February 16, 2010
David J. Steele
I watched my father build the Piver Tri-Maran in his garage and front yard of our home in Saigon, South Viet-Nam (at the time). This book is a still exciting story of an oil engineer and manager (at the time in charge of all Esso supply for all of Viet-Nam) who built a boat from scratch and sailed it from Saigon toward Hong Kong.
20 miles off the coast of Hainan (by his calculations) he was rammed by militia-pirates and the boat sunk, leaving him in the water. He was taken prisoner and vanished from the public eye. Months later he was released into Hong Kong with some photos of pieces of his boat washed up on shore, and his sextant.
The best part of the book for me has always been his account of being treated as a guest rather than a prisoner in China, and when asked what Americans drank with their meals, his response “a big bottle of beer.” That’s what he got, and he claims that is why he only lost 40 pounds or whatever it was.
I still have the “little red book” he was given to read while a prisoner. My positive opinion of the Chinese has been shaped in part by their very dignified treatment of my father as a quasi-prisoner, combined with my finishing high school in Singapore at a time when Minister-Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was just hitting his statesmanlike-stride.