How many of us have dreamt and fantasized about buying an old wooden sailboat, fixing it up, and taking off on a real adventure? On your journey, you’d let the wind take you to new destinations, visit small towns, meet interesting characters and maybe even find love. Billy Sparrow’s Tranquility: A Memoir of an American Sailor is such a story, and it is a good one. Sparrow’s adventure takes place in his early twenties (don’t we all wish we did too?). He is smart, good on his feet, and anytime he needs funds he earns money with his mechanical skills repairing broken down cars.
Book Review: Tranquility: A Memoir of an American Sailor by Billy Sparrow
Sparrow’s tale is very well written. His prose and self-deprecating humor keeps you engaged, even in the roughest spots like when he is down and out, and by down and out I mean the boat is sinking and the water is rising. He and his boat, Tranquility, still make it through – just barely. Tranquility comes from an unknown pedigree at 29 feet long. She was built in 1938 in Canada and has a cabin, galley, and head. She sails okay and is sturdy, but by the end of the story, Billy has re-built her at least twice. Billy’s goal – sail from Seattle to the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara in one summer. Along the way, he seems to have every set-back possible, but he lives, and his tale of adversary and continued love and investment in Tranquility will have every boat owner smiling. After all, we have been there and done that, haven’t we?
At one point, Sparrow changes his goals and decides to go with the wind. Instead of braving the Pacific Coast for a third attempt he decides to have fun and explore the San Juan Islands and places north. I enjoyed reading about familiar places and what they were like in the late ’90s, like his description of the fun he had while staying in Doe Bay on Orcas Island. He never names the place, but we all know from the tale he tells that it must be Doe Bay.
Throughout the book, Billy keeps the reader engaged by leaving little hints foreshadowing what is to come. Each chapter ends by slipping in a teaser which keeps the reader intrigued.
Sparrow’s memoir is a hard book to put down. You will laugh, or express concern for Sparrow. You will shake your head and yell Nooooo! as he heads towards his next misadventure. You will smile as he finds love using Tranquility and her cozy spaces while taking his new female friends out to discover sailing and the romance of the sea. Even the foodies will love his description of special late night dinner feasts using local ingredients expertly prepared by his backwoods friend Dalty. When you read it you will know what I mean.
Needless to say, I liked the book and think it is a must-read for the boating crowd in the San Juan and Gulf Islands this summer.
~Reviewed by Mark Bunzel
The Waggoner Bookstore is offering Tranquility: A Memoir of an American Sailor by Billy Sparrow
Available in the Waggoner Store for $24.95