Thoughtful, Adventurous, and Articulate
I just finished reading Bound for Distant Seas, by fellow author and adventurer, James Baldwin (a full review can be found here). I’d read his first work, Across Islands and Oceans, and was captivated by the place descriptions and his genuine desire to experience the remote islands he’d hiked on foot (read the review here). Baldwin’s latest is even better, not only does he do a fantastic job of providing just enough detail of the challenges a solo sailor faces, he also writes of his serendipitous experiences, landing work when his money ran out and discovering the generosity of people with little to give yet still offering what they have.
Having read both of Mr. Baldwin’s works, I felt as if I were getting to know him. In the opening passage in this story the author is re-fitting ATOM, the vintage 28′ Pearson Triton he sailed solo on two circumnavigations several years earlier. While stripping through layers of paint the reader takes a journey back in time as the author recounts the experiences of his past voyages. The 55 year old sailor/author is the same age as his pocket yacht ATOM. Their relationship is one to be envied.
When I read Across Islands and Oceans, I learned that in his young adult years, James Baldwin worked in a steel foundry to earn enough money to finance his dream of sailing the world. Reading Bound for Distant Seas, gave me further insight into the mind of a person who could be described as a thoroughly self-educated adult. He’s proof positive that when one is equipped with tenacious desire and genuine curiosity, the world can indeed become their oyster. Years ago if you’d asked me who I’d enjoy spending a good meal and conversation with, I’d have probably rattled off a few names of prominent personalities ranging from the likes of JFK, Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, or Martin Luther King. Now I think spending an evening over a meal, or better yet, a cruise aboard the refit ATOM with James Baldwin, would be my answer to that question.
In my opinion, James Baldwin is an honest writer and true to his experiences. In a later passage he humbles himself to readers by confessing to what might have been a tragic end of his adventures while sailing in the shadow of high cliffs off of Taiwan. He found himself becalmed in a strong current driving ATOM toward a rocky and surf battered coast. With his companion, Mei asleep below deck, James and ATOM drifted into a zephyr that spirited them from the clutches of immanent disaster. Reading that passage, my heart rate increased as I allowed myself to experience the emotions that must have been running wild with James before a magical wind kissed ATOM’s sails rescuing him, Mei, and ATOM in the nick of time.
With Bound for Distant Seas, I found myself taking brief interludes from reading to leaf through my atlas. I even went so far as using “Google Earth” to view some of the places Mr. Baldwin described on his journey. When I found myself at the end of the Philippines, knowing there was a sailing trip home, I knew there would be another book in the offing by Mr. Baldwin. Since I couldn’t wait, I researched his story and discovered a multitude of articles he’d written for “Cruising World” magazine, as well as the Atom Voyages website.
Of the many things about James that I discovered while reading his works is that his genuine nature and his faith in his own hands-on “can do anything” approach to solving problems resulted in his ability to rely on the pure sailing arts. Of utmost importance is celestial navigation using a sextant, star charts, a nautical almanac, an accurate timepiece, and some mathematics, while most other cruising sailors rely on GPS technology to chart their course. Additionally, for practical reasons, James elected to remove ATOM’s troublesome engine to experience sailing as Slocum did with “Spray”.
Today, James runs a custom business re-fitting seagoing cruising sailboats. His website is definitely worth a look and the recent refit of ATOM will no doubt cause any sailor worth their salt to gasp with a big “Wow, that guy knows what he’s doing!” Furthermore, as one who’s sailed and flown his miles in and over the oceans, I would be willing to stand in line with my own pocket yacht for a custom James Baldwin refit and custom prep for my own dream cruise to Vava’u Tonga or another uncharted destination further east in the Philippines. James, you’re experiences still linger in my mind as perhaps they do in the minds of other like-minded cruisers and dreamers.
To discover more about author, James Baldwin, his wife Mei, and their custom yacht refitting business, visit the ATOM Voyages website at: http://atomvoyages.com