Black Wave: A Family's Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them

Black Wave: A Family's Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them

by John Silverwood, Jean Silverwood

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“I told God that if he would let us survive this night, I would make it mean something worthwhile. And then, somehow, I felt calmer than I have ever felt. Unreasonably so. Irrationally so. I looked over the scene of our wrecked life and I smiled–a crazy smile for sure–and I looked through the dark at the mad beauty of it.”
–Jean Silverwood

An exhilarating true-life adventure of one family’s extraordinary sea voyage of self-discovery and survival, tragedy and triumph

Successful businessman John Silverwood and his wife, Jean, both experienced sailors, decided the time was right to give their four children a taste of thrilling life on the high seas. And indeed their journey aboard the fifty-five-foot catamaran Emerald Jane would have many extraordinary and profound moments, whether it was the peaceful late-night watches John enjoyed under the stunning celestial sky or the elation shared by the whole family at the sight of blissful pods of dolphin and migrating tortoises. John and Jean had hoped to use the trip as a teaching opportunity, with the Emerald Jane as a floating classroom in which to instruct their children in important lessons–not only about the natural world but about the beauty of human life when stripped down to its essence, far from the trappings of civilization.

Yet rather than flourishing amid the new freedoms and responsibilities thrust upon them, the children were sometimes confused, frightened, resentful. The two oldest, fourteen-year-old Ben and twelve-year-old Amelia, missed their friends and the comfortable life left behind in San Diego, while the two youngest, Jack, seven, and Camille, three, picked up on the stressful currents running above and below the surface–for throughout the journey, the Silverwood family found its bonds tested as never before.

John and Jean, whose marriage had weathered its share of storms, would wonder again if they had taken on too much as the physical, emotional, and financial strains of caring for the expensive catamaran and their children brought old resentments to the surface.

John’s dream trip that began on Long Island Sound ended almost two years later as a nightmare in treacherous waters off a remote atoll in French Polynesia, where, in an explosion of awesome violence, the terrifying brunt of the ocean’s anger fell upon the Emerald Jane.

Gradually, in the crucible of the sea, a stronger, more closely knit unit was forged. The Silverwoods became a crew. Then they became a family again. But just as it seemed to them that they had mastered every challenge, their world was shattered in a split-second of unimaginable horror. Now their real challenge began, forcing them to fight for their very lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781588367341
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/01/2008
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 668,234
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

John and Jean Silverwood live with their family in California.

Read an Excerpt

[ 1 ]

a heart-shaped reef

In the same hour that the Emerald Jane was approaching Scilly Island in the South Pacific, my sister-in-law was alone in her New York home. A sharp crash made her jump: A watercolor of a racing sailboat had fallen from her wall to the hardwood floor. A wedding present from John and me, it had hung in the same spot for twenty-one years. Joanne, a little shaken, started calling around the family to find where we might be—she knew we were somewhere far at sea.


Below deck in our catamaran sailboat, my husband, John, stood in the doorway of our tiny stateroom. I can picture him there in that instant before everything changed. Our four children—we had pried them away from their suburban world for a thousand reasons—were busy elsewhere on the boat, settling in for the night. John had just told me how long it would probably take us to get to Fiji, our next destination by way of Tonga; some problems with the boom of the mainsail were slowing us down, but we could fix it in the morning. After Fiji, we would head for Australia. From there, the kids and I were planning to head home to the States, and John would stay long enough to clean up Emerald Jane and sell her—which can take months, and I worried about that. I guess I was worried about what might become of our marriage after this long adventure. I was also worried about the whole idea of selling a ship that had become like one of the family; I thought it would be particularly hard on John, who loved her the most.

We had done what we set out to do two years earlier when we first set sail. Along the way, our children’s eyes had opened to the beauty of the world. The kids were very strong characters now, very different from when we began. We loved them in new ways—maybe deeper ways, because we had taken the time to finally get to know them.

John said he had just finished a sweet conversation under the stars with Amelia, our fourteen-year-old daughter, during her turn at the wheel. She had followed him back inside and, by tossing the life vest to her sixteen-year-old brother, Ben, turned the “watch” over to him. He had been watching the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous on a laptop. Movies on DVD were a vestige of our once and future life, and Ben needed a dose of that now and then, as did we all. The boat was on automatic pilot as Ben prepared to go aft for his two-hour watch.

Everybody was finally happy to be together—it had taken a few thousand miles, but the family now seemed in synch and content. I don’t mean that it was perfect, but we had learned to live together in a tight space without too much drama.

We had about a minute left.

With our autopilot engaged, the boat was sailing itself in this moment. We thought.

I was propped up in bed with a laptop as John chatted from the doorway. He looked good. He is a handsome, green-eyed guy full of fun and energy. People sometimes say he looks like Dennis Quaid. Maybe so. He does have strong features and he’s certainly handsome. He has serious eyes that always give away what he’s thinking. He has, or rather had, a dark mustache. Amelia and I talked him into throwing it overboard during the long sail across the Pacific. He’s even better-looking with-out it.

He hadn’t had a drink since his big meltdown in the Caribbean, and I was pretty much in love with him again.

So you can picture the crew: Amelia looks a little older than her fourteen years. She has long, dark strawberry blond hair, and big, empathetic brown eyes. She is very fit, with a great, honest smile and the hint of dimples. She is very pretty and has a natural charisma that has always filled the space around her. She is eminently sensible, a peacemaker, Daddy’s girl. Ben, her older brother by a year and a half, is the surfer archetype: very blond hair, dazzling blue eyes, great smile when it breaks through the gloom of family unfairness, tallish to the point where he sometimes stoops a bit to fit into a crowd. Despite his rock shirts and his surfer looks, you would say he appears quite respectable: a top achiever in Scouts, perhaps, which is exactly right. Little green-eyed Camille, five, has long golden hair, pink cheeks, and a huge smile, which is nearly always beaming. Jack, her freckled nine-year-old brother, seems to have stepped out of an old Our Gang film: the neighborhood tough guy. His mouth is always a little open in wonder. His blond hair and hazel eyes are usually seen only in the blur of his constant explorations. My own hair is long and blond and my eyes are brown, like Amelia’s. I do apologize for the fact that we might seem like Southern California stereotypes. Guilty, I suppose.

It was just after dark in a lonely reach of the South Pacific. As we sped westward, the ocean floor was a mile below us—or it was supposed to be.

Then at that moment everything changed.

Like when microphone feedback suddenly fills an auditorium until you must cover your ears, a deafening shrill exploded through the boat. It seemed to come from everywhere. A big jostle. Horrible, gouging, scraping chalkboardlike sounds. The twin hulls under us were screaming. John looked at me the way someone in the next seat of an airplane might look if, at forty thousand feet, all the engines just quit. I had never seen him so instantly confused and horrified—then came the great shaking and crash as we bounced more violently between the iron-hard treetops of submerged coral, sharp as butcher knives. Seconds later we slammed full-on into the coral reef. Our home, the Emerald Jane, came to a ripping halt, and the great waves of the Pacific exploded around us in a deafening, continuous roar. John caught himself against the doorway. “My God!” he shouted, his eyes drilling crazily into mine. Everything about our lives had just changed and we knew it. Our lives, our children’s lives, could end in the dark of the sea in what? A minute from now? Less?

“Reef!” Ben screamed from the deck.

“It cannot be coral! We’re miles . . .” John yelled to himself and me as he bounded up the small stairway—I was right behind him.

“Dad! Dad! What’s happening?” Amelia shouted over the roaring surf and the loud tearing of the boat against the coral. She tried to cut him off in the salon. The Drop Dead laptop was dead on the floor; things had fallen everywhere. Our two younger kids, Jack and Camille, were on the salon’s big wraparound sofa under the front windows, petrified and gritting their teeth, their eyes incredibly wide and their hands hovering in front of them with their little fingers outstretched, shaking.

“It’s a reef, guys. We’re on a reef. We’ll be fine,” John said without stopping, pushing Amelia aside and running aft through the open glass door of the salon and leaping up the step to the teak deck of the cock-pit. His eyes were terrified and the kids saw that. They had never seen him like this before—though they had seen a lot. Then I came through behind him, grabbed flashlights, and they saw my eyes. I didn’t believe John’s quick analysis that we’d be fine. The kids took no comfort in it either. His eyes, truer than his lips, were saying, we are in very serious trouble.

He had been so careful to navigate us far around the coral atoll islands in this stretch of sea. Back in Tahiti, he had replaced the autopilot’s computer to make sure we had the very best.

As we looked over the edge of the deck into the dark sea—the moon had not yet risen—our flashlights revealed millions of hard, red fingers of coral tearing at our boat through the boiling surf. Our lights would not last for long, and John would soon be asking Ben to take a knife and do the unthinkable. So much would happen this night in the dark.

John threw the engine hard into reverse just as a high wave crested violently over the stern and over him with a loud crash. The double hulls smashed again with a horrible sound into the coral. He leapt through the flash flood on deck to reach the controls of the other engine. He hit the start button and pushed it hard into reverse. Both engines could not even begin to pull the boat off the reef.

Only the front, smaller jib sail, called the genoa and nicknamed the genny, had been in use. It absolutely had to be hauled down this instant if the engines were to have any chance. John pulled the genny’s thick Dacron line off one of the two stainless-steel, hourglass-shaped winches behind the wheels. The wind should have instantly spilled from the sail, but, in the windy whip and tangle of the moment, the line had jammed in a pulley somewhere forward. Ben, enough of a sailor now to understand that the sail had to be cut, snapped the handle of a diving knife into his father’s hand.

John zigzagged forward along the lurching deck. Crouching near the bow, he cut the line. As the genny snapped free to flap in the wind, the large metal reinforced tip of the sail—where the lines tie on—whistled toward his face. He leapt backward as it just missed his eyes; he had seen the glint of it coming thanks to flashlights Ben and Amelia were now shining forward from the aft deck.

The surf roared like a tumble of jet engines all around us. We were screaming to each other just to be heard.

I ran into the salon to help get the kids ready for our escape. Little Jack and Camille were still frozen in fear on the wraparound sofa—just sitting there hugging each other and shaking horribly. There were loud popping and cracking sounds. Looking down the stairs into the port hull, I was suddenly watching a disaster movie; it couldn’t be real: Water was filling the starboard hull as if a dam had burst. The view down the little stair-way was of water rushing floor to ceiling from Amelia’s room toward Ben’s. Her tennis shoes and bedclothes and books were swirling in the flood. Then the retreat of the sea pulled the water back toward Amelia’s room, drawing Ben’s things into the swirl, then back again. With each surge, the water was lapping higher up the steps toward the salon where we stood frozen, watching, maybe screaming. It couldn’t be real. The boat was being devoured now with each great wave.

Amelia and I grabbed canvas shopping totes and started collecting some of the flotsam that might be useful in the life raft, especially bottles of water and packages of food. Our hands were shaking so violently that it was hard to pick things up and put them in the bags—and I was slipping terribly on the wood floor. Jack said something but I could not make it out. “What, Jack?” I screamed over the din of crashing surf and cracking boat.

“I don’t want to die,” he screamed back.

“Me either!” little Camille screamed.

“We don’t want to die!” they screamed together.

Amelia was handling this better then I was; she put her arms around both of them.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “we have two other boats, remember? This is what they are for—just this kind of thing. It happens all the time.” They calmed down and sat back to watch this disaster movie. But they were shaking like we were.

I stepped outside to see how John and Ben were doing. They would have to get the emergency life raft going somehow. The other boat, the dinghy, wouldn’t last long swinging there on the stern in this surf.

The coral’s digestion of the boat had now become a steady fusillade of earsplitting cracks and pops as the hulls and bulkheads—remarkably strong carbon-fiber laminates—cracked apart. Our belongings began to wash around us. Even above this sound, a new, deep roar behind the boat made all the flashlight beams shine aft to reveal a cresting wave building high above us. Down it came, ripping the dinghy and its stainless-steel davits from the deck. The stern of Emerald Jane rose up and crashed on top of the loosened dinghy.

Even without the genny pulling the boat farther into the coral, our engines were useless against the power of the waves and the tightening grip of the coral.

“The radio!” John screamed as he passed by me in the cockpit. He headed through the open glass doors into the salon, where he stood for a second in shock to see the interior awash. He turned to Ben and pointed to the GPS position readout at the chart table. Somewhere in that instant, Ben found a pencil and scrap of paper to write down our position. John and I went the few steps down into the port hull, sloshing but not too deep yet, where the SSB radio was still getting power. John dialed in the emergency frequency and put the microphone close to his mouth to be heard over the roar of our destruction. We were standing in water and operating electrical equipment; I prayed that everything was grounded properly.

“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is sailing vessel Emerald Jane. We have struck a reef in position”—Ben reached down the stairs to hand him the scrap of paper—“approximately 16 degrees, 35 minutes south . . . We are sinking and in need of immediate assistance. Mayday. Mayday . . .”

Ben, seeing the fear in the eyes of the little ones, joined Amelia in offering some comfort. He scooped his little brother up and held him close as he turned on the less useful VHF radio in the salon and tried for an acknowledgment from a passing airliner or another ship. Nothing. Our lights began to flicker.

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Black Wave: A Family's Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
CDR_Stryker More than 1 year ago
As a career Navy officer and experienced sailor, I had heard anecdotally about this incident at sea but was thrilled to read the Silverwoods' story of peril, survival and redemption. I believe that everything we learn and experience in life ultimately prepares us for an incident like this and when it comes, we find out what we (and our family) are really made of. This is truly a Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature and Man vs. Himself account brought to life aboard a luxury catamaran on the high seas. Plan to spend an entire afternoon reading this book because once you start, you can't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For me, this book was very difficult to read. I got about 110 pages into the book before I stopped reading. Even with all the drama of their disaster at sea, the story was pretty boring. It took Jean, who wrote the first part, more than 40 pages to get to their actual time at sea. The family history that came before that was not really that interesting. Also, when Jean spoke about her kids, she never seemed able to describe them well enough to make them feel real. Jean's writing wasn't very good, but that's to be expected. One thing that she did that was most annoying was her extreme detail when describing her family or their history. The only situation in the book that caught my attention or felt real was when John started drinking again. It also made their children more 3D since Jean wasn't trying to describe them herself, she was just explaining how they reacted to the situation. Overall, if you love hearing about a mother's (and father's) view of their children, especially as they overcome obstacles, then you might like this book.
TrishX3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Is this book a must read? Not in my opinion. I think it could've been written a little better. I did enjoy it somewhat though. The challenges they faced and the choices they made kept my attention and made me think. The family has been through a lot which is sad yet a little inspirational. I think the story had potential of being a big hit had it been put together in a more readable way.
debs4jc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
True stories can just as exciting as fictional ones, as this riveting tale of a families survival at sea illustrates. John and Jean Silverwood decided that a sailing trip was just what their family needed, as a way to give their children an education in what is really important, and a way to rejuvinate themselves and their marriage. They faced challenges they never imagined, the biggest of which was the wreck of their sailing craft upon a reef. In the aftermath John's leg was nearly severed when the mast collapsed on it and the entire family is left stranded on a coral reef fighting for their survival. The first part of the book is the tale of this incredible night when the Silverwood's faced the fight of their lives, interspersed with the stories of what led them up to that point. The second part of the book switches from Jean's point of view to John's where he tells about his post-accident recovery and the story of a previous ship that wrecked on the same reef. I enjoyed the first part more than the second as there was a lot more suspense since I kept wondering how in the world the father was going to survive. Their family dynamics were easy to relate to as well, as Jean was good about not sugar coating the tough times they went through with John's alcoholism. Definitely give this one a listen for a true life, thrilling adventure and uplifting story of family togetherness.
andsoitgoes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Black Wave was a surprise for me. Written by Jean and John Silverwood I found it compelling and fascinating. The first half of the book is written by Jean Sliverwood and I found it well-written, a page turner. I liked the way she moved back and forth from the past to the present and never leaving you wondering for too long on what was happening in the present. John Silverwood's half of the book could have been condensend to just the information about his theory as to why they encountered the problems they did. His personal views about his wife and other tangents he goes on did not add anything to the book and did not compel me to keep reading.Don't let his half prevent you from reading this story. Just browse through his section.The growth and capacity to do the right thing under pressure that is described about the children is fascinating. It almost wants me to take my children on an extended sea voyage -- almost. I am of the school which needs to always see land in the distance when I'm on the water!(This book was reviewed as part of Library Thing's Early Reviewer group.)
phinz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Black Wave is a tense journey through the life of a family as they leave everything behind to sail the world with their children. The last few chapters had me on the edge of my seat, and I greatly enjoyed the history of the wreck site as well. Well-written and a quick read, I have already handed it off to others who tell me they have enjoyed it as well.
hammockqueen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very good. Family disaster on their catamaran the Emerald Jane. Crash after many beaut. island visits around the world. Jane, John, Amelia,Ben, Jack, Camille. Horror, mixed with reports of good times and being saved. Crisply written with objectivity and feeling.
nyiper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As someone who would never choose to take a boat ride, this true and highly detailed story of a family's experiences and eventual disaster with their yacht was a very fast and exciting reading experience---but it also served to reinforce my personal feelings about boats! Jean, the wife, describes things from her point of view and goes into everything---the good, the bad and the oh-so-awful aspects of being with your family in a small space for a lengthy period of time. They had absolutely wonderful experiences but it sounded extremely hard. There was a constant tension of emotions among all of them that worked itself out over time. John's description followed Jean's and provided an historical comparison to a previous shipwreck, long ago. It was hard to read through the actual moment-by-moment destruction of the boat and yet the family still survived. It would be great to see a followup story about this family maybe ten years in the future.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
John and Jean Silverwood lived with their four children in Southern California. They seemed to have it all - a beautiful home, comfortable income and lots of friends. But beneath the happy exterior, lay a family in a struggle with addiction and a search for larger meaning in life. They made a decision, which would change their lives, to set sail on the 55 foot catamaran Emerald Jane. For two years, the Silverwood family sailed the high seas, visiting remote islands, running from pirates and seeing some of the world¿s most beautiful scenery and wildlife. Their adventure was full of challenges, but it forced them to grow and come together as a family. And then, near the end of the voyage on a velvety dark night, they collided with a coral reef. Black Wave is the story of their survival and how it changed them forever.This true life adventure is narrated in two parts. In part one, Jean Silverwood describes the shipwreck that threatened their lives, and then looks back to recollect the weeks and months of their voyage. Her story is one of inner meditation - of her children and how they grew up in those two years, and of her marriage which was challenged by John¿s alcoholism. She writes with a poetic style that is easy to read. She bares her soul and so the reader feels that they know her.In part two, John Silverwood takes over the narrative. He reveals the aftermath of their voyage and parallels their story to one which happened in 1855 when a ship called Julia Ann struck the exact same coral reef and sank into the wild Pacific waters. Although the historic tale lends some perspective (and perhaps a link to our shared pasts), it changes the direction of the book to an historic rendering versus a personal family saga. I was much more captivated with Jean¿s narration¿perhaps because the real story here is less about the wreck and more about a family who discovered their strengths in the face of disaster.This book is a quick read - and I enjoyed it. Although the two parts felt disconnected to me, this is a book which will entice adventurers and sailors. Filled with images of star studded skies over the vast ocean waters, Black Wave is also a book for romantics and dreamers.
stonelaura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The subtitle of this nonfiction book really sums up the story: A Family¿s Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them. While the centerpiece of the book is the crash of the family¿s catamaran on a coral reef near Tahiti and the horrific toppling of the huge mast onto the leg of John Silverwood, Jean Silverwood, the first narrator of this two-part telling concentrates most of her reflection on the unstable moments of her marriage and how their near tragedy saved the marriage. Doubts about what the couple wants from their relationship and John¿s slip from AA are more prevalent in Jean¿s summary of what must have been an amazing adventure than are specific travel vignettes. She does touch on the trials of life at sea, but it is secondary to repeated marital introspection. John¿s account of the story focuses on his horrible evening trapped under the mast, although his story is somewhat disjointed and fuzzy due to his terrible physical condition. It is amazing what he endured and that he survived at all. We actually learn very little about the local Tahitian family that comes to their rescue after being alerted by the authorities who have reacted to the Silverwoods¿ beacon. Anyone looking for a true sailing adventure had best look elsewhere.
Kinniska on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm afraid I have repeatedly attempted to return to this book, but after 5 attempts, I just couldn't wade through the borderline melodrama. If you happen to like handwringing-family/couples therapy drama, then this is for you. I approached the book from the perspective of travel, the challenge and skills necessary to cope under unpredictable and dangerous weather conditions, tight quarters and group dynamics, and instead felt as though I were reading a too-long Reader's Digest article. A disaster that saves a family? I beg to differ. Although it may have shocked them into realizing they need to prioritize family relationships over whatever haunted them before, it doesn't necessarily make a good read. I didn't particularly feel like reading alcoholic recovery/codependency literature, and I'm afraid that when reading this book, with each paragraph I kept wondering two things: 1. Hm. I wonder what the children's adult perspective on this experience will be (e.g., as in the case of Doug Pray in [[Surfwise]] ) and 2. Where were the editors to keep the handwringing under control? Still, other people seem to have found Jean Silverwood's prose "poetic" - so in respect for others' opinions and taste, I say if you enjoy this particular type of drama, you'll enjoy this book, but I'm afraid it wasn't to my taste.
pholewa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A thrilling sea adventure about a Californian family of six who leave their secure life on land and trade it to live on a 55-foot catamaran called the Emerald Jane. I enjoyed the book even though I have never sailed a boat before. It is a story of love, family, alcoholism, piracy, courage and, heroism. The disaster that befalls the family will make me think twice about venturing on the open ocean in a boat. It might have been helpful if a map was included in the book to help readers track the family's progress.
francesuzanne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is so badly written it's shocking! The story is very interesting which is why I continued to read, but the writing is extremely disjointed. I feel like the book was written as bullet points and then published without the bullets.
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The authorship of this book should be changed in this listing! It's by both Jean and John Silverwood, and my review was going to begin with "My intention was to rate this book a "5" until I got to John's (much shorter), very badly and annoyingly written, section at the end. The bulk of the book, written by Jean, was mesmerizing - the tragedy they survived was interwoven with the relationship difficulties they had on the trip, both with each other and with their elder son. John, a former alcoholic, began drinking again on the trip, and what I really wanted to read from him was some account of how he got to that point - but he seemed quite distanced from his feelings - and his references to being "hot" for his wife were revolting.
FranklyMyDarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A breezy, exciting tale of adventure and survival, Black Wave is the story of a married couple from California who took their four children on an extended sabbatical at sea aboard their 50-plus foot catamaran. The book is written by the Silverwoods with (what I suspect to be considerable) help from established writer Malcolm McConnell. The first part of their story, related by Jean (the wife/mother) cleverly interweaves the major plot line (their cat's wreck against a reef in the Pacific) with more minor adventures (including pirate encounters!) and family dramas that took place along their voyage.John (the husband/father) narrates the second part, which is largely the history of an 1855 ship wreck on the same reef, occasionally contrasting the story of his own fight for survival. Like getting two adventure stories for the price of one, I personally was fascinated by the wreck of yore.My eyes rolled more than once throughout the couple of pages John devotes to sharing (and I got the impression that the sharing was quite important to him) details of his intimacy with Jean during their journey. This is my biggest criticism in a book where I was somewhat expecting not to like or sympathize with the protagonists (attractive, well-off Californians.) My expectations were unfounded, and the book proved a worthwhile maritime yarn. Heavily featuring the Silverwoods two capable and even heroic teen aged children, I would recommend the book for restless teens, as well as armchair adventurers and salty types.
ireed110 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Black Wave is more than a book about a survival - it's about a family saving itself from the trappings of modern day life and learning to depend on eachother. It's about learning to adapt to the changing direction of the wind, and to accept the course that it leads you to.The book is in two parts. Part one is narrated by Jean Silverwood. She alternates the story of the actual shipwreck with the story of her family's two-year adventure. It's a story that can only be told by a mother and a wife. She feels her childrens' pain, she worries if she's done the right thing, she continually questions the decisons that she's made on their behalf. She struggles with her husband's alcoholism and his male nearsightedness about issues that concern not just him but all of them. And she tells of the satisfaction she gets from feeling pride in her family.Part two is a disjointed sort of tale told from John's point of view. He intersperses little memory vignettes of his own rescue with the tale of the wreck of the Julia Ann, which wrecked on the very same reef in 1855, and with whom he feels a deep kinship.I wish there had been photographs of the family, the boat, and the atoll. I realize that most of their photos taken on the trip went down with the Emerald Jane, but there must be other photos available. Even if no pictures of the actual ship exist, pictures or diagrams of a catamaran like it would have been most helpful, and would have added a great deal to the experience of reading about it. As I read an ARC copy, I'm hoping these are planned for the final edit.I really enjoyed reading this book - it had me from page one. I sat down with it after supper tonight and I didn't stop until I'd turned the last page. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading about travel, adventure, homeschooling, or family.
stephmo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As many other reviewers have stated, Jean's piece of the book seems stronger than John's - almost as if John were reminded that he'd promised to do half of a book. After what he family had experienced on the heels of what should have been the adventure of a lifetime, I suspect they're allowed some leeway in this arena.John and Jean Silverwood took their family out of their comfortable idyllic California lifestyle to sail the world, learn about life and generally grow as a family. Close to the end of their trip, the unthinkable happened - their boat came apart on a coral reef and their survival was at stake.The book is fast-paced and a perfect summer read. The book is presented as a lesson in being a family, and they are willing to present their family not only as doing incredibly well under extreme circumstances, but also through a judgmental lens of what they'd been like before the experience. The Silverwoods do well to explain their fortune upfront and do not fall into a trap of, "oh, misfortune falls the fortunate" and leave the bonds their family shares sincere and not a nice tacked on "hook" for the book.My only quibble is that this seems almost like a screenplay treatment. If this is sold as a screenplay (and I suspect options have already been purchased), I suspect the early flashback style Jean uses to be readily adapted to the screen. Perhaps I'm a little cynical, but I believe that this part of the California lifestyle is still firmly in place for the Silverwoods.
mrkatzer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Black Wave, Jean and John Silverwood describe in thrilling detail the family's decision to pack a 55-foot catamaran with their lives and head into the relative unknown, alternately basking in paradise and being chased by pirates and personal demons--if Black Wave was fiction, it would be wholly unbelievable--before being ultimately tested on a submerged coral reef.The first two-thirds of the book (told by Jean, the mother and wife) thrust the reader right into the ocean with the Silverwood family. Switching between the fateful night their boat ran aground on a coral reef and the both peaceful and turbulent times that got them there, the story crashes on you and ebbs like the waves in the surf that helped the coral tear apart their catamaran.If Jean's part of the book is symbolized by the crashing waves, then John's is similarly like his own convalescence after the family's ordeal: full of refection and a search for answers. While the last third (john's third) of the book really slows down the pace of the story, it by no means ruins the book... though I could have done with a few less references to how hot John is for his wife.As a high school English teacher, I am always looking for books that will grab my students' fleeting attention and hold it for the duration of a read. Black Wave is that kind of book--fairly brief and action-packed--especially in the first two-thirds of the story. Overall, it's an enjoyable read I'd recommend to anyone. (4*)
damcg63 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Black Wave tells the story of a family that almost comes apart, but ultimately comes together at sea on a 55 foot catamaran. It is told through the lens of a disaster that befalls them. I enjoyed the book. It took me some time to get used to the format which bounces back and forth between the family living through the moments of their disaster and the story of the voyage from start to that point. After a while it fell into a pattern and worked well. The main story is told from the wife's (Jean Silverwood) perspective, with a section at the end from the husbands point of view with added historical context. There is value in reading this to understand the dynamics of family in a situation together (particularly if you sail or plan to). What does it take to give an American child a real, working perspective on the world outside of Nintendo and Abercrombie? This is certainly one way, although I think I may stick with techniques that are a little safer. Enjoy this quick read.
Helenoel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this, and could barely manage to put it down. The story of the family's coping with a wreck- with flashbacks to get them into the settign is well told by Jean Silverwood and engaging. The second part, by her husband is a much lesser work, but together the two tell the story of an adventure and a family. Not a life I'd choose, but that is why we read such adventures - to live vicariously through others....
dougcornelius on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Black Wave is the story of a family from San Diego sailing around the world in their catamaran. The subtitle lets you in on the upcoming drama: A Family's Adventure at Sea and the Disaster that Saved Them. It only takes five pages into the book before the disaster strikes. The boat slams into a coral reef during the night, destroying the boat and seriously wounding members of the family.I am generally not a big fan of stories that start with the climactic scene and then flashbacks to tell the story. It just seems to be kind of tired way of bringing people into the story. In this case, I found it worked. Interweaving the family's background with disaster unfolding made you understand and empathize with the characters as they struggled to survive.I really enjoyed Part I of the book which was this story told by Jean Silverwood. Part II of the book was written by John Silverwood and tells some of the history of the reef. He focuses on a similar disaster, when the Julia Ann crashed into the same reef in 1855. Part II far less interesting and not as engaging as Part I.In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher send me a free copy of this book to read, hoping I would review it. I am big fan of human adventure stories. Before the kids I had a few years of mountain climbing and adventure racing. Now, with two kids, I am much more of an armchair adventurer. Maybe it the family man in me that got so engaged in a family trapped in a desperate situation.Whatever the reason, I thought the the book was a good read. But feel free to stop at the end of Part I.
RebeccaMS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For me, this book was very difficult to read. I got about 110 pages into the book before I stopped reading. Even with all the drama of their disaster at sea, the story was pretty boring. It took Jean, who wrote the first part, more than 40 pages to get to their actual time at sea. The family history that came before that was not really that interesting. Also, when Jean spoke about her kids, she never seemed able to describe them well enough to make them feel real. Jean's writing wasn't very good, but that's to be expected. One thing that she did that was most annoying was her extreme detail when describing her family or their history. The only situation in the book that caught my attention or felt real was when John started drinking again. It also made their children more 3D since Jean wasn't trying to describe them herself, she was just explaining how they reacted to the situation. Overall, if you love hearing about a mother's (and father's) view of their children, especially as they overcome obstacles, then you might like this book.
lefty33 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Overall Black Wave is a quick, good read. I love all things ocean and enjoyed reading this book. For those who aren't in love with the sea itself, the story of the Silverwood family is even more fascinating than the deep and will hold your attention, keeping you reading, to the last page. Jean begins the narrative by sharing some simple details of what was happening aboard the Emerald Jane the night of their shipwreck but before the wreck had occurred. I expected the story to continue on this vein while getting to know the Silverwoods, but instead the coral reef interrupted the introductions as thoroughly as it had the Silverwoods' voyage. I liked the way Jean jumped right into the telling of the wreck, switched back to the story that brought them to that point, but would soon to return to the reef. The two stories are seamlessly joined through Jean's storytelling.I was surprised by John's input in part II of the book, though I was pleased to hear from him. He added the history of the coral reef they had hit and explained some of the finer details of sailing that had brought the Emerald Jane to be on the reef instead of in deeper water. Part II sometimes had the feeling of having been added as an afterthought, but John's perspective on the trip was important to a more thorough understanding of the family's journey at sea as well as their personal one.
elleayess on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Black Wave is a page-turner that will keep you wanting more. The story is written by a couple who took their children on a long-term boating excursion on their new catamaran, the Emerald Jane. In the first part of the book, Jean Silverwood shows us their life before and during the sail presented in snapshots as the reader lives their horrendous nightmare that abruptly ended their living classroom upon a coral reef off Scilly Island. The couple are seasoned boaters, having spent much time boating before the children began coming. After preparing for this sail for many years, the reader is invited into their lives to see the good, the bad and the ugly, both before and during the sail; the pettiness, the hard times, the arguments, the things that we all suffer as families. In this one event that prematurely ended their sail, they selflessly band together. Children suddenly grow up as the family relies on their instincts to survive. It is just this type of event that that brings families together again, whether it is right or wrong. Part II is where John Silverwood explains to the reader the irony of another sailing vessel that suffered the same fate as the Emerald Jane in 1855 in the exact same spot. John takes you into the history of the long-ago event after careful research, showing just how similar the two events were and the insanity of the similarity. Being unlucky enough to both live in New York and not be blessed with sea legs, this writer has to enjoy my love for marine life through the glass box in my living room housing many fish and corals. After reading this book, it put a whole new spin on how I enjoy my hard, jagged stony corals from the safety of my couch. I will never look at my staghorn corals the same again. So non-threatening to me, so deadly to others. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys biographies or tales of the vast blue worlds that reside among us. As I stated earlier in the review, I lamented the ending of this story. The Silverwood's are fantastic story-tellers.
tpure on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A not quite round-the-world sailing story, told in split narrative. The dual voices, that of the husband and wife, and the uneven writing create a choppy style that leaves the reader slightly sea-sick. Despite some motion sickness, the book was readable, but suffered from a slightly obnoxious motherly tone. The book picked up when the plight of the Emerald Jane was compared to that of a coal ship that suffered a similar fate 100 years prior, but in the end the book dragged, leaving the reader stranded in the doldrums. I might recommend this book to family ready to embark on an adventure, but otherwise a better read would be Treacherous Waters, Epics of the Sea, edited by Tom Lochhaas.