Man overboard : inside the honeymoon cruise murder

From Jackie Cantwell
Author:  Joan Lownds
Man overboard : inside the honeymoon cruise murder 
This is based on the 2005 still-unsolved murder of George Smith IV during his Mediterranean honeymoon cruise with his wife Jennifer Hagel  Smith. They were a Connecticut couple who had it all: good looks, money, lots of friends, and a seemingly good relationship.  After a night of heavy drinking and gambling in the casino of the Brilliance of the Seas ship, Jennifer ended up passed out on one end of the ship, while George was in his stateroom with 3 or 4 male acquaintances.  Reports differ as to what may have occurred in the room, but we do know a loud thud was heard by “ear-witnesses” and then George went missing, and was presumed overboard. The next morning, passengers saw a bloodied awning below the Smith cabin.  There was a cursory investigation conducted by the Turkish authorities. George’s parents and sister feel that Royal Caribbean was negligent in their investigation and that the evidence was compromised. The book follows the actions and lawsuits that the Smith family pursued to find out the truth about what happened to their son, and to find the perpetrators.  There are also summaries of other cases where passengers were killed, raped or went missing. The book serves as an indictment of not only the Royal Caribbean cruise line, but the entire cruising industry. Overall, I felt the author overly relied on secondary sources, such as transcripts from TV programs and quotes from websites and newspapers. To my knowledge, she did not interview anyone close to the case. The author does not give her opinion as to who she thinks may have murdered George Smith. This is a cautionary tale for would-be cruisers.

Three ways to capsize a boat: an optimist afloat

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Stewart, Chris
Three ways to capsize a boat: an optimist afloat 
Chris Stewart is one of the funniest travel writers you’ve never heard of.
He was the original drummer for the band Genesis (he played on their
first album); he’s also been a sheep shearer and circus performer.  He
jumped at the opportunity to skipper a small sailboat, even though he’d
never been sailing before.  We start our adventure on a 21-foot craft,
which Chris is learning to sail in Littlehampton, England, with the help
of an acquaintance.  It is not an auspicious beginning.  Then he’s off to
Greece, to deliver a sailboat, a Cornish Crabber, to the owners in
Spetses.  The boat has been in dry dock in Kalamaki all winter and is in
terrible shape; it doesn’t even have a motor.  Chris finds two men to help
repair it; they’re both named Nikos and they drive a three-wheeled tin
van.  Then Chris enlists the aid of another neophyte, and they sail the
Aegean Sea to Spetses, accidentally setting the boat on fire more than
once along the way.  His greatest adventure is joining the crew of an
expert sailor and teacher, Tom Cunliffe, aboard his vintage sailboat from
Brighton, England to Newfoundland, retracing Leif Eriksson’s journey
across the Atlantic.  There are ice floes, icebergs and a ferocious storm.
 One of my favorite passages: “And then I saw something I don’t ever want
to see again as long as I live: a colossal wall of gray water bearing down
on us. It obscured the very sky; it stood half as high as the mast.  There
was no way we could avoid being swamped.  My legs went weak and I
whimpered inwardly.” By turns, the book is a lesson in sailing,
history and geography.  Combine those with humor, and you have a winning combination.