Notable New Titles

Finding Serendipity:
An Adventure of Boating on North America’s Great Loop
by John L. Gray
JL Gray Co., 377 pages;
$18.95 on Amazon

John Gray’s Finding Serendipity recounts a journey on his 29-foot motor yacht, a compact Ranger Tug called Andiamo (Italian for “Let’s Go”). On a flawless February morning, the author and his wife, Laurie, set out on what boating enthusiasts describe as “looping,” a circuit beginning on Florida’s west coast. The couple then cruised north along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to Chesapeake Bay and New York’s Erie Canal. From there, the route crossed the Great Lakes before veering south on inland rivers of America’s heartland, including the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee.

The book’s title refers to the joys of chance encounters with people and places, for Finding Serendipity is more than a cruising log. As the author guides readers through waterways of the celebrated passage, he punctuates his narrative with chatty episodes of yarning with fellow boaters and introduces us to a wealth of information on museums, marinas, state parks and historic battlefields of the Civil War.

Gray, based in Washington State, has written an engaging book, but one plagued by significant omissions. Readers are likely to become confused working through a narrative of rivers, canals and lakes without sectional maps to help identify them, and photographs would have added immeasurably to a sense of the journey.

Still, the author’s uncluttered prose is gratifying to read. Here, for instance, is his account of closing on a string of towboats pushing barges down the Illinois River. Gray’s wife radioed the tail-end laggard, called Miss T:

“This is recreational boat Andiamo behind you.”

“Go ahead, darling.”

“We would like to do a slow pass when convenient for you.”

“Pass on my starboard side, and I will ease over and pull back on my throttle.”

“Thank you so much.”

  “Y’all have a safe trip, and I’ll let the other tows know y’all are downbound. Miss Tout.”

Alan Littell