Wavewalker: Breaking Free.
Some years ago, the editor of Cook’s Log invited me to review a book written by Captain Gordon Cook about the first year and a half he spent sailing on his 70-foot Schooner Wavewalker.1 I was chosen because I had also sailed in the wake of Captain Cook, and written about it.2
Gordon Cook’s daughter, Suzanne Heyward, has published her own account of the 10 years she spent at sea, living her parents’ dream, from the age of seven years in 1976.
In considering my approach to the book, the revelation of inter-crew difficulties, and inter-family differences and disputes, revealed conditions aboard Wavewalker that were far from satisfactory. Some of my experiences during my Endeavour voyage were similar, generated by unrelated crew differences, and by the relationships that changed and developed during the voyage.
Although I originally expressed admiration for Gordon Cook as he presented it in his story of the first part of his voyage, I have certainly changed my view of him as presented in Suzanne’s story. She generates in the reader a real sympathy in her struggle to experience a normal life and education. In the latter, she obviously became successful, though she bears the scars in her memory of the trauma of serious storms during long passages and the parenting that was far from ideal.
In the opening credits Suzanne writes
This book tells the story of my childhood during which I spent a decade sailing around the world. It takes place on a boat which sometimes follows the route of Captain Cooks epic 3rd voyage, but it is more about the excitement, frustration and heartbreak of growing up in extraordinary circumstances, than it is about that famous captain or his search for the northwest passage.
To write the story, Suzanne first needed to face her lingering fear of the ocean, which had remained into adulthood. She qualified as a Yachtmaster, as I also did. She then gathered the facts behind the story by talking to the people who had played a part in it.
Susanne notes some pertinent quotes from James Cook’s journals; it is clear she had a good understanding of the voyages of Cook, as she often queries her father as to why they do not visit places Cook visited. She has speculated that the Cook Bicentennial reason for the trip was more about securing sponsorship, as they missed all of the celebrations in Australia, and the anniversary of his death in Hawai`i.
Suzanne’s personal account is a cautionary tale to parents who are considering fulfilling their sailing dreams with children, for they may, as they grow up, wish they could just live normal lives. John Passmore describes in his book3 setting out on a round-the-world sailing adventure with his young family. However, after witnessing the heartbreak of his child having to constantly say goodbye to new friends, they decided to return home to live in a house for the next 20 years. Equally, there are many successful families encircling the blue globe with children, who are thriving as maritime nomads.
Wavewalker: Breaking Free is, essentially, a personal tale from the perspective of a daughter raised by a family whose values and priorities are at odds with her own, and the consequences that has on her. It is a fascinating and thought-provoking read. If you are only interested in James Cook’s voyages, however, this book may not be for you.
- Cook, Gordon. Schooner to the Southern Oceans; The Captain James Cook Bicentenary Voyage, 1776 -1976. Troubador. 2011. Reviewed in Cook’s Log. 2012. Vol. 35, no. 1. Page 27.
- Paul, John. Sailing in the Wake of Captain Cook’s Ship ‘Endeavour’. CMP (UK) Ltd. 2015.
- Passmore, John. Old Man Sailing: Some dreams take a lifetime. Samsara Press.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 40, volume 46, number 3 (2023).