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February 22, 2019

In An Inexplicable Attraction: My Fifty Years of Ocean Sailing, Forsyth, a veteran sailor takes readers with him on his round-the-world journeys

How did you write An Inexplicable Attraction: My Fifty Years of Ocean Sailing?

When I retired in 1995, I set off on a round-the-world cruise that took two and a half years. I wrote newsletters every three months and posted them on a website called, named after my vessel, Fiona. After that adventure, I took one-year cruises every other year, including another circumnavigation. I wrote newsletters for each journey. After my 2013–2014 cruise, my daughter urged me to edit the newsletters into a book. It took a couple of years to put together all my material from the newsletters, the ship’s log, and the videos that I shot on each cruise. This material became An Inexplicable Attraction: My Fifty Years of Ocean Sailing.

How did you begin sailing and at what age?

When I moved to Long Island in 1960, at 28, many of my coworkers sailed weekends on Great South Bay. I bought a small sailboat and joined them. My wife and I eventually bought a slightly larger boat. After we crewed on a 46-foot cutter from Long Island to the United Kingdom, we were hooked. We bought a 35-foot sloop and sold our house. In 1968, we sailed to the Caribbean and cruised until the money ran out a year later.

You have circumnavigated the globe twice, which is extremely impressive. What kinds of logistics are involved in managing such a feat?

My first circumnavigation was the warm way, east to west, via the Panama and Suez Canals. There are plenty of places to refuel and restock food. Water can be a problem, though. The other circumnavigation was west to east, via the great Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn. It can be cold. Here, you are really on your own. I carry many cans of meat and vegetables, plus pasta, rice, flour, and extra fuel.

As a writer of nonfiction, how do you make sure you are telling the truth?

I used my newsletters and the ship’s log, plus videos, as an aide to memory. I have been accused many times of downplaying the dangers we were in, but I prefer modesty to sensationalism.

Geopolitics and climate change figure into this story. Tell us how and why they belong in a book about sailing.  

Some countries I visited are quite dangerous, for example, the South Philippines, Sudan, and Yemen. Over the past 55 years, I witnessed these and many other developing countries adopt a Western lifestyle, which is dependent on the use of fossil fuel. It is not sustainable. These carbon emissions are causing climate change. We are only just beginning to pay a very heavy price.

What is the one thing that you most want to tell readers, other writers, booksellers, publishers, or agents about you or your book?

Although my book covers 50 years of sailing, a great amount of the material comes from the years since my retirement at age 63. I am now 86. If your health, finances, and inclinations can support a cruising lifestyle, then go for it. You only live once, and there is a wonderful world out there.