For as long as I can remember, I've been hooked on books about travel to distant lands, and I've wandered far and wide on the descriptive prose of such wonderful writers as Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin, Jonathan Raban, Bill Bryson, John McPhee, Jon Krakauer, and so many, many others. Several years ago, a friend who knew of my fondness for the genre loaned me a copy of Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez. It left a lasting impression.
Prior to reading Lopez's masterpiece-when I picked it up, I had no idea what a seminal, award-winning effort it was, though I certainly do now-I had no special, particular interest in the Arctic. I certainly harbored no great ambition to visit the place, never mind sail there. But Arctic Dreams planted a seed I've carried with me ever since. And when skipper Mark Schrader offered me a berth on his 64-foot cutter Ocean Watch for his Around the Americas expedition (www.aroundtheamericas.org), he didn't have to ask twice. The notion of voyaging down and up the length of South America via Cape Horn was intriguing, but the idea of sailing above the Arctic Circle and through the Northwest Passage was irresistible.