Sea Trials: A Lone Sailor's Race Toward Home

Sea Trials: A Lone Sailor's Race Toward Home

by Peter Bourke


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"In all, beautifully written and wonderfully inspiring."
The Wall Street Journal

"Crossing the Atlantic under sail, alone, is a nexus of sorts for all sailors, a dream and an adventure that seems obtainable within the framework of life and work, and it's in this context that Sea Trials provides inspiration to all of us. Bourke's route across the ocean, as a participant in the 2009 OSTAR, is circuitous at best as he battles headwinds and mechanical snafus, but he keeps it in perspective and never loses his sense of humor and awe. Sure he wants to do well in the race, but getting to the starting line is already a victory, and finishing, when others would have retired, seems in character. Bourke deftly weaves his life story into the narrative, from the tragic death of his wife that leaves him an angry single parent, to postponing his dreams until his kids are settled, to his rather bumbling attempts to become a sailor. It takes a good writer to make this work within the framework of a voyage, and Bourke is a very good writer. . . . I was in the cockpit with him as he spent long hours at the helm, attuned to the sea and alone with his thoughts. He doesn't whine but he's not a hero either, just a sailor dealing with his boat, the Atlantic, and life, and he relishes it all. This is a brilliant book." — John Kretschmer, author, Sailing a Serious
and At the Mercy of the Sea

Peter Bourke first heard the siren call of the sea as a young boy when he crossed the Atlantic from England with his family. Decades later, three years after his wife's sudden death, he bought a boat—even though he did not yet know how to sail. His friends thought he was crazy; but for Bourke, buying his fi rst sailboat was a lifeline, a glimmer of hope in a world turned upside down. Learning to juggle single parenting, a career in finance, and a growing urge to set sail was akin to walking a tightrope of sanity. Small voyage by small voyage he gained his sea legs, balancing the risks of singlehanding while raising children, holding his sailing dream lightly until his children had safely transited out of high school.

Bourke entered the Oldest Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR) at age 57. Sea Trials is the humble account of those 40 days of racing on his 44-foot sailboat Rubicon. As he shares his highs and lows at sea, he also weaves his intimate story of grief and rediscovery into the narrative: pain and joy, seasickness, fear, and his boundless gratitude. You are along for Bourke’s racing adventure—the good, the bad, and the very unpredictable.
Gear failure and reefi ng sails on a pitching deck in the double dark of the mid-Atlantic night intermix with wet twilights of Da Nang, Vietnam, where artillery shells pierce the sky; we also travel with Bourke down the pastoral streets of his suburban hometown toward a neighbor's house, wondering how he will find the words and courage to tell his daughter and son they have lost their mother. Bourke's offshore passage is a passage home, to the core of his humanity and humility—and as Bourke and Rubicon cross the fi nish line in Newport, Rhode Island, the world had been simultaneously opened wide and brought closer. To dream and to sail the dream is to journey off and come home again, changed.

And undoubtedly you will be inspired to take a big—but satisfying—risk of your own to fulfill your lifelong dream, whether it's on the big blue or dry land.

"Life and circumstance had left me working flat out trying to maintain my professional position, be a good father, and keep everything together. At the late-night end of many days, I found myself mumbling: 'I can't keep doing this, this is killing me, I'm dying.' It wasn't a question of wanting out of the parenting role, or the business role, but I needed a third ball for balance . . ." "To be at sea is to be in a different world, and to live alone for a time in this alien place can yield a spiritual calm. . . . In such a calm, order and perspective can enter your thoughts. Life can be harsh at sea, but it is never sordid. The simple necessities of food, drink, and sleep are received with gratitude, and always there is the sea's reminder that you are a speck of dust in the cosmos. The rush of thoughts slows, and order replaces the chaos as you consider your journey." — From the book

SEA TRIALS is a poignant account of one man's pursuit of a dream that will inspire you to tackle challenging endeavors as well as squarely face life's emotional challenges, fi nding the courage to live a fully engaged, authentic life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780071821926
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date: 07/11/2014
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Following three years in the Marine Corps, Peter J. Bourke went to college on the GI Bill and discovered economics. This is his first book.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Day 1 Loss 1

Day 2 Freedom 9

Day 3 A Course Change 17

Day 4 An Inauspicious Beginning 23

Day 5 Going Solo 29

Day 6 Reasons to Quit 37

Day 7 Anger 42

Day 8 Sailing with Childern 47

Day 9 Obsession 52

Day 10 Zephyrs 58

Day 11 Becalmed 64

Day 12 Better Lucky than Smart 69

Day 13 Sighting a Whale 73

Day 14 Gremlins Fight Back 80

Day 15 Moments to Remember 85

Day 16 Heavy Weather 91

Day 17 Origins of a Race 95

Day 18 Night Sailing 101

Day 19 Watching the Radio 107

Day 20 The hat Trick 112

Day 21 Ya Gotta Love It 118

Day 22 A River in the Sea 123

Day 23 Planet Water 128

Day 24 The Risk Budget 133

Day 25 Connections 137

Day 26 Losing the Genoa 142

Day 27 Hitting the Wall 145

Day 28 Compass Awareness 152

Day 29 Back in Gear 158

Day 30 Singing at the Helm 164

Day 31 Sailing off the Calendar 169

Day 32 Friends and Family 174

Day 33 Turning the Page 179

Day 34 Navigation 184

Day 35 A Shearwater's visit 190

Day 36 Best Seat in the House 194

Day 37 Coming to America 199

Day 38 Chopin's Variations 205

Day 39 A Surprise Squall 209

Day 40 The Fog Breaks 212

Epilogue 217


Rubicon's Sail Plan and Layout 2009 Ostar: List of Competitors, Explanation of Classes, and Tracks 222

Acknowledgments 225

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