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Book Review

Sailor Without a Boat

How I Sailed on Other People’s Yachts and Lived to Tell About It


Robert Bériault's Sailor Without a Boat is a wonderful book for wannabe adventurers, armchair sailors, weekend boaters and all those people who would like to sail on oceans far but are never able to, for life’s many reasons. Bériault took his dream and made it real.

From childhood, he had dreamed about sailing around the world. It was only at age fifty-seven that finally, he joined an Aylmer, Quebec sailing club for lessons. Thereafter, life was never the same again!

The author drew upon thirteen years of sailing adventures to write Sailor Without a Boat. Part travelogue and part sailing primer, his book tells the true story of how he chases after his dream. Candid, humorous advice is interspersed with hilarious tales from the Atlantic to the Pacific, as he recounts the idiosyncrasies of his skippers and fellow sailors.

Among his many adventures, Bériault crews for a reckless captain who pushes boat and crew beyond safety limits during a 2000-mile offshore passage from Halifax to Martinique. Searching the Internet for a transatlantic crossing, he almost sets out to sea from South Carolina to England with a Captain Bligh before deciding to jump ship.

He describes Canadian waters that rival any exotic place in the world, such as the Straight of Georgia and the North Channel of Georgian Bay. He enjoys paradise islands such as the Tobago Cays, the British Virgin Islands and Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen, but is boarded by gun-toting pirates in Margarita. He almost experiences an exploding yacht at sea and comes close to sinking in the middle of the Caribbean when the boat starts taking on water. He is embroiled in a steamy soap opera at sea and this bizarre circumstance leads to his being medevaced by horse from the Guatemalan jungle at night. In his final chapter, he fights 30-foot seas when crossing the Atlantic with Canada’s single-handed sailing legend Derek Hatfield on his Open 60 racing machine.

The descriptions are rich, original and personal. The author’s unusual resilience makes him worthy of being called a true adventurer. His stories reveal what cruising life is like and how this lifestyle can lead to the discovery of the world and cultures of distant countries. It proves that there is no age to start living the adventures you have always dreamed of.

This book is not simply a story, but also a learning experience about many elements of sailing, geography and humanity. Sailor Without a Boat is packed with useful information on learning how to sail, how to get to sail on other people’s boats as well as useful tips on renting a sailboat. Being a sailing instructor, the author wanted to ensure that the non-sailor would not get lost in nautical terms. With that in mind, he has compiled a glossary of nautical terms in an annex at the back of the book.

Bériault wields a skilful pen and knows how to tell a story with humility, passion and humour. Reading this book is like gorging on candy. Once you begin, you won't want to stop.

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