The Five Year Voyage is a highly readable account of one couple's adventure sailing their 21 foot dinghy down the Latin American coast, says Julia Jones
The Five Year Voyage: Exploring Latin American Coasts and Rivers
Seekers Press £15.99
In his late thirties Steven Ladd spent three years living and exploring alone in a 12’ homebuilt dinghy, Squeak.
When the wanderlust returned in his mid-50s he had a partner, Ginny, as eager for adventure as he was.
Their boat needed to be larger, but not very much.
Thurston was an adapted Sea Pearl trailer sailer, a 21ft two-masted dinghy, 5ft wide and drawing only 9 inches.
They added a cabin top, drinking water ballast, stowage and a sliding seat rowing system.
Two years later, when they had travelled from Florida via Cuba, Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua to Panama, they added a Honda 2hp outboard.
This would enable them to continue eastward, against the prevailing wind, exploring the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela before obtaining portage to a tributary of the Orinoco, thence to the Rio Negro through Brazil and onwards through Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina into the Atlantic once more.
Perhaps just this roll call of countries offers some hint of the extant and variety of their adventure.
On the way they married and had a baby.
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Navigation, especially through the vast and complex river systems, was usually via Ginny’s painstakingly constructed maps, downloading GPS co-ordinates from Google Earth.
The range and variety of their encounters with wildlife, indigenous peoples, gold-dredgers, fishermen, scoundrels and officials is awe-inspiring.
An extraordinary beginning to little George’s life.
The final section of the voyage, from Belem in the Amazon delta home to Los Angeles was undertaken by Stephen alone.
Even their intrepidity quailed at a long sea voyage with a toddler in such a very small boat.
This proved wise as Thurston only made it as far as the Dominican Republic.
Ridiculous to write ‘only’ in such a context!
This is an intensely impressive small boat voyage. It’s also grippingly readable.
Stephen Ladd’s first book, Three Years in a Twelve Foot Boat describing his solo adventures from the Missouri to the Pacific, South America and the Caribbean is being republished to accompany The Five Year Voyage, which will be published on 5 April 2022
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