Island Born by Frank BurnabyMemoir Thursday, December 6th, 2012
Island Born, a memoir, challenges what is possible in love and nature. The author and his partner, from vastly different backgrounds in Los Angeles, resolve to follow their intuition and sail “the wrong way around the world” – eastward across the Arabian Sea. Pitted against treacherous conditions that included the volatile social and political situation of the world ashore, they discover what it takes, and what it means, to surpass all previous personal and cultural expectations so that they might truly live.
When twenty-one year-old Gayle becomes pregnant in the middle of their sailing adventure, the couple discovers a tiny uninhabited island in a remote atoll, as barely discernible as a shake of pepper in the vast blue of their Indian Ocean chart. There they give up their dream ship, and begin a real life journey neither of them could have imagined. With the help of an old chief on a nearby island, they build a thatched family home with no electricity, no running water, no telephone, no address, no bills, and no neighbors.
ISLAND BORN seeks to answer the question of whether it is still possible to voyage to an unspoiled place, not only on the globe, but within ourselves. Together, Frank and Gayle pull up anchor from the seabed of their culture and travel to a place where their determination, their romance, and their lives are challenged beyond the limits of each horizon, and yet they keep going.
I love to tell a good story, and I lived one with the experience of Island Born. The voyage taught me to trust that resources existed within me of which I was unaware. Nothing stopped us, and the challenges were huge and often unexpected. It was remarkable to later examine what enabled us to keep going, and in the writing process themes emerged that never occurred to me at the time. For example, sailing a small boat into vast and indomitable oceans distilled my relationship to nature and heightened my capacity to survive. Childbrith alone on an uninhabited island was only part of the journey. I wrote Island Born to inspire others to stretch further. Within every person is a treasure trove of intelligence and knowledge that could lead to freedoms and forgotten capabilities.
Frank Burnaby is a poet, traveler, sailor, and storyteller. He worked as a successful lighting designer in Los Angeles for many years before retiring to Salt Spring Island. For the last several years he has devoted his time to writing, raising his younger sons, and to the creation of a wilderness school focused on the developmental needs of 7-13 year old children, as they experience nature.
As a youth, he survived his parent’s good intentions when they enrolled him in military school in the seventh grade. There he learned to disassemble and reassemble his rifle with his eyes closed, and to pull weeds for not having a mirror shine on his shoes. He spent his high school years at a boarding school in New Jersey.
In 1969, after a stint at San Francisco State University film school, Frank boarded a freighter bound for North Africa. Hitchhiking across Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, he made his way through India and South East Asia, to remote islands in Indonesia by native boat, and finally on to Hong Kong where he taught English.
Landing back in New York City he drove a taxi at night, and studied acting at Herbert Berghof Studios. He found work as an actor and was offered the principal part in a travel adventure feature film, but instead of pursuing an acting career he opened a vegetarian taco stand, which thrived on the edge of the meat packing district.
Drawn to the sea and his dream of sailing to a tropical wilderness, he took a job as an apprentice shipwright in a Los Angeles marina. Soon after, he set off with his soon-to-be wife, Gayle, to purchase a small vintage sailboat in England. He was 27, and she was 17. The ensuing five year voyage, eastward across the Indian Ocean, and their experience living on an uninhabited island changed his life forever. This is the story, Island Born.
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