|From Ocean Navigator #138 |
John Vigor, however, is definitely not your average man. In Small Boat to Freedom we first meet Vigor living comfortably in South Africa with his wife, June, and son, Kevin. He’s a popular syndicated newspaper columnist who daily sips the good life in the beautiful east coast city of Durban, while political violence slowly escalates in the apartheid state he calls home. Vigor glides along comfortably enough, until one morning he discovers terrorist graffiti sprayed on his home. Alarm bells ring, and he begins to envision their idyllic lives dissolving in the chaos of a seemingly inevitable, racially based civil war.
Small Boat to Freedom is a true story. It offers a revelation into life in the land of apartheid through the moral and ethical issues driving Vigor’s decision to give up his home and friends – one being the government’s draconian measures to muzzle the country’s free press. But the book is also an absorbing chronicle of how the Vigor family tests its resolve and skills in a serious ocean cruise to escape from their homeland, all the while remaining painfully aware of the not insignificant fact that they have no jobs awaiting them when they reach their destination in America.
Unsure of his newly purchased boat’s seakeeping qualities, and with an untried crew of two, Vigor cautiously steers Freelance toward the South Atlantic, bound ultimately for Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Onboard is most of the Vigor’s net worth, stowed in the form of gold Krugerrand coins, a precious cargo that could cause serious problems should Freelance be boarded by South African authorities. Exporting Krugerrands is a criminal offense. They embark with trepidation, knowing that they must learn to work effectively as a team, guiding Freelance through unpredictable weather and equipment breakdowns to come.
By the time Freelance arrives at Fernando de Noronha off the Brazilian coast, the reader has witnessed the skipper’s and crew’s skills honed to expert levels and enjoyed the author’s entertaining anecdotal stories of the characters who have sailed along this same route – cruising legends like Eric and Susan Hiscock, Bernard Moitessier, and Jean Gau. (But when Vigor trades a bottle of Johnny Walker whiskey for a six pack of warm Brazilian beer, we are left wondering about this skipper’s seriously impaired bartering skills.)
Small Boat to Freedom is a heartfelt chronicle of escape and rebirth and will appeal to anyone who has ever been inspired to chuck it all and slip away on a high-seas yachting adventure.
The Lyons Press, Guilford, Conn.; 260 pages; $21.95.
J. Gregory Dill