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Sailing to the Far Horizon

by Pamela Sisman Bitterman

Of the legions of wayfarers who shared in the tall ship Sofia's diverse and colorful history, only seventeen were on board when she went down. Of those who survived to tell the tale, none has . . . until now. More than twenty-five years ago, Pamela Bitterman began her journey on board a 123-foot, sixty-year-old sailing ship being readied for its second global circumnavigation. Bitterman's initial voyage, during which Hurricane Kendra chased the schooner miles off course to Bermuda, did not impel her to retreat home. Instead, she immersed herself in this created space between the life of a tall ship sailor, world traveler, and adventurer. Her narrative describes 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. Bitterman's experiences also give readers insight into a time of civil unrest in Latin America, including a frightening road trip through Mexico and Central America, and the chaos during the final stages of the treaty that returned control of the Canal Zone back 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. The details of events from this journey endure as vividly today as when Bitterman was a naive "shellback" swabbie, later ship's bos'un, and finally acting first mate. In the end, she was merely one on a life raft of grateful survivors. Sailing to the Far Horizondraws 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.

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