The Water in Between: A Journey at Sea

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A broken heart leads Kevin Patterson to the dock of a sailboat brokerage on Vancouver Island, where he stands contemplating the romance of the sea and his heartfelt desire to get away. By the end of the day, he finds himself the owner of a thirty-seven-foot ketch called Sea Mouse. Although he's never really been on the ocean before (aside from the odd ferry-ride), he feels compelled to sail to Tahiti and back, to burn away his failings in hard miles at sea.
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Overview

A broken heart leads Kevin Patterson to the dock of a sailboat brokerage on Vancouver Island, where he stands contemplating the romance of the sea and his heartfelt desire to get away. By the end of the day, he finds himself the owner of a thirty-seven-foot ketch called Sea Mouse. Although he's never really been on the ocean before (aside from the odd ferry-ride), he feels compelled to sail to Tahiti and back, to burn away his failings in hard miles at sea.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Nursing a broken heart, Canadian physician Kevin Patterson decided to salve his wounds by sailing. Although a novice sailor, he purchased 37-foot boat and set off for Tahiti, accompanied by a sheet-metal worker named Don. (Mercifully, Don had some nautical experience.) This sleek book follows the ocean adventures (and sometimes misadventures) of this little crew and chronicles Patterson's earnest attempts to learn the art of sailing. Literate and bittersweet (the extended journey included another botched relationship), The Water In Between is compelling without being heroic.
Library Journal
Patterson, a Canadian army doctor upset over a failed love affair, decided to buy a sailboat and set sail for Tahiti. He knew nothing about sailing and had never been to sea. The man who joined him was a love-lorn but experienced bluewater sailor named Don. The two prepared the boat for the voyage, bought provisions, and set sail. After loosing the anchor and carelessly damaging a crucial head sail, they decided to head to Hawaii to buy parts, but their course change left them becalmed for weeks. When they eventually make it to Tahiti, Patterson was low on money and had to return to Canada to work. Don sailed the boat back to Penrhyn, an atoll they visited on the way to Tahiti that was close to their vision of paradise. Patterson delves deeply into the personality of the sailor and includes quotes from countless sailing and travel books. A good purchase for public libraries.--John Kenny, San Francisco P.L. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Christopher Buckley
Delightful, finely written and, in the end, wise. It succeeds against a number of odds . . . A first-rate, quietly enthralling account that belongs on the shelf with Paul Theroux's Happy Isles of Oceania, Jonathan Raban's sailings and, for that matter, with the work of the landlubber Bruce Chatwin.
The New York Times Book Review
Dea Birkett
The surprising strength and the refreshing courage of this book can be seen int he fact that Patterson does not write about a daring feat or a pioneering new route...The Water in Between is certainly no attention grabbing adventure, rather it is a meditation on the urge to travel. It may not move mountains, but it challenges minds.
Times Literary Supplement
Kirkus Reviews
A Canadian physician debuts with an emotional but sometimes pedantic memoir of his adventures traversing the Pacific in a 37-foot sailboat. In August 1994, Patterson, "absorbed in self-pity" occasioned by an unhappy love affair, purchased a vessel called the Sea Mouse in British Columbia. Just 29 and recently discharged from the Canadian army, Patterson (who had no previous sailing experience) impulsively set sail for Tahiti—a longtime dream—in company with a onetime sheet-metal worker named Don (a more experienced sailor), whom he'd only recently met. In 18 swift chapters, Patterson tells of his preparations to sail, of his sometimes terrifying experiences on an unforgiving ocean, of his brief sojourns ashore in Hawaii, Palmyra, Penrhyn, and, finally, Tahiti. He then flies back to Canada to earn money to finance his return voyage. During this working hiatus, he impulsively (again!) invites three new acquaintances (one a lovely woman with whom he develops a tenuous romantic attachment) to go to Tahiti and sail back with him. These folks make it only as far as Hawaii, where they elect to fly home, and Patterson makes the final passage alone. His safe arrival ends his book. Patterson's strong narrative is most effective in its self-deprecating accounts of his sometimes feckless, sometimes perilous efforts to learn how to sail while sailing. "I'm gonna be okay," he tells himself, "look at all this lovely rope I have." His flashbacks to his army service and to his medical experiences in remote Hudson Bay communities are also effective, often moving. His observations, however, sometimes border on the banal: out on the lonely open ocean,hewrites, "our minds turned inward." Sometimes deadly, too, are his long paraphrases of and quotations from works by other seafarers like Bruce Chatwin and Joshua Slocum. Patterson's voice is fresh, witty, and intelligent—and he could get by with a little less help from his friends.
From the Publisher
"A graceful meditation on the nature of manhood and life, of escape and independence, and of finding a place in the world.-- Well deserving of a place alongside Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines, Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard, and Paul Theroux's The Happy Isles of Oceania." -Quill & Quire

"The Water in Between is most happily preoccupied, in effect, with the nature of male preoccupation.... Funny and authentic, full of insights...a terrific literary travel story." -Charles Foran, The Globe and Mail

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679309994
  • Publisher: Random House of Canada, Limited
  • Publication date: 10/5/1999
  • Pages: 304

Meet the Author

Kevin Patterson grew up in Selkirk, Manitoba, and put himself through medical school by enlisting in the Canadian Army. When his stint was up, he worked as a doctor in the Arctic and on the B.C. coast while studying for his MFA at UBC. He is currently a resident in internal medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax, and is also a regular correspondent for Saturday Night magazine. The Water in Between is also being published in the U.S. (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday) and the U.K. (Viking Penguin). The Sea Mouse is moored on Salt Spring Island.
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Read an Excerpt

In August of 1994, I bought a twenty-year-old ferro-cement ketch on the coast of British Columbia. I did this in an effort to distract myself—at the time I was so absorbed in self-pity my eyes were crossed. I had been wandering around marinas sorrowfully leaning my head against dock pilings and losing my train of thought; I had the demeanor of an aging milk cow with the scours. People who met me thought I was either drunk or deranged. The most immediate cause of all this was a woman half a continent away who had been headed further for months. My sadness at our parting was histrionically out of proportion to anything that could have been justified by events.

I spent weeks chain-smoking and staring at the ground. At the time I was working as a doctor at a summer camp for Canadian army cadets in the B.C. Interior. It was an absurd job and I made an absurd picture, shuffling around the dusty parade grounds, hands in pockets, sighing grandly and ignoring the columns of pubescent boys and girls marching stiffly past me. I was twenty-nine and had been out of the army myself for only a year.

That summer, many Canadian medical officers were being sent to Rwanda and Bosnia. The army had always provided a doctor for the camp, but now they were short-staffed, which is how I had come to be there. When they called to ask me to fill in, I was working up in the Arctic, on the coast of Hudson Bay. It was late June, and so cold that even the river ice hadn't broken yet. The sea pack was solid to the horizon. I said yes without even thinking.

At the time I was drifting and had been since the previous summer—ever since leaving the army. I had been in Winnipeg, on my way tothe job in the Arctic, when I met her. There was a week of slow suppers and long, delicious conversation. This was earlier in the winter and she was gentle, very beautiful and a little melancholic, and I was entranced by her. When it came time for me to fly north, we made imprecise plans about how we would meet. We agreed to call and write often. I started work at a small hospital on the shore of Hudson Bay. My second day there, an old man became very sick and needed to be transferred to the intensive care unit in Winnipeg. I volunteered to accompany him. I called her from the airport. After leaving the hospital I took a cab straight to her house.

During the time I was up in the Arctic, we telephoned one another almost daily but avoided the question of whether I should move to the city or she should move up there. It was an obvious but awkward issue. Part of the delight we took in seeing one another was the intermittency of our contact. As if that made our visits more potent, rather than, with increasing time and distance, less and less. It is a banal and familiar circumstance. Among soldiers, or the nurses in the Arctic, it is a cliche.

Then the army phoned, with this job in British Columbia. I would be just as far from Winnipeg, working there. Off I went.

About a month after I arrived at the summer camp she came out to visit me. We stayed together in a resort near the army base with the memorable name of Teddy Bear Lodge. There were small cabins with televisions and a swing set for children. The mountains rose up all around, and across the highway from our cabin was a long, deep lake. We tried to swim there but it wasn't possible. It was much too cold.

Before this we had only had the hurried, lip-biting, kiss-filled visits in Winnipeg when I had come down on the air ambulance. The Teddy Bear Lodge got our hopes up, but in the sustained company of the other, we each forgot two-thirds of the words we knew. After two weeks she went home. Saying goodbye at the bus terminal, we didn't confront the issue.

A month later, she telephoned me at work to tell me about the man she had met. She told me his name and apologized. She subsequently married him and they now have a baby daughter. Our mutual friends tell me that she is happier than they've ever seen her. Her graciousness and kindness in our limited intimacy only made my anguish more potent and my feeling of victimhood more laughable. To feel unentitled to your self-pity about triples it.

My roommate at the summer camp became alarmed and embarrassed as he watched me involute into a black and anguished puddle of self-obsessed sorrow. It felt ridiculous even at the time. I was tearing my clothes over one of the most abbreviated love affairs I'd ever had; it made no sense. If I went back to the city she lived in, which I had lived in before the army, I thought that I would drown. In the army, desperate for distraction, I had daydreamed about sailing on the ocean. I was from Manitoba; I knew nothing about sailing and had never been on the ocean in a little boat of any sort.

I found myself standing on a dock in Genoa Bay, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, in the company of a sixty-year-old man with a whiskey nose the size and color of a bruised and overripe beet. His name was Peter Ericson and he owned a sailboat brokerage, but his consuming passion seemed to be the promulgation of his theory that the Pacific Islands and most of the New World had been colonized by an ancient Scandinavian seafaring culture that revered magnetic fields. And maybe herring.

Before Ericson would even let me see his boats he had showed me his publications in the local Boat Journal. These were supposed to be advertisements for his business, but in fact they were long rants on the forgotten nobility of the Great White Gods, the Vikings, who journeyed forth in the ancient mists to show the less savvy races just how it was done. But the ghosts of the Norse sailor-folk could rest easy now, for Ericson had figured it out. And was bound to inform the world. Or, at any rate, me.


From the eBook edition.

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First Chapter

In August of 1994, I bought a twenty-year-old ferro-cement ketch on the coast of British Columbia. I did this in an effort to distract myself--at the time I was so absorbed in self-pity my eyes were crossed. I had been wandering around marinas sorrowfully leaning my head against dock pilings and losing my train of thought; I had the demeanor of an aging milk cow with the scours. People who met me thought I was either drunk or deranged. The most immediate cause of all this was a woman half a continent away who had been headed further for months. My sadness at our parting was histrionically out of proportion to anything that could have been justified by events.

I spent weeks chain-smoking and staring at the ground. At the time I was working as a doctor at a summer camp for Canadian army cadets in the B.C. Interior. It was an absurd job and I made an absurd picture, shuffling around the dusty parade grounds, hands in pockets, sighing grandly and ignoring the columns of pubescent boys and girls marching stiffly past me. I was twenty-nine and had been out of the army myself for only a year.

That summer, many Canadian medical officers were being sent to Rwanda and Bosnia. The army had always provided a doctor for the camp, but now they were short-staffed, which is how I had come to be there. When they called to ask me to fill in, I was working up in the Arctic, on the coast of Hudson Bay. It was late June, and so cold that even the river ice hadn't broken yet. The sea pack was solid to the horizon. I said yes without even thinking.

At the time I was drifting and had been since the previous summer--ever since leaving the army. I had been in Winnipeg, on my way to thejob in the Arctic, when I met her. There was a week of slow suppers and long, delicious conversation. This was earlier in the winter and she was gentle, very beautiful and a little melancholic, and I was entranced by her. When it came time for me to fly north, we made imprecise plans about how we would meet. We agreed to call and write often. I started work at a small hospital on the shore of Hudson Bay. My second day there, an old man became very sick and needed to be transferred to the intensive care unit in Winnipeg. I volunteered to accompany him. I called her from the airport. After leaving the hospital I took a cab straight to her house.

During the time I was up in the Arctic, we telephoned one another almost daily but avoided the question of whether I should move to the city or she should move up there. It was an obvious but awkward issue. Part of the delight we took in seeing one another was the intermittency of our contact. As if that made our visits more potent, rather than, with increasing time and distance, less and less. It is a banal and familiar circumstance. Among soldiers, or the nurses in the Arctic, it is a cliche.

Then the army phoned, with this job in British Columbia. I would be just as far from Winnipeg, working there. Off I went.

About a month after I arrived at the summer camp she came out to visit me. We stayed together in a resort near the army base with the memorable name of Teddy Bear Lodge. There were small cabins with televisions and a swing set for children. The mountains rose up all around, and across the highway from our cabin was a long, deep lake. We tried to swim there but it wasn't possible. It was much too cold.

Before this we had only had the hurried, lip-biting, kiss-filled visits in Winnipeg when I had come down on the air ambulance. The Teddy Bear Lodge got our hopes up, but in the sustained company of the other, we each forgot two-thirds of the words we knew. After two weeks she went home. Saying goodbye at the bus terminal, we didn't confront the issue.

A month later, she telephoned me at work to tell me about the man she had met. She told me his name and apologized. She subsequently married him and they now have a baby daughter. Our mutual friends tell me that she is happier than they've ever seen her. Her graciousness and kindness in our limited intimacy only made my anguish more potent and my feeling of victimhood more laughable. To feel unentitled to your self-pity about triples it.

My roommate at the summer camp became alarmed and embarrassed as he watched me involute into a black and anguished puddle of self-obsessed sorrow. It felt ridiculous even at the time. I was tearing my clothes over one of the most abbreviated love affairs I'd ever had; it made no sense. If I went back to the city she lived in, which I had lived in before the army, I thought that I would drown. In the army, desperate for distraction, I had daydreamed about sailing on the ocean. I was from Manitoba; I knew nothing about sailing and had never been on the ocean in a little boat of any sort.

I found myself standing on a dock in Genoa Bay, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, in the company of a sixty-year-old man with a whiskey nose the size and color of a bruised and overripe beet. His name was Peter Ericson and he owned a sailboat brokerage, but his consuming passion seemed to be the promulgation of his theory that the Pacific Islands and most of the New World had been colonized by an ancient Scandinavian seafaring culture that revered magnetic fields. And maybe herring.

Before Ericson would even let me see his boats he had showed me his publications in the local Boat Journal. These were supposed to be advertisements for his business, but in fact they were long rants on the forgotten nobility of the Great White Gods, the Vikings, who journeyed forth in the ancient mists to show the less savvy races just how it was done. But the ghosts of the Norse sailor-folk could rest easy now, for Ericson had figured it out. And was bound to inform the world. Or, at any rate, me.
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