Debut author Patron recounts his lifelong interest in sailing, which culminated in a 1998 trip across the Atlantic.
The author writes that he was a “passive, asthmatic, pudgy, sickly kid” as he grew up on Long Island in New York state—bookish but otherwise shiftless. But in 1955, his father bought him a boat for his bar mitzvah and said that the author could use it if he improved his flagging grades. Through sheer determination, Patron did so, and he took his first step toward what would become a lifelong obsession. After failing to earn degrees from several colleges and a stint working for his father’s industrial supply business, the author, who was fluent in Spanish, bought a floundering, unnamed business in Puerto Rico. While there, he joined a modest yacht club—“basically a bar with docks on a sand spit”—and gradually honed his expertise by cruising the Caribbean. As the author became more confident as a captain, he attempted more dramatic excursions, including one along the Anegada Passage, a 75-mile Caribbean strait that he calls a “crossing of fearsome reputation.” The pinnacle of his nautical achievement—and the climax of Patron’s charmingly informal memoir—is his daring trip across the Atlantic from Newport, Rhode Island, to Portugal. He notes how he undertook the trip to Europe not out of heroic ambition, but out of simple enjoyment: “History, culture, good food, and so much of it accessible from the shoreline….Europe was more than a box of chocolates; it was the whole damn candy store.” Throughout this memoir, Patron offers appealingly lighthearted reminiscences, but they’re also instructive ones; some parts of his book read like a primer for would-be sailors and other parts, like a travelogue. The author also candidly discusses his own personal foibles—revealing, for example, that when his first marriage ended, he was nearly driven to bankruptcy. It’s unlikely that these recollections will attract a wide audience beyond his family and friends; for instance, most general readers won’t be riveted by his account of the two-day disappearance of his shipboard cat, Max. However, it will be a companionable read for passionate sailing aficionados.
A pleasantly humorous nautical memoir.