North by Northeast

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The Atlantic coast is familiar territory for Ray Ellis and Walter Cronkite. Their first voyage together, along the Southern Atlantic coast, resulted in a handsome book, SOUTH BY SOUTHEAST. To produce this sequel, they turned to the historic waters of the North Atlantic coast.

Cronkite and Ellis set sail from Cape May, New Jersey, on a voyage of more than one thousand miles up the New England coast, “over open ocean, bays, sounds, estuaries, rivers, and even a fjord,” all the way to Maine, to the country’s easternmost point.

The voyage inspired Ellis to see afresh the scenes he knows so well -- scenes that have become a part of him as a lifelong resident of New England. Ellis’ paintings (primarily watercolors) reveal a deep intimacy with nature; his wide-open landscapes and seascapes pull the reader into the scene. Equally inviting is the familiar voice of Walter Cronkite, moving easily between historical lore and personal reminiscence. His recollections of near-catastrophic sailing incidents are told suspensefully and yet with characteristic self-deprecating humor.

The New England shore nearly overflows with the landmarks of early American history, and Cronkite and Ellis find that the past is still vitally alive in New York City and Long Island Sound, in New Bedford and Boston Harbor, in Provincetown and Plymouth. Whaling history, sailing history, and some of America’s favorite vacation spots are highlighted along the way as Cronkite draws from an amazing store of knowledge and Ellis captures with paint the feeling and, at times, the intensity of the moment.