My Book Review of A Drop in the Ocean by Jasna Tuta
Available for purchase here: https://amzn.to/2rnNL4y
Every year a handful of sailing vessels join an event called the Pacific Puddle Jump. Their numbers range from only 150 to 200 vessels and each boat departs from its own location. Some are based in sailing cruiser havens around Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, many depart from La Paz or Cabo San Lucas, and some leave from California or even farther north. No matter where they start, all boats point their bows toward their final destination, the tropical islands of the South Pacific.
When my husband and I met Jasna and Rick we were all living on our sailboats in La Paz, Mexico. They noticed that we had the same vessel, a Union Polaris/Hans Christian 36’, so they said hello. Very few of these boats exist and the ones that do, like ours, are beautiful, cutter-rigged, ocean going cruisers. We became friends, sharing and swapping sea stories and cheering each other on as we separately prepared our vessels to join the small contingent of boats that would cross the Pacific Ocean the following spring.
Several months later, Jasna and Rick, and my husband and I, on our boat, Rebel Heart, were in different cities in Mexico. We departed from the town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, north of Puerto Vallarta, two weeks before they left for their own voyage from La Paz. As Jasna details in her story, our crossing met with a fateful end. A week into our passage our daughter became ill and a spiraling series of circumstances led to our having to call for help. We were rescued 1,000 miles from shore and had to scuttle Rebel Heart as a consequence. Jasna and Rick had already departed La Paz when our saga was playing out. Through nightly radio updates on the cruiser’s net, they tuned in to try to understand what was happening after our distress call and then mourned with the rest of the fleet as the word went out that while we were all safe, our boat had gone done. The loss of a boat is always a gut-wrenching thing, but when it’s one as beautiful, sound, and seaworthy as Rebel Heart, the loss is felt amongst every sailor who hears the tale.
What’s important to note about our story is that it doesn’t represent a normal account of a crossing of the Pacific Ocean. Many thousands of vessels have sailed from North and Central America to the tropical islands of the South Pacific and only a tiny few are lost at sea or require rescue. Jasna and Rick were sailing on a beautiful vessel as well, the twin to ours, named Calypso. During their passage they and many of the Pacific Puddle Jump fleet experienced harsh weather as storms from Alaska pushed strong waves and rough seas their way. Capable sailors prepare for conditions like these, they fill their boats with spare parts and redundant items, and they practice sailing in or waiting out weather, a practice known as heaving-to, until the harsh conditions pass. Some people ask sailors why they choose to travel in such a difficult manner but I’ve never met a cruiser who answers that question the same way. Everyone has their personal reason for choosing a drum beat different to the mainstream. Ask anyone you know who has done something incredibly difficult, from climbing peaks of mountains, running ultra-marathons, crossing deserts, or oceans, and you will get a breadth of answers that reflect the variety of the human experience.
A Drop in the Ocean does not focus on why Jasna or other sailors choose the sometimes perilous route of traveling the sea by sail, although it does explain how she arrived to live on a boat with Rick and find herself setting out to cross an ocean. Instead, her book is the perfect recounting of what it is like to sail across the sea for the first time. A Drop in the Ocean is a book for anyone curious to read an honest account of how challenging, inspiring, and ultimately rewarding it can be to venture across the open water with only your vessel, experience, and wits to guide you. Jasna deftly describes the frequent fatigue and sleep deprivation, the isolation, extreme weather conditions, and a natural environment that could prove life threatening without the proper experience and just a tiny bit of luck too.
Along with describing the realities of exhaustion, seasickness, and bruises, Jasna also interweaves moments of magic and this why her book is so important. A Drop in the Ocean doesn’t romanticize an ocean crossing but shows both its difficulty and also its enchantment. Sailing, perhaps more than any chosen lifestyle, pares life down to the bare necessities, and when you do this the simplest of pleasures become monumental like the joy of spending hours talking to someone you love, of being awake as a new sunrise greets the world, and the feeling of bathing on deck in fresh warm rain water and capturing that ‘free water’ for your own drinking purposes. These are the pleasures of ocean sailing that can only be experienced firsthand or read about in books like Jasna’s. The beauty of the ocean is not just found when the wind and waves are perfect and in the right direction, but in what the sea forces you to do when they are not. Jasna’s personal realizations and her final sense of achievement are a straightforward, honest, and accurate portrayal of a first time ocean voyage.
There are still places in the world that many people will never visit, like the famed islands of the South Pacific and luckily there are also still people in the world adventurous enough to travel across an ocean by sailboat to experience them firsthand and share those stories with us. A Drop in the Ocean will take you on the adventure we had hoped for on Rebel Heart, through the ups and downs, the doldrums and the squalls and that final, magical sighting of landfall at last in the Marquesas.
Founder of Women Who Sail
Forthcoming author of a memoir about s/v Rebel Heart
A Drop on the Ocean, by Jasna Tuta is available here: https://amzn.to/2rnNL4y
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