In Hard Aground . . . Again, Eddie Jones sends dispatches from the creeks, mudflats and sounds of the Carolina coast. The chapters are gathered from his magazine columns and can be read as separate stories. Fans of Dave Barry will understand the southern comic voice that Eddie uses very well. He is part good ol’ boy and part tent-revival preacher, telling stories about hapless navigation, cranky outboards, and other cruising foibles and drawing life lessons from them. He tells these stories in an easy conversational tone, as if the reader were sitting next to him on the rusted Wal-Mart lawn chairs that he uses for deck seats while watching the sun go down over the swamp grass and hummocks.

In the prologue he calls himself a “recovering boataholic” who wishes “boating wasn’t my passion.” His dreams of blue water and distant islands are grounded by a large family and a small bank account. But he lives the dream as much as he can in whatever boat he can borrow from friends or “borrow” from the bank. He makes the best of tough situations that occur frequently, mostly because of his lackluster navigation.

When the bank takes back a boat, he makes do with a friend’s Sunfish. That his anchorage is a mud flat or that he seems to hit every sandbar and crab pot in the Neuse River leaves him undaunted. He is the cheapest guy in the marina, known well by the gas dock owner and waitress at the local diner. These setbacks inspire him to see the larger picture as reflected in his Christian faith. He reminds himself that Saint Paul, in his cruise around the Mediterranean, had to swim to shore more than once after a shipwreck. The point is that “running aground is nothing to be ashamed of, but staying stuck is.”

He applies lessons to each story. Talking about his experiences with VHF and NOAA weather reports, he says, “intercessory prayer can be a little like the VHF radio,” and he offers a list of tips on radio use, many of which “can be applied to your prayer life as well.”

The invocations to prayer and Christian life lessons are not for everyone. Some do not go to the nautical bookshelf for Christian meditation and prayer focus. But if readers want their humor straight, they can skip the last few paragraphs and still get a good yarn with a Carolina flavor. And besides, a little prayer and Scripture can’t hurt. You never know from where inspiration might come.

Hard Aground…Again: Inspiration for the Navigationally Challenged and Spiritually Stuck by Eddie Jones. (Winoca Press, 2006; 148 pages)