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Maine writer reflects on life-changing year at sea

Scouring decks and climbing rigging transformed the bookish teenager.

PORTLAND, Maine — It’s been more than 50 years since Elizabeth Garber left her home in Ohio at the age of 17 to work aboard a once-grand yacht, a vessel that had been turned into a floating school for young people. 

It was an unlikely step. Before then, she’d seen the ocean only once in her life.

Garber, who lives in Belfast and has written three collections of poetry and has worked for many years as an acupuncturist, tells the story of her time at sea in a new memoir called “Sailing at the Edge of Disaster.” 

It is a coming-of-age tale, an account of what happens when a bookish teenager finds herself scouring decks and climbing the rigging of a four-masted ship.

Although her time at sea was relatively brief, it was intense, and Garber said she still dreams about the ship. 

In her dreams, she walks down the gangway to the dock to run an errand. She tries to return to the vessel, “But,” she writes with finality, “I can’t get back.”

Watch our interview to learn more about Elizabeth Garber and “Sailing at the Edge of Disaster.”

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