An easy-reading travelogue of the East, West, and Gulf Coasts, as seen from the deck of Cronkite’s own sailboat.
TV news veteran Cronkite divides his narrative into the sailing trips he’s taken over the years—from New York to Maine, for example, or from the Florida Everglades to Corpus Christi, Texas. Along the way he displays an impressive amount of knowledge one might not assign to America’s favorite newsman. First of all, he is an accomplished sailor. He knows well the dangerous, intricate tides of Hell Gate (the straits where the East River meets the Harlem River in New York City), and he admonishes West Coast sailors to begin their journeys south from Puget Sound after the spring rains but in time to reach Conception, California, before the storms hit in the fall. Second, he is quite a good armchair historian. He can roll off facts about every section of US coastline. Many know of Hilton Head, South Carolina, as a tourist destination: Cronkite’s Hilton Head was the site of “history’s greatest amphibious landing up until World War II,” when during the Civil War, Union troops took a Confederate fort there and turned it into the headquarters of the federal Department of the South. Passing by the redwoods forests of northern California, he details the founding of Eureka in 1850, linking its lumber industry to the gold rush and the construction of ingenious docks on the sides of the Pacific Coast Mountains. Cronkite’s account has a rhythm that will entrance some, lull others to sleep, and cause some arch-stylists to cringe. Each page averages about five paragraphs, most of them comprised of a single sentence. The reader therefore hops from one chunk of an idea to another, digesting each separately without the benefit of varying breaths.
The pattern makes for an enjoyable, but ultimately predictable, read. Sailing buffs, history buffs, and Cronkite buffs, however, will find plenty to admire.