The University of Wisconsin Press

Memoir / Travel / Sailing


Sailing to the Far Horizon
The Restless Journey and Tragic Sinking of a Tall Ship
Pamela Sisman Bitterman

Terrace Books

“The reader can’t help but mourn the loss of the ship and the crew’s improvised lifestyle, as well as feel the joy, danger, and discovery that the author experienced and never forgot.”

The tall ship Sofia sank off New Zealand’s North Island in February 1982, stranding its crew on disabled life rafts for five days. They struggled to survive as any realistic hope of rescue dwindled. Just a few years earlier, Pamela Sisman Bitterman was a naïve swabbie looking for adventure, signing on with a sailing co-operative taking this sixty-year-old, 123-foot, three-masted gaff-topsail schooner around the globe. The aged Baltic trader had been rescued from a wooden boat graveyard in Sweden and reincarnated as a floating commune in the 1960s. By the time Sofia went down, Bitterman had become an able seaman, promoted first to bos’un and then acting first mate, immersing herself in this life of a tall ship sailor, world traveler, and survivor.

“The story takes readers through Hurricane Kendra, civil unrest in Latin America, the arrest of the entire crew (twice), dengue fever, and a near mutiny. . . . Sailing to the Far Horizon is also a travelogue of the type of adventures many boaters dream of: gatherings with the Cuna Indians in the Gulf of San Blas, discovering ancient tikis in the Marquesas.”—Soundings

“The human stories embedded in this book, poignant and painful, reveal the way that a ship boils people down to their essentials. You really get at the heart of who someone is on a voyage, even before you add the defining element of tragedy.”—Jim Delgado, Vancouver Maritime Museum and host of National Geographic Television’s The Sea Hunters

Pam Bitterman is an explorer in every sense of the word. She has been a mediator, a teacher of maritime history and seamanship at the San Diego Maritime Museum, a devoted mother, and much more. She sailed for many years of her life. The incredible story of her first voyages, those on the tall ship Sofia, was burning inside her for nearly three decades, and as she raised her family, she pursued the writing of this book, her first. She is also the author of Muzungu, a travel memoir of her experience in Kenya, and the children’s book When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn to Read, which won a CBC Gold Medal and a Sharp Writ book award. She lives in San Diego, California.

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August 2012
LC: 2011043917 CN
362 pp. 6 x 9
15 b/w photos, 2 maps

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Paper $24.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-20194-4
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First published in cloth in 2004.

Terrace Books

A translated version, Mot Soderhavet, has been published in Sweden by Norstedts, Nautiska Biblioteket

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