Ready to Come About is both an inspiration and a cautionary tale. I met the author, Sue Williams, and her husband, David, when they delivered a presentation to our yacht club. Their tale was so fascinating, I bought their book. Here’s the premise: Sue and David found themselves a couple in their fifties facing numerous life crises, including job loss, medical disability, and three grown sons trying to find their way in the world. But rather than despair, Sue sees an opportunity to fulfill her husband’s long-held desire to sail across the Atlantic. Sue makes clear this was not a shared desire, but she felt the time had come for David to fulfil his aspiration, and she would join him. The boat they chose for this adventure is an Alberg 37, and they named theirs Inia.
This is the inspirational part of the story. The couple cast off on this voyage from the freshwater port of Hamilton on Lake Ontario. As a reader, I admired their gumption and “damn the torpedoes” attitude. And despite the odds and some challenges, including nagging seasickness, horrendous weather, the installation of a new engine in Portugal, they did cross the Atlantic. Once there, they could feel quite justified calling it quits. But that’s not what happened, and I don’t want to offer any spoilers.
The “cautionary tale” part of this intriguing book is that they set off to complete a trans-Atlantic ocean passage without having ever done any offshore sailing whatsoever. No shakedown passages to Bermuda or the Caribbean, not even any long passages on the Lakes. Accordingly, they were faced with their share of breakdowns and challenges.
Sue covers the different segments of their adventure in some detail, evidence of an observant mind and, I suspect, the keeping of a journal. Sue writes in first-person and touches on the everyday elements of life at sea and in port, the comradery among cruisers of all nationalities, and even introduces a little sex into the narrative.
Sue Williams is a good writer and the book is inspiring overall. I even felt the impulse to follow their lead, throw caution to the wind, and cast off for a once-in-a-lifetime ocean adventure. This was a pleasurable read.
Ready to Come About, by Sue Williams (Dundern, 2019; 368 pages)