what you see when out to sea

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Adrianna's First Review

The Great Wide Sea
By M. H. Herlong
Review by. Adrianna Ames

The Great Wide Sea, a novel by M. H. Herlong, is definitely one of my favorite books. People always say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” So I followed that advice when my friend handed me this book. She had read it and told me that it was a really good book.
So I read it.

Ben is the narrator of the story and who the story follows. He is also the oldest of the three brothers. He’s 16 turning 17 and is interested in engineering. Dylan is the next oldest. He’s nearly 12 and his thing is astronomy. Gerry is the youngest. He’s 5, almost 6, and is still attached to his blue blankie. The Dad’s name is Jim. He loves to read poetry and his life-long ambition is to sail to the Bahamas and go from island to island for a year. Before the story began, Christine, the wife and mother, tragically died in a car accident, going to the store for ice cream.

One day, the boys all came home from school and a “For Sale” sign on their front lawn. When they asked their dad what was going on, he told them that he was selling the house and they were going to sea for a year. The boys had a small sailboat out on the nearby lake. They all loved to sail, but leaving their friends, their sailboat and, most of all, their mother’s house was not a positive feeling. They were selling their house and Ben’s small sailboat, and they had to leave school. Ben, being 16, really wanted a car. His mother had promised him a car when he turned 16, but now that she wasn’t there anymore, his father was in charge, and Ben wasn’t going to get his car.

The house sold more quickly than they thought it would. A family bought the house and the sailboat. The movers came and cleaned out the house. In the process of the packing, Ben was having a really hard time, feeling that everything was going to be lost: his mom’s house, her things, and his sailboat. Added to that, he was going away for a whole year, on a trip that he couldn’t get out of. He wasn’t close to his dad to begin with, and now that a year-long voyage was being forced on him, he disliked his father strongly.

The boys packed their clothes in duffel bags and left the next morning. They drove all night down to Key West. The next morning, their dad was down at the marina looking at their new boat. Before sailing that day, their dad gave them each a book. Ben’s was all about engines, cleaning them and fixing them. Dylan’s was about celestial navigation, and Gerry’s was a children’s book on a little sailer boy. He told them that those books were going to be very important to them. While at sea, they would perform those respective duties.

Upon first seeing the boat, Ben, being the narrator, shared his feelings about it. He said, “Chrysalis (the boat’s name) was not big or beautiful. She was only a few feet over thirty. Her white hull was scratched and dull, with a long red streak running almost the whole length of the port side. Sun and salt had bleached and roughened the teak. The joints were caked with black gunk. And there on the stern was her name, Chrysalis, in fancy, looping letters. It was awful” (Herlong 17).

The first day was just a test run. The radio didn’t work, the sails were dirty, bunched up in bags, the engine needed to be cleaned. After the test run, they took a couple days and fixed up the boat, then off they went.

The first island they reached was the island of Bimini. They stayed there for several days, slept out on their boat and took their dinghy to the island everyday. Soon, they began to have some trouble with Ben,. At one island he was so upset with his father that he jumped into the ocean and swam to shore and stayed there for the whole day, just laying on the beach. At another island, they got seaweed stuck in the propeller, and Ben dived down and fixed it. Then it happened again. Jim dove on the prop. There was a lot more seaweed this time, and he needed a knife. While he was clearing the prop, the knife slipped and cut his hand badly.

They were getting ready to head back to Key West but then their dad told them something they absolutely did not want to hear: they weren’t going back to Key West yet. He wanted to sail to Bermuda first. Everyone wanted to go home except him, but he was the captain.

Sailing to each island in the Bahamas usually took all night so that they had shifts for steering the boat. First, Dylan would be on watch from 4pm to 9pm. Then, Jim would follow from 9pm to 1am. Ben had the next shift from 1am to 6am.

On their way to Bermuda, Dylan took his shift, and then his dad relieved him. Ben usually was awakened by his dad shaking him because it was his turn to steer. But he wasn’t awakened that morning. He woke up at 8am, and the boat was strangely silent. He went up on the deck and didn’t see his dad anywhere. He also realized that the one and only EPIRB was gone. Ben woke Dylan up, and neither knew what to do. They didn’t want to wake Gerry up yet, because they knew that he would panic and cry.

They had a log where they wrote the time and speed of the boat and the direction so they could see where they were on the maps. But their dad was gone and nothing was written in the log. They didn’t know how fast the boat had been going; they didn’t know when their dad fell overboard; they had no clue where they were.

When Gerry woke up, he started asking where his dad was. Dylan and Ben had to tell him that they had no clue where he was and they couldn’t go back and find him. They didn’t know what direction to go, how far they would have to travel back, and they didn’t even know for sure that he was still alive.

They are surprised one morning awakening wrecked on a ledge not far from a small island. They take the dinghy to shore with as much stuff as they can fit on, and Ben goes back three or four more times getting everything important off the sailboat.

When I was younger I used to take sailing lessons here on North Haven. My grandmother told me that if I took Sailing lessons until I was a certain age that she would buy me my own sail boat.

I went to camp last summer and while I was there I received a letter from my Dad saying that he had a surprise for me when I got home. So for two weeks I was wondering what it could be. Then when I got home I saw a big navy blue sail boat sitting on a boat trailer in the yard. I was so happy. I named the boat after my mom. Marina Dawn.

I picked this book because I love sailing. I have sailed ever since I was 5. My friend said that she had read this book and she thought that I would like it. She knows that I like adventurous stories because I am an adventurous person, and that I love the ocean and I love to sail. This book was perfect for me. It had me hooked from the first page. I’d read it again. I don’t even remember looking at the pages, I just remember seeing what was going on in the book, picturing it in my head so easily. It’s funny how books can do that to you.

The second I read that the father, Jim, had fallen overboard, I was even more interested. Then it goes to the boys getting stuck in a big storm, and its even more interesting. Then they get stranded on an island! The book’s gripping story goes from interesting to extreme.

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