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Boating books review: A grieving sailor’s voyage

Lifelong sailor Paul Heiney bought a Chuck Paine-designed Victoria 38 and set off on one of sailing’s greatest challenges. One Wild Song (Bloomsbury Publishing, $26) is his account of an 18,000-mile, mostly solo sail from England to Cape Horn and back.

Heiney made the voyage in an effort to connect with his late son, Nicholas, also a sailor, who took his life at the age of 23. The British television host and author of more than a dozen books conveys the weight of grief, salted with moments of humor and the highs and lows of sailing through storms and vast expanses of water. “The start of a new voyage is a time of confused emotions, a tumult of thoughts and feelings every bit as wild as the tumbling waves around you,” Heiney writes in the introduction.

Surviving In The Southern Ocean

In April 1998 the Sudur Havid, an aging 148-foot longliner, left Cape Town, South Africa, for Antarctic seas with 38 crew aboard. Only 21 would survive. In Last Man Off (Penguin Group USA, $17) Matt Lewis recounts the deadly voyage. A marine biologist by trade, Lewis was a last-minute addition to the crew. When a storm begins to overwhelm the bilge pumps and the captain and first mate make a series of fateful errors, it is Lewis who leads the crew into three life rafts. “Above us, the thin canvas canopy is our only shelter from the shrieking wind,” Lewis writes. “Every few minutes, the canopy is crushed against us by the crest of a breaking wave, flexing the inflatable life raft as if folding in two, jolting us from our contemplations.” It’s a harrowing tale of survival.

Gulf Stream Diversity

The marine life off Hatteras Island, where the inner edge of the Gulf Stream flows northward over the outer continental shelf, is unlike that of any other area in the Atlantic. David S. Lee paints a portrait of the rich diversity found there in Gulf Stream Chronicles, a collection of 20 essays (University of North Carolina Press, $28). As a research scientist, Lee made more than 300 visits to this area off North Carolina. He documented its biodiversity, including exotic sea beans, whales, sea turtles, sunfish, flying fish and Bermuda petrels. The environmentalist author, who died in 2014, stresses that ocean environments are fragile and more than ever are vulnerable to such threats as pollution, offshore energy development and climate change.

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue.