The top tales about the beloved seas:
Winter is rolling in, with cooler weather and time off for the holidays, some may not be lucky enough to get out on the water but there’s nothing like a good read about the beloved seas to suffice. Here is a short list of seafaring tales that will surely take one on their own adventures this holiday season. Some of the greatest adventures on the sea are traveled by book, not by boat.
The Odyssey by Homer
Known as one of the most influential epics of all time, this classic follows the story of a Greek hero Odysseus and his journey home after the fall of Troy. Themes of homecomings, wandering, and omens are among ones that captains and sea lovers alike can relate to. It takes Odysseus about twenty years to cover the distance from Troy to his beloved island, he even manages to lose a fleet of twelve ships.
The Narrative of Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe
The only complete novel that Poe wrote, this piece follows the tale of young Arthur Gordon Pym, who stows away aboard a whaling ship called the Grampus. The story begins as a fairly regular adventure at sea, but steadily becomes strange and hard to classify. This work was inspired by Poe’s several real life accounts of sea voyages, and he drew heavily from these personal experiences, which makes for a wonderful read.
The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
Another classic sea tale, this creative nonfiction novel covers the storm in 1991 that hit North America between October and November, featuring the crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail, from Gloucester, Massachusetts, who were lost at sea during severe conditions while longline fishing for swordfish. Known as one of the most famous wreckage tales, this novel has been adapted to a movie version. But nothing beats the intense details described by Junger in this seafaring story.
The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This story was originally published as a fourteen part series in the El Espectador newspaper in 1955 but later published into a book in 1970. The series follows the story of a shipwrecked sailor who nearly died on account of negligence by the Columbian Navy. Several of his colleagues drowned shortly before arriving at the port of Cartagena de Indias. The books themes include a moral reversion to a primitive, instinctual existence in the face of a sea catastrophe and consequent shipwreck and solitude. This novel filled with passion makes for an excellent journey to embark on this holiday season.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
An American novel by Melville published in 1851 during the American Renaissance. This piece follows the Sailor Ishmael as he tells the story of the obsessive quest of Ahab, captain of the whaler the Pequod for revenge on Moby Dick. Because the British edition lacked the Epilogue, which accounts for Ishmael’s survival, it seemed that the story was told by someone who was supposed to have perished. This novel at times seems long, but the merit comes from the rediscovery of revealing all manner of things about ocean currents and the habits of the sea, truly and honestly.
The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson
Not strictly a seafaring journey or voyage, The Little Mermaid is readily full of fish stories and other themes regarding ocean life. One may think of The Little Mermaid as a Disney fairy tale, but the original Danish novel is anything but that. The prince and the mermaid don’t end up in each other’s arms, and love doesn’t prevail, it actually brings pain and doom. The reason why this novel was so adaptable for a Disney movie is because of Anderson’s way of using fairy tales cunningly to tell his tormentors harsh truth in a seemingly inoffensive way.
A Mile Down by David Vann
A memoir by David Vann, this novel is a compelling and inspirational true story about Vann building his own sailing ship and the disastrous voyage that follows. This novel shares the themes of struggle and redemption, a tale of one man’s attempt to overcome fate and realize his dream. One can’t help but admire Vann the writer. Any addict of heavy weather sailing should settle into a great evening by the fire for this passage alone.