Dan Rubin has published articles and short stories in OnSpec, Tesseracts Nine, Raven's Eye, Revitalizing Indigenous Languages,
Rural Delivery magazine, Classic Boat, Pacific Yachting, Island Review, Landwash magazine, Songlines magazine and Atlantic Boating.

Here is Allan Haig-Brown's review for B.C. BookWorld of Rubin's book about the boat-building Farrells of the West Coast entitled Salt On The Wind: The Sailing Life of Allen and Sharie Farrell (Horsdal & Schubart, 1996 $18.95).


Allen and Sharie Farrell met in Pender Harbour in 1945. He was married at the time; she wasn't. She said, "Build me a boat." They lived on the beach and built their first sailboat, the 36-foot "Windsong", launched in 1947. They sailed together to the South Pacific in the early 1950s. The Farrells have maintained an adventuresome, non-materialistic lifestyle, building boats out of driftwood--and drifting through the waters of the Pacific Coast. Even in their 80s, the Farrells recently gave away their possessions and flew down to Mexico to live on the beach.

Rubin, who has been a disciple of the Farrells for several years, has put together a chronology of the octogenarians' remarkable lives. With the cozy feel of the family albums and personal journals that served as a resource, Rubin traces these maritime lives, from Allen's birth in Vancouver in 1912 to the present day. Sharie, born in Ontario in 1908, moved to Vancouver with her parents in 1918.

For lovers of boat design, building and handling, Rubin's text is rich in technical detail, but more importantly he has worked with the Farrells to give the reader the rationale behind their designs. Boats designed, built and sailed by the same person bring that person very close to godliness as the boat is humankind's greatest metaphor for earth.

But it is the Farrells' humility and humanity that makes them such endearing characters. "Windsong" began a pattern that has been repeated several times over the course of the couple's life. After building a dream boat, the Farrells sail it to the South Pacific, grow homesick for the Pacific Coast and then either sell or sail the boat home. It they still have the boat when they return, they will sell it shortly after. With complete freedom from materialism, the boat is sold to the "right person" rather than the highest bidder.

In between sailing trips, the Farrells lived on land, in houses they built themselves, occasionally squatting. People like Ralph Payne who still appreciate the squatter's life, prompted Allen to comment, "it used to be easy to be a squatter. You found a nice spot, collected some wood, built a shack... These days people make you feel uncomfortable if all you're doing is picking bark off the beach in front of their place."

Rubin takes us to several of the Farrells' past and present homes along the coast and gives a glimpse of an idyllic life that was possible before population pressures brought No Trespassing signs and destruction by development.

The Farrells' obvious success in living a warm and rich life well into their 80s is also beautifully chronicled in Maria Coffey's Sailing Back In Time (Whitecap, 1989). Richly illustrated with 65 colour and black-and-white photos, by Dag Goering, Coffey's partner, the book takes the reader on an extended summer cruise along the Strait of Georgia with the Farrells on their most recent boat, the three-masted "China Cloud". Built from driftwood, the boat is propelled solely by junk sail and sculling oar.

-- review by Allan Haig-Brown


SALT ON THE WIND: The Sailing Life of Allen and Sharie Farrell (Horsdal and Schubart, 1996)

TANGLECOVE: 30 New Canadian Fiddle Tunes, by Dave Panting and Dan Rubin (First Person Press, 2013)

POUCH COVE, OUR HOME BY THE SEA, Dan Rubin, editor and lead author (Pouch Cove Heritage Committee, 2014)

A FIRE ON THE SEA, a novel by Dan Rubin (First Person Press, 2014)

[BCBW 2016] "Maritime"