Eleven year old Sarah loved to “bubble along” in her sailing dinghy, the “Puddleduck”. We soon discover that her enjoyment lay in developing a mastery of sailing, not in showing off to the local boys or in some sort of idleness. Sarah knew that every sail wrinkle or unnecessary wake, thoughtfully corrected, brought more harmony between skipper, craft, and the many natural forces involved. Still, she had a lot to learn if she was to sail well in the Labor Day regatta. And, wouldn’t it be nice to beat that annoying Tommy Watkins?
Grandpa showed Sarah that sailing was more than just boat handling. When the tide nearly rushed the Puddleduck from the harbor, Sarah heard his voice in her head, “Keep a weather eye, Spook, the sea changes all the time.” She had to learn everything. What could she practice next! How would she beat Watkin’s fancy racing boat?
The fullness of Sarah’s character and struggle is better grasped using an understanding of sailing, and Alvord has provided technical sidebars, drawings and vocabulary aids that will really suit young sailors. Other readers may find some of the information daunting, but Alvord’s clear prose and poignant illustrations make the plot and theme rewarding.
Sarah’s Boat is a compelling portrayal of how independence and smart tactics are the best means to one’s goal. Though Tommy Watkins primarily serves to make the final regatta a little more ‘personal’, he also brings an unexpected element of justice into Sarah’s benevolent world.