Dancing Fish: A Sailor’s Tale at the Library

Life can be dull sometimes. You wake up, drink coffee, go to school or work, go home, go to bed. You do the same old thing almost every day. So when I hear about someone who does something interesting, who goes on a real life adventure; that gets my attention. Especially if that someone is a 60-year-old woman.

October 10. It was a rainy, dreary day when Doann Houghton-Alico visited the library in Marblehead. She spoke about her 10 year long trip around the world, circumnavigating with her husband in their own sailboat, visiting 41 different countries on the way.  She read from her chapbook, Dancing Fish, a selection of poems and prose that will be published in her forthcoming book, Voice of a Voyage: Dancing Fish, Tea in a Bombed-out Alley, and Other Memories of Circumnavigation. She told us about pirates. She told us about sharks. And she told us of all the wonderful people she had the fortune to meet.

Doann Houghton-Alico is certainly a woman to admire. Not only did she go on a voyage around the world, alone side from her husband, but also to stand in front of the audience, reading poems of intimate moments of her life, moments that clearly made a huge impact on her considering the emotion resonating in her voice — now, that’s courage. Some of the poems she shared were about people she met on this voyage who died or she lost touch with, making the talk a moving presentation. One story stood out from all the other poems and stories. It was the story of how Houghton-Alico and her husband got attacked by pirates.

They decided to sail alone through the Gulf of Aden, known for its pirate attacks and thus nicknamed Pirate Alley, instead of sailing their faster sailboat with a slower convoy. She took the night watch while her husband slept, checking the radar in the pilot house for any ships that might drift nearby. Around 3 a.m. that night, she told the audience, she heard voices “right outside.”

When she stepped out of the pilot house, she found a man climbing aboard their boat. Luckily for the author, when he saw her, the pirate decided to run away instead of fight. What I found most interesting about the author’s recount of the attack was that she claimed not to have been scared. “There was so much we had to do,” she explained, telling audience about the specific tasks she and her husband (whom she obviously woke up after the encounter) had to focus on to sail their boat out from between what was “literally a rock and a hard place.”

The couple now reside in Colorado, next to the mountains. Their sailboat, which took them on the adventure of a lifetime,  is for sale. But, Houghton-Alico assured the audience of her everlasting love for the big blue.


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