Cork Boat: A True Story of the Unlikeliest Boat Ever Built

by John Pollack

Paperback, 2005

Call number




Anchor (2005), 304 pages


"In the late 1990s John Pollack was working as a Washington speechwriter when, frustrated by the cynicism and hypocrisy on Capitol Hill, he quit his job to pursue a boyhood dream: to build a boat made entirely of wine corks and take it on an epic journey." "Cork Boat tells the story of Pollack's improbable quest. Overcoming one obstacle after another, he convinces skeptical bartenders to save their corks, corrals a brilliant but disorganized partner, and eventually cajoles more than one hundred volunteers who help build the boat until their fingers bleed. Ultimately, Pollack completes his vessel of 165,321 corks and sets sail on a fantastic voyage down the Douro River in Portugal, where the Cork Boat becomes a national sensation." "In recounting these adventures, Pollack skillfully meanders through fascinating arcana, from the cork wars to the history of rubber bands (some 15,000 of which help hold his boat together). He also offers an insider's look at the White House, where he was a Presidential speechwriter and enlisted navy stewards to save corks for the boat."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member librarymeg
For me, the biggest danger in reading books of unlikely adventure in beautiful locales is that I'm immediately struck with the intense desire to do something amazing and travel the world. This is exactly what happened when I read Cork Boat. It's the story of John Pollack and Garth Goldstein, and their unusual project of building a replica Norse longboat completely out of wine and champagne corks. John Pollack, who came up with the idea as a child, spent his entire life saving corks with the intention of one day achieving his childhood dream. In the meantime, he led a fascinating life in its own right. His father, an academic, did a lot of fieldwork which brought his family all around the world to experience both wonder and tragedy. John himself, the winner of the 18th Annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships, also became a speechwriter for President Clinton and a staff writer for an Antarctic expedition. But it's the Cork Boat that's truly the heart of this story. Pollack describes the intense challenge of finding enough corks (nearly 1/3 of a million) to build the boat, finding an appropriate way to build with them, and then rallying friends and family to complete the arduous task of constructing the boat. The whole endeavor is topped off by what they imagined as a leisurely drift down the Douro River in Portugal. Needless to say, not everything goes smoothly. Nevertheless, Pollack's story is humorous and poignant and inspiring. I heartily enjoyed reading it, and have become interested in the history of both Portugal and the humble cork. Most of all, I've been inspired to revisit my childhood dreams and wonder, perhaps . . . .… (more)
LibraryThing member marmot
A funny and inspiring tale of a whimsical plan to build a boat from discarded wine corks. Since childhood, the author collected used corks for an imaginary raft. Years later he decides to complete the project, but numbers of corks necessary are enormous, and the dream becomes an obsession that takes years of effort.

Pollack was once a speech writer for President Clinton, and the story contains many of the best things about a rousing oration: a childhood dream, on the verge of being lost, but through teamwork and faith and hard work, the author is able to finally achieve his plans.

Well, the story is more fun and silly than that makes it sound. The enthusiasm of the author for his project is infectious, and you may find yourself reviving some old childhood visions, too.
… (more)
LibraryThing member AmronGravett
Once a speechwriter for Bill Clinton, Pollack left and pursued a childhood dream to build a boat made entirely out of wine corks. An amazing 165,321 corks later, he set sail down the Douro River in Portugal. This book is such a fun read. I recommend it to anyone who loves travel tales, boats or just clever writers.
LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
This book is the true story of a Congressional (and later presidential) speechwriter who decides to clear his mind of politics for a bit and pursues a childhood dream of building a boat made entirely of bottle corks. This childhood fantasy ends up taking a lot more time and work than Pollack anticipates, but ultimately leads to a sort of cult fame for Pollack and his fellow boat makers as they travel down the Douro river through Portugal wine country to the cries of "cork boat! cork boat!" While I thought the quirky idea of building a boat made entirely of corks sounded intriguing, I was a little bit bored by the tedious descriptions of the actual engineering and building of the boat (the middle section of the book). However, it was sometimes interesting to hear about small successes and failures along the way. It was also interesting to see how the author's relationships with his friends and family were challenged and enhanced through this project. But what was the most interesting out of the tale was the back story behind why the author built the boat (told in the beginning of the book) and the trip through Portugal (described toward the end of the book).… (more)
LibraryThing member memccauley6
While the subject matter makes it painfully easy to make nautical puns... I will simply say that I could not force myself to finish. Was it the bad writing, the unsympathetic narrator, the terrible pacing?

Yes - and much, much more. This would be an amusing magazine or newspaper article...
LibraryThing member kenno82
Well-written. Perhaps the most interesting parts of the book related to his speech-writing days in the White House, as opposed to the building of the cork boat. An interesting and tragic personal story of tragedy and resilience is also nicely weaved throughout.
LibraryThing member nkmunn
Where to start ? Perhaps w the boat - Pollack writes a great memoir here of a boat constructed of unusual materials but suspiciously absent is any mention of whether or how it was made water-tight . . . was it or wasn't it ? How?
LibraryThing member taramatchi
What a fun little story. I really enjoyed reading about the relationships between him and his friends as he built the boat and almost wish I got to see the ship when it was still around. A book about making a dream a reality.




1400034906 / 9781400034901
Page: 5.1183 seconds