Have you been considering saving up some money, selling your house, and retiring to a 55-foot catamaran for a round-the-world trip? If so, reading Black Wave by John and Jean Silverwood should save you approximately $1 million. The Silverwoods and their four children, aged 4-15, take the dream trip, which starts with crippling seasickness in huge storms to and from Bermuda. Phase II is dodging low-lives and pirates in the Caribbean and on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. Phase III is waiting in Tahiti for parts to fix the new-in-Panama generator. Phase IV is smashing into a coral reef (Manuae/Scilly) a few hundred miles west of Bora Bora. The Emerald Jane had a GPS, up to date charts, two experienced adult sailors, two vigilant teenagers, and reasonably good weather. Nonetheless, they hit the reef, which quickly shredded the hulls.
A layperson might think that a shipwreck should be manageable because one can always escape in the life raft. If the problem is that one’s sturdy fiberglass boat is being pounded to pieces by surf on a coral reef, of what value is a flimsy life raft? Things get worse very quickly when the 80′ mast of the Emerald Jane comes down on John Silverwood’s leg.
Thanks to the fact that this happened in 2005 and the Silverwoods carried an EPIRB, we’re able to read about the experience and the husband’s life is saved by a French Navy helicopter evacuation. Most people would conclude from this book that the open ocean is not to be messed with, or at least not in a ship smaller than a Coast Guard cutter (200′ to 400′ long (though of course ships of this size sometimes get into trouble and need to call for the helicopters, most notably in Alaska)).
More: read the book
[The pricing of this book is rather odd. The Kindle edition is only $2 cheaper than the hardcover, which includes some nicely printed color photos. The book on 6 audio CDs is $19. The book in MP3 format on a single audio CD is $23 (i.e., they charge you more when their production cost is lower). I would recommend the hardcover because the book makes a nice gift for any friend who likes to sail.]