Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Book Review: Still Cruising

Recently I reviewed Liza Copeland's Just Cruising, which I very much enjoyed and immediately ordered the follow up book "Still Cruising".

The first book described how the family Copeland family of Liza, Colin and their three boys set off on their great adventure, swapping land based life for one roaming the world's oceans. They very sensibly started with a gentle year long cruise around the Med before making their first family ocean crossing in the company of the ARC, exploring the Caribbean, and then traversing the wide Pacific to end up in Australia.

And there they stayed for a whole year, giving the children a chance to mix with other kids and be tested against their peers rather than a remote learning school.

Still Cruising covers the rest of their circumnavigation, from Australia, through the Indonesian islands to Singapore, then up further to Thailand before across to Sri Lanka and the tip of India. After that to the Maldives and Seychelles, before finishing their crossing the Indian ocean in Kenya.

From Mombasa they sailed south to Madagascar, exploring several west African countries, before arriving at South Africa. After a long break there they crossed the South Atlantic by way of St Helena before crossing their outward tracks and eventually arriving in Florida.

So you can see it was a pretty demanding and intense journey! You get the feeling that after the successes of the earlier voyages their confidence was high and they felt bold enough to sail well outside most people's comfort zones.

And there is more of a sense of exploration than the long cruising holiday feel in the previous book. They have more adventures as they sail into waters where the locals have seen no yachts ever before (such as in some Indonesian islands).

Where as in Just Cruising most of the time most people seemed well and there are few breakages, in this book there were more dramas with a tragedy on another yacht, some serious illnesses, a couple of robberies, a lightening strike blasting almost all of their electronics, and responding to a Mayday call off Cuba.

But there were rewards too - such as seeing the amazing Komodo dragons in Indonesia, and elephants and zebras in Kenya. The children were much older and could be more involved in the explorations, though the eldest was often away in "proper" school in Vancouver.

One thing did strike me as odd and slightly disappointing. They were in South Africa for quite a long time in 1991 when the country was subject to sanctions due to the apartheid regime. Now Liza mentions the sanctions and mentions some tensions, but not that it was due to apartheid, which to me was a shame as it was probably the most important fact about South Africa during those years - in the time between Nelson Mandela's release and the first genuine elections.

Overall if you liked Just Cruising you have to get Still Cruising, if only to find out "what happened next", and that's not just where they travelled next but how the family continued to grow in experience as well as (for the kids) height.

The boys in particular must have had an amazing childhood, experiencing sights that were rare then and must be rarer still today. To visit communities untouched by the modern age is something harder and harder to do in the 21st century, and one must remember their journey is now about 20 years in the past.

On my bookshelf I've placed Just Cruising and Still Cruising next to that classic of the 1950's Around the World in Wanderer III by Eric Hiscock. That book describes what really was a different era, of sextants and colonies not GPS and independence.

But one day, and not that far off, they will say the same of Liza's books, which undoubtedly will also be considered snapshots of their time, and also as classics of cruising.


Katinka said...

Sounds like a fascinating read! One of my past students and her family is currently doing something like this, setting off on year long sailing trip starting from Vancouver, Canada. The kids have taken the year off from "school" in exchange for some real life learning experiences.

I'm sure they've gained more insights, and developed a greater appreciation for other cultures as well as a curiosity/ desire to learn than they may have from sitting in a classroom...and I say that as both a teacher and as an MK who also travelled a lot as a child.

JP said...

Ooh lucky student and family :)

I agree, it must have been a wonderful experience for the children, opening up the mind to so many ways of life. They certainly enjoyed visiting the Indonesian islands though they seemed to have missed out PNG.

What seemed great is that with the correspondence courses it wasn't a choice of school vs adventure - they could do both.

When they re-entered formal schooling they found they weren't behind, and indeed when the class project was "The galapagos islands" they had an unfair advantage, having visited there!