Thursday, January 16, 2014

Red Sky In Mourning

Jacket Illus. Credit:
“Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss and Survival at Sea” by Tami Oldham Ascraft with Susea McGearhart (pub. 2002 by Hyperion, 240pp. Including glossary)

It’s a play on words, but I guess most of you know that “red sky in the morning,” is a sailor’s memory tickler or adage that goes back over 2,000 years to help him remember clues for weather forecasting. The whole verse is: Red sky at morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight. There’s also a version that pre-dates Christ where you simply replace sailor with shepherd. The play on words here (replacing morning with mourning) just tells you in advance that a storm is coming that will take a life.

The library lending program suspends the mailing of books during the holidays. I suppose it may be to avoid overloading an already taxed postal system, but more than likely stems from the obvious increase in the likelihood of books getting lost in the Christmas postal rush. Our librarians took pity on me, knowing that my paddling book flow was about to be turned off, and pulled a couple ocean sailing books to tide my over. “Red Sky in Mourning” was one of those.

The book tells the author’s story of how she was introduced to sailing, met the dashing young man of her dreams, Richard, and cruised the Pacific islands with him to Tahiti. There they are offered a lucrative yacht delivery job back to San Diego during the tropical storm season. They gambled and lost, encountering Typhoon Raymond. The reader is taken through their efforts to avoid the storm, but they are overtaken. Tami is locked below decks, and Richard is tethered on deck when the yacht is rolled. Richard’s harness fails, and he is swept away and lost. The main part of the book is about Tami’s trials for survival, her struggle to come to terms with his loss, and her rescue and introduction back into the world where she must deal with Richard’s family and the yacht’s owners, and also how to pick up her life where she left off. For anyone who goes to sea, or on the water period, the book is a fast read that deals with some of the “what-if” scenarios that we are wise to grapple with in advance.

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