A Long Voyage in a Small Boat
Three Years in a 12-Foot Boat by Stephen G. Ladd
This is the true tale of Stephen Ladd’s quest to build a small sailing craft with which he could explore the rivers and waterways of North and South America. Ladd hales from the Seattle area and begins his journey in the West, on the Milk River in Montana. From there he proceeds down larger and larger rivers to the Mississippi and enters the Gulf of Mexico by way of New Orleans. His lonely voyage is punctuated by bright characters, most of whom can’t understand why Ladd would travel all alone in his tiny boat, but are happy to enliven his voyage for a time.
Ladd crosses the Gulf with his craft safely aboard a cargo ship, and spends the next two years on the rivers of Central and South America, and braving the Pacific Ocean off the pirate infested coast of Columbia. Throughout his peregrinations in South America, Ladd get robbed, spends a brief time in jail, makes some unlikely friends of all social strata, and falls in love. Despite his Harvard education, Ladd’s heart is firmly attached to his sleeve and he falls victim to a few opportunistic ladies.
Although he is not a writer by trade, Ladd makes an earnest and profound effort in his book, which is well worth reading. Also notable are the many free-verse interludes sprinkled throughout his journey, which aptly capture the at-turns austere, solitary, and rich environments through which he slowly sails.