Dove by Robin Lee Graham

It’s taken me a lot of years of denial, but I can now finally admit that I’m a romantic. But not in the contemporary sense of the word. Currently, romantic means anything to do with a couple falling in love. But I’m a romantic in the way it was defined in the nineteenth century. I love stories filled with adventure, introducing me to new lands and new people. I want ships that sail into unknown seas, mysterious maps that hint at lost civilizations, and heroes who believe in gallant action.

Dove by Robin Lee Graham with Derek L.T. Gill is a true story that’s romantic in both senses. It’s a tale of the youngest person to sail solo around the earth, and the story of how he met the young woman who would eventually become his wife. Although it isn’t the main theme of the story, Dove is also about how, bit by bit, Robin and his wife Patti embraced Christianity.

Robin Lee Graham left California in 1965 at sixteen and returned in 1970 at twenty-one, a husband and soon-to-be father. I’ve read two version of this story, The Boy Who Sailed Around the World Alone is the kids’ version. I enjoy it because the author gives an explanation of sailing terms and it has wonderful photos. Dove is for adults.

I love Dove for so many reasons. First, Robin describes his longing for the sea, something he shared with his father, and for a life different from what he experienced in suburban America. As his father wrote to his mother, explaining why they should allow their son to attempt this, “Lee is more interested in living than longevity.”

Second, the story brims with an exuberant freedom. The reason it took Robin five years to complete his journey was because he took his time, spending months in the countries he reached. He and Patti sailed wherever they wanted while exploring the islands of the South Pacific or the Caribbean, swimming wherever it looked interesting, eating whatever local foods they came across.

Third, he relates how he and his wife changed from pagans from California to Christians. One significant event in that journey was when Robin was caught in a terrible storm off the coast of Madagascar. After being awake for forty-eight hours in a storm that threatened to tear his boat apart, Robin prayed, with his arms clutching the tiller, “God or whoever you are, please help me.” At that moment, the storm began to die.

What true life stories do you recommend?

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