Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings

by Jonathan Raban

Hardcover, 2000

Call number

917.98 RAB



Vintage (2000), Edition: Later Printing, 448 pages


Acclaimed travel writer Jonathan Raban invites us aboard his boat, a floating cottage cluttered with books, curling manuscripts, and dead ballpoint pens. He's about to sail alone from Seattle to the Alaskan Panhandle, following an ancient sea route rich in history, riddles, and whirlpools. It's the perfect setting for Raban's prodigious intellect, eloquence, and eye for detail.

Media reviews

''Passage to Juneau'' shows that the sea isn't only the antonym of land, that wilderness is something other than civilization's absence. For like beauty -- or like the sublime, to which Raban devotes some of his best pages -- the wilderness has its being in the beholder's eye.

User reviews

LibraryThing member danrebo
It may be a gimmick to other readers, but for me his digressions on the contents of his ship's library (why he keeps what he does in an extremely limited space) is the most fascinating aspect of the book. He muses on how the water, despite its real dangers, would have been the most familiar and
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comfortable part of the "landscape" to the Northwest Coast Indians, and elaborates on their religion and their stories. He highlights aspects of the diaries of Vancouver and other European explorers as he passes important landmarks they named for the West.

Hashing through his family troubles was far less interesting to me (why wouldn't his wife leave him, given the amount of consideration he seems to afford to her and their kid?). I just loved learning what was important and relevant in his library. Maybe that's why we're all here, after all? No wonder I'm a librarian...
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LibraryThing member donkeytiara
oh how i tried to get through this book....i thought the story had a tendency to drift a bit too much as he did a literary review of all books about the exploration of this part of the country...perhaps reading this with a great map of the area handy would make it a bit easier... sadly i had to
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quit. i quite very few books. Sad, cuz I've been through the inside passage 3 times now...if you're looking for great books to read on a cruise to Alaska, try "Looking for Alaska" by Peter Jenkins or Alaska by Michener....much better "flow" and both use history in more entertaining ways.
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LibraryThing member co_coyote
My oldest son now lives in the Seattle area, and my wife and I visited last June to do some sea kayaking and birding in the San Juan Islands. I was very much taken with the Northwest and have wanted to learn more. Jonathan Raban takes a summer cruise along the Inside Passage from Seattle to Alaska
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and does a good job comparing and contrasting his own personal adventure with the one Captain Vancouver took in this country in the Discovery in the late 1700s. This is my favorite kind of travel book, and I have to catch myself and remember the tuition bills, or I would be chucking it all to go adventuring myself.
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LibraryThing member dele2451
A wonderful addition to any nautical/maritime/fishing library.
LibraryThing member Aetatis
Excellent book by an excellent writer. Raban weaves a narrative both instructive and captivating at the same time.
LibraryThing member miketroll
Raban sails in a 35-foot boat up the Inside Passage from Seattle, WA to Juneau in Alaska.

This book has great personal value to me, as I have made the same sea trip (in more comfort!). But it is a remarkable book for any reader in its original insights into the culture of the Northwest Indians.
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Also, for anyone with a practical interest in sailing, it is a delight.
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LibraryThing member tgsalter
One of my favorite authors. Now lives in Seattle. A terribly erudite and urbane fellow - has a snobbish point of view tempered by enough transparency and vulnerability to keep me interested in what he has to say.
LibraryThing member leowillemse
As ever, a great book by Raban, a an who writes sentences as hardly any other author. This book needs slow reading, as any book by Raban. He gives you so much information, emotion, philosophy,knowledge and also a great story about his sailing on life's waves.The , last sentence, in which he walks
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home, to enter "a rougher sea", is brilliant because he not only refers to his earlier explanation of a poet, but , of course, to his coming divorce. I've been never disappointed bu him, what a great book!
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LibraryThing member John_Vaughan
Scholarly, historical and emotional. The author recounts his own loss, love and passage, ending the book with a sad letter written to a friend who had a similar loss (Paul Theroux perhaps?). The journey is up through the ‘inner passage’ of the American North West to Alaska, deeply described in
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appearance and history, yet interlaced with Raban’s usual lyrical portrayal of boats and cruising.

Far from being just another sailing and cruising book, it is an emotional read. My most favorite books from this great author.
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LibraryThing member splinfo
A title for those who sail small craft, those inspired by the seas of the world and the navigation there of, and those with an interest in the Inside Passage to Alaska. Raban is a seasoned voyageur, writer and observer. I learned alot about the "First People" of the Pacific NW, the voyages of Capt.
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George Vancouver and the contemporary life of Alaskans along the passage.
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LibraryThing member steve.clason
Like all good travel books, this one uses the journey as a frame for a much wider set of reflections than going from here to there, and the author comes to the task armed with information, allusion, and insight -- plus, he can really put a sentence together.

I got annoyed at a tendency to look down
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on his fellow travelers (and just about everyone else he met on the trip) and saw the ending coming a mile away, but although those two flaws took much away from the book, it remained for me very good reading.
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LibraryThing member nmele
I had wanted to read this book for several years, and it was worth the wait. Rabin salts his story of his solo journey up the Inside Passage with vignettes of George Vancouver's journeys in these waters, Northwest native stories, and more. The voyage ends in disappointment and change, but the book
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does not.
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LibraryThing member kenno82
Whatever it was or is that readers love about this book, unfortunately I think I missed it. It didn't feel like Raban had his heart in the trip at all, and he rarely has a positive thing to say about anything. In fact, in most cases he belittles the people he meets. I would hate to make an
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appearance in one of his books through fear of what he might say. Don't get me wrong, at times his writing is fantastic - especially in the second half of the book when events mean that the story becomes more personal. However, for a lot of the book he retells Captain Vancouver's search for the north passage as a parallel story. One which I found frustrating.
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LibraryThing member thorold
Rather as he does in Coasting, Raban takes the conventional framework of the travel narrative and shakes it up to give structure to a complex, multifaceted meditation on the ways people engage with places and struggle to find sense in them. The result is more like a narrative poem than a prose
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travel book — ideas and trains of thought are linked by being juxtaposed and intermingled in the text, rather than by the author drawing explicit connections between them. The closest parallel I could think of to the effect is Derek Walcott's Omeros, but Raban manages to do it without the safety-net of poetic meter. Daring, elegant, and extremely rewarding for the reader, even if Raban's bleak mood is sometimes a bit hard to take.
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LibraryThing member Grace.Van.Moer
I want to like Arabian, but find that he often goes on for too long. The history of the initial British exploration of the Inside Passage while interesting and integral, could have been shorter by two or three chapter (at least). I did manage to finish this one, but it was a slog.
LibraryThing member MrsLee
Loved this book. Sailing with Mr. Raban is an adventure in history, natural history, philosophy and it is amusing as well. Even though his adventure had a rather bitter ending, it was good to be along on the cruise. His humor is threaded throughout the story. Not obtrusive, but quiet and natural.
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He shared some very interesting perspectives on the native arts and ways of looking at the world around them. Whether he is right or not, I don't know, but the musings were eye-opening to me. I always enjoy when I am presented with a new perspective on the world.
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