Child of the Sea, by Doina Cornell

Child of the Sea

A Memoir of a Sailing Childhood
Doina Cornell

  • English
  • 2012
  • 224 pages

About the book

This is such a fascinating account of a truly different childhood.
Reader’s review on Amazon

In 1975 Doina Cornell left England with her family when she was only seven and spent the next six years sailing around the world on a small yacht. The author has drawn on her memories, diaries and stories, to re-create the perfect life led by a sailing child: swimming, diving and playing the days away in deserted anchorages; visiting some of the most beautiful islands in the world; falling in love with the sea in all its ever-changing moods, from balmy trade wind ocean passages to the treacherous breakers that crash onto tropical reefs.

And yet, Child of the Sea is much more than this. The book tells the story of a girl’s coming of age in the South Pacific where girls are treated like women at a much earlier age than in the western world, and all the awkwardness and confusion Doina feels as a result.

Child of the Sea is also about a child’s political education, as Doina’s journalist father searches out stories that take the family well off the sailors’ beaten track: digging out the African roots of Caribbean culture; or witnessing the end of Empire as the tiny Pacific nations of Tuvalu and Kiribati gain independence from Great Britain in colourful celebrations of feasting and dance.

And finally, this is a story of how people judge each other depending on the colour of their skin, from the time on Easter island when tourists mistake Doina for a Polynesian girl, to her and her brother’s hostile reception back in an English school at the end of their voyage.

Child of the Sea is a vivid evocation of the sailing life, and should be read by anyone who would like to understand how it feels to spend years sailing the oceans on a 36 foot yacht. The book can be read as a simple story, in the clear language of a child, and nothing more. Or it can be read as a comment on what ingredients make for a perfect childhood, in these days when much ink is spilled on meditating that very question. What do children need to grow up happy and healthy? Security with their family; an element of risk and freedom to explore the world; openness to other peoples and cultures; a sense of the environment and our finite resources. The sailing life offers all these and more.

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Look inside


In this article, Doina Cornell shares moving and honest stories from her family’s circumnavigation, using excerpts from Child of the Sea:

Cruising Children Speak: Child of the Sea

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Book details

“Child of the Sea”

  • English
  • 224 pages
  • Paperback
  • Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 cm / 6.1 x 9.1 “
  • Publisher in UK: Adlard Coles
  • 2012
  • ISBN: 978-1408178591
  • Publisher in USA: Cornell Sailing Ltd
  • 2012
  • ISBN: 978-0955639692

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Book reviews

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Bursting with life, here is a rare memoir of tenderness and exquisite detail, about a young girl’s voyage with her family around the world.

Doina learns about politics and race, responsibility and love, all through a kaleidoscope of international friendships, a strong family, and the infinitely fascinating world she discovers from the deck of a boat named Aventura.

A must-read for parents thinking of taking the cruising leap, and a little worried about how their kids will react. And it’s an equally powerful book for their kids, who long for a glimpse into the wonders they have in store.

Bernadette Bernon, Boat U.S.

This poignant story of the author’s round-the-world voyage, one-of-a-kind experiences, and coming of age at sea – told from the perspective of a child as she grows into a young woman – is truly unique in this genre.

Unlike most seagoing sagas, which are aimed at an adult audience, this one is a must-read for all kids (ages 10 and up), parents, or others who dream either of adventure or exploring the world under sail.

Lynda Morris Childress, Cruising World

This book should be read by all who are going to sell up and sail away into the Blue Yonder with kids.
Yachting Monthly

This is such a fascinating account of a truly different childhood. The images which the book portrays are well laid out, and the prose is very engaging and sharp.

With the sea as the backdrop, not only for this book, but for its author’s childhood, it makes a real page turner.

Reader’s review on Amazon

Highly recommended for armchair sailors and travellers of all sorts, or anyone who loves a good story told by an interesting person.
Reader’s review on Amazon

This childhood sails on a sea of gold. Children of seven to ninety-seven should be as enthralled as I am.
Susie Morgenstern

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About the author(s)

Doina Cornell

Doina Cornell

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