When Jennifer Frick-Ruppert and her husband set sail for the first time in their newly purchased 37-foot sailboat, they were hoping to leave colder climes behind, learn something about sailing, and get away from the daily grind. What they didn’t expect was that nature would become a partner in their journey, a main character in their story, and not simply a backdrop for their adventure.
In Waterways, Frick-Ruppert sails Velella—named after a jellyfish with a sail—down the southeastern coast of the United States, from Charleston, South Carolina, to Palm Beach, Florida, and across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. Aboard ship, we are taken into an enchanting world of coastal animals that few ever experience. From the gleaming decks, Frick-Ruppert shows us the wriggling spines of sand dollars, fiddler crabs making their mechanical noises, and bioluminescent flashes of plankton in the Gulf Stream. She leads us into brackish estuaries and the blue open ocean, explaining with the insight of a biologist and the grace of a philosopher the marvelous natural world unfolding before Velella’s prow.
Combining insights from ecology and sailing, Frick-Ruppert blends travel narrative and nature writing to delight and educate. She invites us to meditate with her on the relationship between ourselves and our surroundings. More than just a memoir of learning to sail, Waterways is a book about the relationships between humans and nature, land and sea, learning to sail and learning to see.