Tightwads on the Loose – A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey opens with a map of the Pacific Ocean that showed the voyage of the sailing vessel Velella starting and ending in Seattle. Soon the reader is immersed in the plans of Wendy and her husband, Garth, to set sail on their open-ended adventure. And we wonder how long an introvert, whose motto is always be prepared, can live in such tight quarters with an extrovert whose motto is let’s just wing it.
These are not rich dot-com people on a yacht. Nor are they trust fund hippies, or newly retired people with a nest-egg, hence the title. But they are practiced sailors who believe in themselves and each other. Later in the book, Wendy made a statement about why it felt important to take the leap (and the risks); leave behind the meetings, deadlines, and emails; and set sail across the Pacific: “Perhaps the path of least resistance, while it offered a temporary respite from the struggles of life, ultimately held no great opportunity for growth, which was what made life most interesting.”
And risks there were! The reader departed Seattle with them — against the tide. And then there were the shipping lanes to traverse in the fog; the breakdown of equipment needed to keep them alive in said fog; those squalls and mountainous waves, alternating with a total lack of wind. Then they endured scorching tropical heat; polluted harbors; and the possibility of pirates, fishing nets, rocks, and coral reefs. Did I mention the typhoons? The author shared events in a detached, dispassionate way that belies the sheer terror you would expect one to feel. Having sailed in gales, I found myself inserting my own fear and drama into their many near-death experiences.
Yet the dangers were offset by countless magic moments and encounters. As they sailed from island to island in the South Pacific, they sometimes sailed naked through silence under silvery moons in perfect winds and temperatures. At each stop they were met with friendly, generous locals. Their days were filled with new friends, hikes, snorkels and dives. They enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow sailors, and found themselves immersed in the international racing scene. Also, while they did not set out on a “history cruise,” they encountered artifacts of World War II on almost every island. Details of those discoveries added interest and context to the account.
In desperate need of equipment repairs and the funds to pay for them, Wendy and Garth took jobs on a U.S. Army base in the Marshall Islands. As they moved off Velella, worked at their jobs, and explored the island we learn the inside story about life on Kwajalein and those who lived there. Two years later, with their boat seaworthy once again, Wendy and Garth set sail for Japan via Saipan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Okinawa. Very few blue water cruisers visit this part of the world, and tourists rarely get to see the remote harbors where Velella stopped. This sets Tightwads on the Loose apart from most sailing narratives and adds value to the reading experience.
Finally, the couple starts the arduous journey from Japan back to Seattle. They are faced with sailing 5,000 miles at the pace of a fast walk, with limited capacity for water or fuel, even food, and, of course, the possibility of a typhoon. They would have enough of everything —if all went well. This last, long voyage provided ample time on watches for Wendy to ponder what ‘reality’ would be like for them back in Seattle. After surviving the dangers of their ocean quest, how would do they do back on land and in day-to-day working life?
This is good ol’ straightforward storytelling that doesn’t require literary flourish to be captivating. Just imagine spending 24/7 for months on end with your spouse in a 31’ foot sailboat. Just imagine that your world is always moving or changing in one way or another. Now imagine immersing yourself into post-9/11 America only to discover how much everything has changed when you finally return to your home-port.
Tightwads on the Loose; a Seven Year Pacific Odyssey vividly details the highs and lows of life at sea and at port. It will definitely appeal to those who are curious about sea voyaging. Armchair travelers will find a diversity of cultural experiences, historical details, and adventures for their entertainment and education. Come on board and sail away with the intrepid Wendy Hinman and her humorous and ingenious insights about life at sea.