Book Review: In Search of a Fair Wind – The Sea Letters of Georgia Townsend Yates, 1891-1892

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

In Search of a Fair Wind
The Sea Letters of Georgia Townsend Yates, 1891-1892
By Georgia Townsend Yates and Clint Cargile.
Zea Mays Publ., Sycamore, Ill. 2017. 229 pages.

I find memoirs to be extraordinarily engaging, even when the central topic is of no great interest to me.

Being pulled into someone else’s life, reading the private thoughts, feelings, perspective, reactions to family, fears, insecurities, being privy to someone who has had a life different from mine, and shares it so unpretentiously, feels like a privilege.

Georgia Townsend Yates wrote letters home to her mother from the Willie Reed, an ocean vessel that sailed from the East Coast to Japan and Singapore from 1891 to 1892. Captain John Elvin Yates, Georgia’s husband, commanded the ship, and she sailed with him for fifteen months, accompanied by their toddler daughter Dorothy.

The first section of the book defines the two families from which Georgia and Captain Jack came: the Townsends and the Pierces, Georgia’s family, were scions of Sycamore, Illinois, and Jack’s origins were in Round Pond, Maine.

The second section is the letters themselves. Mrs. Yates’s writing is humorous, “Dorothy and I slept right through it [passing across the equator] and never felt the bump,” and caustically observant, “He [the ship’s steward] won’t work, and as he is not ornamental he is about as useless as he could be.” The author added maps to this section, as well as some newspaper accounts independent of the letters that add to the story.

The third section is the epilogue of the remaining years of Georgia and Jack’s lives, years filled with political activity, child-rearing, a momentous move out to Boise, Idaho, and Georgia’s last years in Seattle.

The Yates couple led remarkable lives, and thanks to Georgia’s letters and the family’s transcriptions, and the author’s research, an extraordinary memoir gives them due celebration.

In Search of a Fair Wind – The Sea Letters of Georgia Townsend Yates, 1891-1892 is available from the publisher at as well as from Amazon at:

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