fight for survival and the story of their journey. By juxtaposing the two tales, Jean illustrates how the children's maturity and cohesiveness were not only a byproduct of the trip but also the keys to all the Silverwoods surviving their ordeal, especially John, who was critically injured by the falling mast. Jean wears her heart on her sleeve, and her writing about her marital problems or John's alcoholic relapses is honest. John's narrative is half as long as Jean's, underscoring his straight-to-the point personality and writing style. The saga from John's perspective lacks emotion, but his ability to interweave the story of the Julia Anne (a sailing ship that hit the same reef in 1855) gives an eye-opening account of how much and how little sea travel has changed in 150 years and accentuates the heroism of this family that overcame an extraordinary ordeal. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—It could be said that the Silverwoods' account of hitting a coral reef off the Scilly Islands is a repeat of history, because their 50-foot catamaran, the Emerald Jane, did exactly what the tall sailing ship Julia Ann had done in 1855. Luckily for John, Jean, and their four children, they had the benefit of 21st-century survival gear, particularly the GPS survival beacon that provided the crucial link to the French emergency crews who saved them. Black Wave is an exciting tale; readers know from the start that the family survives, but what makes for deep engagement is learning the parallel story of Captain Pond and his crew and passengers. It is during John Silverwood's recovery and rehabilitation—his leg is crushed during the wreck and later amputated—that he learns about the Julia Ann. As he delves into its history and learns how the 19th-century crew dealt with their devastating misadventure, it helps him put his family's experience into perspective. This book shows that we all deal with catastrophic events differently, but if our actions are explored and investigated, we learn that human beings, no matter the era, have the same basic instincts and needs to make sense of their experiences.—Joanne Ligamari, Twin Rivers United School District, Sacramento, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400066557
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066551
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #801,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you've ever extended yourself, spent time outdoors or been exposed to the many elements of nature, you know this story could easily be about you. It grips you right at the start as you sense the tearing of the hulls and rushing and pounding of the ocean destroying everything and probably everyone they care about in a matter of minutes. The interweaving of the travels and exploration with the horror of the destruction of boat and flesh keeps you hanging on and waiting for the next piece of news. This is a great story of human bonds, nature and endurance.
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Format: Hardcover
John and Jean Silverwood decide to put their busy daily lives aside and take their four children on a round the world adventure at sea. The Silverwoods feel as though the fast pace of life in San Diego has pulled the family in too many directions. They purchase the Emerald Jane and set of on an once-in-a-lifetime adventure with Ben (14), Amelia (12), Jack (7), and Camille (3). Using the sea and new ports as a school and hoping to satiate John's seemingly endless need for adrenalin, the Silverwoods also have to manage worries about pirates, unfriendly ports, balky generators and whatever the sea throws at them. The close quarters of the catamaran make clashes inevitable as Ben, missing his friends and diversions in California becomes sullen, Jean worries and John slips into old habits and the dream voyage threatens to become a battle of wills. However, the beauty of the sea, the sea life, new ports, discovering new friends and discovering new strengths within themselves, the Silverwoods keep on their journey until the unthinkable happens. The Emerald Jane hits a reef and the family`s survival depends on the lessons learned at sea.

This is an engrossing book that kept me hooked right till the end of the first portion. The portion about the Julia Ann and her crew and fate, not as interesting. I also had bit of a hard time with Jean's excusing John's behaviors (selfishness?) and putting herself down in comparison. That said, this is as much a tale of a family's growth as a tale of a journey
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Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for the perfect summer read, you won't do much better than this tale of a successful San Diego real estate developer who lives out a lifelong dream by taking his perfect SoCal family of six on a sailing trip around the world, which turns into a nightmare when they run aground on a Pacific reef 350 miles due west of Tahiti, costing him his leg in the process. This first-person diary account reveals the Silverwood family dynamic on board their beloved Emerald Jane, warts and all, from John's own battles with alcoholism to Jean's control issues to the various adjustments of the kids--16-year-old Ben's longing for his friends back home and eventual emergence as a hero, 13-year-old Amelia's blossoming into a self-confident artist, 9-year-old Jack's fascination with ocean life and 5-year-old Camille's angelic innocence. There is something here that anyone with a family can relate to about escaping the rat race of modern life and taking to the high seas, anchoring in exotic ports from Bora Bora and Raiatea to Grenada and the Galapagos, crossing the Equator, sailing through the Panama Canal, being chased by pirates and surviving hurricanes with waves several stories high. The first 150 pages, narrated by Jean, describe the family's day-to-day duties, home-schooling the kids and how each one adapted to the journey, as she keeps coming back to the narrative's singular event--the wreck of the Emerald Jane on a reef in the middle of the night and the boat's giant mast pinning John's leg underneath. It's an amazing tale, with the last quarter including John's ruminations, which have him questioning his judgment and dealing with his own guilt by channeling an accident that took place 150 years ago on the very same reef that ripped apart his own sailboat.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This book was great from page one to the last final word.

I read it all in less than two days because I could not put it down. The perspective from the wife was absolutely a must read for any woman that is considering living on a boat or cruising the world with their mate and children. Hard to believe she is not an accomplished author of many books. The way she weaved the tragic end of the voyage in clear detail with the total two year journey throughout her part of the book was masterful. She was open and genuine in sharing her most personal thoughts.

As for the husband's part, I really enjoyed the history of a previous wreck that parralleled their's on the same reef 150 years ago. It gives the historical context that transfers a feeling of timelessness to the sea and sailing. The man has a heart as big as the Pacific. These six people are everyday heros to all who dream of adventure and being brave enough to save those they truly love.

In the end, the experience for them as a family was something that cannot be duplicated or would anyone want to go through that ordeal. Still, the joy of seeing the kids both live real life outside of our comfortble California life style and then raise to the occation when called upon was very inspiring. My two sons have it on their summer reading list next. Definitly 5 STARS!!!!!
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