My Old Man and the Sea: A Father and Son Sail Around Cape Horn

My Old Man and the Sea: A Father and Son Sail Around Cape Horn

by David Hays, Daniel Hays

Hardcover(1st Edition)

$17.96 $19.95 Save 10% Current price is $17.96, Original price is $19.95. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions


A story of adventure on a small boat, for fathers, for sons, and for those who love them. On this voyage the father relinquishes control, the son becomes the captain, and before long they are utterly alone, with only the huge waves of Cape Horn, a compass, a sextant, a pet cat, and the tiny boat they've built together. "The account of the passage, related in alternating sections by father and son, will be read with delight 100 years from now."—William F. Buckley, The New York Times Book Review, front page; "A must read for sailors of the sea and of the heart."—Eco Traveler.

Over three months as a New York Times Bestseller. A Literary Guild and a Nautical Book Club selection.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781565121027
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 01/28/1995
Edition description: 1st Edition
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.88(d)

About the Author

David Hays is founding Artistic Director of the National Theatre of the Deaf. He is a graduate of Harvard, with a long career in the theatre in England and America, who holds honorary doctorates at Connecticut College, Gallaudet University, and Wesleyan University. He is the author of a book on stage lighting and is a lifelong sailor. He lives in Connecticut.

Read an Excerpt

My Old Man and the Sea

A Father and Son Sail Around Cape Horn
By David Hays

Thorndike Press

Copyright © 1996 David Hays
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0786206004

Chapter One

The Idea

Indeed our sufferings, short as has been our passage (about two weeks), have been so great, that I would advise those bound to the Pacific never to attempt the passage of Cape Horn, if they can get there by any other route.

-- Capt. David Porter, USS
Essex, March 1914


Dad is a romantic. He grew up in a world that seemed open-ended. No one had run a four-minute mile. He learned that Everest was climbed while he was a student, standing through the night in the London rain with his roommate, Norman Geschwind, "waiting for the Queen of England to pass by on her coronation day." Or so he says. That was on his twenty-third birthday, June 2, 1953. That's about my age now. He grew up on Richard Halliburton and read about Admiral Byrd's expeditions as they happened. Lindbergh flew to Paris three years before he was born. Dad's father--and I remember him slightly--was born when there were no cars, and he almost lived to see men walk on the moon. My grandmother on Dad's side is still alive and she can recite perfectly her favorite poem, which she learned before the First World War. The poem is by Longfellow, and he wrote it only twenty-five years before she was born. Dad was too young for the Second World War, but slightly older friends were killed in it. They all believed in that war, an idea that is more remote to me than any of these other things.

When Dad went to college at Harvard, there was a 20, percent quota for Jewish students, or so I've been told. Almost all of them made the Dean's List. His mother once said that when Jews became accepted in country clubs and so forth, their rate of achievement would go down. Now they are and it has, according to Dad. My older sister, Julia, followed him to Harvard, as he had followed his brother, Richard. They were all magna cum laude. I know it's good to he magna cum laude, but I don't know why. When it was my turn, I walked out of the SATs (to the pencils-down applause of my classmates), and found that colleges didn't seem to appreciate my excuse: "It sucked." I only got into Connecticut College because, while scuba diving one day, I found a 250-pound anchor that the assistant director of admissions had given up for lost. Now I've just finished college, and I'm not so sure the world is waiting for me. But I can work hard, and since I was sixteen I've worked as a counselor with emotionally troubled kids not much younger than me. I usually know how they feel. It's good work for me, the almost-prodigal son, the dark gray sheep in the family.

Dad's ancestors fought in the American Revolution. Mom's parents came from Hungary. They were promised that there was gold in the streets here, and she grew up poor, in Harlem, in a family where they did things like jump on grapes in the bathtub. The passionate closeness that we have comes from that Budapest side. Mom earned her living as a modern dancer from the time she was fourteen or fifteen. She's confused about how old she is because she faked her birth certificate to get working papers.

I love my father and my mother and my sister very much. That's our family--small, close, usually yelling, totally involved, worried about each other, intense, neurotic, and always trying to make sure that the others are all happy and doing the best possible things. As I remember it, the only place we all seemed to meet was up in the bathroom.

Anyway, this trip with my father really starts one day when I'm sitting in the dining room at college during lunch. Dad shows up--he's teaching a design class there that year. (He says the students are so boring that the only thing that keeps him awake is the nude model posing across the courtyard for the Art 101 students.) Characteristically, he has a twelve-volt battery with him--we're always fixing something--and he charges at me pouring salt from a saltshaker and yelling, "Assault and Battery!" I introduce him to my friends, who then politely excuse themselves.

We had recently sailed Minitaur, our twenty-two-foot catboat, from the Bahamas to New London, about one thousand miles. I've never seen an account of another catboat making an ocean passage. Partly it's because catboats are one-half cockpit and not the best for ocean sailing--big waves can fill and sink them. We lashed in an air-filled waterbed and blew it up to fill most of the cockpit. We also put a bolt through the centerboard, fixing it so that it couldn't retract into its sleeve if we capsized. We ran into three days of Gulf Stream gale but made it home, and swiftly enough. The real problem was her one huge sail. She performed beautifully if she wore exactly the right amount of canvas and we sailed her well. If not, she was a wallowing bathtub. So I spent most of the trip reefing or letting out the reefs on that twenty-one-foot boom. It was maddening work--handreefing on a four-hundred-square-foot sail. We talked about adding a mizzenmast, to convert her to a yawl, which has been done with catboats. That would have cut one hundred square feet from that huge mainsail. But for Cape Horn we wanted a boat that took care of us instead of us taking care of her every mile. It made us sad to think of giving her up, because she was so perfectly beautiful.Continues...


Excerpted from My Old Man and the Sea by David Hays Copyright © 1996 by David Hays.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

My Old Man and the Sea: A Father and Son Sail Around Cape Horn 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
dlb333 More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy sailing stories and enjoy stories that explore relationships, this is the book for you. The co-authors alternate chapters which is interesting because it presents each one's perspective of both the events and their evolving relationship. The only drawback is that this sometimes makes it a bit confusing, but it is worth it. This true story contains excitement, sadness, and just plain quiet moments of reflection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book that kept my short attention span until the end. It reveals the different and same ways that a father and son look at their voyage and each other. Further it shows how Dan and his father learned to live and work with together. I now have a stonger yearning to cruise with my father who has never sailed. A.J. Altonen Ashtabula, Ohio