As is true with many books, the last page of Up the Creek is devoted to a brief biography of author Tony James. From this we learn that Tony James is a freelance journalist and writer . . . author of over twenty books . . . writes regularly for thirty publications worldwide . . . (and) still doesn’t really know why he goes sailing. In the Foreword Stephen Swann states that James’ book is a kind of sailing memoir. Indeed it is. It recounts how his life has: A) revolved around boats since the age of eighteen; B) landed him in some relationships that were headed for the rocks from the get-go; and C) given him something to write about.

James’ first boat occupied a space in his parent’s garden and never saw water as long as he owned it. But the dream was there. After sailing on other people’s boats for a number of years he managed to acquire the first boat that he actually sailed. Built in 1900, Shamrock was a sixty-foot oyster dredger that had been extensively refitted and restored by the time James became its owner. Many years, boats, and misadventures later, James bought Kittiwake, and finally had what he calls a sensible boat that can be sailed easily and safely. What happened between Shamrock and Kittiwake fills in the rest of the story and helps the reader realize that it’s no wonder James doesn’t know why he sails.

The book is written in the first person, obviously, and at times seems a bit difficult to follow. This may be due to the fact that James is from England and the English writing style itself is somewhat different from that of American writers. In addition, the British sense of humor is a bit more tongue-in-cheek than what we’re used to in the U. S. But if one is willing to overlook these minor obstacles, Up the Creek can provide the reader with some food for thought as he/she is reminded of his/her own errors in thinking when it comes to matters nautical and personal.

Up the Creek: A Lifetime Spent Trying to be a Sailor by Tony James (Seafarer Books/ Sheridan House, 2006; 279 pages)