It was just after dark in a lonely reach of the South Pacific. As we sped westward, the ocean floor was a mile below us – or it was supposed to be. Like when microphone feedback suddenly fills an auditorium until you must cover your ears, a deafening shrill exploded through the boat. It seemed to come from everywhere. Then a big jostle. horrible, gouging, scraping chalkboardlike sounds. The twin hulls under us were screaming. John looked at me the way someone in the next seat of an airplane might look if, at forty thousand feet, all the engines just quit. I had never seen him so instantly confused and horrified – then came the great shaking and crash as we bounced more violently between the iron-hard treetops of submerged coral, sharp as butcher knives. Seconds later we slammed full on into the coral reef. Our home, the Emerald Jane, came to a ripping halt, and the great waves of the Pacific exploded around us in a deafening, continuous roar. -From Black Wave, pages 5, 6-
John and Jean Silverwood lived with their four children in Southern California. They seemed to have it all – a beautiful home, comfortable income and lots of friends. But beneath the happy exterior, lay a family in a struggle with addiction and a search for larger meaning in life. They made a decision, which would change their lives, to set sail on the 55 foot catamaran Emerald Jane. For two years, the Silverwood family sailed the high seas, visiting remote islands, running from pirates and seeing some of the world’s most beautiful scenery and wildlife. Their adventure was full of challenges, but it forced them to grow and come together as a family. And then, near the end of the voyage on a velvety dark night, they collided with a coral reef. Black Wave is the story of their survival and how it changed them forever.
This true life adventure is narrated in two parts. In part one, Jean Silverwood describes the shipwreck that threatened their lives, and then looks back to recollect the weeks and months of their voyage. Her story is one of inner meditation – of her children and how they grew up in those two years, and of her marriage which was challenged by John’s alcoholism. She writes with a poetic style that is easy to read. She bares her soul and so the reader feels that they know her.
In part two, John Silverwood takes over the narrative. He reveals the aftermath of their voyage and parallels their story to one which happened in 1855 when a ship called Julia Ann struck the exact same coral reef and sank into the wild Pacific waters. Although the historic tale lends some perspective (and perhaps a link to our shared pasts), it changes the direction of the book to an historic rendering versus a personal family saga. I was much more captivated with Jean’s narration…perhaps because the real story here is less about the wreck and more about a family who discovered their strengths in the face of disaster.
This book is a quick read – and I enjoyed it. Although the two parts felt disconnected to me, this is a book which will entice adventurers and sailors. Filled with images of star studded skies over the vast ocean waters, Black Wave is also a book for romantics and dreamers.