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The Voyage of the Northern Magic: a Family Odyssey

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Ever dream of selling up and running away to sea? Diane Stuemer and her husband, Herbert, were once a typical suburban couple entering middle age, with a comfortable home and three boys under twelve. A year later they had sold their business, rented out their house, and were setting out to circumnavigate the globe in a 40-year-old yacht. Their entire sailing experience con Ever dream of selling up and running away to sea? Diane Stuemer and her husband, Herbert, were once a typical suburban couple entering middle age, with a comfortable home and three boys under twelve. A year later they had sold their business, rented out their house, and were setting out to circumnavigate the globe in a 40-year-old yacht. Their entire sailing experience consisted of six afternoons on the Ottawa River. Over the next four years, squeezed into quarters no bigger than the Stuemers’ old bedroom, the family of five would become seasoned mariners. They would battle deadly storms at sea and evade real-life pirates. Dodge waterspouts and lightning strikes and witness the bombing of the USS Cole. See the staggering beauty of Borneo’s rainforest, and its destruction from logging. Be arrested at gunpoint and entertained like visiting royalty. In all, they would visit 34 countries and cover 35,000 nautical miles. Almost everywhere they went, the family made lasting friendships. They learned to trust each other and embrace opportunity, and in Kenya they learned the true meaning of humanity. As Northern Magic pushed onward, many thousands followed the family’s progress in Diane’s dispatches to the Ottawa Citizen, and thousands more turned out to cheer when the amazing Stuemers came home.


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Ever dream of selling up and running away to sea? Diane Stuemer and her husband, Herbert, were once a typical suburban couple entering middle age, with a comfortable home and three boys under twelve. A year later they had sold their business, rented out their house, and were setting out to circumnavigate the globe in a 40-year-old yacht. Their entire sailing experience con Ever dream of selling up and running away to sea? Diane Stuemer and her husband, Herbert, were once a typical suburban couple entering middle age, with a comfortable home and three boys under twelve. A year later they had sold their business, rented out their house, and were setting out to circumnavigate the globe in a 40-year-old yacht. Their entire sailing experience consisted of six afternoons on the Ottawa River. Over the next four years, squeezed into quarters no bigger than the Stuemers’ old bedroom, the family of five would become seasoned mariners. They would battle deadly storms at sea and evade real-life pirates. Dodge waterspouts and lightning strikes and witness the bombing of the USS Cole. See the staggering beauty of Borneo’s rainforest, and its destruction from logging. Be arrested at gunpoint and entertained like visiting royalty. In all, they would visit 34 countries and cover 35,000 nautical miles. Almost everywhere they went, the family made lasting friendships. They learned to trust each other and embrace opportunity, and in Kenya they learned the true meaning of humanity. As Northern Magic pushed onward, many thousands followed the family’s progress in Diane’s dispatches to the Ottawa Citizen, and thousands more turned out to cheer when the amazing Stuemers came home.

30 review for The Voyage of the Northern Magic: a Family Odyssey

  1. 5 out of 5

    little dumpling

    Magical.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Physical book. The adventures shared by the Stuemer family fill me with both envy and horror. To see the world in such deep detail, to immerse yourself in one culture after another, to connect deeply with people of various cultures... That sounds amazing. However, the sailing bit sounds like a nightmare. Being at the mercy of the weather and the ocean, mechanical failures, covered in salt and mildew, and the constant motion sickness? No thanks. Diane's adventure begins and ends at Petrie Island, Physical book. The adventures shared by the Stuemer family fill me with both envy and horror. To see the world in such deep detail, to immerse yourself in one culture after another, to connect deeply with people of various cultures... That sounds amazing. However, the sailing bit sounds like a nightmare. Being at the mercy of the weather and the ocean, mechanical failures, covered in salt and mildew, and the constant motion sickness? No thanks. Diane's adventure begins and ends at Petrie Island, a short walk from my home. There is now a park named there for them. The knowledge of her death from cancer a short time after the journey casts a pall over the book, as does the mental illness Jonathan suffered from in the years after. You would have thought that a childhood full of such closeness and wonder would set you up for life, but it wasn't the case for him.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Claudette R

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Not your typical family travel book. Excellent overview of many cultures on their trip around the world. I've never read a travel memoir where what happened after the end of the book which is not acknowledged in the book left as much of an impression as the book. Not your typical family travel book. Excellent overview of many cultures on their trip around the world. I've never read a travel memoir where what happened after the end of the book which is not acknowledged in the book left as much of an impression as the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lars Stuyts

    A wonderful heartwarming adventure! Oh to have the courage, the luxury, the opportunity to travel around the world with your family. What it would teach your children? This book is all this and more. I found the writing to be perfect for what was being shared, this was an adventure I felt I was living with them.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Arlene Richards

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book as the young family of five sail around the world on their sailboat, Northern Magic - a four year odyssey. I especially appreciated hearing about their experiences in places that we have traveled in the South Pacific and Australia. The mother and wife, a journalist, shared their adventure/misadventure to many in their home town of Ottawa.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Oflaherty

    One of my favourite books ever!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Blain

    Run away from it all.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Kellenberger

    The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey was a terrific book to end my 2013 reading project with. I owe a big thanks to my cousin Kathleen, who presented me with it for Christmas. She gave it a strong recommendation, and she very obviously learned a valuable lesson that our grandmother instilled in us at a very young age: Books are meant to be loved and shared. I'm fairly certain, now that I've had this book in my possession, that it once belonged to my grandmother. Thank you, Kathleen The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey was a terrific book to end my 2013 reading project with. I owe a big thanks to my cousin Kathleen, who presented me with it for Christmas. She gave it a strong recommendation, and she very obviously learned a valuable lesson that our grandmother instilled in us at a very young age: Books are meant to be loved and shared. I'm fairly certain, now that I've had this book in my possession, that it once belonged to my grandmother. Thank you, Kathleen! In short, The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey has earned its place amongst my growing list of favorite travelogues. It's written by a Canadian woman named Diane Stuemer from Ottawa, Canada. In September 1997, after a year of preparation, Diane embarked on a four-year journey around the world with her husband and three young sons on a 42-foot yacht called Northern Magic. This is a classic tale of adventure and travel-lust. With no sailing skills to speak of, Diane and her husband Herbert navigated through horrific storms, a terrifying waterspout in Indonesia, pirate-filled waters and an epic fight against the North Atlantic sea. They also grew immeasurably as a family and as individuals. The Stuemers were deeply touched by their adventures, and they undertook a number of projects to 'give back' to some of the incredible individuals who helped them along their journey. In Kilifi, Kenya, they started the Boniface and Hamisi Educational Project, which aims to provide tuition fees for students, and to help establish small businesses to provide additional income to poor families. Additionally, their efforts to help endangered primates in Borneo are still going strong today. Written by a Canadian from my old stomping grounds no less, there was much that I could identify with in The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey. I've been to many of the places that the Stuemers visited, and it was a fun and engaging read to be able to relive those experiences right along with them. All in all, a fantastic read and one that I highly recommend!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Mainville

    Having grown up with the middle child in this family, rest in peace, I was excited to find this book at the library after I had moved cities. I had longed to know more about the four-year voyage this family took around the world in a forty-year-old yacht. It’s hard to believe this is true, but it is! My classmate was gone from grades four to seven, and his mother’s (also, rest in peace) stories about their travels were published in The Ottawa Citizen. These stories culminated into this book, wit Having grown up with the middle child in this family, rest in peace, I was excited to find this book at the library after I had moved cities. I had longed to know more about the four-year voyage this family took around the world in a forty-year-old yacht. It’s hard to believe this is true, but it is! My classmate was gone from grades four to seven, and his mother’s (also, rest in peace) stories about their travels were published in The Ottawa Citizen. These stories culminated into this book, with the chapters divided by the different locations they visited. So many varied events were recorded, from surviving storms while crossing oceans to developing a tradition of baking their signature family recipe for chocolate chip cookies after someone gets seasick. I found so many little things touching, including what inspired the whole trip in the first place. This is definitely a great book to read for travel lovers, especially those with a compassionate heart, as the Stuemers made many friends along the way and they worked hard to help them out of poverty and other crises. It is heart-warming to know that their compassion for people worldwide continued long after their journey was over. Please read this book and see their website to donate to their humanitarian causes! For more of my reviews, see www.oliviamainville.com

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    Growing up in the Ottawa area, I have a local tie to the book. I know the locations that the author speaks about at the beginning of the voyage and the beauty of Algonquin Park from which she finishes the epilogue. I wonder at and admire the courage and energy that this family had to teach themselves how to sail and then set out to sail around the world. I learned a lot about geography and practical matters of how other small craft have made the voyage.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    What a gift it was to stumble across this book at the used bookstore here in our little town of 6,000 souls ! This was an extremely enjoyable read for me. Full of surprises and adventure that are woven into the thread of the journey. Meeting strangers who turn into friends. Once again witnessing my fellow citizens finding a way to help! A very worthwhile, enjoyable read!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    One of the best all time books I read. A true family advenutre about sailing around the world with every obstacle along the way. Author died of cancer just after I finished reading this book - very sad, as she made reference to her cancer in this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tosha

    Thought this was a good book and made me realize that I don't have as much courage to do something so out of the norm. I don't think I could give up the life I have for this. Interesting, but didn't get to finish it-- hence the 3 stars Thought this was a good book and made me realize that I don't have as much courage to do something so out of the norm. I don't think I could give up the life I have for this. Interesting, but didn't get to finish it-- hence the 3 stars

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

    If you didn't have the the travel bug before you will after you have read this. What a courageous, inspiring, heart-warming tale with quite a few scary book gripping experiences thrown in for good measure. If you didn't have the the travel bug before you will after you have read this. What a courageous, inspiring, heart-warming tale with quite a few scary book gripping experiences thrown in for good measure.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kristy Peacock

    I really enjoyed this story about a family cruising around the world. I think I would want some parts of their adventure but not others! The kids sure got a good education on what matters in life!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    A true story about a family from Ottawa that sails around the world. Inspiring & beautiful. I read this book years ago but still think of it on a regular basis.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Neil Crocker

    The story of a non-sailing family's sailing trip around the world. The good news is they survived. Barely! The story of a non-sailing family's sailing trip around the world. The good news is they survived. Barely!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Norma

    The author is a local woman who, when diagnosed with a terminal illness, decided to see the world from a sail boat with her family. It received good reviews locally.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marilee

    Loved this book. A good lesson in stepping outside your comfort zone, and putting what is most important in your life as a priority!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mpz

    Great story of an amazing adventure.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Lamb

    This is hands down one of my favorite books! It was the driving force of my travel in my late teens/early twenties. I reread this book regularly and highly recommend it to anyone.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

  23. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jane

  26. 5 out of 5

    Johanna

  27. 4 out of 5

    Linda

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aidan

  29. 5 out of 5

    Annabel Stewart

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Afrakoff

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