cover image Coming about: A Family Passage at Sea

Coming about: A Family Passage at Sea

Susan Tyler Hitchcock. Ballantine Books, $12.95 (337pp) ISBN 978-0-345-40663-7

""We went sailing because we wanted to recreate our family.... We needed joy, we needed challenge,"" writes Hitchcock, after noting earlier that ""like many American families, we were spinning out centrifugally."" With their six- and eight-year-old children, Hitchcock and her husband, David, borrowed Hei Tiki, a 34-foot sailboat, from her father-in-law and sailed 3500 miles around the Caribbean in nine months. Touted as ""a woman's version"" of My Old Man and the Sea and Maiden Voyage, it is remarkable mostly because after reading Hitchcock's portrayal of just about the most self-indulgent, rude, nasty, totally humorless husband in recent family sagas, one finds it hard to believe that they are still together four years later. One plods through the recording of one hostile collision after another--many of which Hitchcock rationalizes as perhaps her fault--because the kids are adorable and because the trip itself is challenging. Hitchcock begins with barely any sailing experience in a boat that seems at times less than seaworthy for this kind of venture--and with nary a mention of anyone wearing a life preserver or a tethering harness as they plunge through the frequently treacherous seas. Despite one's fervent wish that the author will push her modern-day Captain Bligh overboard, he comes through alive and immediately takes off with his father and son on a six-week island cruise, leaving Hitchcock and her daughter to return home and clean up the mess left by a student renter. Hardly the ""wonderful meditation on marriage, family and the beauty of togetherness"" promised in the blurb. (May)