A kindhearted maritime memoir.
Sailors tend to talk a lot about puking. Apparently, losing their lunch occupies a fair amount of their time at work, especially in the beginnings of their careers. Understandably, then, it plays a big role in their stories, which is true of Robison’s debut memoir about his career in the U.S. Coast Guard. He served 20 years, eventually rising to commanding officer of his own ship. In these 36 vignettes, he’s usually the butt of whatever gentle joke there is. Because he can laugh at himself, Robison wants readers to laugh at him when he pukes over the rail of a Coast Guard vessel or loses—literally, loses—a 28-foot sailboat. His earnest, plain style can be stiff, but it’s always endearingly honest. Most of the unassailably G-rated stories end with a tender lesson or a note of gratitude to God. Nobody takes the Lord’s name in vain or uses any unsavory language for body parts. In one allusion to a sailor who visits a house of ill repute, the errant seaman meets nothing but reprobation. These sailors don’t brag about having a girl in every port; instead, they tell stories about their families, spend a lonely Christmas Eve trying to remember the words to “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and keep a map of places where they can send a small boat to shore to get a bag of sausage biscuits on Sunday mornings. These guys are too busy rescuing septuagenarian windsurfers and rushing into high seas to reel in wayward barges full of hazardous materials.
Sailors will smile in recognition; landlubbers will enjoy the well-told, if simple, tales.