Wednesday, February 10, 2021

My Rite of Passage During the Summer of '76 by H. Downing Lane - Book Tour and Giveaway


MY RITE OF PASSAGE DURING THE SUMMER OF ’76 is a riveting coming-of-age memoir about adventure on the high seas with philosophical musings that add a resonant layer of depth.

In this memoir, H. Downing Lane recalls the 25-day transatlantic sailing trip he took in 1976 as a young man, the details of the journey around Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and other locales, and reflects on its significance as a coming-of-age learning experience.

H. Downing Lane was 26 years old in 1976 when he decided to sign up for a transatlantic sailing trip into the Arctic with an accomplished captain named E. Newbold Smith. In this vivid, often exhilarating memoir, Lane draws from journal entries written during his time at sea to share an account of the remarkable voyage.

The Atlantic crossing was a 25-day affair, from Chesapeake Bay, around Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and the coast of Norway. It was undertaken at a point in Lane’s life when he was feeling particularly vulnerable, as he was recovering from an accident in which he had lost an eye. He wished to “prove [his] mettle,” not to the other men aboard the boat, but to himself. As it turned out, Captain Smith was something of a kindred spirit, as he too had survived a devastating accident many years earlier. Lane provides the reader with a realistic vision of what life aboard a sailing vessel is like, from the often freezing temperatures above and below deck, to the many challenges presented by simple bodily necessities. He describes various technical aspects of working on the boat, but his language never devolves into jargon; his account is always perfectly clear and accessible.

Lane seasons the text with literary and philosophical quotes that frequently allow him to consider the greater meaning of his experience, and even of life itself. There are also numerous stunning photographs included of the boat and the various stops along the way.


My biggest challenge with one eye wasn’t limited vision. It was depth perception - getting used to seeing without my peripheral vision. So judging distances and seeing more than with less was actually better viewing because it made me think before acting or performing a task. Thought before action was my lesson. And always has been. 

Before we set sail from Newport, I knew being a crewmember on Reindeer would be a means to an end.  My main intent was to prove to myself I had not lost myself.  In my thinking at the time, this seafaring challenge would prove nothing to nobody, but myself that I had at least partly recovered from my accident. That is if we completed the trip. At the time all I truly wanted was my 26 year-old self to return in tact. While intellectually I knew that was possible, emotionally and psychologically I wasn’t there. Though I was still healing and in some denial, I still was adamant about doing this voyage. Sailing across the Atlantic would give me a true measuring stick who I was, so I thought. 

At the time I thought no one else need know my challenges. They had their own flaws and limitations, and this transatlantic trip wasn't really about my personal aims. But crew goals and personal ones are united in common efforts. While I also knew my psychological trauma hadn't disappeared by this time, I knew my physical health had returned. So in many ways in my mind, I was fit to face a few challenging adversities a la an Outward Bound experience. It was a hard truth to me that healing and recovery were tied to my relearning to sail again. And to accomplish that I knew I had to return to the sea to see better.  I never have liked drawing attention to myself. Humility always felt the best part of valor.

Of course, I was still growing accustomed to limited depth perception. I still bumped into Reindeer's crew members, salon table and mast throughout the voyage partly because stability is challenging with 30-40 foot waves, 50-70 knot winds and pure exhaustion. They may have been more responsible for some of those occurrences.  My reduced depth perception was not the only factor in my search for physical and mental stability.

About the Author

H. Downing Lane is a retired educator, tutoring business owner, English teacher, coach and administrator who sails in his spare time. Presently he is writing a series of books that chronicle his sailing adventures.

Born and raised on the eastern shore of Maryland, he has returned home after 40 years to write. Henry taught sailing for eight years on Long Island Sound and sailed competitively on the Chesapeake Bay, crewed transatlantic to Iceland and Norway, been a crew member of a number of Annapolis – Newport and Newport – Bermuda races and sailed much of the Caribbean and Bahamas.

In 1978, he sailed the SORC around Florida.  In 2008, he purchased Mystique, a 40′ leopard catamaran, and in 2013, he sailed it to Santo Domingo, the Turks and Cacaos and eventually to Florida.

In 2016, he sailed solo for 51 days through the Exumas. On another adventure he and Lainie Wrightson had a calamitous time together – losing both rudders – the basis of his second book, Bluewater Mystique. 

He has chartered boats to sail the Dalmatian Coast, Belize, Abacos, Eleuthera and the Maine coast. While maintaining his blog, he has written numerous blogs about life and sailing.

He is a dedicated learner and loves sharing his experiences and stories.

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H. Downing Lane will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway