You would not be far off to call Boat Girl a maritime version of Are You There God It s Me, Margaret More accurately, it begins as AYTGIMM and evolves into Forever, another Judy Blume classic, as the narrator leaves the awkwardness of puberty behind and enters the uncertainty of young adulthood.The comparison fits not just due to the subject matter a girl coming of age and dealing the all the usual social, body image and self esteem issues but also the tone, which is straightforward, conversational and matter of fact This is refreshing sea stories have a well deserved reputation for being purple with overwrought verbiage Boat Girl is a happy exception I ve read way too many sailing books that oversell the virtues and joys of life on the water Melanie Neale just tells it like it is.This autobiographical account begins in 1979, literally before the author was born, as her father and pregnant mother travel to oversee the construction of their boat, a Gulfstar 47 It then progresses year by year, as she grows up on the water.The family divides its time between the U.S and the Bahamas Neale s budding ambitions, conflicts with her parents and experimentation with her emerging sexuality amid the aimlessness of the early years of adulthood will be familiar and relatable to almost everyone Friendships develop and then fade, plans come together and then fall apart What makes this story crackle is the backdrop of living rootlessly aboard a sailboat, wandering with the seasons and resisting the temptations of a normal life ashore Kids grow up fast on sailboats, where practical skills, self sufficiency and resilience in the face of adversity are necessary attributes Freedom is a kind of religion to liveaboards, and conventional is a dirty word.Neale repeatedly highlights the sexist double standard women who enjoy themselves are whores men who enjoy themselves are playful, sporting or at worst rakish A man with a handful of girlfriends was dashing and jaunty, and his harem was a measure of his success A woman with an equally active social life was considered tarnished and disreputable or, as her friend Michelle s church elders put it, worldly And despite the fact that she has her 50 Ton Master s License, she is still underestimated and treated with patronizing condescension in marinas and boatyards Boat Girl also struck me as a post colonial allegory for paternalism, even though I seriously doubt that is what Neale ever had in mind A recurring theme is that she clashed with her conservative father over her rebellious and high spirited behavior he calls her a slut than once and expresses concern about how her conduct will reflect upon the family image Yet he helps to pay for her undergraduate tuition as well as her first sailboat a Columbia 28 As she recalls on page 173, Perhaps the underlying message was now that you have gone to college and are bound for grad school, we feel like you have finally made something of your life and so we ll give you what you ve always wanted. It would be hard and a little illogical to refuse such generosity, but it means tolerating didactic, judgmental, shaming moralism that one cannot help but internalize.Neale finds her tribe, but then it dissolves around her as people are pulled in different directions by the obligations that come with maturity Idealistic dreams are replaced by a crush of daily responsibilities Life, as they say, happens Whether intended or not, Boat Girl addresses a fundamental conundrum you can choose a passion career such as sailing, writing etc or you can choose a lucrative professional path Unless you are lucky enough to get rich young or to be born that way you can either try to make money now and defer your heart s gratification until some unknown point in the future, or you can throw yourself into doing what you really want to do, opting for fulfillment rather than income, subsisting on a shoestring and sacrificing the comfort and security that comes from a tidy bank account balance For the 99% of us who are not wealthy, it s an agonizing dilemma that never really gets resolved, and always leaves room for worry and regret It s a subject that the text bumps up against repeatedly.I connected with this story on a personal level for a couple of reasons Like Neale, I also have a degree in Creative Writing She went to school in St Petersburg, where I live now I ve been to the Annapolis Sailboat Show, and that scene brought back memories Having lived in Florida my entire life, her description of Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Wilma and their aftermath rang painfully true I m sure anyone with any experience with sailing will find this book extremely accessible Those whose feet are permanently and gladly planted on dry land will still enjoy reading about her reminiscences and struggles, but may be mystified by some aspects of the admittedly weird cruising lifestyle.Ultimately, this is a book about finding your way in life, about self determination, about making the choices that define your identity and your destiny You don t have to be a mariner to take pleasure in following Melanie Neale on her journey. Loved this memoir you get a real sense of growing up in a sailor s lifestyle something most people only dream of but from the perspective of the kids taken along for the ride Great insight to family relationships and coming of age in a wholly unusual motif. My copy is a galley copy.This was a fairly quick easy read and enjoyable I loved the first half of the book and it is marvelous in evoking the atmosphere of the Bahamas and South Florida It felt like a vicarious vacation well, except for cleaning conch shells.This would be a great mid winter read Especially when snowed in The second half, I was not so enad with It was good, but darker, covering her adolescence teen issues, school, parental conflict, friendships and plans changing, love, and boat living as a young adult While it had an element of education and interest to it, it was not quite as engaging I appreciated her observations about closure and peace with family conflict and her awkward relationship with one of her parents This also lent some insight to my behavior growing upPart of it was a feminist streak and the other part of it was the ultimate in antifeminism a deeply rooted need in me to be accepted by my dad and by other men If I could do the same things as them, I would be accepted into their world I read it and thought ohhhhyeahgood point It s also a bummer that her Captains license didn t evolve into something for her Hopefully her book will be successful and pay off the school loans such Technicalities There s a few formatting issues in the digital edition odd paragraph breaks and Melanie Neale tossed into odd spots A singing woman whose Adam s apple pulsed could use a reword as throat as, while women do have Adam s apples, that popped out at me as strange and distracted me in the moment I would have loved to see pictures scattered within the text Even in black and white She did great at bringing the boats to life, but for those of us who are woefully ignorant about them, it could have given a little context.I should also mention there is a version of this called Boat Kid pared down for younger readers that I think would be fantastic, as it excludes her college years and adulthood and keeps it all relatively pared down.Edited to add I love that the initial book comments are from people she talked about in the books Tim Murphy, Professor Wakefield, etc. When I saw this book on NetGalley where I did get a copy of this in exchange for an honest review , I was interested in it for a number of reasons Number one, I ve been participating in an Around the World reading challenge, and it is hard to find books set in the Bahamas beyond crime novels Number two, I didn t know there were kids raised on sailboats, and found that concept pretty intriguing.Melanie Neale spent almost all of her childhood on a sailboat with her family, and this is an account of that time The chapters are very brief, touching on a highlight or two from each year or each location Melanie started living on a boat at a very young age Most of her family s time is spent in the Bahamas, but they also spend time in Newport, various ports in Florida and North Carolina, and a few other islands Weather, pirates, and the drug trade are mentioned in the stories she tells of what happened to her family.As she ages in the book, so do her challenges Her father is very concerned with appearances and does not handle her development into a teenager very well She also struggles to maintain relationships with friends she may only encounter 1 2 times a year, or with boys who are landlocked and can only write letters that she will only see when they check in with their post office box It is an inside view of an intriguing and isolated lifestyle, and had some similarities to my upbringing in the country where we d go to town once a week in the summers It felt like a pretty honest look, including details about drudgeries such as the constant diet of less perishable food and the challenge of laundry and homeschooling. I had the pleasure of meeting Melanie at a book signing, and since I didn t grow up abroad, nor was I a young girl, I really had no desire to read this book However, Melanie was so approachable, so down to earth, I had to buy her book Since I had read Beating Windward Press other titles and highly enjoyed them, I thought what the hell and cracked the spine I am so glad I did The story was highly enjoyable, well written, and casual, and after reading it I feel as though I have a new best friend I ve been to the Bahamas and originally grew up in Massachusetts, so I recognized some of the destinations and locals, and that gave me a connection to the author and the book I didn t expect.Take this from a genre geek and pick up this book and broaden your horizons, anything published by Beating Windward Press deserves to be read by everyone. I devoured this book in two sittings, the whole time with my heart in my throat I read this through the lens of being a parent of a girlchild who was born on a sailboat and has never lived on land I read this through the lens of being a family on a boat, which is the weirdest mix of totally public and totally private I read this wondering what my kids would think when I write about our voyages, and I read this wondering what my kids would write about those same voyages I also read this critically, as a fellow editor For some reason, I could not shut off that part of my brain, as I usually do when I m engaged in pleasure reading I m absolutely in awe of the balancing act Melanie pulled off here boat writing does not happen in a vacuum, but within the context of a very small, very tight community, often filled with frenemies Everything you say is going to be judged by someone who was there, knows someone who was there, or sailed on a boat like that once and is going to tell you you got it wrong But by taking her writing right down to the grit, Melanie managed to write something incontrovertible and ringing with truth It s her story, sometimes almost harshly so, and as such cannot be challenged, except by someone who would then have to present their truth as well It s a brilliant way of going about it It takes some tremendous strength to out yourself through your growing, formative, challenging years It takes some serious guts to announce to the world that you have daddy issues, and here are the events that cemented them It s even harder when the whole world knows who your parents are and read the book they wrote about your life In order for your truth to surface, you have to first break through a vast layer of willful misconception I m in awe of the subtexts here The thing that kept me smiling through the whole book, though, was the fact that although she questioned her parents, her family, her place in the world, her body, her purpose she never once ever questioned her rightful place as the boat girl There s an unshakeable confidence there that I found joyful, and relatable Even though relationships with people can be troubling, there s always the sea, and that s always going to be home. Boat Girl Is The Heart Breaking Memoir Of Growing Up Aboard A Sailboat Throughout The S And S, Melanie S Family Lived Aboard A Foot Sailboat, Spending Their Summers Along The US East Coast And Their Winters In The Bahamas But The Cruising Life Was Not All Fun In The Sun The Family Had To Work Hard To Pay For Their Way Of Life They Dodged Hurricanes, Overzealous Federal Agents And Bullying Land Kids And They Endured A Boatload Of Family Drama As Her Father Published Articles About How Living On A Boat Brings Families Together, Melanie Secretly Struggled With An Eating Disorder, The Alienation Of Being A Boat Kid, And Confusion Over Her Developing Sexuality As An Adult, She Lived Aboard Her Own Foot Sailboat And Had Several Relationships Trying To Find Someone Who Wasn T Intimidated By Her Stubborn Independence And Free Spirited Lifestyle Boat Girl Weaves All This Together Into A Story About A Girl Who, Once All Is Said And Done, Simply Wants Her Own Boat And Her Own Life Melanie Paints A Vivid Picture Of The Trials And Tribulations Of Family Life Aboard A Sailboat Without Drowning The Reader In The Technical Details Of Sailing Boat Girl Strikes A Perfect Balance Between A Coming Of Age Story And A Sea Tale, Enjoyable For Boaters And Land Lovers Alike I really liked this book The excerpt led me to believe it would be heavily dramatic and negative which I don t like , but it wasn t at all It was very good I highly recommend it to people interested in reading about alternate lifestyles or are particularly interested in boats. Received a copy from NetGalley.I was drawn to Boat Girl when I saw that it was available because I m drawn to all things sailing, for a start Much of it I read aloud on road trips with my husband, but I read the last third or so on my own in the interest of finishing for review.Boat Girl is a very interesting read, and I enjoyed being immersed in the author s unique childhood and growing up as she lived her life on sailboats, experiencing a flow of annual rhythms and gypsy wanderings most of us miss out on.I could relate to the boatish bits the call of the wind, the delight in the silence and magic of being under sail, but also the realities of mildew, of boat maintenance, of dangers Sailing is a passion my husband and I enjoy on a much smaller scale, in our home waters of the Puget Sound.I could also relate to the teen worries, thinking of how my students navigate the tricky waters of adolescence yes, I know it s a pun, but it fits fine and how they come out the other side Neale struggled with with bulimia, and with her parents harsh judgments of her behaviors as a young teen she is frank about the effects on her, and on the ways she got through difficult periods in her life She is unapologetic about her choices, yet still avoids laying blame solely on others for the bad stuff, which is refreshing It occurs to me that I ve read very little memoir geared toward teens, but I feel that this book would have wide appeal I gave it three stars simply because I ve nothing much to compare it to I enjoyed a glimpse into a growing up which seemed very different from my own, but with similarities that reminded me of how much the same we are, on the inside.I m excited to offer the middle grade version of Neale s story, How I survived swimming with Sharks, being Homeschooled, and growing Up on a Sailboat to my students due to mature content, Boat Girl falls firmly in the YA category , and I ll be interested to hear what they have to say A couple of them are sailors, so it s bound to give us another touch point for conversation.You can benefit authors and independent booksellers alike by shopping Indie. A fascinating account of Melanie Neale s childhood and adolesence growing up on the family boat Chez Nous with her parents and younger sister In the winters they head off for the Bahamas and summers they return to the east coast of the United States Melanie s parents have always been unconventional and wish to broaden the horizons of their children Melanie and her sister are home schooled and as children get shunned by small town America for their unconventional lifestyle Learning the lore of boat life, Melanie makes life long liveaboard friends At the age of eleven, she goes diving with her father and other men and has adventures with reef sharks and other formidable creatures We share her growing pains as she turns from a child into a teenager and has various pubescent relationships We feel her pain and confusion as she comes up against her father s attitude as she becomes sexually active The hypocrisy and double standards she has to endure as a girl, hit her hard Meanwhile, she and her friend, Michelle, have a dream to buy a boat and go sailing together when they are old enough and they save up to make this dream a reality By the age of eighteen, Melanie is doing a correspondence course in boat design She also gets her captain s license and now has options and money in the bank She and Michelle have saved enough for a boat but Michelle drops a bombshell she s going to get a boat with her new boyfriend Not one to be perturbed, Melanie goes to college to study International Business and decides to major in creative writing At the age of twenty two she buys herself a boat Short Story and survives extreme weather conditions and hurricanes She s chosen to be that girl who s a little tougher than most guys after all Boats are so much than fibreglass when you ve lived and breathed them and cared for them as Melanie has they are her skin The vivid imagery of reefs and conches and the passion with which Melanie describes her life as a liveaboard will stay with me for a long time.
Melanie Neale grew up living aboard a 47 sailboat with her parents and her sister The family traveled the US East Coast and the Bahamas from the mid 1980 s to the end of the 1990 s, and both daughters were home schooled until they went to college Melanie began writing poetry and short stories when she was a young child, and she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Ecke
- 246 pages
- Boat Girl
- Melanie Neale
- 18 April 2018 Melanie Neale