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Caught by the Sea: My Life on Boats

Caught by the Sea: My Life on Boats

4.4 13
by Gary Paulsen

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Gary Paulsen takes readers along on his maiden voyage, proving that ignorance can be bliss, but also really stupid and incredibly dangerous. He tells of boats that have owned him — good, bad, and beloved — and how they got him through terrifying storms. His spare prose conjures up shark surprises and killer waves, and how it feels to sail under the stars.


Gary Paulsen takes readers along on his maiden voyage, proving that ignorance can be bliss, but also really stupid and incredibly dangerous. He tells of boats that have owned him — good, bad, and beloved — and how they got him through terrifying storms. His spare prose conjures up shark surprises and killer waves, and how it feels to sail under the stars. Falling in love with the ocean set Gary Paulsen on a lifelong learning curve, and readers will understand why his passion has lasted to this day.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Gary Paulsen is an author of many children's books, and a Newbery Honor winner. He writes mainly adventure stories, books on fishing, hunting and outdoor sports. In this book, Paulsen writes about his love of the water and his experience on a maiden voyage on the Pacific ocean. Although he had never sailed on the ocean nor knew much about boats or the sea, he wanted to experience first-hand traveling over the water from Acapulco, Mexico to Vancouver, Canada and beyond and back to Mexico. Paulsen writes about fighting sea storms, getting lost at sea, and being humbled by the sea. He wonders why he has ever taken on such an adventure because he knew so little about the power of the ocean. Still, Paulslen prevails even after battling storm and storm, wondering if he would survive his ocean journey. When he does, he vows to take another journey, maybe around Cape Horn. Author Paulsen has the talent for bringing the reader into his adventures, tasting and feeling the sea, shivering with cold, muscles aching from trying to keep the boat afloat. This is a short book of 103 pages, but it is packed with lots of action and adventure. 2001, Dell Laurel-Leaf, Ages 10 up.
— Della A. Yannuzzi
Readers in search of vivid descriptions and engaging adventure will enjoy Paulsen's autobiographical look at his affection for sailing and the sea. Paulsen, known for his Hatchet series and many other popular YA books, profiles how he began to understand the art and mystery associated with sailing. His love affair with the water began when he was a young "starving artist" who explored the romanticism associated with the sea by writers like Melville, Dana, Gann and Hayden. Paulsen uses his personal experiences as a developing yachtsman to describe the sea—its vastness and incredible power. At one point toward the end of the book, he describes an ill-fated trip to Catalina Island where a huge storm developed, detailing each moment of this harrowing experience: ...They were true monsters, steepsided, galloping, twenty, thirty feet high, almost vertical walls with breaking tops that caught the boat and held her down on her side with me on the water, clawing to get back on, ripping my nails, cutting my hands, now fighting to live, not sail... Similar examples of great imagery are found throughout this work—suitable for middle school and a great book for high school reluctant readers. English instructors, working with teacher-librarians, may be able to use Caught by the Sea as an excellent reference for descriptive writing or introducing students to "nautical authors" like those profiled in the book. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, Random House, Dell Laurel-Leaf, 103p. map., Ages 12 to 18.
—Tom Adamich
"All I had to do now was learn to sail.... People did it all the time. How hard could it be?" Even when Paulsen is admitting the mistakes he has made in his grand adventures, readers know that he has forgotten more about survival than they ever will learn. He shares many of his watery errors in judgment in this latest book, from walking into a yacht brokerage naïvely announcing that he wants to buy a sailboat and playing bumper boats in a marina while trying to leave the docks, to misreading weather cues that would leave him fighting for his life in an unimaginable storm. His progression with boat ownership, sailing prowess, and a love affair with the sea is told in his usual spare, cadenced prose that sometimes pounds at the reader with the force of the waves and winds he describes. Splashes of humor help weather the rough seas in this slim memoir that will appeal to reluctant readers and boaters of all ages. Fans of Paulsen's novel The Voyage of the Frog (Orchard, 1989/VOYA February 1989) are going to want to hear this sailor's yarns, but the stories also will be enjoyed by older teens who have moved beyond his middle level fiction. VOYA CODES:4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses;Broad general YA appeal;Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Delacorte, 103p, $15.95. PLB $17.99. Ages 11 to 18. Reviewer:Cindy Dobrez—VOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-On the coattails of Guts (Delacorte, 2001) comes another collection of Paulsen's autobiographical vignettes, this time about sailing. His love for the sea began at age seven, aboard a troopship headed to the Philippine Islands. A plane crashed into the water and Paulsen watched as sharks attacked the women and children. Though gruesome, the account is typical of the author's unaffected, matter-of-fact writing style. The rest of the stories are dull in comparison, however, as Paulsen chronicles his experiences with various sailboats over the years. He tries to define the sailing terminology as he uses it, but it is complicated stuff for landlubbers. His writing is adult in tone and he often looks back and reflects on his adventures. The passages about food, reminiscent of those in Father Water, Mother Woods (Doubleday, 1995), are better. When he describes the taste of double-stuffed Oreo cookies, readers taste them, too. It is quintessential Paulsen to describe the number one law of the sea: "If given a chance a container of oatmeal will open, mix with a container of coffee grounds, further combine itself with eight or ten gallons of sea water and then find its way into your sleeping bag." At book's end, Paulsen refers to his age and current heart condition but dangles a carrot in front of readers about a sailing trip around Cape Horn. Stay tuned.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Spinning more vivid yarns from his anything-but-sedentary life, Paulsen (Guts, 2001, etc.) will enthrall even resolute landlubbers with this slim volume of nautical reminiscences. Writing around the twin themes of the Pacific's profound power to harm or heal, and his own utter ignorance of boats or sailing, he describes encounters with sharks, gales, and other learning experiences on his way toward reaching an understanding with each of the three sail boats he has owned. Think seafaring Woodsong (1990). Terrifying and hilarious, sometimes simultaneously, these adventures effortlessly carry important lessons about the craft of sailing as well as the craft of living. (Autobiography. 10-12)

Product Details

Cengage Gale
Publication date:
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
10 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The First Sail

I was discharged from the army after nearly four years, most of it spent at Fort Bliss, Texas, in May of 1962. 1 hated every second of my time in the army and although I was still very young, I did not think I could salvage the time I had just wasted, or that I could save my ruined life. I know how ridiculous that sounds now, but the feeling was real then. I remember sitting in my old truck in El Paso, Texas, thinking that I was done, had no future, and the thought popped in out of nowhere that if I didn't see water soon I would die.

Now I'm amazed to remember how much I missed the sea, because it hadn't been a real part of my life between the ages of ten and seventeen,

when I enlisted. Maybe I longed for it now because of all the time spent eating sand in the winds of the desert.

I drove to California that very day, straight to the coast, then north, away from people, to a small town named Guadalupe, near Santa Maria. There I bought some cans of beans and bread and Spam and fruit cocktail and a cheap sleeping bag and then walked out through the sand dunes, where I could hear the surf crashing. I walked until I could see the water coming in, rolling in from the vastness, and I sat down and let the sea heal me.

I was there six days and nights. Before dark each night I gathered driftwood for a fire. The salt in the wood makes it slow to burn and it was difficult to light. But I worked at it until there was a good blaze going. I would heat a can of beans and sit there not thinking, really not thinking of anything at all, listening to the waves roll in and licking the salt from the spray off my lips until the heat from the fire made mesleepy. Then I would crawl into my bag near a huge log that must have ridden the Pacific currents down from the British Columbian forests, and I would sleep as if drugged, as if dead.

Today you would see people there. Today there are developments and beach houses and condos and malls and noise and garbage and oil. But then I saw nobody, heard nothing but the gulls and the crashing sea and now and then the bark of a seal as it hunted the kelp beds just offshore.

it would be easy to say it was peaceful and just drop it there. And it was peaceful. Years later I would come to run sled dogs in the North woods, and to run the iditarod race in Alaska, and there would be moments of incredible serenity then, quiet and cold and peaceful, but nothing quite like that time after the army when the sea saved me.

I went away from there a new person, and I also began to understand things about myself, that I must see and know the oceans. I must go to the sea, as the writers Herman Melville and Richard Henry Dana, Jr., and Ernest K. Gann and Sterling Hayden had done. Like them, I must seek myself there, as the novelist James Jones did as he was writing Go to the Widow-Maker.

To do that, I would need a boat.

When first I thought about boats, the intensity and obsessiveness that people brought to them seemed overbearing, silly. Most boat owners I met seemed ridiculously anal and boring-as indeed some of them are -

Except for trapping in the North woods with a canoe, I knew absolutely nothing about boats. I had crossed the Pacific that one time at the age of seven in a navy ship, and my knowledge of that was limited to old, dented steel, the hum of huge engines, and a bunch of kind sailors who wanted me to introduce them to my mother, who was young and lovely and almost terminally seasick.

When I was about fourteen, I made one wild attempt at sailing. in a book on woodcraft I found a drawing of a "sailing canoe" and built a sixteenfoot canvas canoe from a kit that I sent for. It came complete-wood, glue, canvas, nails and paintfor just thirty-one dollars. The book made it seem simple to turn my canoe into a sailboat by rigging a dried pine pole for a mast with a small boom and using an old bedsheet for a sail.

I set it up with the canoe tied to a dock on a lake in northern Minnesota. I tied it fore and aft (though I would not have used those nautical terms yet) so that it was stable. There was a slight breeze blowing from the left rear; later I learned that this is called the stern-port quarter. Following the instructions, I lashed a paddle on the side to act as a leeboard to keep the canoe from sliding sideways, and used the other paddle across the stern to steer the canoe.

From the Hardcover Library Binding edition.

Copyright 2001 by Gary Paulsen

Meet the Author

Three-time Newbery-winning author Gary Paulsen, hailed as "one of the best-loved writers alive" by the New York Times, divides his time between his ranch in New Mexico, a sailboat on the Pacific Ocean, and his dog-kennel in Alaska. He's written over 200 books for young people, stories that have been embraced by readers of all ages.

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Caught by the Sea: My Life on Boats 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Caught by the sea was an amazing book.I rarley read books but caught by the sea had ne caught up in the book i read it in one day I just couldn't stop reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gary Paulsen takes you as a reader on his first voyage proving that ignorance can be very fun.Also it can be very dangerous.He tells you all about how he learned to sail the hard way.He figures out what to do after his own mistakes.He tells you what boats have done to him in the past and how the have helped him out. He gives readers a good look on what its like to sail on the open sea.He tells you that many dangerous things can happen,including shark attacks and giant waves.He also tells you what it is like to sail under the stars at night.Falling in love with the ocean made him write many different books like The Winter Room,Hatchet,and Dog Song.If you like this book you will love his other books.I recomend this book to anyone that loves to take voages.It is a great book. By,Bradley Carter
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the memoir Caught by the Sea, My Life on Boats by Gary Pauslen. In the book, Mr. Paulsen explains what it was like when he was on different boats. The characteristics that I enjoyed about the book was that he explained in detail what is was like to buy a boat, get caught in the middle of a storm, and what it was like to miss the sea when you aren't by it. Another trait that I found interesting was that he would tell of all the boats that he owned and what their advantages and disadvantages were. One thing that I didn’t like about the book was that it didn't have good transitions. He would tell of one boat then move on to a different one. I would encourage other people to read this book because I gained information about Mr. Paulsen that I didn't know before and it explained a lot about his life with the sea. 
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This book is interesting but kinda boring.