Re-Read/Review: “Dove” by Robin Lee Graham

I rarely read anything twice – If I am interested in a piece of fiction or a non-fiction work, I’ll take my time while reading so I can deeply digest and reflect on every aspect of content.  While engaging in a writing project with the theme “Wind and Water”, a spark of nostalgia hit me and inspired me to re-read Dove, by Robin Lee Graham.  I didn’t remember that it was a particularly well written account of his exploits as a boy sailor who circumnavigated the globe solo in his 24 foot sloop, returning as a man 5 years later, but still his story remained in the back of my mind.  

When I re-read Dove, I discovered that indeed it was surprisingly well written, given the age of the author.  Clearly Graham’s work with Derek Gill had something to do with the outcome, but the real work was accomplished by an extra-ordinary young man who challenged the elements.  

As one who’s read nearly everything on the topic of solo sailing adventures, I questioned why this one was so different than the others. For me, the answer was that Dove did not include extensive passages detailing the work and procedures involved in maneuvering and navigating a small boat across oceans.  Graham’s account was more about the personal journey and the love he found while experiencing humanity in all its diversity.  

51Z7TSycylL._AC_UL115_My review follows:

Still Extraordinary Years later – the Second Time Around (5 Star Review)

I read “Dove” shortly after it’s initial publication arrived in our local library. I was thirteen years old and entranced by what I’d read. This unique “coming of age” non-fiction account, inspired me along with hordes of others to pursue the kind of adventure that Robin Lee Graham wrote of in “Dove”. For both blue water sailors and those dreaming of such experiences, this story and the movie that followed, is to sailing, what “A River Runs Through It” and its movie, is to fly fishing.

I have no doubt that global blue water cruising had increased in popularity as a result of Graham’s voyage and his subsequent book that reads like a classic coming of age novel. After all these years, and having read nearly all the other books written by globe trotting sailors, a spark of nostalgia for those days in the early ’70s inspired me to read it again. I’m really glad I did, because this one stands out among all the others. Not because it was one of the first of its kind, but because Graham made it personal. His account was of a boy coming of age during an extraordinary adventure in both idyllic and life threatening situations – all before the age of GPS and real time communications.

If you’re a fan of coming of age literature or have an itch for armchair travel, this story will do more for you than satisfy the itch. It will inspire you to get out there and test yourself and perhaps discover true happiness.



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1 Response to Re-Read/Review: “Dove” by Robin Lee Graham

  1. Patricia Russell says:

    I agree 100%! I too read “Dove” as a young teen. One of my favorite genres to read are solo sailing books, too. It’s my first go to at Barnes and Noble or mom & pop book stores in towns I happen upon. I have read some good ones, but “Dove” does stand out. At 60 years young, I always keep a copy of that book on my shelf next to a copy of my other favorite books through the years. Few make that coveted list of mine. Every once and awhile, I reread these books from a slightly different older perspective and find not surprisingly, they always leave me with a smile on my face. “Dove”, especially is a wonderful read in the dead of winter, when you yearn to be some place tropical and can’t get away. I place it somewhere where I can pick it up for 15 or 30 minutes at a time and trace the round the world journey again, always with a globe or atlas close by. Pinpointing his stops to fully appreciate this epic journey, of a teen, all alone on Ocean waters. Unlike many solo sails, Robin stops a long the way and experiences the world in all its many variations. He goes into detail about the food, the people and all the memorable moments. Robin took 5 long years to circumnavigate the world. Unlike many solo sails, he did not simply race around the world to make it into the record books. That is what I most love about the book. I stand in awe of him ’til this day. I am always reminded of “Dove” when I see a sailboat “Dove size” anchored in a seaport town, here in New England. I am so glad he made that journey, with the help and support of his Dad, friends he met along the way, especially Patty and the National Geographic to keep his spirits up and “Dove” sea worthy. It stands as a testament to what people, of any age, can accomplish when quitting is not in their vocabulary or in their nature. He helped light that spark of adventure in me at a young age, something that family or friends simply did not or I guess, could not do. I started sailing just a few years later, on Outward Bound and have sailed whenever I get the chance, ever since. One day I hope to replicate at least a part of what young Robin did, with my copy of Dove, stored carefully below deck for those long days in the doldrums. After all these years, his writing still makes me smile and reminds me of the difference between a life lived fully and one that is just lived. Thank goodness for all the “Robins” in the world and for National Geographic for forcing them to write about their adventures. It is the book that keeps on giving.

    Patti Russell

    FYI: Hope you have read “Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. Another great read about an adventure of a lifetime, from the other end of the age spectrum and by an author who also peppers hardship with just enough humor to keep you chuckling from start to finish.

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