Jimmy Cornell Lived the Dream: While in England in 1974, he bought a bare hull, finished and outfitted it, then spent the next seven years sailing Aventura around the world.
This is not his story.
Accompanying him on this journey were his wife Gwenda, his son Ivan, and his daughter Doina. From the ages of 7 to 14, Doina grew up on her parents’ 36-foot sailboat, traveling in the Mediterranean from Gibraltar to her father’s home country of Romania, then across the Atlantic, up the Eastern seaboard to Maine, then three years in the Pacific, visiting islands and making friends with kids her own age all over the world.
Ms. Cornell writes with the voice of her adolescent self, which makes the descriptions of the sights and events of her journey as fresh as when they first took place. Mum became qualified as a teacher, so she could “boat-school” her children; one lesson on the Peloponnesian Wars takes place on a rocky hill overlooking the actual battlefield in Greece.
Most cruising books are written by the captain and, therefore, contain involved descriptions of the sailing, weather, difficulties, and problems. Not so Child of the Sea. Instead of a technical discussion of what exactly went wrong with the engine and what was required to repair it, Doina simply says, “Had to wait for a new starter motor to arrive from Australia. Stayed in Rabul for over a month.” Doina writes about her life on board, her feelings as a proto-teenager (nobody, apparently, bothered to explain puberty to her), romance, and her own desire to write.
The book does not end with crossing the wake. After over six years at sea, she and her brother yearned for a more normal life. Doina continues her story, returning to England, struggling to fit in at regular school, and adjusting to life on land. She does well, despite the casual cruelty of other kids. And things get better.
Child of the Sea is a unique view of a circumnavigation, as seen through the very observant eyes of a young girl growing up under sail.
Child of the Sea by Doina Cornell (Cornell Sailing Ltd., 2012; 224 pages)