Around America

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Sailing his yacht along America’s beautiful and varied coastline, from the rocky beaches of Maine, past the lush tropics along the Gulf of Mexico, to the chilly rains of Washington state, has been for Walter Cronkite a deeply rewarding pursuit in his retirement. In this very personal collection of reminiscences about his many voyages, he mingles his own delight in the natural beauty encountered with witty and entertaining historical anecdotes. The rebirth of spring along Maryland’s Eastern Shore, “briefly white with dogwood blossoms” and southerly winds “soft as kisses,” comes with the reminder that Annapolis was briefly the capital of the United States in 1783 and 1784 when pirates roamed the region, and it was there that George Washington resigned as commander in chief of the Continental Army.

The mood is friendly, the tone light and chatty, just the sort of conversation one imagines among Cronkite and his fellow voyagers on board as they visit and revisit our nation’s many coastal landmarks. While there are some practical details relating to sailing a yacht—such as the advice that a cruise down the Pacific coast should start at Puget Sound after the spring rains, and in plenty of time to make it halfway down the California coast before the fall storms—most of the narrative seems geared to the landlubber who enjoys reading light fare about sailing ships and their ports of call, conveniently identified on the simple, nontechnical maps which accompany each chapter. Cronkite’s leisurely reminiscences are enhanced by nice drawings of some memorable seaside sights, including the Cape Hatteras lighthouse and a schooner docked at Mendocino.

Clearly, there is little attempt to plumb the depths of character in the people encountered, as in the travel writings of fellow journalist Charles Kuralt, but it is just this lack of pretension and amiable congeniality which make for a highly entertaining and satisfying chronicle, perhaps best read sitting on a beach gazing out toward distant lands.