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It’s hammock and hot tub season again at Pineapple Hill so after knocking myself out tending grapevines and a few fruit trees, I’ve been getting some reading done. Lately this included two true life sailing adventures. Cover to cover. Back to back. The first about three guys who sailed out of Jacksonville (I was a beach bum there) headed to France, and the second about one guy, alone, trying to get home to New Zealand from the UK.

The first was a page turner because a giant storm put them into the water just three days out and they had to be rescued in gale-force winds off eighty-foot waves.

The second was a long weary slog because the voyage lasted six years due to stops to earn money for provisions and repairs. It was hardly a cocktail cruise around the Caribbean. This guy had a lot of stick-to-it in him!

A Storm Too Soon by New York Times bestselling author Michael J. Touglias, is aptly titled because the bad weather hit just a few hundred miles off Cape Hatteras. The sailing part of the story ended abruptly and became about trying to survive in a screwed up life raft riding canyons and high rises of angry sea. Two of three crew were experienced with big boats in blue water but nothing like this. And the third guy, a retired school teacher, had mainly just sailed dinghies on lakes. The entire rest of the book is a scene of trying to hang on in that bad ass storm , hoping someone had heard their last distress call. And then the plot cranks up further as the story is told from the Coast Guard’s point of view—mixed up EPIRB signals, scout planes running out of fuel, the helicopter team having to go low enough for rescue swimmer’s drop while also keeping out of the way of those eighty-foot waves. There’s a photo in this book that says everything. A mountain range of waves—the Rockies, it seemed—and that speck of a raft alone in the middle of it.

The Long Voyage by Adrian Hayter is fittingly named as well. Its author, too, ran into walls of wind and angry ocean. But his greatest obstacles were the combo of humongous ambition, paltry funding, and too much time left alone fending for himself inside his own head. Long treks like his, made alone (i.e., physical stress, sleep deprivation, and lack of camaraderie) over so much time, can kill a guy. Slowly. The opposite of hitting a storm three days out. Almost killed him, anyway. At one point, a wee dot far from land and from sea or air traffic, his engine had quit for good, his sails had rotted apart and there was no wind regardless, the boat was sinking—requiring him to work the pump every few hours for an hour at a time—and food was down to a bite a day. Plus he was out of drinkable water and had to make his own, a few sips at a time, using a contraption fashioned onboard pots and old hoses, heating it with wood chopped from a carved door. Lack of nutrition and all that work without rest nearly took him down but he finally managed to scratch his way to New Zealand. And when he did it reminded me of the ending of Castaway when Tom Hanks wouldn’t eat that shrimp at his welcome home party and seemed to be starting over in the middle of a place far, far from the shore.

So, yes, these two books are similar yet different. They’ll take you out there, way far from your hammock or hot tub. And that’s what good books should do, right?