Having conquered the English Channel in their narrowboat (Narrow Dog to Carcassonne, 2008), the plucky septuagenarian Terry Darlington, his long-suffering wife Monica and their whippet Jim sail the southern portion of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
The author narrates in a tumbling patchwork of memories, anecdotes, snatches of poetry and minimally punctuated dialogue. The alien spectacle of their narrowboat—60 feet long and less than seven feet wide—drew crowds of onlookers everywhere they stopped, from the Chesapeake Bay to the charming port of Savannah, Ga. Accompanying the pair was Jim, the narrow dog of the title, who valiantly endured what must have been an uncomfortable nine months—and 1,150 miles—spent aboard the Phyllis May. Both dog and owner share a flair for melodrama, and Darlington’s woe-is-me absurdity maintains a reliable comic effect. He is sarcastic and romantic in equal measure, and sharp enough to draw humor from every port of call. For the reader, the joys of their journey are not found in marvels of nature or maritime details—though there are plenty—but in the pair’s irreverent reactions to their seemingly endless hurdles and triumphs. The actual time the Darlingtons spent sailing was minimal; most of their adventures involved being stranded in one seaside town after another, awaiting boat repairs, medical attention or better weather before chugging along. Considering the prodigious outpouring of support and hospitality they encountered on the trip, Darlington can be a bit harsh on the quirky Southern communities they visited—though his chief complaint, besides the state of American lager (fair enough), seemed to be that Jim was not allowed in the bars. One wonders what watery passage they will be tempted to navigate next.
Witty and disarming.