Notable New Titles

The Backside of Normal: A Sailing Life of Adventure”
by Roger Olson
Seaworthy Publications $20

Like many fellow boating authors and journalists, I make a living wading through personal accounts of fellow writers, weighing their opinions and observations as part of my research for a potential new book or article. Most of what I read is well written and poignant. But every now and then, I find a book that goes beyond the predictable, forcing me to review my own motivation for pursuing sailing and adventure as a way of life.

Roger Olson’s book, The Backside of Normal: A Sailing Life of Adventure, is one man’s personal account of self-transformation from regular middle-class working stiff to self-fulfilled offshore sailor and adventurer. He begins his story by describing his typically predictable American lifestyle with a family and a mortgage, the daily drive to work and the worries and stress that come with any form of employment.

And just when he thought he had achieved the American Dream, his whole world collapsed when his wife unexpectedly filed for a divorce, upending years of Roger’s hard work and diligence. He reviewed his options and finally concluded the ultimate way to emerge from catastrophe was to buy a bare, 28-foot hull, build the decks and cabin, outfit her the best he could with his limited funds and sail off to see the world from the deck of his own vessel.

Roger sailed from Costa Mesa, Calif., on his Bristol Channel Cutter 28 Xiphias and went on to visit many of the South Pacific islands, including Central America, French Polynesia and Papua New Guinea, which is rarely visited by outsiders. In New Zealand, he and his girlfriend, Cindy, faced a horrible, unexpected tragedy that threatened the future of their sailing plans.

Further tragedy and loss beleaguered Roger in the South Pacific, yet he pressed on, eventually settling in Panama. He is the producer of the short film, “Melanesian Adventure,” now available on YouTube. He also wrote another book, Plot Your Course to Adventure: How to be a Successful Cruiser, which explains how to undertake offshore voyages while dealing with the challenges of anchoring, sailing through storms and dealing with