Saturday, July 25, 2009


Recently a 17-yr. old boy, Zac Sunderland, completed a 13-month, 28,000 mile, round-the-world voyage in a 36 ft. sailboat. Zac bought his well-used boat for $6000, and set sail in June 2008 when he was only 16, arriving back home earlier this month, 13 months later, at Marina Del Rey in southern California. Previously home-schooled, he studied to complete a high school education while at sea. His parents--dad is a professional sailor--stayed in touch with him during the voyage, using special software and satellite updates to help track storms in Zac's path.

I was reminded of this daring kid's voyage while at the nearby Point Arena wharf, inspecting a small monument (see my sketch) on the rock-armored beach, commemorating a landing of 15 men from the town of Yawatahama, Japan, on Aug. 13, 1913. A free-hand etching done on a metal plate set in the top of the monument depicts their 15-meter, 3-masted junk, and though the boat was a bit larger than Zac's, it may not have been any more seaworthy, and certainly did not have the satellite updates of weather to help plan the safest route along the 11,000 km voyage. It did have 15 crewmen , though, which I'm not certain was an asset or a problem. Disappointingly, the hopeful immigrants were returned to Japan; nevertheless, a sister city relationship sprang up between Yawatahama and Point Arena in later years.

All of which leads into my latest evening reading, "On to Oregon," by Honore Morrow. First published in 1926, it had been mentioned by a number of YA literature folks as one of their favorite books while growing up, and was compared to a couple of American classics. I'd never heard of Morrow's novel, but as noted, I'm intrigued by stories of epic journeys. John Sager, a 14-yr. old boy, with four younger siblings, and his parents, are on a wagon train leaving Missouri in 1844, and headed for the Oregon Territory. He is a difficult, rebellious boy, and the journey up through Wyoming has already faced desolate wasteland, hunger, sickness, and marauding Indians. When both of John's parents die of disease, it falls to this undisciplined, but tenacious boy to keep his remaining family together, and try to bring their wagon through to Oregon. John has elements of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in his makeup, but he faces much more dangerous trials in his story. I'm only one-third through, so I've yet to decide how well the book succeeds.

A collection of my YA book reviews is at Jacketflap.

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