CAPSIZED by James Nalepka


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 In 1989, Nalepka and three companions capsized in a trimaran off New Zealand and spent a record 118 days adrift. Now, with the help of Callahan--who recorded his own sea-survival tale in Adrift (1985)--Nalepka renders a soulful, emotional account of his ordeal. Nalepka is a 38-year-old cook at Outward Bound in New Zealand when, lusting for adventure, he signs up with middle-aged playboy- skipper John Glennie to sail to Tonga along with Rick Heilregel, a young kayaker in remission from brain cancer, and Phil Hofman, only 42 but a veteran of open-heart surgery. Three days out of port, the boat capsizes in a storm, turning the next four months into a mini- Poseidon Adventure in which the ship floats upside down but the four men manage to survive, with minimal harm, on stored-away food plus rainwater they collect and fish and birds they snare. There are occasional trials of cold, hunger, and thirst but, with most of the ship submerged, the men's greatest challenge--and what raises this account above a routine endurance tale--is learning how to put up with one another in horribly tight quarters. Cramped physically and psychically, squabbling over bits of food and space, but also bonding to one another (the author grew particularly close to Rick), the men come to see that survival for each depends on the skills of all. Nalepka relates this growing revelation with passion but also in overheated prose (``Glennie is like a mad Boy Scout leader. Sometimes I wonder if he's even in the same solar system'') that only quiets down in the book's surpassingly moving conclusion, when, months after the ordeal, Nalepka tends Rick as his friend dies painfully of resurgent cancer. An earnest and engrossing, if overwritten, addition to the literature of survival, though not on a par with coauthor Callahan's tale. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1992
ISBN: 0-06-017961-9
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992