Saturday, March 31, 2007

Interviews now posted on my web site

My interview on CBC-TV's The Living East is now posted on my web-site, along with the podcast from Furled Sails. To see or hear them, go to

Thumbs-up review from TREK, the UBC alumni magazine

Sailing Away From Winter

Silver Donald Cameron ba’60
Random House, $25.95

As a life long sailor, I am keenly aware of the lure of the sea, and as the years pass by, the narrowing of the window for adventure. Although, knowing what can go wrong on a mere weekend voyage, I am oftensceptical of the yarns spun by sailors; and their common tales of bliss at sea raise doubts in my mind.

Cameron’s book pulls the reader along on a well-written voyage
of discovery, self examination, trial (and a little error) and believable highlights. Thus, like a true sea voyage you share the good and the bad which combine to magnify the good, making it all the more valuable.

The reader can share in the exuberance of the author while he recounts their days in the sun during an often harrowing trip down the intercoastal water way from Cape Breton Island to the Bahamas. It is a great read for anyone who loves boats, cruises with theirspouse, understands dogs and is thinking of “one day” slipping the lines for warmer climes. Reviewed by Barney Ellis-Perry, ba’87.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Thumbs-down review from Canadian Geographic

Sailing Away from Winter is reviewed in the current issue of Canadian Geographic. Into every life a little rain must fall, and this review is a cold shower. Ah, well. You can't win 'em all. Here's the review:

Sailing Away from Winter: Canadian Geographic review by Allan Casey

Silver Donald Cameron is one of Nova Scotia's more prolific contemporary scribes, running the gamut from playwright to novelist and newspaper columnist. Even if you are not native to his beloved Cape Breton, you probably know his salty byline. "Silver," he explains, because there were too many Donald Camerons in Canada. But his hustle to survive as a freelance writer never left the lifelong sailor time to make the kind of epic voyage worthy of his dreams.

He proposes to sail down the Eastern Seaboard and out to the Bahamas — epic enough. But there are complications. His wife Marjorie wants to come along but worries the trip will be the death of the aging family dog, Leo. If Leo does keel over en route, will recrimination bloom in the tight quarters of the 31-foot Magnus? Above all, Cameron is getting to be an old dog himself — now pushing 70 — and unsure he's still up to the rigours of life aboard.

I've gone to literary sea with everyone from Joshua Slocum to Dame Naomi James, and I was eager to ship out under this seasoned raconteur-captain, to see where his "old-manand- the-sea" plot might take him. Unfortunately, Sailing Away from Winter is a tedious blur that never arrives at the thematic destination it promises.

Despite the title, Cameron seldom sails at all but, instead, motors south via the Intracoastal Waterway, a.k.a. "The Big Ditch," the most well-beaten path for yacht cruisers on Earth.

Moreover, as the author himself complains, cruising leaves little time for discovery. Cameron seems trapped in an endless quest for groceries, boat parts and a place to let an old dog pee.

The story ends up being about crowded marinas too much like one another and cruisers too much like the protagonists. "The truly disquieting thought," writes Cameron, "was that I was just another aging bourgeois, diligently pursuing a fake adventure with the odds stacked heavily in my favour."

We never do learn mate Marjorie's views on the voyage or even the fate of poor Leo the dog. The tale ends abruptly in the Caribbean, the trip home unexplained. One wonders whether the real story begins there. Perhaps a sequel will reveal all.

—Allan Casey
Allan Casey is a boatbuilder and a freelance writer in Saskatoon.

Good Old Boat review

Sailing Away from Winter has just been reviewed by Karen Larson, editor of Good Old Boat magazine. Good Old Boat ("the sailing magazine for the rest of us") is my favourite boating magazine by far -- a delightful mix of how-tos, history and yarns -- and I'm happy to say that I contribute to it from time to time. My next piece there, to be published early next year, is an illustrated article on various ways to carry a dinghy.

The magazine's web site is Check it out, and you can order a free trial issue. Karen's review was published in the Good Old Boat newsletter, here: <>

But to save you the trouble, here's Karen's review.

Sailing Away from Winter, by Silver Donald Cameron (Douglas Gibson books, 2006; 376 pages; $25.95)
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minn.

It’s great fun to go cruising with Silver Donald Cameron. Through his books we’ve traveled with him several times, and each time has been a pleasure. Don’s tales of his voyages introduce his readers to people he meets, places he visits, and events along the way. He tells us about their background and, through these historical glimpses, what they’ve become today. Don makes strangers and strange places meaningful to us. With the latest book, Sailing Away from Winter, readers will also develop a fondness for Don; his wife, Marjorie; and Leo, their aging wonder whippet and boat dog, also known as the BFD (brave and faithful dog).

This trio buys a motorsailer specifically for a 1,500-mile trip from Nova Scotia to the Bahamas, sailing away from a Canadian winter season via the Intracoastal Waterway. They are richly rewarded with an entire range of cruising experiences along the way. Pack your sea bag and enter their world; your own horizons will be broadened as a result.

Don acquired the “Silver” moniker in Nova Scotia, where the name Cameron is common enough for the need to distinguish between several Donald Camerons. Don, the author and sailor, is the one with the white hair. In this book he could have been called “Dandelion Don,” because he had a terrible time finding a barber along the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., and that thatch of white hair became a halo before a hairdresser was finally located.

I have always admired Don as a master with words, and he’s done it again. His description of an evening in Halifax is a good example. “Catherine MacKinnon picked up her fiddle and began another haunting slow air, plangent and sweet and melancholy. It felt like an ethereal exhalation from the most ancient parts of the soul. And the past was all around us — the Acadians, the forts, the salty old seaport, the historic ships both above the water and below it. Sitting on the deck of a schooner, surrounded by my country’s past and bathed in its music, poised to sail into an unknown future, I suddenly realized that I knew exactly who I was, and exactly where I was. And I liked it.”

Don is honest about their trip down the Intracoastal Waterway. Equipment failed, the weather was sometimes unpleasant, clearing U.S. customs was a hassle, and grocery shopping and laundry became major events. Because they were making a late-season delivery, they pushed too hard and moved too fast. Sometimes lonely, at other times they had more social interaction than needed. But they had a good time, learned much about themselves and others, and found that they were fitter and younger-feeling than when they left. Once in the Bahamas, the pace slowed, and the madcap race to arrive was forgotten.

Reading this book will whet your appetite for more by Silver Donald Cameron. I can wholeheartedly recommend that path. You won’t regret any of the journeys you make with this man whose words are silver. Perhaps that’s a better reason for the additional name he has worn so well for so long.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

CBC-TV interview on the Internet

My interview on CBC-TV's The Living East, broadcast March 10, can be viewed on the Internet. Go to and look for Episode 40. As of today (March 11) that's the episode you get when you arrive at the Living East site, but I presume it will be archived as newer episodes go online.

Globe and Mail review by Derek Lundy

Here is Derek Lundy's Globe and Mail review, published March 11, 2007. Lundy is a fine nautical writer, and I'm pleased he enjoyed the book. -- SDC

Over and around the bounding main

Sailing Away From Winter: A Cruise from Nova Scotia to Florida and Beyond

By Silver Donald Cameron

McClelland & Stewart/Douglas Gibson, 367 pages, $34.99

Once upon a time, not long ago, the sea held profound meaning for us. It was a pre-eminently masculine realm, and men dreamed of the sea as a place of adventure, heroic struggle and redemption; like the battlefield, it was a proving ground of manhood. For women, the sea was something to cross to get somewhere else, or it was a malign and terrible power that snatched their men away from them. The sea was a common source of metaphor, and of vocabulary. Covering three-quarters of the Earth's surface -- planet ocean -- the sea made the world seem large, unpredictable, wild and dangerous.

That's all gone now. For most of us, the sea is a mere thing: We fly over it, dump in it, strip-mine it for protein or cruise its picturesque fringes in floating hotels with pointy ends. There are exceptions. Expendable men still work at sea -- fishermen and freighter crews -- mostly from countries of the "developing world." They still struggle and die there, although far fewer of them than in the past; they are not prone to romanticize their workplace.

And some inhabitants of the rich "developed world," who have time and money, and therefore choices, go to sea because it pleases them to do so. For those people, the sea retains some of its ancient meaning. They are bound to find there many of the things absent on land: simplicity, honour, adventure and the chance for ordinary men and women to find out who they are and what they're made of.

This seagoing impulse may be extreme: a non-stop circumnavigation through the great Southern Ocean, for example, or a round-the-world or single-handed transoceanic race. But there are many gentler, more homely versions of hunger for the sea. In Sailing Away From Winter, Nova Scotia writer Silver Donald Cameron describes one of them: a cruise from home on Cape Breton, down the east coast of the United States to Florida, and "beyond" -- as the subtitle has it -- to the nearby Bahamas, and to the revelations they disclose.

Cameron, his wife Marjorie and their dog, Leo the Wonder Whippet, a.k.a. the BFD ("brave and faithful dog"), buy an old, tubby Norwegian motor sailer, which they rename Magnus. They do what always has to be done with an older boat: fix or replace just about every damn thing aboard, usually more than once. In mid-summer, 2004, they head south, harbour-hopping along the coasts of Nova Scotia, New England, New York and New Jersey.

They can't stay out for more than 12 hours at a time because that marks the limit of the elderly Leo's bladder control -- he, like many dogs, refuses to pee while aboard, in spite of his owners' sweet inducements. The multi-species crew makes a hard right into Delaware Bay and on into the eight-river estuary of the Chesapeake. At Norfolk, Va., they enter the Intra Coastal Waterway.

Known as "the Ditch," the waterway is a labyrinthine network of sounds, rivers, creeks, cuts, swamps and canals that stretches all the way to the tip of Florida. The route is sheltered from the rowdy North Atlantic by the barrier islands of the coast. Boats can make their way south in safety and relative comfort, dodging late-season hurricanes and avoiding autumn gales. The crew can never relax, though. There are tides, currents, many lift bridges and, most daunting, shoals and shallow water everywhere. A good day is when a boat runs aground only a couple of times.

The helmsman must concentrate without let-up as long as the boat's in motion. Cameron learns the hard way, as do all sailors, how not to bash into docks or hit bottom, and how to follow narrow dredged channels in cross-winds, or cozy up to snarky or sullen lift-bridge operators. In many ways, it's easier on the open ocean, even in bad weather: You just point the boat in the right direction and try not to be too afraid.

Magnus and his human-doggy crew make it all the way to Fort Lauderdale. From there, they must cross the 50-mile-wide Strait of Florida to get to the idyllic Abacos, in the northern Bahamas. The strait can be a bad stretch of water if strong winds blow against the fast, north-setting Gulf Stream, but the voyagers wait for a good weather window, and they make the dash across. The islands fulfill their promise of slow peace and gentle weather.

Cameron, a sailor in his local waters for 30 years, has always dreamed of making such a voyage. In his late sixties, he thinks: Better do it now. It's seductive and stirring for weekend sailors when, finally, they have the chance to just keep going, and not turn back and head home after a few hours or a couple of weeks. The sense of freedom, of possibility, rejuvenates all three souls aboard Magnus. "South, south, south" is Cameron's mantra as winter fills in behind them.

This is a well-written, plain-told, day-by-day account of getting a small boat from one place to another. Cameron is a veteran writer and knows how to lace his story with a little history, interesting characters, with whimsy and a dose of good old self-deprecating Canadian humour. A reader might wish for more drama, or for some sea-going crises surmounted or trials endured. But for a sailor, to make a voyage without mishap or trauma is the whole idea. Cameron's book about the mellow completion of his long-delayed dream of the sea is a quiet pleasure to read.

Derek Lundy is the author of Godforsaken Sea. His latest book, The Bloody Red Hand: A Journey Through Truth, Myth, and Terror in Northern Ireland, has just been published in paperback.

Friday, March 9, 2007

CBC-TV, Globe and Mail, Podcast

Tomorrow, Saturday March 10, Sailing Away from Winter will be reviewed in The Globe and Mail.

The TV interview for CBC Nova Scotia's "The Living East" will be broadcast today, sometime after 1:00 PM.

And here are the details of a long interview I did for "the world's first sailing podcast" at It's online now.

FurledSails Weekly sailing podcast focusing on cruising and recreational sailing. Podcast #79 Silver Donald Cameron
Silver Donald Cameron is the author of several sailing books including "Sailing Away From Winter", "Sniffing the Coast", "The Living Beach" and "Wind, Whales and Whisky" just to name a few. He has a very entertaining way about him and regals us with several stories from his trips. See you on the water!

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