Orca is, quite simply, required reading for anybody contemplating running away in a small boat. For those with more sense than to consider such madness, it offers a different perspective on everyday life delivered by a very young man with a head on his shoulders made mature by the sea.
It’s far too easy for a retired ocean sailor like me who served his time forty years ago in a freer, simpler world, to imagine that the age of high adventure, near-zero funding and minimalist boats has gone with the wind. It has not. Humanity doesn’t change a jot, and the good ship Orca and her bold crew are here to spell it out for us.
John A Pennington is a 22-year-old surfer from California who decides life has more to offer than the beach and another wipe-out, so he sets himself a one-year target to clear out. He works his nuts off, saves every penny he can find and then – here’s the clever bit – he doesn’t go off dreaming about a boat the consumer propaganda machine has convinced him he must have. Instead, he and his girlfriend Kara ship out in an old long-keeled thirty-footer he has sensibly fixed up and simply disappear into the Pacific with no particular voyage plan. One improbable scenario leads to another, described with almost terrifying frankness, until they find themselves in the Antipodes. Morale takes a serious thrashing in the Australian Bight, and reading of Kara’s horrified reactions to the idea of further passage-making whisks me back many decades to my own response of total denial following a major beating-up in the North Atlantic. Somewhere down there it dawns on John that they’ve come too far downwind to turn back, so after a serious conference in a remote Australian outport, with Kara slowly unravelling their fate in the form of straight, downtown, feminine logic, they decide to circumnavigate instead. And on they go, all the way to Alaska.
It’s just so real. The characters they meet are larger than life, the heroes and the villains, the incidents on passage are outrageous and there are always laughs, even when all seems lost.
John’s book Orca is a total blast from beginning to end. The paperback is cheaper than a glass of champagne in a London bar and it’s available on Amazon. For sheer value, you can leave the bubbly to the people who are dreaming rather than doing!
Click here to find Orca, and I’m confident you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.