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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 22, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsThe Sailboat Tells the Tale in Thomas' New Book

The Sailboat Tells the Tale in Thomas’ New Book

Emy Thomas is the 90-year-old author of “Hula,” based on her young life sailing the world’s oceans. (Photo by Susan Ellis)

A home-made catamaran narrates the story of a young couple’s voyage into the world’s oceans in St. Croix author, Emy Thomas’s newest book — her first work of fiction — “Hula.”

Hula was built by one of the novel’s two main characters — Jack — who patterned the boat after ancient Hawaiian double canoes because they were known to sail long distances. Jack’s lifelong goal is to circumnavigate the world on his catamaran.

At the beginning of the book, Thomas tells a brief history of the Hawaiian outriggers that sailed hundreds of miles centuries ago and inspire Jack, who moves to St. Croix to build his vessel.

“They were not gorgeous boats but very sea-worthy. They were flexible to go long distances,” Thomas said.

After Hula is built, Jack meets Jill, a reporter who interviews him about building the boat. They fall in love and become a couple. Unlike Jack, Jill did not grow up by the sea, learning to sail as a young boy as Jack did. But, she is eager to learn and struggles to understand the involved process of navigation by the moon, sun and stars and she takes her turn keeping watch. Occasionally, Jill whispers about her fears during rough sailing to Hula.

Thomas said she envisions Hula speaking in a “weird voice.” The boat is omniscient and a happy adventurer. Hula narrates the story from her point of view and what she is doing as they travel.

“Hula’s” ports of call are all colorfully described. Thomas details the weather, sea conditions and the geography. The author paints vibrant pictures of people they meet in each place.

The reader learns nautical terms about life on a boat and how to navigate unfamiliar places — they even got jobs in several ports. Anyone with the desire to island-hop will learn valuable facts about the Caribbean and Pacific islands by reading “Hula.”

Readers will understand which islands the couple liked most and why. Thomas describes each place as though she was just there. She writes about the people with the warmth of her memories — clearly remembering how special the new and short friendships were.

During their voyage, the couple went from the American and British islands to the Windward and Leeward Islands. They crossed the Panama Canal and sailed for more than a month before reaching the Marquesa Islands. Samoa, Moorea, Bora Bora, the Cook Islands and Melanesia led to New Zealand and islands in between. Then, Jack and Jill spent a year in Australia avoiding hurricane season.

This writing has no spoiler — “Hula” must be read to learn the ending. The journey to the end is entertaining, interesting and educational.

Thomas, originally from Connecticut, has lived in the Virgin Islands for many years. She said it was much easier to write about the Caribbean than the journey into the Pacific. Fortunately, she came across her sailing log to refresh her memory.

Thomas has written three previous books. She said she needed something different to do during the pandemic and based “Hula” on her years sailing a similar itinerary. Her non-fiction books are “Home Is Where the Boat Is,” “Life in the Left Lane,” “A Most Unlikely Story (A Short Memoir of a Long Life).”

“Hula” is available at Undercover Books, the St. George Village Botanical Garden, Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts and Eden South, all on St. Croix. The $20 book also can be purchased online.

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