An exhilarating true-life adventure of one family's extraordinary sea voyage of self-discovery and survival, tragedy and triumph
Successful businessman John Silverwood and his wife, Jean, both experienced sailors, decided the time was right to give their four children a taste of thrilling life on the high seas. And indeed their journey aboard the fifty-five-foot catamaran Emerald Jane would have many extraordinary and profound moments, whether it was the peaceful late-night watches John enjoyed under the stunning celestial sky or the elation shared by the whole family at the sight of blissful pods of dolphin and migrating tortoises. John and Jean had hoped to use the trip as a teaching opportunity, with the Emerald Jane as a floating classroom in which to instruct their children in important lessons-not only about the natural world but about the beauty of human life when stripped down to its essence, far from the trappings of civilization.
Yet rather than flourishing amid the new freedoms and responsibilities thrust upon them, the children were sometimes confused, frightened, resentful. The two oldest, fourteen-year-old Ben and twelve-year-old Amelia, missed their friends and the comfortable life left behind in San Diego, while the two youngest, Jack, seven, and Camille, three, picked up on the stressful currents running above and below the surface-for throughout the journey, the Silverwood family found its bonds tested as never before.
John and Jean, whose marriage had weathered its share of storms, would wonder again if they had taken on too much as the physical, emotional, and financial strains of caring for the expensive catamaran and their children brought old resentments to the surface.
John's dream trip that began on Long Island Sound ended almost two years later as a nightmare in treacherous waters off a remote atoll in French Polynesia, where, in an explosion of awesome violence, the terrifying brunt of the ocean's anger fell upon the Emerald Jane.
Gradually, in the crucible of the sea, a stronger, more closely knit unit was forged. The Silverwoods became a crew. Then they became a family again. But just as it seemed to them that they had mastered every challenge, their world was shattered in a split-second of unimaginable horror. Now their real challenge began, forcing them to fight for their very lives.
In 2003, after two years at sea, the 55-foot catamaran sailed by the Silverwoods, a suburban California family that chucked it all to sail around the world, hit a reef off the South Pacific island of Scilly (now known as Manuae), putting the life of Jean and John and their four children (ages five to 16) in peril. The first part of the book is written from Jean's perspective as she opens with the wreck and then moves smoothly between the family's fight for survival and the story of their journey. By juxtaposing the two tales, Jean illustrates how the children's maturity and cohesiveness were not only a byproduct of the trip but also the keys to all the Silverwoods surviving their ordeal, especially John, who was critically injured by the falling mast. Jean wears her heart on her sleeve, and her writing about her marital problems or John's alcoholic relapses is honest. John's narrative is half as long as Jean's, underscoring his straight-to-the point personality and writing style. The saga from John's perspective lacks emotion, but his ability to interweave the story of the Julia Anne (a sailing ship that hit the same reef in 1855) gives an eye-opening account of how much and how little sea travel has changed in 150 years and accentuates the heroism of this family that overcame an extraordinary ordeal. (July)
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June 30, 2008
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