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The Oarsman

Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

Student Run News Site of Venice High School

The Oarsman

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The Long Tale Of “The Boy who Sailed Around the World Alone”

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I don’t own my favorite book. In truth, I’ve only read it once in the laundromat of Two Harbors on Catalina Island. I’ve been sailing to Two Harbors on my family’s little sailboat since I was a kid, and last summer was no different. 

I had been tasked to sit in that laundromat for a couple hours, waiting for our engine to charge, as it was one of the few secluded areas of the now touristy harbor with an electrical outlet. I had nothing but a plastic cup of water, a small shelf of ratty books, and the calming ambient sounds of broken washing machines. Amidst the moldy, decaying books, was the one that caught my eye. 

It was called The Boy who Sailed Around the World Alone. At first, I picked it up to pretend to read as someone came in, and me being the socially awkward person I was, didn’t want to be forced into conversation. Then I started to read it, and I immediately became obsessed with the true story of that little sailor boy. 

July 1965. Robin Lee Graham was sixteen years old when he left Morro Bay, CA on his Bill Lapworth-designed 24 ft sloop (a small sailboat) called the Dove. He had a mission. He was going to be the youngest person ever to sail around the world. 

Together with his two kittens (Joliette and Suzette), he started the first stage of his journey, the Pacific leg. His first landfall was in Honolulu, HI, and 14 days later, he landed in Fanning Island. He planned next to travel to the islands of Pago Pago, but after a difficult squall that damaged the Dove, he was forced to sail jury rig to Apia on Upolu. After several months, he again set a course for Pago Pago, and this time successfully made it, and planned to stay there to wait out the hurricane season. 

Months later he continued the Pacific leg of his journey going to places like Tonga and Fiji. He made his way through the Yasawa groups, meeting and learning from the locals all along the way. One particular person he met was named Patti, a woman who had been “stopping to work at various places and living mainly by her wits.” He quickly fell in love. 

He continued his journey, moving to the Indian and Atlantic Ocean. All along the way he was joined by Patti, and they experienced new cultures together, staying in certain places for longer due to either hurricane season, much needed repairs, or just the love for the places they have found. After spending 9 months in South Africa, Graham finally married Patti, and they continued the rest of the journey as husband and wife. 

Five years after leaving California, Graham’s adventure came to an end. He ended it having married his best friend, having seen much of the world, and was greeted by the birth of his child not long after his return. 

Something about the Robin Lee Graham story captivated me. Maybe it’s that he left all he knew in a little sail boat at the age of 16. Maybe it’s that in traveling the world he managed to find the love of his life. Maybe it’s simply how a little kid decided one day he didn’t want to wait to see the world, and so he didn’t.

I think everyone should read this book. It has such a unique story that people are constantly asking if it really happened, and it did. Stories like Robin Lee Grahams happen all the time. People are going on adventures and falling in love, and those are the stories that should be read. It just takes an effort to find them. So please read this book, if not today, then on some random summer day in the laundromat of Catalina Island. 

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  • B

    BobJan 16, 2024 at 7:36 AM

    And Dillon…..good luck with your writing career….

    That was a fabulous read….Robin and Patty are old friends of mine.

  • B

    BobJan 16, 2024 at 7:31 AM

    Robin Lee Graham…..thanks for your story!

    As far as I know he and Patty are still in love ? and living in Montanta!

    Good luck to you and Happy New Year!