It was a different time when Robert Manry set out to cross the
Atlantic in a 13.5 foot boat. In 1965 the world seemed consumed
by Vietnam. Manry was just another young father trying to raise
a family and earn a living. He was a copy editor of a good size
newspaper. He had no expectation of fame or financial reward.
Even the idea of writing a book seemed no more than a secondary
His goal didn't even seem clear to him. He had bought a small
boat to go on day trips with his family. Like many of us, he seemed
to enjoy working on the boat even more. He took the modest little
day sailer and added a small cabin, cleaned it up, and added some
Seemingly out of the blue a friend asks Manry if he wants to
sail across the Atlantic with him in a 25 foot sloop. The offer
was made mostly in jest, but it wasn't seen that way by Manry.
Although it seemed outside his nature, it had been a dream of
his for almost 30 years. Manry immediatly set to work on making
the dream come true. He was even granted time off from work. His
friends thought him a bit daft, but for some reason the idea seemed
plausible to many. Some even said they wished the could go along.
But within weeks he was alone. His trip had fallen through and
his crowd of would be sailors suddenly had others things to do.
For Manry the dream had gone too far. Or perhaps he thought of
some of his neighbors who had thought him a silly dreamer. He
still wanted to go. He knew it would be an adventure, but it is
clear he had no idea what he faced. Without telling anyone but
his wife and children he set about making plans to take their
little family sailboat across the Atlantic alone.
The boat was a poor choice for his mission. In addition to being
too small, it's entire design was for a pleasant afternoon on
the lake. Even with his modest cabin addition, the boat had no
business on open waters. The hull wasn't deep enough... or wide
enough... or strong enough. The cockpit was almost an open shelf
offering little protection from the wind or the waves. There really
wasn't enough room for provisions for the long journey ahead.
His ignorance created calm, if not exactly bliss.
During his voyage he was remarkably lucky. What I find so enjoyable
about this book is not the blatant bravery or the remarkable hardships.
It is Manry's simple old fashioned charm and enthusiasm. You get
the feeling of sitting in his living room, his wife bringing snacks
on the TV tray while the kids watch the latest episode of My Three
Sons across the room. There is no bravado. His world is filled
with people who want the best for him, and he wishes the best
for them. Nature is not put on a pedestal, nor is there a battle
of man versus nature. It's just a bloody nice trip. Sure his rudder
broke... yes there were some 20 foot seas... and yes he did get
knocked overboard a few times. But they seem mere footnotes to
his constant enthusiasm and belief that he will make it.
There is no sex. There are no fights. There is no doubt. Manry
makes it, and we are there cheering for him as he pulls into harbor
surrounded by the press of the World and thousands of well wishers.
The reception a total shock to Manry.
The book is something of a window into the past. It's writing
style more akin to the Wind in the Willows than The Perfect Storm.
As I finished the book I wished Manry was still alive for I had
many questions. He seemed such an unlikely person to sail a boat
across an ocean. He didn't have that driving wanderlust or fear
of commitment that seems to drive so many others. What did he
do next? Was this the first in a series of adventures, or did
he settle down to a life of family and work? Why did he do it?
The book is long out of print, but it should be available through
used book stores and online outlets such as ABE and half.com.
As a side note there are now plans available for the boat Manry
Editors note: Bryan Lowe bulit an Escargot.
He cruises it in the Pacific Northwest, and makes occasional
contributions to Duckworks Magazine. You can visit his website