The University of Wisconsin Press

Press Kit for Sailing to the Far Horizon

Order Page | Press Release | Excerpt | Author’s bio | Author’s photo | Cover image


Sailing to the Far Horizon
The Restless Journey and Tragic Sinking of a Tall Ship
Pamela Sisman Bitterman
Terrace Books
October 2004  LC: 2004005376 G
362 pp. 6 x 9
15 b/w photos, 2 maps, 1 diagram
ISBN 978-0-299-20194-4 Paper $24.95 t

Selected Reviews:

“In 1978, Bitterman found an ad in Co-Evolution Quarterly seeking crew members for the Sophia, a tall-ship sailing cooperative planning to circumnavigate the globe. You paid your share and you sailed. If you didn’t know how, those more experienced taught you. It was an irresistible call in a freewheeling era that suited not only her sense of adventure but also her insatiable desire to learn new things. The ship was primitive, the weather sometimes foul, and crew members came and went, but Bitterman took to sailing and the unorthodox life as if she were born to it. It was a grand, three-year ride, but as the subtitle tells us, the Sophia sank, putting an end to the venture with crushing finality. Drawing primarily on the logs and letters she sent home, the author tells this compelling 25-year-old story as if it happened yesterday. And 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.”
—Danise Hoover, Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

“There are a range of sailing adventure books out there, but nothing as a serious contender other than Junger’s Perfect Storm. The human stories embedded in this book, poignant and painful—the way a ship boils people down to their essentials. . . even before you add the defining element of tragedy—make this a work on its own.”
Jim Delgado, host of National Geographic Television’s The Sea Hunters and executive director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum

“Several hours after I finished reading this book, I was still recovering. I felt as if I’d been shaken, and punched in the stomach. And yes, that’s a desirable reaction . . . I’ve read many travelers’ tales, but few rivaled this one’s blend of sensory detail and indulgence with true risk-taking . . . Amazingly, even the descriptions of tropical scenery were all distinct and interesting to read—unlike so many descriptions of beautiful, exotic places.”
Gillian Kendall, co-author with Mark O’Brien of How I Became a Human Being: A Disabled Man’s Quest for Independence

Press Release:

For Immediate Release:
October 4, 2004
Contact: Publicity Manager
608-263-0734 /

Woman Conquers Adversity in Tall Ship
Autobiographical Master-and-Commander-meets-A-Perfect-Storm tale features adventure, quirky characters, and tragedy

When Pam Bitterman talks of her experiences on the adventurous but ill-fated Sofia in her late twenties, you can hear that this is a story she feels she can’t keep to herself. Lucky for us, she hasn’t, because the result is a book in a class by itself.

Bitterman joined the crew of the old-fashioned tall ship to see the world and to prove to herself she could handle it. In the end, she also got a grim sort of “growth experience” she hadn’t bargained for, when the Sofia sank during a storm off New Zealand.

And so Bitterman came away with not only a plethora of fascinating tales of world exploration and personal dynamics, but also the wisdom of one who has truly grown through adversity.

Over the years, the Sofia story stuck with Bitterman as a narrative she had to share. Her vivid and exciting account, SAILING TO THE FAR HORIZON: The Restless Journey and Tragic Sinking of a Tall Ship, is the first account of the Sofia’s tragic end, and it proves that the details of events from this journey endure as clearly today as when Bitterman was a naive “shellback” swabbie, later ship’s bos’un, then acting first mate, and finally, merely one on a life raft of grateful survivors.

Not dissuaded by her initial voyage, during which Hurricane Kendra chased the schooner miles off course, Bitterman went on to witness rare gatherings with Cuna Indians in the Gulf of San Blas, the discovery of original ancient tikis hidden away in the Marquesas, and a treasured offering of traditional tapa cloth from island natives; as well as a time of civil unrest in Latin America and the chaos during the final stages of the treaty that returned control of the Canal Zone to Panama.

The drama ensues with the arrest of the entire Sofia crew in two different countries, a bout with dengue fever, and a near-mutiny in New Zealand before the final voyage.

But of the many legions of wayfarers who participated in the Sofias diverse and colorful history, only seventeen were on board when she went down, and of those who survived to tell the tale, none has . . . until now.

Sailing to the Far Horizon draws on original journal entries, photographs, and excerpts from official Coast Guard documents that chronicle the fascinating enigma that was the Sofia and its dramatic end.

SAILING TO THE FAR HORIZON: The Restless Journey and Tragic Sinking of a Tall Ship is available for sale at bookstores, by phone at 773-702-7000, and online at

We would greatly appreciate receiving a copy of any review or notice that may appear. Please send tear sheets, noting name and location of publication and date of issue, to the Publicity Department at the University of Wisconsin Press.


“I boarded the tall ship in Boston on August 20, 1978. We left the harbor bound for the Caribbean in the early dawn of October 25, marking the beginning of my maiden voyage aboard the Sofia. Those introductory months in port had proved interesting if not illuminating, productive without the benefit of certainty. I was there, but I did not yet belong. Had I not spent so much of my early life marching chin high, shoulders squared through unfamiliar territory in which I felt no semblance of belonging, I might have bolted for somewhere safe and something accustomed. But as before, the magnetic attraction of the unknown ignited my resolve to face that interminable feeling of aloneness.”
excerpt from the book

Author’s bio:

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.

For more information in addition to this press kit contact our publicity manager, phone: (608) 263-0734, email:

[Return to the book page for Sailing to the Far Horizon]

Cover image:

cover of the Bitterman is a dramatic photo of a tall sailing ship on a darkly bluish storm pregant sky and ocean

This cover image can be downloaded and used in any web-based publicity for this book. For a 300 dpi version, click here.

Author’s photo

photo of the author shows a resolute woman with short grey hair in front of a beach

This image can be downloaded and used in any web-based publicity for this book. For a 300 dpi version, click here.

Please direct any inquiries for further publicity materials to our publicity manager, phone: (608) 263-0734, email:

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Updated January 13, 2013

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