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Sea Change: Alone Across the Atlantic in a Wooden Boat


With only a sextant, his instincts as a seasoned sailor, and a boat filled with memories of his floundering marriage, Peter Nichols sets out on a solo voyage from England to Maine, where he plans to sell his beloved, twenty-seven-foot, engineless boat, Toad.Halfway across the ocean, his boat springs a leak and his voyage becomes a desperate struggle to survive.

Filled with intelligence, bravery and humor, Sea Change is a thrilling adventure story. It is a classic tale of a man ...

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With only a sextant, his instincts as a seasoned sailor, and a boat filled with memories of his floundering marriage, Peter Nichols sets out on a solo voyage from England to Maine, where he plans to sell his beloved, twenty-seven-foot, engineless boat, Toad.Halfway across the ocean, his boat springs a leak and his voyage becomes a desperate struggle to survive.

Filled with intelligence, bravery and humor, Sea Change is a thrilling adventure story. It is a classic tale of a man struggling to come to terms with his reckless spirit, his highest hopes, and his broken dreams.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
A heartbreaking and harrowing sea tale... Nichols has (written) something wonderful.
The New York Review Of Books
Nichols is marvelous at describing the feelings of awe and loneliness that the sea inspires... In his understated telling of the story, he never seeks your sympathy. He just breaks your heart.
From the Publisher
"Sea Change is many things: adventure tale, sailing memoir, confession. What holds it together is the author's fine ear for language and rhythms of the sea."--The Seattle Times

"I think Sea Change is a magnificent addition to the literature of small-boating adventuring."--Jonathan Raban, author of Badlands

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"The leak and I are in a race to dry land," Nichols writes one month into his single-handed voyage from England to Maine in a 27-foot, wooden sailboat. Lovingly restored over five years with his wife, J., Toad represents to him both a home created and a love that failed. As the leak increases mid-ocean and the reality of the miles left to travel in an increasingly unsafe craft grows clearer, Nichols recalls his years with J. and who he was before them. The two had lived aboard Toad in the Virgin Islands, chartering to tourists when they needed money, and Nichols recalls the sighs of envy at what to others appeared an idyllic existence. But their companionship was far from idyllic, something that hits him full-force when in the middle of the Atlantic, Nichols finds J.'s diaries. Despite rising waters belowdecks, Nichols, buoyed by faith in his little ship and in his ability to navigate, refuses to believe that he will not make shore. Until knee-deep in water, he hesitates to radio a Mayday. With the massive container ship that will rescue him approaching, "the size and appearance of a mall nearing the end of construction," the reader wants to scoop Toad out of the vast, impersonal sea, so clearly has Nichols portrayed his home as a living thing. The ultimate reward of a challenge, Nichols learns, need not be what one originally aimed for. Must we cast ourselves offshore to discover ourselves? The metaphorical message here is, yes. BOMC alternate; author tour. June
Library Journal
The author, ostensibly a resident of Northern California who has worked in the film industry but who is obviously at ease just about anywhere, set sail from England in an old but elegant wooden boat named Toad and heads for Camden, Maine, by way of the Azores and possibly Bermuda. The trip is meant to retrace a similar voyage Nichols took years before with his wife (known only to readers as "J"), but because they divorced in the interim, this particular solo trip becomes a reflective one. There are dangers involved in sailing alone across the Atlantic, and we become privy to Nichols's gradual realization that tragedy is ready to strike. This highly introspective work by a gifted author portrays an experience that most of us only dream about and makes it palpably real. Libraries in seafaring locales will definitely want this title, but even landlubbers will find it entertaining.Joseph L. Carlson, Vandenberg Air Force Base Lib., Cal.
Kirkus Reviews
A little wooden sailboat, a raft of memories, and the wide blue Atlantic carry sailor Nichols from England to Maine, almost, in this earnest, reflective chronicle.

Nichols quits his soured marriage and takes to the sea, there to feel better about himself, to do something well for a change. His self-appointed challenge is a single-handed sail across the North Atlantic in a shallow-draft, motorless, 27-foot sailboat by the name of Toad, a boat in which he and his wife had recently made the trip in the opposite direction. Nichols is a likable soul—impecunious, living by his wits, a sailor's sailor who navigates by sextant and instinct, adapting to the dictates of sea and sky. Meteorologically, the weather is with him; emotionally, he finds choppy seas: The bust-up of his marriage plagues him, memories insistently emerge—the more so when he discovers his wife's five-volume diary and flips through its pages. The diaries afford Nichols the opportunity to reminisce about his vagabond years with his wife, sailing in the Virgin Islands and in European waters, always on a shoestring, always bickering. While his inner journey is in no way as tedious as it might have been, it is a relief when Nichols snaps into the present and takes a look around. He has a knack for rendering his landfalls—the Scilly Islands and the Azores—in sharp relief, and a way of making his voyage feel like something out of time: Nothing more than wind drives his boat (remember, this is the North Atlantic, where a motor often comes in real handy) and reckoning is an art, not a digital readout.

Though Toad springs a major leak and must be abandoned before reaching its destination, one comes away with the feeling that Nichols has indeed acquitted himself well.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781574092929
  • Publisher: Sheridan House, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/15/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,378,173
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Nichols is the author of A Voyage for Madmen, the story of the 1968 solo race around the world, and the recent Final Voyage: A Story of Arctic Disaster and One Fateful Whaling Season.
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Table of Contents

1. England
2. Falmouth to Fayal
3. Horta
4. Fayal to 36°08’ North; 53°12’ West
5. A Short Weird Cruise to Galveston
6. Galveston. And Beyond the Infinite
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2001


    A very captivating book. The parallels between the finding, rebuilding and the altimate destiny of 'Toad' and Peter's relationship with 'J.' are fantastic. The quickest book I have ever read, hated to put it down. Thanks Peter.

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