Call this book life-affirming, a saga of human survival, a tale of loss and victory, proof of the resilience of the human spirit it's any of those and all of them. But Red Sky in Mourning is also a walloping good yarn that grabs your heart and tweaks your spirit and makes you think twice about sailing during hurricane season.

That's what Tami Oldham and her fiancŽ Richard Sharp did in September of 1983, when they agreed to deliver the yacht Hazana from the South Pacific to its owners in San Diego, California. It seemed like a good idea at the time, especially for two people who were crazy about sailing, very much in love and planning a future together.

The couple's good business decision, however, turned into a tragic catastrophe. Ambushed by Hurricane Raymond, a late-season storm, the Hazana "pitchpoled" and "flipped end over end," losing its masts. The motor was also disabled. At Richard's insistence, Tami reluctantly went below, trusting the tethers of their safety harnesses to keep them both secure. Suddenly, she heard Richard scream. She returned to consciousness 27 hours later in the wreckage of the ship, with her husband-to-be forever gone.

What happened in the next 41 days was alternately appalling and heartening. Tami sailed the wreck to land with the help of the sextant, which luckily survived the storm. Recounting memories of her earlier life and romance with Richard, Tami's story ranges from metaphysical contemplation as she comes to terms with his death and copes with such mundane details as having her long hair matted in salt water for 41 days.

Amazingly, Tami still loves to sail and "is a 100-ton licensed captain with more than 50,000 offshore miles." It's apparent that she has never forgotten Richard, but 19 years later he is no ghost threatening her later marriage and children. The best lesson in the book takes place soon after the disaster, as she drags herself away from thoughts of suicide and despair: "If I was going to live, let's get to living." Maude McDaniel writes from Cumberland, Maryland.

comments powered by Disqus