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Lost in the Stacks: Wavewalker

One morning, Sue’s father calmly announced the Cook family was going to sail around the world. They would buy a yacht, sell their hotel in England, and follow Captain Cook’s third voyage to South America, South Africa, Australia and Hawaii. Despite mum being prone to seasickness and dad prone to recklessness, the Cook family (alas, no relation to Captain Cook) set sail from Plymouth, England, on the Wavewalker with 7-year-old Sue and younger brother Jon in tow. 

Life aboard the Wavewalker could be magical for young children. There were flying fish littering the deck, friendly whales and dolphins, and twinkling stars thickly covering the night sky. Yet there were also close calls that could have led to catastrophe. The yacht almost collided with a Russian tanker, a broken compass nearly derailed their journey, and storms, terrifyingly violent, howling storms, heaved the Wavewalker into near oblivion. One such storm severely injured Sue and left her so traumatized she suffered from night terrors years afterwards. 

wavewalker coverAs three years stretched into five, and then into a decade, life on the Wavewalker was as much misery as magic. As they sailed around the South Pacific from one island to another, Sue became increasingly disenchanted with their peripatetic life. Cavalier about her education and dismissive of her emotional needs, Sue was often below decks cooking and cleaning for family and crew. She longed for school and friends. Now a teenager, Sue needed to find a way to break free. 

Suzanne Heywood’s memoir Wavewalker is a vividly told account of an extraordinary childhood spent sailing the oceans and her determination to live life on her own terms. For another account of an ordinary family’s not-so-ordinary sailing adventure, try Black Wave: A Family’s Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them

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