Sailing Toward Sunrise chronicles the journey of Bob and Karen Jones, recently retired, as they travel from Corpus Christi to Chesapeake Bay via the Intracoastal Waterway in Watercolors, their 21-year-old Catalina 30. Lake sailors on small boats for most of their lives, two short charter trips in the Caribbean eventually set them dreaming of wider horizons and distant shores. So, done with their work lives, they bought a bigger boat, took some ASA courses, read a few books by bluewater sailors, and set a course for Virginia’s Cape Henry.
The Jones’ somewhat exhaustive account of their cruise is something of a cross between a guidebook and a personal journal. On one hand, it reveals the daily joys and challenges that come with living aboard a sailboat while motoring most of the way through the Intracoastal waterways. On the other, it offers historical and ecological commentary on such issues as global warming, over-fishing, and sea-level rise as these things relate to places visited along the way.
Unfortunately, the attempt to make one book out of what tries to be two is not successful. Without a compelling narrative thread, lacking much in the way of personal reflection, and unsure of its audience, Sailing Toward Sunrise adds up to something less than the sum of its parts when set against many other cruising accounts.
Still, less experienced adventurers inclined to make a similar trip will find the book instructive. Dreams are one thing, reality another, and Bob and Karen Jones hardly confuse one with the other. The couple is nothing if not honest about their limitations, inexperience, and fears (they truck their boat across Florida to avoid sailing around it), and don’t try to paper over their mistakes, such as repeatedly causing the motor to overheat because they forgot to open the seacock through which cooling water flows. Even their vessel proves a less than ideal choice for their cruising grounds, when they are forced to spend most of their time motoring through narrow channels due to Watercolors’ 5-foot draft.
But to spend the better part of a year or more living aboard a 30-foot boat while moving from one new port or anchorage to the next is no small accomplishment, and Bob and Karen Jones should be admired for following their dreams and filling their sea bag with new experiences.
The book is informative and readers seeking a mostly nuts-and-bolts portrait of a trip through the Intracoastal will find it meets their expectations. But with few truly remarkable moments, no original accomplishments, and lacking the kind of subtly salty style that readers expect from those who write of sailing and the sea, Sailing to Sunrise will likely leave more seasoned readers and sailors little to steer by.
Sailing Toward Sunrise: Cruising and Treasuring America’s Gulf and Atlantic Coasts by Bob and Karen Jones (Piankatank Press, 2016; 304 pages)