The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis book review: Harold Stephens’ ‘The Voyages of the Schooner Third Sea’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jan• 28•13

StephensThirdSeaBookEver thought about cashing it all in, grabbing a sailboat, and traveling in the South Seas? Writer Harold Stephens did just that, and chronicles the romance and challenges of doing so in his thrilling book The Voyages of the Schooner Third Sea (2012, ISBN 978-0-9786951-5-6).

Here at WoWasis, we’ve become real fans of the travel writing of Stephens, who has a knack for storytelling, and eye for the romance of the seas, and is a master profiler of the people he encounters. This book tells of Stephens’ building a ferro-concrete schooner, outfitting it in Thailand, and sailing all over the Pacific. Some of our favorite stories in the book concern people like island hermit Tom Neal, Cheyenne Brando (Marlon’s ill-fated daughter), and Pacific entrepreneur Emma Coe, just three of the unforgettable people the author describes.

The schooner Third Sea’s voyages were a mixture of beauty and challenges:

But it was more than the dreaded “white thing” that made the crew ill at ease. Peter Forte was at the helm with several crew sitting around him in the cockpit. They heard a slapping bang, and thought at first that one of the crew had thrown something overboard. But no one was about. When they heard the second bang they rushed to the port rail. I too rushed on deck when I heard the noise. To my ears it sounded like someone had thrown a plank on the deck. I looked over the side and there came a shock I would never have expected. An eight-foot shark was attacking the ship. We saw the shark back off, linger for a while, and then coming threshing through the water and strike the port side of the hull head-on. He did this several times, striking the hull with his full force. I actually thought he might hole us but he didn’t, thank goodness for a ferro-cement. He stayed with us for ten minutes and then swam off to the south.

We had to break the solemn mood. Robin succeeded by cooking a magnificent dinner—fish-potato cakes with banana flambé for desert, followed by rum punches with the last of our fresh fruit. We had an equally magnificent sunset that seemed to linger forever, while the crew sat along the rail and on the cabin top, listening to Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto.” Later I noted the helmsman’s comment in the running log: “Colorful ending to an exciting day.” Beauty does follow beauty, and yet one tends to forget beauty. Upon a sailing ship, the sea and sky are infinite with beauty, and surprises. Those wonderful colors we see at dawn, as lovely as they are, they are beyond memory. They are fleeting moments of Joy, never to be duplicated. The world is the sailor’s imperishable painting.

We’ve never read a Stephens book that we didn’t love, and this 379 pager is no exception, filled with adventure and great writing. Available through

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