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

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

4.5 2
by David Vann
     
 

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

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.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781560257103
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
06/28/2005
Pages:
236
Sales rank:
1,153,516
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)

What People are saying about this

Melanie Thernstrom
"A Mile Down is pure adrenaline. Vann by all rights should have died at sea, and yet he's lived to tell about it. But the thrill comes also from other kinds of risk-risk of repeating his father's suicide, risk of financial disaster, risk of prosecution, risk of losing everything including who he believes himself to be. This story won't let you go."
author of The Dead Girl and Halfway Heaven
Keith Scribner
"A Mile Down is superbly crafted. As in the great epics, the protagonist faces an unrelenting crush of disasters, bad luck, and ill will, yet picks himself up over and over to carry on. . . . David Vann has created a tale of hubris and endurance that is both exciting and beautifully written."
author of The Goodlife and Miracle Girl
Julie Hilden
"Riveting, heartbreaking, and redemptive . . . A Mile Down is a memoir as engaging as the most compelling of novels . . . This is an immensely moving and exciting book-it's as if one of the heroes of The Perfect Storm had lived to write his memoirs."
author of 3 and The Bad Daughter
Manette Ansay
"A Mile Down is mandatory reading for anyone who's ever flirted with thoughts of a life spent at sea."
author of Vinegar Hill
Robert Morgan
"At once memoir, confession, travel book, and thriller, David Vann's A Mile Down is so vivid and intense you will dread to see it end. . . . The book is a testimony of passion and courage in deadly storms and scarier calms, of a man wrestling with his ghosts and gifts in the very shadow of paradise."
author of Gap Creek
Stewart O'nan
"A Mile Down would be a cautionary tale for anyone who dreams of the freedom of the high seas-if only it wasn't so damn exciting. . . ."
coauthor with Stephen King of Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season and author of The Good Wife
Lalita Tademy
"A Mile Down is far more than a tale of ruin at sea. It's also a story of desire and shame, of the struggle to escape our histories and know our dreams. Vann writes that 'A life can be like a work of art, constantly melted away and reshaped,' and he shows us this reshaping, this rebirth of hope from despair and ruin, so powerfully I couldn't put the book down. You have to read this book, even if you care nothing about sailing or the sea. Just read it."
author of Cane River
Tom Barbash
"A Mile Down is a riveting and truthful account of a good man's attempt to stay afloat on treacherous waters. This book reminded me of Robert Stone's Outerbridge Reach, or John Casey's Spartina, but in many ways Vann's odyssey is more unforgettable. The fact that Vann lived to tell it is an achievement in itself."
author of On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, & 9/11: A Story of Loss & Renewal

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A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
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. 
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.