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The Silver Spider

Dec 28, 2017

The Silver Spider
by Nadine Slavinski
Rolling Hitch Press (NSlavinski.com)
461 pages


Some voyagers making ocean passages and living aboard write about their experiences in magazine articles and nonfiction books. Then there are voyagers like Nadine Slavinski who take their voyaging experiences, add some clever imagination and spin out voyaging fiction. Slavinski, who sailed with her husband and son aboard their 35-foot sloop Namani (and wrote several articles about their exploits for Ocean Navigator), used her experience exploring in Panama as the base for her new novel, The Silver Spider.

For voyaging sailors, the book will seem both familiar yet new. The familiarity rests with the everyday challenges and joys of living aboard while passagemaking; the novelty stems from the intriguing multi-level plot that weaves through the book. Slavinski is not content with just writing about the main characters, Nick and Kate, in the present day. Instead, she skips back in time to the building of the Panama Canal in 1910. Not content with one historical thread, Slavinski steps back further to 1667 at the time of the Spanish colonial occupation of Panama. Using these three time periods, Slavinski weaves a story of silver pieces of eight and a lost treasure. We follow the various characters interacting with the treasure from the 17th century to the present day. As you’d imagine, a treasure of Spanish silver coins draws the attention of all manner of people, including a gang of international criminals eager to beat Nick and Kate to the discovery.

Nick and Kate must use all their voyaging experience and skills as they attempt to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. One particularly clever element is the pair making use of celestial navigation to help them in their quest. It’s great to see sextants, almanacs and some determined reasoning as the tools of discovery and not the more common trope of computers and smartphone apps.

While the race for the silver treasure is the main story, Slavinski also manages to include a fuller picture of the voyaging life. Not just the beauty of the sea and tropical locales but the pressures of financing the dream, performing boat maintenance and balancing the sometimes-diverging interests of a voyaging crew.

Ultimately, Slavinski does a great job of keeping the three plots and myriad characters all working together as The Silver Spider reaches its daring ending. As Nick and Kate sail off to the next island, we’re left wondering if we will see this pair of literary adventurers again.

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