Arms (Riddle of the Ice: A Scientific Adventure in the Arctic, p. 29) offers here some notes toward understanding sailors'...


CATHEDRAL OF THE WORLD: Sailing Notes for a Blue Planet

Arms (Riddle of the Ice: A Scientific Adventure in the Arctic, p. 29) offers here some notes toward understanding sailors' profession to the sea and how they interpret that water world and their place in the brine. If this miscellany of essays and letters and fragments is any indication, Arms has not only logged some serious mileage on his sailboat, but raked up some impressive down time between watches. The idle hours were anything but, for Arms is given to pondering why the ocean makes him feel so good, He keeps that musing quality alive in these pieces as he struggles to convey the spirit that moves him: the edges are raw and unfiltered, as if he might be bouncing a notion or two off you while sitting around the galley table, with just enough buffing to add focus. It's the sum of many small things that pleases him so, most of them having to do with ""the exquisite geometry of an inscrutable universe infinitely chaotic, infinitely simple."" Take the weather as a good example, its thousand faces and unadorned lessons: Arms can reel and roar along with the rogue seas, go quiescent on flat days, mimic and adapt. There is the strange world of charts, their wealth of information and half-truths, queer scale and miscalculations, the credulity and skepticism necessary to put oneself in their hands. There are the colors of the water, which can be read like a book and are too often signals of distress from pollution; the daring trickery and sly wing work (the ""avian magic show"") of shearwater, fulmar, and petrel; the sensible offerings to the sea gods, who just may be feeling a little squally. For the artful, guileless Arms, one senses it comes down to the migratory urge, what he calls the ""oughtness"" of wandering, in his case over big water, where he can ""focus on today and embrace the journey as if it were all of life.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0385494769

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1998

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