by Sandra Hendlisz
Seeker: A Sea Odyssey by Rita Pomade; Guernica Editions, 330 pages
This travel memoir is one of the most engrossing books I’ve read during this long period of isolation. In 2019 the book was nominated by Concordia University for best first novel prize.
Seeker took me out of our present situation into a world I can only dream of ever experiencing. It begins as a fairy tale dream of finding paradise and transforms along the way because of unrealistic expectations and a disintegrating marriage. The couple’s voyage is the dream of many, but the action of few. The adventure is filled with storms, pirates, mystical beliefs, palm readings, shredded sails and a broken mast.
The plans begin in Mexico where the couple met and takes shape in Canada, where they immigrated to earn enough money to build their boat. In 1980, Rita and her husband Bernard leave Canada for Taipei where they build a yacht they name The Santa Rita.
Both Rita’s sons joined the couple for three years at the beginning of the trip in Hong Kong. One son dropped out of CEGEP and later attended university. The second son was in high school at the time and continued his formal and informal education on the boat.
The six-year adventure takes them through 22 countries and three continents – Asia, Africa and Europe. Two of Rita’s favourites were Bali and Turkey. Rita gives us a first-hand look at the people and cultures she meets on her travels. For her, it was important to explore these places and learn as much as she could. The vivid imagery of the writing and the outstanding experiences that the author shares tell a powerful story of adventure. To Rita, everyone’s life is a story. From this perspective, with distance and observation, one can learn from it.
The book is filled with exhilarating and life-altering experiences. For example, Rita tells of her son Stefan being on the boat at one point. During this time, the waves reached the height of a two-story building. Stefan, on the boat, holds onto a cable with his feet on a four-foot beam that rises and sinks ten-feet with each new wave. Stefan survives and Rita realizes after this that he has gained tremendous inner strength from the ordeal.
A better travel memoir would be hard to find. While Bernard was the ship taskmaster, Rita was everybody’s friend and kept a journal. The book evolved from her journal.
Rita Pomade lives in Westmount, Quebec.