Sunday, February 21, 2016

THE BLACK WAVE by John and Jean Silverwood


This 2008 publication, ISBN 978-1400066551, is the true "disaster" tale of blue-water sailors Jean and John Silverwood, their four children and a catamaran named Emerald Jane.  The whole family was making their way to Australia in this boat, by way of Hell's Gate, the Spice Islands and Tahiti, when they hung up on a coral reef, going aground in such a way that the mast pinned John underneath it, pretty much slicing his leg off in the process. 

I know many of you have read and enjoyed this one, but the question that keeps coming in from all quarters NEVER LETS UP.  Fish operatives do not understand the subtitle of this book, "A Family's Adventure At Sea And The Disaster That Saved Them."  SAVED THEM FROM WHAT? is what everyone wants to know.  DIDN'T IT SAVE THEM FROM BEING RECRUITED?

Well, NO, it didn't.  Anyone reading this book can see that it is a true epic of Piscatorial Love, first to last.  NOTHING EVER GETS IN THE WAY OF THAT LOVE.  Jean and John are hardcore tropical-island and deep-sea buffs, and Jean expresses regret at the years they were forced to live on dry land, building houses and selling insurance, until they had finally saved up enough to buy and refit the Emerald Jean.  At the first opportunity they take the kids out of school, fill the boat with canned goods and KISS DRY LAND GOODBYE, stopping off only to refuel and make repairs.  They spend hours daily in the water, surfing, swimming, scuba-diving, and of course FISHING.  Both the Silverwoods were in love with the sea before they ever met; their life's dream was to buy a sailboat and go on this trip.  Even when John Silverwood was learning how to walk again on an artificial leg, he was planning how to get back on board a sailboat.  After the frightening disaster that traumatized everyone in the family, not just John, Jean talks about how it was all worth it because of all the time they've spent larking about with Dolphins and Sharks, laughing it up with the Morays, catching Octopi and Mahimahi, and running on the beach had in hand.  RECRUITMENT COMPLETE!

I want you to compare this one to the similar sailboat epic, ISBN 978-0393327960, And The Sea Will Tell by Vincent Bugliosi and Bruce Henderson:

Mac and Muff Graham, the blue-water sailors in this story, go even father than the Silverwoods in sacrificing everything to be at sea.  Where the Silverwoods keep their house on dry land and plan to go back there some day, the Grahams liquidate (chuckle) everything they own to go live on the Sea Wind.  This is Mac Graham's ONLY dream -- to live full-time on a boat with no place on land to call home.  So you would think he was more fully recruited than the Silverwoods, right?

Wrong!  Look who he brought with him -- his wife Muff, who hates the whole idea of sea life and describes life on board the Sea Wind as "lousy, lousy, lousy."  She goes along with it, despite a clear premonition of doom, only because she loves Mac so much.  And the authors of this book go ON AND ON about how careful, how detail-oriented, how prepared Mac Graham was to handle ANY emergency at sea.  Where the Silverwoods make it sound like a happy fluke that they had a strong enough emergency beacon and enough dry flares to attract help before John bled out and died, Mac had the Sea Wind  fitted out so completely that he could machine new parts from scratch if anything broke down on their trip.  No danger was overlooked; no threat unprepared for.  In short, they go to great lengths to STAY DRY.  And when Muff's premonition comes true, are they recruited THEN?  Nope.  They're sealed in boxes and sunk in a lagoon where DOZENS of frisky Blacktips are unable to reach or recycle them.

I want you to remember Mac and Muff Graham with the sadness I feel whenever I read this book.  They were SO CLOSE, AND YET SO FAR... 

Contrast them with the Silverwoods, who are back on dry land but waiting for their moment to get back on the high seas, and to that end (all unwitting) wrote us a nifty recruiting manual!!!
    DON'T GET ME WRONG.  I continue to regret EVERY DAY that so many deep-sea recruits are PRIVILEGED PREPPY TYPES like these.  Look at those polo shirts and Docksiders!  But remember, there are no Docksides, no Lacoste alligator shirts where these humans are going...

Where the Grahams were saved FROM the sea, the Silverwoods are being saved FOR the sea.


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