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Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Book Review - The Essence: vignettes on my life with the sea

I’ll share what just may be revelations for many of my readers residing on dry land — Firstly, I dare say there are many more people living on sailboats, cruising around the world than you probably have imagined. Secondly, the percentage of those cruisers that write (whether it’s a blog, poetry, novel, “how-to” book, history, or travelogue) is greater than the percentage of writers living in the general population of land lubbers. I have absolutely no statistics to back up this claim—it’s just GOTTA be true because I’ve met so many of them.

There is something about living on the water that prompts many of us to write for the first time. Or like me, a prior interest in writing became a need to write while living aboard a sailboat. I have read many, many books written by cruisers, and my husband has read yet again many more of them. Not all books written by sailors are memorable; I’m asking you to trust me on that point. A writer that is not yet confident in his or her craft may, I think, be tempted to add gratuitous drama to their story, rather than allow the tale to unfold, as it naturally wants to do. There are those stories, however, that are written so clearly and without artifice.

A review of The Essence: vignettes on my life with the sea reveals that very sort of book -- a book that I will enjoy rereading. The Essence was written by a fellow cruiser, author and friend, Deb Akey. I first met Deb in Annapolis a few years ago, when I as a new cruiser, asked for her help with some technical aspects of writing using blog software. Deb was most gracious and patient with me. She was already a published author, and as such, was to me a marvel of knowledge, skill and guts. We have bumped into each other a couple more times over the past three years, either while traveling the IntraCoastal Waterway, or while paused at a marina. Sailors tend to keep track of one other.
Deb and her husband, Tim, together write a blog called They have lived aboard their Tartan 42 longer than our 3 1/2 years living aboard Northern Star. Like us, they sold everything several years ago and moved onto their boat in order to answer a voice that called them to the sea, a not uncommon theme among cruisers.

The Essence is, however, more than a book on a common theme of answering the call of the sea. Each of the vignettes paints a gestalt that is familiar yet remarkable. Accompanied by Deb’s beautiful photography, the author has teased out for us, emotions that are universal.

Deb Akey has captured within The Essence, the most elemental of emotions, of human thought, of reflections that I myself have experienced while living on the water. The decision to remove oneself from land to live on a boat is a life-changing undertaking. Steps taken to live as full-time cruisers, cannot be undone. The previous life on land cannot be replicated without great effort, if at all. But beyond that major decisive experience, the author has summoned up many other experiences, big and small, that are part of boat living. And each is a pleasure to visit.

Author, Deb Akey

The Essence vignettes evoke memories of contentment, belonging, surprising wildlife and sunsets. There are satisfying moments of small triumphs, moments of stunned awe, and “aHAH moments." It is simply poignant. If you live on the water, or want to imagine what such a life would feel like, you will love this book. Settle into a comfortable spot in the shade and let the beautiful words gently ferry you along.  Read The Essence in one sitting as I did the first time, or savor each vignette individually, as a treat at the end of your day. This is what I intend to do next time I pick it up.  It will be like unwrapping a chocolate to savor in the evening, one at a time.

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