3 out of 4 stars
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Haven’t you ever thought of just leaving your world behind and sailing off on a grand adventure? That kind of fantasy is usually just that: fantasy. For Tina Dreffin, though, this was real life. In her non-fiction memoir, Bluewater Walkabout, Tina shares her experiences adventuring with her family across oceans in distant, exotic locales. Her life at sea is the ultimate embarkation.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of a memoir is its ability to share unique experiences. In Ms. Dreffin’s case, whether the topic is her chosen lifestyle of living aboard a boat in the Caribbean or her journey across the ocean to southern Africa, this memoir opens a window into a world few others will ever have the chance to experience. From safari tours to ocean gales and from near collisions with diamond miners to near teenage mutinies, this family’s trip is packed with thrills and drama.
Through it all, Ms. Dreffin’s voice keeps the book human and relatable. As a mother, she worries. As a wife, she adores and admires. As a spirited adventuress, she picks herself up, shakes off her insecurities, and faces her next challenge. She doesn’t let the reader forget that the distance from medical help can be more frightening than navigating a notoriously treacherous sea lane, and she’s not afraid to expose her insecurities about her ability to discipline her teenage crew well enough to keep them safe in crime-ridden ports.
Most of the book was very educational. As one might expect, there’s a lot to learn about boats, and sometimes it would have been helpful to have a direct explanation. There are plenty of context clues though, and most readers will undoubtedly emerge at the end with new sailing knowledge. The book is also riddled with other lessons. These small topics (for example, the reason why Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb on St. Helena did not bear his name) can range from interesting to distracting, depending on reader predilection.
The editing in the book could have been better. There were a few minor typographical errors: “this” for “his” or switching character names, for example. There were also a lot of flashbacks to previous experiences or seasons in the author’s life. These time jumps were somewhat problematic for me. Especially near the beginning, when many people were being introduced very rapidly, it sometimes became difficult to keep track of when the action is happening and who is present. On a couple of occasions, these flashbacks became especially confusing when they were executed mid-chapter, or in one instance, mid-paragraph. The ending of the book was awkward. The story didn’t feel over, and although it wasn’t technically a cliff-hanger, it was abrupt.
When Bluewater Walkabout was Book of the Day in November 2016, I passed it over. Giving it another chance was time well spent, and I have no regrets in reversing my earlier decision. I learned a lot, had a vicarious adventure, and got to know an amazing woman and her family. I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. If you are an adventurer or just an adventurer at heart, this book is a great candidate for you.
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