BY THE GRACE OF THE SEA by Pat Henry

BY THE GRACE OF THE SEA

A Woman’s Solo Odyssey Around the World
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Memoir combining travelogue, adventure, and soul-searching, from the oldest American woman to circumnavigate the globe under single-handed sail.

Why did she do it? If you've failed dismally in business and in relationships with a father, two husbands, and two daughters, what's left but to buy a 31-foot sailboat and set off all by yourself across the Pacific? Henry was 48 years old when she raised sail in Acapulco in 1989. On the voyage’s first leg, she made it to Tahiti through squalls, a failing battery, and close encounters with ocean liners, arriving with three dollars in her pocket. She replenished her purse with checks in the mail from friends and family and by selling miniature paintings of ships and ports-of-call to fellow boaters and locals. Next, she survived huge storms that nearly swamped the boat to anchor in New Zealand, again down to her last few dollars. Months running an art gallery replenished her purse, although hoped-for romance foundered on a vacation sail with a newfound Kiwi boyfriend. This pattern continued for the next seven years: confounded romance, desperate money problems from port to port, and uncomfortable proximity to reefs, rocks, and storms overcome through hard work, nautical skills, and a great deal of luck. Her course took her to Australia, Bali, Singapore, through the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic and through the Panama Canal before she returned to her Mexican port of origin eight years later. As she describes her adventures, with no help given to those who don’t know the difference between a “spinnaker” and a “headstay,” Henry beats herself up for her faults and failures, while the reader can only marvel at the courage, stamina, and occasional foolhardiness that brought her home again.

An engrossing tale for anyone familiar with sailing jargon—as well as tolerant of adolescent introspection from an author well over 50.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-07-135527-8
Page count: 376pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2002