A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea

( 2 )

Overview

If you've ever owned a sailboat or had a friend who did, you know how it begins: with a dream. You dream about the ship, and gradually the dream consumes you. Practical considerations lose all meaning ... until, inevitably, the dream morphs into a nightmare. David Vann is familiar with that nightmare. His begins in Turkey: a thirty-year-old tourist, he stumbles across the steel frame of a ninety-foot sailboat that cries out to be built. From friends, family, and credit cards, he borrows the $150,000 to construct ...

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Overview

If you've ever owned a sailboat or had a friend who did, you know how it begins: with a dream. You dream about the ship, and gradually the dream consumes you. Practical considerations lose all meaning ... until, inevitably, the dream morphs into a nightmare. David Vann is familiar with that nightmare. His begins in Turkey: a thirty-year-old tourist, he stumbles across the steel frame of a ninety-foot sailboat that cries out to be built. From friends, family, and credit cards, he borrows the $150,000 to construct the ship. The Turkish builders take shameless advantage of him, eventually charging him over $500,000. On the edge of financial ruin, Vann starts a chartering business. But, when some new part of the ship isn't falling apart, he encounters freak storms. As his debts escalate, Vann begins to wonder if he is merely repeating his father's dreams and failures at sea—which ended with his father's suicide. At once a page-turning true story of adventure on the open ocean and an archetypal tale of one man's attempt to overcome fate and realize his dream, A Mile Down is an unforgettable story of struggle and redemption by a writer at the top of his form.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The sea can be a brutal and unforgiving place, and Vann has certainly felt the rough edge of it. A writer and former lecturer at Stanford, he purchased a boat in Turkey and began a life as a charter captain in the Mediterranean, then leveraged and bought a bigger boat. Then an employee made a mistake that cost Vann $48,000, and there were licensing and insurance issues. The boat developed mechanical problems and had to be towed to Morocco. After a spell of working in a dot-com, Vann somehow found more financing, restarted the charter business, bought another boat, which of course sank in a storm off Florida's Gulf Coast. This is an unabashed, undiluted, seemingly endless tale of failure and disaster, cleverly edited to prove that the hard times were simply owing to bad luck, the dangerous romance of the sea, and the incompetence of his Third World boat builders. This cautionary tale is not calculated to create pleasure; instead, it creates horror and a strong urge to keep one's job on land. Possibly appropriate for maritime collections.-Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560257103
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Pages: 236
  • Sales rank: 1,390,257
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 26, 2014

    A Mile Down is the first non-fiction book by award-winning Ameri

    A Mile Down is the first non-fiction book by award-winning American novelist, David Vann. In it, Vann narrates the events that lead to him buying a steel boat hull in Turkey with the purpose of outfitting it to use for an educational charter business. In giving up his steady job at Stanford to take on this risky venture, Vann sees parallels to his father’s life, and later wonders if he, too, will be reduced to committing suicide when things go badly. Vann’s narration is interesting from the first page, and leads the reader through several exciting climaxes. His frustration with the various tradesmen he has to rely on is palpable, and his naïveté in entrusting his project to others whilst unable to maintain adequate vigilance over it will have readers shaking their heads in disbelief. The unscrupulousness of certain tradesmen, crew, petty officials and even rescuers will leave readers gasping, yet the generosity of family, various friends, investors and even an insurance assessor are equally amazing. Van’s prose skilfully conveys the feel of each scenario, and he is occasionally the master of understatement: “…Nancy….looked worried. I guess being fifty miles from land in thousands of feet of water at night in stormy conditions being yanked through the water at nine knots by a bunch of incompetents while we had a crack in our hull somehow gave her cause for concern.” Vann illustrates in dramatic fashion how a dream combined with reliance on others and adverse weather events can quickly lead to a downfall. He turns the story of a failed venture into a gripping page-turner. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2005

    I can still smell the salt air...

    David Vann brings us along to re-live his dreams, his trials and his tribulations. I've read 'A Mile Down' twice and I'm looking forward to his next novels making it down to New Zealand! A highly recommended read for sailors and non- sailors alike.

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