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Sailing to the Far Horizon: The Restless Journey and Tragic Sinking of a Tall Ship Hardcover – November 1, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In 1978, Bitterman found an ad in Co-Evolution Quarterly seeking crew members for the Sophia, a tall-ship sailing cooperative planning to circumnavigate the globe. You paid your share and you sailed. If you didn't know how, those more experienced taught you. It was an irresistible call in a freewheeling era that suited not only her sense of adventure but also her insatiable desire to learn new things. The ship was primitive, the weather sometimes foul, and crew members came and went, but Bitterman took to sailing and the unorthodox life as if she were born to it. It was a grand, three-year ride, but as the subtitle tells us, the Sophia sank, putting an end to the venture with crushing finality. Drawing primarily on the logs and letters she sent home, the author tells this compelling 25-year-old story as if it happened yesterday. And the reader can't help but mourn the loss of the ship and the crew's improvised lifestyle, as well as feel the joy, danger, and discovery that the author experienced and never forgot. Danise Hoover
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Review

“[Bitterman] tells this compelling 25-year-old story as if it happened yesterday. And the reader can't help but mourn the loss of the ship and the crew's improvised lifestyle, as well as feel the joy, danger, and discovery that the author experienced and never forgot.”—Booklist



“When Pam Bitterman talks of her experiences on the adventurous but ill-fated Sofia in her late twenties, you can hear that this is a story she feels she can’t keep to herself. Lucky for us, she hasn’t because the result is a book in a class by itself. . . . Bitterman came away with not only a plethora of fascinating tales of world exploration and personal dynamics, but also the wisdom of one who has truly grown through adversity.”—The Log



“Although Pam wrote Sailing to the Far Horizon 25 years after the sinking the story is alive and fresh as much is based on her journals kept during her roughly four-year voyage. Her writing is very descriptive, taking the reader through the adventures and near-disasters as she lived them. . . . A well-told tale and wonderful reading.”—Santana Sailing Magazine



"The human stories embedded in this book, poignant and painful, reveal the way that a ship boils people down to their essentials. You really get at the heart of who someone is on a voyage, even before you add the defining element of tragedy."—Jim Delgado, host of National Geographic Television's The Sea Hunters and executive director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum



"Several hours after I finished reading this book, I was still recovering. I felt as if I'd been shaken, and punched in the stomach. And yes, that's a desirable reaction."—Gillian Kendall, coauthor with Mark O'Brien of How I Became a Human Being: A Disabled Man's Quest for Independence

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 346 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (November 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299201902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299201906
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,396,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I started this book with quite high expectations due to a very positive review I had read in my local sailing newspaper. Unfortunately, after reading the first several pages I almost put the book down. The language at the beginning was laborious and over-written, as if a non-writer was trying too hard to be a real writer. The fact that she states herself to have been an anti-establishment, non-shaving, environmentalist vegetarian when she had her Sofian adventure also made me leery to continue. I am no social conservative but I am too old to enjoy the writings of generally judgmental idealists. The only reason I kept reading was because I really wanted to hear about the Sofia sailing experience and her tragic sinking. Fortunately, the author's writing got a lot better and she turned out not to be as irritating as I had begun to fear. She wrote that this book is based quite a lot on letters she wrote home over the 3-plus years she was a regular Sofian crewmember. I think these letters provided the base for the majority of the book and so the majority of the book was written well and in a natural way that was also entertaining. Her character came through as solid, life-loving and very accepting of others, contrary to what I had first feared. Her observations about her crewmates and her travels were very interesting and had the right amount of humor. She was also very informative about the technicalities of sailing a tallship without getting too bogged down for non-sailing readers. She was very honest about the people she crewed with, about herself and about the sinking. In other words, this is an enjoyable travelog and the only one available about this unique ship and its last trip so I am grateful she made the great effort of writing a book.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I came across this story of the Sofia because a sailing friend of mine, upon whose story my own second novel Waves: A Novel by Dave Bricker is modeled, had an encounter with the ship in the Caribbean during the 1970s. Though my account of that meeting is highly fictionalized (and as yet unpublished - look for "Currents" towards the end of 2011), I became intrigued with the story, and purchased this book to supplement my research.

I cruised a small sailboat solo during the 80s and 90's, and though my own story is quite different from Pam Bitterman's, I can appreciate any book that approaches seafaring authentically. Times have changed not only for tall ships, but for cruisers in general. There was a magic "golden age" of cruising that took place at the end of the twentieth century before "yachting" became a sport of the rich. "Shoestring sailors" odd-jobbing their way around the globe are fewer and farther between these days, and the remarkable stories of those people, places and times are worth telling. As a University professor, I see the concept of "just going" to be sadly inconceivable to young people today. That, in itself, is an important message. Likewise, if you go sailing, you'll have the best and worst times of your life. Sailing to the Far Horizon neither glosses over the seasickness, heat, dampness and hard work nor dwells on the almost unbelievably profound beauty of the best of the experience. It's measured and balanced.

Though some have accused Bitterman of overwriting, there is a great tradition of Victorian seafaring literature by Conrad, Melville, Dana et al. As a sailor on a tall ship, it's only natural to write with some extra flourish.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book and the author does a good job of catching the beauty and horror of sailing around the world in a beat up old wooden tall ship. She must be a good writer because even after hearing about them being stranded at sea for days with little hope of a rescue I still want to try my hand at sailing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As engaging of a sail adventure tale if there ever were. I was transfixed throughout the book and really didn't want it to end especially as it did.But with all things in life, good tales, good times and often good ships do indeed come to an end.

Although true there could had been better editing. And also true the author's use of language is a bit strained and over done but given that this is her first book and the tale she tells is so fascinating and fun I was more than willing to overlook problems in the interpretation of the adventure. I'm just glad she took the effort to put the only accounting of the ship 35 years after it's demise. It made me wish that I hadn't waited so long before sailing in my own life.

The biggest suggestion would be to add many more photographs which is so much cheaper in Kindle than printed form.

More information on the tales of Sofia in the authors own words can be heard in a very good episode of David Anderson's "Sailing Podcast". She is an even better story telling orally

The story she has to tell will make you want to join a tall ship commune...or not.
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Format: Paperback
MANY THANKS to Pam for writing this wonderful book. I was lucky to have sailed on the Sofia for a short time (Savai'i to Vavau group) and Pam's descriptions brought me right back to that "magical stage". To me her writing shows a genuine and thoughtful mind. I enjoyed reading about people that I knew, but I also enjoyed her insights as a long-time crew member. This book was riveting to me; I wish I had found it years ago.
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