In this debut book, a woman charts her parents’ circumnavigation of the globe in a sailboat.
Using old family photographs, ship’s logs, letters, diary entries, and rough illustrations drawn by her parents, Walker takes readers on a tour of their lives, including the families they were born into, where they studied, and how they came to sell their home and purchase VIKI, a 27-foot sailboat. Chuck and Dorothy Sollinger were both music teachers in Buffalo, New York, with a penchant for travel and an eye for the next “peak experience.” When Chuck rented a Sunfish for the first time, he was bitten by the sailing bug, and even a disastrous capsizing in Lake Ontario couldn’t dissuade him from his dream: to circumnavigate the globe by boat. In 1986, at the age of 55, Dot and Chuck took early retirement, and, though Chuck had only finished a monthslong boating course, they set sail for the Bahamas, beginning a 10-year journey that would take them to such places as Yemen, Turkey, Samoa, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Sri Lanka. The bulk of Chuck and Dot’s story is told in their own words, through the letters they sent home. Unfortunately, neither one was a particularly inspired correspondent—most letters mention wind speed, distance traveled, what they purchased at markets and for how much, and the dock fees at different harbors. Occasionally, though, there is something more—the couple trading nails and cotter pins for “luscious pomplamouse” in French Polynesia; Papua New Guinean children sailing “four miles to the next island to school”; “shark calling” in the Solomon Islands—and it is these little gems, like lush islands, that keep the book from wallowing in the doldrums. Walker flew to meet her parents in some of their colorful locales, yet she provides no account of what she observed there or what it was like seeing her parents transformed from music teachers into “yachties.” The work mostly avoids reveling in the drama of the high seas.
Lacking tension but offering some rich details of an ambitious voyage.