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Lawrence, the Canadian naturalist who has previously shared his experiences with beaver, bear, and wolf cubs, here speaks with similar affection of the Stella Maris, a 24-foot cruiser in which he voyaged alone along the Pacific Coast between Oregon and Alaska. Hoping to recover from his young wife's sudden death a few years earlier, and planning to study the shoreline lifeforms that aroused his first spark of interest since the tradegy, Lawrence begins the trip with unexpected conviviality when a stranger helping him cast off in Victoria lands in the water. Lawrence pulls him into the boat, finds the man an experienced sailor and drinker, and ends up taking him home to Astoria, Oregon. From then on up the coast, though, it's a solo trip, and at times a tricky one--as when an early battle with a storm and an anchor linepropeller tangle results in two fractured ribs. There is an unpleasant run-in with drunken Indians at Bella Bella--occasioning a sincere but halting discourse on human wars and race relations--and friendlier ones at gas stops further north; but except for the boat which Lawrence embraces with a Lindberghian ""we,"" the major encounters are with animals of the sea. First, there are small specimens, brought on board for study and then released. Later, playful Dall porpoises are observed, and Lawrence gives us several pages on cetaceans in general. The high point of his trip--and, he says, of his life as a naturalist--is a diving spree with a killer whale he has courted with food and talk. On other diving sessions he has an uneasy meeting with a shark and feeds an octopus in his underwater cave. The account adds up to another of Lawrence's agreeable mixes of personal experience and natural history; and if the Stella Maris can't quite provide the companionable continuity of Lawrence's animal charges, the navigating adventures take up the slack.

Pub Date: April 20th, 1982
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston