KAYAKING THE VERMILION SEA by Jonathan Waterman

KAYAKING THE VERMILION SEA

Eight Hundred Miles Down the Baja

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The uneasy but well-crafted story of a long paddle down the Sea of Cortes, from Waterman (In the Shadow of Denali, 1994). At home in Colorado, Waterman feels the moss growing in him. What he and his wife need, he reckons, is some high adventure, out there in a wilderness that still has its fangs. They choose a long kayak sea voyage, the length of the Vermilion Sea, that slender gulf of water between Baja California and mainland Mexico better known as the Sea of Cortes. For fangs, there is a complete gallery of horrors: neurotoxic sea snakes, scorpions, rattlesnakes, giant manta rays, sharks, tarantulas, whirlpools, gales. Also thorny is the relationship he has with his wife, a high-octane affair fired by a competitiveness that doesn't lend itself to smooth sailing. Waterman recounts their two-month voyage in brief chapters, almost like journal entries, the writing unadorned, often coming in small bites: ``Water is churning; an osprey whistles sharply; my face is cold.'' The narrative is larded with pleasant nuggets of natural history arcana concerning both sea life and shore life, and there are deep forays into the unhappy political history of the peninsula (Waterman works a good selection of 16th- to 18th-century writings, culled from Jesuit and Spanish journals, into the book). Perhaps most disturbing of all for Waterman is the environmental degradation of the sea: overfishing, refuse dumping, and denying the Colorado River's freshwater input have trashed this once bounteous gulf, so rich with shrimp, it appeared red--it wasn't called Vermilion Sea for nothing. Full of gloom and doom, but never ponderous. For each downbeat there's an upbeat: an explosion of phosphorescence in the surf, an uncorrupted slice of shoreline, even the occasional relaxed day with his wife. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-684-80242-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995




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