McPhee joined a friend, merchant mariner Andy Chase, on a 42-day voyage from Charleston, S.C., through the Panama Canal, down the Pacific coast of South America. A gem of a book, this leisurely, unpretentious log is a paean to the United States Merchant Marine, a declining institution battered by international competition and lowered cargo rates. The ship's New England captain ``couldn't find his way around a traffic circle'' but manages to outmaneuver a tropical storm. Porpoises and albatrosses accompany the SS Stella Lykes on a cruise laden with much talk of stowaways, collisions and cocaine smuggling, of pirates both legendary and contemporary (the modern variety carry bolt-cutters and walkie-talkies). McPhee's ( The Control of Nature ) clean, lean prose displays his sharp eye for telling detail and arresting incident. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/1990 Release date: 09/01/1990 Genre: Nonfiction
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