This travelogue is an informative look at some of the smaller islands and countries of West Africa that most travelers never encounter.
Birgit Kobold and Uta Bretschneider present a tidy account of their sailing voyage in The Most Adventurous, the Most Arduous, and the Longest Way to Canada. The authors, with Bretschneider’s partner, Coco, certainly got their desired life change when they left their European homes and jobs behind and explored the world as sailors. This book is infused with descriptions of out-of-the-way destinations.
German doctors Uta and Coco, and their assistant, Birgit, were tired of the grind of their busy medical practice and planned a dream journey sailing around the world. They learned to sail, sold their practice and possessions to finance the construction of a fifty-two-foot yacht, Nessie, and carefully researched a lengthy voyage to explore places where they might want to resettle.
Coco was also looking to escape his ex-wife. Birgit chafed at the strictures of a traditional life of marriage and children. All three wanted to be able to provide medical care and supplies for needy residents at their ports of call.
This tale of their sailing adventures is alternately narrated by the trio and supplemented by many colorful photographs of wildlife, both on land and underwater; harbors; local markets; onboard activities; and the ship’s dog, Susie.
They initially planned to sail from the Netherlands to Spain and then cross the Atlantic, but a chance encounter in the Canary Islands with someone who was going to start a fishing company in Equatorial Guinea convinced them to replot their course for the West African coast. There they held medical clinics and had many exciting encounters in places like Western Sahara and Gabon that are far off the tourist path.
The book reads like a shipboard journal, with many details of day-to-day activities, meals eaten, and ship maintenance, which will be of most interest to fellow “yachties” and those familiar with nautical and meteorological terms. Others will enjoy the dramatic highlights of dealing with would-be pirates, enormous waves, medical emergencies, and the many ingenious, on-the-fly solutions to mechanical crises that the sailors devise. Birgit writes with sly sarcasm, and the easily irritated Coco is often the target of her descriptions.
The writing is uneven and suffers from typos and grammatical errors, awkward phrasing, and cryptic references that can be hard to follow. The book starts and ends abruptly, and it is not until the end of the book that the year of the voyage becomes known from references to Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn. It is also unsatisfying not to learn what “mistake that occurred in civilization” caused Uta’s death, and how the authors lost all of their money, both of which Birgit alludes to in the foreword.
The authors sometimes display a condescending attitude and cultural insensitivity toward the non-Europeans they encounter and repeatedly point out their dismay when they feel they haven’t been thanked enough or properly for their medical services and gifts.
The Most Adventurous, the Most Arduous, and the Longest Way to Canada is an informative look at some of the smaller islands and countries of West Africa that most travelers never encounter.
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