The Journals of Constant Waterman, Paddling, Poling, and Sailing for the Love of It. By Matthew Goldman, Breakaway Books, Halcottsville, N.Y. 2007, page 336. $14.
Matthew Goldman has sailed into Vineyard waters with his book The Journals of Constant Waterman. Boat enthusiasts and especially wanna-be boat enthusiasts will enjoy the short stories assembled between the cover. His trade is boat repair and maintenance and a lot of other crafts. He lives in Stonington.
You don’t have to be a licensed captain to understand the verbiage, to appreciate the value of a good story about rowing on the water. The reader can appreciate the stories that are told even, if they have rowed a boat only once in their life. Boating is also spectator sport and one can enjoy the leisure and fun of reading about someone else’s travels. Mr. Goldman’s writing is a pleasure to read. There is no heavy lifting.
Mr. Goldman shares stories about his travels in the brooks, ponds, estuaries and offshore waters with a love of place. He could be riding in a noisy aluminum canoe or a kayak or a row boat and the boats do get bitter. He takes the reader to that place, we can all aspire to appreciate, a feeling of independence on the water.
He shares with the reader his pleasure in the mystery of a little sailboat taking a breath of wind and magically being propelled into open water, towards a new familiar or unfamiliar harbor or the opposite side of a big or little pond.
A lot of books are on the shelf dedicated to the fun of boating and a reader can get lost. It is often a challenge trying to find a book that is simple enough to understand and yet also captures the mood, the melody, the color of the sea and sky the way most of us enjoy boating. The author isn’t dumbing down the theatre of boating, he just puts a little more importance on the sense of self in his love affair with the water.
For the wanna-be boating enthusiast there is even a glossary in the back of the book which describes many of the terms that appear in the book and in the local waterfront coffeeshop.
The 90 essays are short. In a fast paced world where boat enthusiasts have a hard time finding time to be an “arm-chair mariner” this is a book one can sail through easily and often.
The author validates the boat lovers’ wanderlust desire to step off the dock, slip away from the ground and enter a short journey of being suspensed between water and sky. The author is a poet, a storyteller, not a journalist. The most important information in the tale isn’t often apparent in the first several paragraphs. The tale is usually chronological. It begins with a thought, a wish, and then a story unfolds.
There is a lot of geography in this book. There are long and short cruises through Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Maryland, Florida and Cuttyhunk. There is the moon and ospreys overhead, errant aligators and snapping turtles, cod and whales below. This isn’t a travel guide. The pleasure I’ve found with this book isn’t learning about new places I haven’t sailed; the joy comes in learning how this storyteller has grown from every experience, his love affair with the interrelationship between man and water and his pursuit of a journey. Excuse the cliche, this is not about destinations; the author’s book is about the mindful effort to put importance in the journey.
If riding a boat means getting from one place to another, like a commuter might read a book aboard a ferryboat, this book is full of a lot of nonsense. You won’t learn how to be a better mariner with tips on how to kayak, how to tack in a sailboat, or mend a sail. For those who read the book, the cruises get better and even a simple ferryboat trip can be a trip for the wise.
The author’s stories encourage awareness, invite contemplation, and shares in appreciation for “being out there.” There is fun in reading a boat about boating, when the author is an aspiring poet. The words, the language and the thoughts that go into the work, have a welcome level of importance.