Susan Cole has lived on or around sailboats for more than thirty years. In between sails, she earned a B.A. at Barnard College, an M.A. in Psychology at Columbia University, and for many years, ran a successful market research firm in New York. She attends the Iowa Summer Writing Festival regularly. Her essays have appeared in Daily Palette (Iowa Review), r.kv.r.y quarterly, Mary, Run to the Roundhouse, Nellie and Living Aboard.
SUSAN’S FIRST BOOK, Holding Fast: A Memoir of Sailing, Love and Loss has been in the making for twelve years. Holding Fast is the story of leaving everything behind to follow her husband’s lifelong dream of sailing away.
Susan was born in Cleveland, Ohio. As her first bookish endeavor at age eight, she founded the Morley Road News with a friend across the street. Susan wrote it and her friend was supposed to make copies and get her younger brother to deliver it, though Susan was never sure if she did.
In her twenties at work in Connecticut, Susan met John, a blond, blue-eyed sailor who dreamed of sailing around the world. Susan dreamed of settling down. John talked her into buying a romantic, leaky 1903 48-foot Fire Island ferryboat named XL to live on. Before falling in love with John, Susan’s closest encounter with tides was through literary allusions. XL sank.
Next, Susan and John purchased a 50-foot 1920s Norwegian ketch that they named Phaedrus after a character in a book they were reading, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Phaedrus was the main character's alter ego on a quest to find a higher quality of life, a quest that eventually drove him insane. After ten years on the boat, leaky decks pushed them to buy a house in Connecticut.
When their daughter Kate was seven, they left the quaint farmhouse behind and sailed to the Caribbean on an elegant, sturdy 43-foot Mason cutter, Laughing Goat. Inexperienced in long-distance sailing, they were terrified to sail in the dark. In each town where they stopped, Susan tried to stay. Throughout the three-year voyage, she questioned whether they should turn back as the sailing became scarier and in remote places, their lively daughter became quieter. Towards the end, though, she took charge during a deadly hurricane in Guatemala when John was away on business.
Now, years later, John has passed away but Susan’s spirit of adventure lives on. She lives in New Orleans with her cat, Ollie, and enjoys spending time on the Fly, a trail along the Mississippi River. Kate has become a worldwide traveler who lives in Vancouver, Washington, with her husband and baby boy.