Magellan’s Navigator – Kenneth D. Schultz
Olympicvista Publishing – 270 pp - $9.99/paperback, $6.50/Kindle
Sea Trials – Wendy Hinman
Salsa Press – 434 pages - $20/paperback, $5.99/eBook
Circumnavigating the globe takes a commitment of time and resources that is practically inconceivable to most of us in today’s hurly-burly society. But this week we’ll take a look at two books about round-the-world voyages: one occurred forty years ago, and the other was the first recorded feat of circumnavigation, which happened in the 16th century.
In “Magellan’s Navigator,” Kenneth D. Schultz, an author from Poulsbo, Washington, provides a new angle on the bold but trouble-plagued Armada of the Moluccas, a naval expedition of five ships that sailed from Seville in 1519 to develop a westbound route around the Americas and across the Pacific Ocean to the Spice Islands.
Instead of focusing his tale on Ferdinand Magellan, the expedition leader who was murdered in the Philippines, Schultz tells the story from the perspective of the captain’s first mate. Out of the hundreds of sailors who began the voyage, Francisco Albo was one of only 18 men who came back aboard the sole ship that actually completed the circumnavigation.
Working from what Schultz purports are recently discovered journals written in Albo’s own hand, the author reconstructs the three-year voyage – from crew recruitment, through tumultuous days in uncharted waters, to ragged return. Greed, fear, distrust and frustration run as rampant on the voyage as the rats that scuttle through the ships’ holds.
While Magellan’s sailing acumen is admirable, Albo looks on helplessly as his captain makes fatal mistakes in the management of his own men and in his encounters with other cultures.
Reminiscent of other seafaring books such as “Two Years Before the Mast,” “Magellan’s Navigator” is unsentimental, muscular writing, packed with tension and adventure.
Four hundred years later, the only kind of spice Chuck and Dawn Wilcox seek as they leave the West Coast on their 40-foot sailboat is the spice of life: foreign countries, exotic cultures, adventure! They’re taking their kids along with them; 14-year-old Garth is eager to take to the high seas, while younger sister Linda moves from initial skepticism about the plan to outright resentment.
Four decades later, Garth’s wife, Wendy Hinman, recounts her in-laws’ adventures in “Sea Trials: Around the World with Duct Tape and Bailing Wire.” The family dallies in Tonga and the Seychelles, the Greek isles and Madeira, but, as the book’s subtitle suggests, just as much of their time seems to be taken up with regular maintenance and impromptu boat repair.
Even with significant advance preparation, the Wilcox family suffers unanticipated mishaps along the way: sharks, quicksand, minefields, even their own shipwreck. Their planned four-year voyage turns into five years. And family ties are strained to the breaking point.
A Bainbridge Island-based author and herself a sailor who has logged many thousands of miles of ocean sailing, Hinman writes with affection and empathy about the people who eventually became her family.
Readers may have less patience with the family dynamics, but this is still a remarkable story about perseverance.
The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at email@example.com