Written in Water|
An Uncharted Life Aboard a Wooden Boat
CreateSpace (part of the Amazon group), 252 pp, $18.95, Kindle $8.99
When I think of Nova Scotians (especially on frigid winter days like this one), I think of tough, forbearing seafarers, inordinately unflappable no matter what is thrown at them. That image probably comes from my youthful immersion in the work of Joshua Slocum, the consummate solo sailor. He grew up poor on that rocky, inhospitable coast and sailed around the world alone more than once.
While Laura McCrossin has experienced none of the hardships of past "bluenose" generations, she nevertheless demonstrates hardiness, and a talent for problem-solving that serves her well on her two plus years sailing from Halifax to Cuba, cruising the eastern Caribbean, holing up in Key West for a while and then sailing home.
Though it was not her intent, she did a pretty good stint of solo sailing during this adventure and with considerable self-control weathered more potential disasters than most people would care to face in a lifetime.
After working for three years toward earning a degree in chemistry, she knew that the discipline was not for her. She abandoned her studies and got a summer job crewing on Highlander Sea, an excursion vessel that sailed the St Lawrence. In the fall, McCrossin went to a gathering of tall ships in Halifax where she was especially smitten by a 125' square-rigger named Eye of the Wind. At that moment she felt that she belonged on that ship.
But it that's not her whole story. It's only the prologue. Over the next year she got crewing jobs on several sailing vessels until she was hired by one which was Caribbean bound. In the British Virgin Islands she ran into Eye of the Wind again and landed her dream job. She had crewed aboard the Eye for more than nine months, sailing among the Windward Islands, when the Captain announced that they were bound for Europe…a trans-Atlantic passage to Copenhagen. She hadn't even dreamed so big but she was up for the experience.
When the Eye was prepared to return home, McCrossin packed her backpack and headed for Scotland, her family's home country. She got a job in a coffee shop and joined a pipe band ("having been an avid piper since age eleven"). After fourteen months of piping at Stirling Castle and traveling to various piping competitions she realized that she missed the sea and Nova Scotia. "There was nothing left to do but to go home."
And that's when the tale really starts. Back in Nova Scotia, she was helping friends ready their wooden schooner for the up-coming sailing season at a local yacht club, when she noticed a small, two-masted wooden boat… a Rosborough design, and it was for sale. (Any boat enthusiast who knows about the great Canadian boat building and design company will sympathize.) McCrossin got a loan and buckled down to sprucing her up. By the end of October she had lined up a crew member and was ready to sail…from Nova Scotia to Cuba; then see what happened next. You'll just have to read the book to find out.
McCrossin is a gutsy young woman, without a doubt, and very, very bright, sensible and self-searching. She is far from a dare devil. Her tale is personal and well-written, not to mention inspiring. She gets to Cuba and sails in the warmer latitudes for many moons with her cat Effie and a steady stream of short stint crew members. Her observations are sharp, her adventures are sometimes a bit hair-raising but every experience is absorbed as a lesson learned. I'd have signed on. In lieu of that opportunity, I highly recommend her book, with one small objection: it should have gone on longer.