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At forty, Mary South had a beautiful home, good friends, and a successful career in book publishing. But she couldn't help feeling that she was missing something intangible but essential. So she decided to go looking for it . . . at sea. Six months later she had quit her job, sold the house, and was living aboard a forty-foot, thirty-ton steel trawler she rechristened Bossanova. Despite her total lack of experience, South set out on her maiden voyage—a fifteen-hundred-mile odyssey from Florida to Maine—with her ...
At forty, Mary South had a beautiful home, good friends, and a successful career in book publishing. But she couldn't help feeling that she was missing something intangible but essential. So she decided to go looking for it . . . at sea. Six months later she had quit her job, sold the house, and was living aboard a forty-foot, thirty-ton steel trawler she rechristened Bossanova. Despite her total lack of experience, South set out on her maiden voyage—a fifteen-hundred-mile odyssey from Florida to Maine—with her one-man, two-dog crew. But what began as the fulfillment of an idle wish became a crash course in navigating the complicated byways of the self.
It's never too late to be who you might have been.
Not long ago, I was probably a lot like you. I had a successful career, a pretty home, two dogs and a fairly normal life.
All I kept were the dogs.
Then one day in October 2003, I quit my good job and put my sweet little house on the market. I packed a duffel bag of clothes and everything else I owned went into storage. Within weeks I was the proud owner of an empty bank account and a 40-foot, 30-ton steel trawler that I had no idea how to run. I enrolled in nine weeks of seamanship school, and two weeks after my course ended, I pulled away from the dock on my very first trip: a 1,500-mile journey through the Atlantic from Florida to Maine.
My transformation from regular person to unhinged mariner started casually enough. Lured to Pennsylvania a few years ago by one more step up the book publishing career ladder, I had accepted a job that was editorial, managerial and very dull. I was busy enough at the office but, after work, I didn't know what to do with myself. I cooked, took guitar lessons, went to the gym, drank manhattans, watched movies at home and read books and magazines. But still I faced an abundance of excruciatingly quiet free time. On business trips to the city, I'd stock up on magazines. At first, I read a predictable assortment for a girl in exile from the big city: the New Yorker, New York, New York Review of Books.
Okay, it wasn't all about New York. There was House and Garden, Dwell,Utne Reader, Maisons Côté Ouest, Vogue, Gourmet. I'd read just about anything—which is probably how an occasional Yachting started to find its way into my stockpiles. When I saw Motorboating, Sail and Powerboating at the local supermarket, peeking out from behind the overwhelming number of firearm and bride publications (a combination that captured the flavor of the area all too well), I thought "Why not?" Soon, I had completely given up on literature, current events, even home decor. I started subscriptions to Passagemaker and Soundings, full year-long commitments. From there, it was a scary slide down the slippery slope to more extreme, niche titles (Professional Mariner Magazine, Workboat Magazine, American Tugboat Review) that I just had to have. I was becoming a trawler junky and I wasn't sure why.
But let's backtrack for a moment. I'd better start by admitting I am an optimist—not just your run-of-the-mill, happy-face, Pollyanna-type. I'm Old School—an extreme optimist of the sort that went out of style around the time of Don Quixote.
And like most optimists who regularly suffer the crushing defeats of a world less wonderful than they had imagined, I'm sure I have developed some finely honed coping strategies. (Or denial issues, if you prefer to call the glass half empty—as I obviously do not.) For instance, although I had just arrived at a new job in rural Pennsylvania full of vim and vigor, the deeply repressed realist within me knew almost immediately that I had made a terrible mistake. But there was no way I could admit that—even to myself.
The vocal Optimist in me said: Hey, this is pretty cool. They have an organic café at work and the food's really inexpensive.
But the mute Realist in me knew: Almost all of the food, no matter what it was, tasted weirdly the same, which—let's face it—was not good. At any price.
The Optimist said: Wow. It's so rural out here that you'd never know you were only 100 miles from New York City.
The Realist knew: I did not want to live in a place where the Wednesday Bob Evan's special was All the Possum You Can Eat for $3.99.
The Optimist said: What a gorgeous stone house I have found for a bargain price!
The Realist knew: I was going to ruin the rustic exposed stone walls (and drastically lower the resale value) when I splattered my brains all over them after a slow decline into loneliness and alcoholism.
My point is, maybe I wasn't able to admit to myself that I wanted out of that place in the worst possible way but nothing could have been less appropriate to my rural, landlocked situation than a sudden obsession with the boating lifestyle. So perhaps my newfound passion was just a strangled cry for help, issued from the lonely wilds of scenic nowhere.
Every day, I'd put on a suit and drive to the office. I'd organize my editors, read submissions, review manuscripts, return phone calls from agents, do some editing, write and rewrite copy. I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time in "brainstorming meetings" where a group of us, pulled away from whatever we'd been working on by a prearranged ding on our Outlook calendars, sat in a windowless, fluorescent-lit meeting room and tried to come up with just the right title for a health book. (It had to be prescriptive, it had to hold out a promise to the reader, it had to have punch. Using numbers was good. Dangling a plan was ideal. Thirty-Day Plans were. . .well. . .we were on fire.)
Once a week, the staff gathered for editorial meetings to decide which manuscripts we should buy. The sales director would weigh in with her department's assessment on the latest submissions, and it was uncanny how often they seemed to vote with one mind: hers—which was, sadly, as wide as a stream in Death Valley. As long as the author was a celebrity or at least had a well-established marketing platform, there was a possibility we could buy the book. Of course, there were other hurdles to clear. We wouldn't want to take any risks: the topic had to be fresh but not too fresh. In other words, someone needed to have published a book on the . . .The Cure for Anything Is Salt Water
Posted March 5, 2014
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Posted September 4, 2008
I wanted this book to knock my socks off. I had such hope for it, and although I admire Mary South for taking the plunge into a whole new world-I felt the writing was lacking. It took odd twists at the end. I would have rather heard more about her love of the Bossonova and more excursions with her then her sudden love affair with a man. It did nothing to enhance the book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 17, 2008
My disappointment stems from the hope that someone has thrown it all to the sea and lives by it/on it, she does not. Her story is about a single trip up the eastern coast and her seemingly unhappy life of a lesbian. Mary portrays a confused life that spends most of the time on the negative side of things, somewhat depressing, your only relief is when she talked about the actual voyage itself. Her attacks on people and even a town that she visited was uncalled for and could have been left out. Save your money and time if you are looking for a book about living on the open sea. At the end of her trip, the boat becomes nothing more than a stored piece of furniture, that to the liking of storing your lawn mower for the winter!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 12, 2007
If you live with an 'itch' of wanting to take a new direction in your life and/or if you ever dream of taking an adventure out on the water, then this is a great read for you...and it may lead you to get that itch scratched. Mary South actually jumped out and did what many of us dream about. She made a bold move right in the middle of what everyone would describe as a successful life - she had a great job, family and friends. Along the way, she started to question the routine of it all...the rut of it all. She tells her story of her decision to break out of the rut and tells it honestly including all of it's up and downs. Her writing makes you feel as if you know her and she is writing a letter to you about it. If you have ever had the feeling of just wanting to get away from the race for a while, you can do it vicariously through her in this book and it will probably inspire you to make your own leap, whether big or small. It's a good story. I would have given a 5 rating but she didn't go into the thoughts behind the trip as much as I would have liked. I would have loved more of her thinking before, during and after the trip about her life. She does somewhat, but a lot of the book is about the trip itself and what happens on the boat with occasional diversions about past relationships. Even so, at the end, there is a very good 'wrap up' of things. She gives some things to ponder which I enjoyed. Also, there is a surprise towards the end that you will not see coming. I appreciate her openness in this book and for taking me on the get-away with her. It's a good read. It's thought provoking and inspiring.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.