Has anyone else been tearing through their bookshelves at alarming rates during this pandemic? Just me?
I’ve always loved reading. It’s the perfect escape from life without the headache of a screen.
But the true crime kick I’d been on before the pandemic wasn’t cutting it anymore. I needed to escape from the dark and dismal side of life, not barrel into it!
That’s why I was so excited to read Jennifer M. Smith’s travel memoir, Green Ghost, Blue Ocean: No Fixed Address. With 400 pages filled with adventure on the high seas, this book takes you far away from lockdown.
Read on to find out what I thought of Green Ghost, Blue Ocean and if it’s the right book to add to your lockdown reading list.
This post is sponsored by Pottersfield Press. I was provided with a free copy of Green Ghost, Blue Ocean in exchange for an honest view. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.
- 1 Green Ghost, Blue Ocean: A Review
- 2 Green Ghost and Jennifer are Still Going Strong
Green Ghost, Blue Ocean: A Review
Appropriately, I started reading Green Ghost, Blue Ocean at the beach – a lakefront beach, but close enough! I was lying on a patch of grass beyond the sand, listening to the waves lap at the shore and errant cyclists pass with music blaring. It was an oddly perfect backdrop to be reading about Jennifer’s epic sailing adventure.
Green Ghost, Blue Ocean is the story of Jennifer and her husband, Nik’s, 40,000 nautical mile (NM as the book calls it) sailing journey. The memoir is told from Jennifer’s perspective as she struggles through 30 knot winds, stagnant seas, broken equipment, and waning spirits.
Initially I found the title odd. What’s a green ghost? Is it some nautical term I’m not familiar with (since I know almost no nautical terms that was very likely). But Jennifer acknowledges this early: it’s the name of their sailboat, given by a former owner. I had to look at the title again to finally understand that it’s written as an address, much as I would write Toronto, Canada.
After a year of a publishing degree I’m a bit annoyed at myself for not picking up on that cleverness sooner!
Another error on my part: this book is not about a solo traveller. A quick glance at the back cover will tell you that. As a solo traveller myself, I sometimes forget that other people travel in groups. I think I was willfully blind to this fact until a few chapters in when I kept waiting for her husband, Nik, to throw in the towel and leave her to battle the waves herself.
Spoiler alert(ish) if you haven’t read the jacket cover: they sail together.
I actually laughed out loud on the beach when I realized my mistake. Clearly, I’m too used to being on my own.
What is Green Ghost, Blue Ocean About?
After getting tired of office life and struggling with fertility issues, Jennifer and Nik decide to leave their land-life behind to tackle the sea. The couple had dreamed of open ocean sailing for their retirement, but decided why wait? (A sentiment I’m 100% on board with and the reason I took a gap year to Workaway in Europe.)
They start their adventure on the West Coast of Canada, sailing south for Australia. Although there were hiccups, including their deck team telling them to bail on the trip within the first three days, they made it to the land down under. Inspired by their success, they ventured further around the world. The couple’s 40,000 NM journey took them from North America to Oceania, to Asia and Madagascar, to Africa and the Caribbean, before returning to Canada – this time on the East Coast.
Their journey (nearly) around the world took 17 years, multiple stop overs, a lot of quick boat patches, and an intense will to complete.
Jennifer and Nik prove that you don’t have to wait to accomplish your dreams. There’s never a better time than today to take on the adventures you’re dreaming of.
They also show that dream aren’t always shiny and perfect. Sometimes they’re difficult and you’ll feel like giving up. When you’re stranded in the ocean without a motor or when your navigation system dies in the middle of your African route, you may want to quit. But anything worth doing should be fought for. Jennifer and Nik never stop fighting
It Reads Like a Podcast: Honest, Personal and Engaging
The memoir quickly draws you in.
Jennifer is brutally honest about her dreams of sailing life versus the reality. Her voice is casual yet expressive. I was just as invested in the couples’ world trip as they were, constantly commenting aloud about their decisions or gripping my e-reader too tightly when things were getting tense. In a way, it read like a podcast. I felt like I knew these people immediately and was a part of their journey.
Jennifer’s itchy feet totally aligned with my desire to shed my lockdown life and travel again. You’ll come to love her husband Nik’s inability to use idioms correctly, always combining two to form sayings I’ll definitely be using from now on.
I’m oddly glad that I get sea sick. It’s a great excuse to never undertake such an incredibly taxing adventure – which I likely would challenge myself to do otherwise. (Solo female sailing around the world? With literally no sailing knowledge? It’d be a recipe for disaster!)
You’ll understand how Green Ghost, Blue Ocean won the Pottersfield Prize for Creative Non-fiction in 2019 when you’re sucked in after chapter 1. I’ve rarely read books – especially about a topic I’m not very familiar with – that have me completely ensnared that quickly. By chapter 4, I was already raving about Jennifer and her adventure to my mom and step-dad (who are more advanced sailors than I am).
Even a Sailing Novice Can Understand
Thankfully, Jennifer breaks down all the sailing terms in the book so novices like me can actually understand what’s going on. She uses simple terms that you can often understand from context, but there’s also a handy glossary at the back of the book. After a few chapters, you’ll be used to seeing NM pop up and immediately know what it means.
Even if you’re not a marine person – I’m certainly not – you’ll get a lot out of Green Ghost, Blue Ocean. The book isn’t just about sailing 40,000 NM. Although Jennifer describes their route and touring in certain countries, what she really focuses on are the significant moments in her life. She explores the events that challenged her mentally, physically and emotionally.
This Won’t Last, But I Wish It Would
Her mantra of this won’t last helps her get through land-sickness, tropical storms, and being left behind by their envoy.
Along the way Jennifer discovers the community of long-term sailors and the magic of a VH radio (which I oddly want to get now). Ports became havens from storms and loneliness, allowing for parties and trading information. The radio let them keep in contact off the dock, making the world seem a little less expansive on the open ocean.
This community that I never even knew existed buoys up Jennifer’s spirits throughout the memoir. Often her happiest moments come from landing ashore and reuniting with old or new friends.
Green Ghost, Blue Ocean takes the saying “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” and turns it on it’s head. Sometimes the journey isn’t the grand experience it’s been made out to be. While some long-haul sailors love their sea-days, Jennifer and Nik prefer landing in a slip.
I think the camaraderie they found in port is the reason for that. Who wouldn’t want to dock when they know boat parties and friendly faces are waiting for them in port? Especially when the sea brings with it chaos and, more often than not, destruction.
Green Ghost, Blue Ocean Inspires Adventure, Not Seasickness
I was genuinely surprised at how much I loved Green Ghost, Blue Ocean. I thought I’d enjoy it, but wasn’t expecting to feel inspired or to understand half of what was said (my step-dad speaks nautical and it often sounds like a foreign language!).
My sea sickness often expands to even reading about sailing (like how reading about vomit makes some people vomit). But my feet felt firmly on the floor throughout the book.
Even when waves rolled against the boat or Jennifer described the bobbing of the boat, I never felt ill. I think it’s because I was so focused on the characters. My brain was too busy being emotionally invested to bother noticing the motion.
Green Ghost, Blue Ocean is the only book I’ve ever read that both makes me wish I could recreate their journey and also never want to undertake that adventure. I don’t usually shy away from risk. I mean, I went skydiving from 15,000ft in Taupo and swam with wild dolphins in Kaikoura. But the trials Jennifer and Nik faced – beyond sea sickness – were enough to put my off ever attempting a round the world crossing.
I have profound respect for the couple for managing the journey, not once, but three times.
The Ultimate Adventure Travel Book
If you’re looking for a sense of adventure or just an escape from your living room, I highly recommend you read Green Ghost, Blue Ocean by Jennifer M. Smith.
Whether you’re a solo traveller, backpacker, sailor, luxury traveller, or anything in between, you’ll be inspired by Jennifer’s tenacity and the beauty she finds in the world. If you weren’t a sailor before, you might even be inclined to learn. Jennifer didn’t start sailing until she was an adult, so there’s still time for you!
Green Ghost and Jennifer are Still Going Strong
When I reached out to Jennifer recently to be on Tripping Up, my comedy travel podcast, we had to schedule around their new sailing venture in Newfoundland. Clearly the darker days of their journey weren’t enough to put the couple off continuing their seafaring ways.
I’m so inspired by Jennifer. For a woman to take on the the world like she did is incredible. To do it on a boat with only one other person is miraculous. She handled misogynistic comments about her ability to contribute to the team or about her lack of children. She fought to keep the adventure going when Nik settled into a new land-job and Green Ghost was shrink wrapped for years.
Through the anxieties of their journey, she remained calm. Even when she clearly felt like she was unraveling, her composure came through. Nik may have carried the team in terms of electrical work, but Jennifer was the spirit of the trip. Without her, Green Ghost never would have seen so many ports, survived wild currents and windless days, or become an integral part of an open ocean community.
I can’t wait to chat with her about her travel trip ups and her weirdest souvenir on Tripping Up. Subscribe so you don’t miss it!