Sailing with Impunity

Mary0010 crop

I met Mary Trimble a few years ago at the Women Writing the West conference in Kansas City, MO. What an honor to meet a lady with such an amazing past. Not only did Mary travel to Africa for two years and assist with the Peace Corps and write a memoir entitled Tubob, she has also sailed the South Pacific and has penned the newly released Sailing with Impunity. Tubob was such an amazing read, I couldn’t wait to interview Mary and discus her new story.

CP: Tell us a little about Sailing with Impunity.

MT: The book is a memoir about our 14-month, 13,000-mile journey aboard our 40-foot sailboat, Impunity.

CP: What inspired the title of your book?

MT: I love book titles that have a double meaning.  Impunity means freedom from harm or fear, and it also happened to be the name our boat when we bought her. I added the subtitle, Adventure in the South Pacific, so that people would know what and where the book was actually about.

CP: What was life like aboard Impunity? Describe Impunity for us.

MT: Impunity is a 40-foot yawl, which is a two-masted fore-and-aft rigged sailboat with the mizzen mast located aft of the rudder post.  Ha ha—aren’t you sorry you asked?  I hadn’t a clue what that meant until we started looking at boats. She is a sea-going vessel and had previously crossed the Atlantic twice, the Pacific, and had also sailed throughout the Gulf of Mexico and through the Panama Canal. She had a fine compliment of sails and beautiful mahogany interior woodwork.

Life aboard Impunity, even at 40-feet, was compact. We sold our home and lived aboard for 6 months before we set off on our journey. Those months were important in getting to really know our boat. In order to live aboard, especially on a sailboat, you have to learn to streamline your belongings to the basic necessities.

At sea, life is very different and regulated by the watch system. We chose to use a four-hours on, four-hours off watch, which meant at sea we never got more than four hours of sleep at one time. We’re firm believers in always having someone awake and responsible for the boat. It’s the on-watch person’s responsibility to ensure the boat is on course, that the boat isn’t in danger of hitting an object in the water (including another boat!), and that the boat’s equipment is operating as it should. One of the surprising things to me was that we were so alone at sea. Our longest leg of the journey was 35 days, and other than the day we left San Diego and the day we arrived in French Polynesia, we didn’t encounter another boat. We were alone in a world by ourselves. That is unnerving to some people, but we enjoyed that aspect of sailing.

CP: How did you come to be on this journey?

MT: Before we were married, Bruce had done a lot of sailing, including racing. He and his brother owned a sailboat and later he crewed on racing sailboats. While in college he rigged (installed) sails on new boats. Later, he became knowledgeable about marine electronic equipment through his work. He also taught himself celestial navigation, navigating by the stars and sun using a sextant.  Bruce had a dream of offshore sailing and from him I caught the sailing bug. It look a lot of planning and considerable sacrifice, but it all came together and we sold our house and bought Impunity. After the trip, we sold the boat and bought a house.

CP  Would you recommend this type of journey to others? Why or Why not?

MT: Putting aside one’s life isn’t easy. Your life will change in ways you probably cannot imagine. You have to be willing to let go of what some people call essentials. Being at sea can be physically demanding. It’s difficult to manage on a rolling, pitching boat. Cooking at sea is a real challenge, yet it’s important to eat nutritious meals in order to keep up your strength. But there were glorious times, too. Alone on the 10:00 – 2:00 watch at night, I marveled at the closeness of the stars, the swooch of the boat as it cut through the sea. Reaching landfalls, we loved absorbing the various South Pacific cultures and enjoyed meeting like-minded sailors and hearing their adventures. We felt the journey worthwhile, but we saw many people who struggled, who weren’t really prepared, either physically or boat-wise, for this kind of journey.

Impunity-Front-Cover For Web

CP: Would you be willing to share an excerpt?

MT: Sure, I’d be happy to.

On the passage between Samoa and Hawaii, we encountered rough weather and. Impunity hummed with built-up pressure. Bruce was attempting to shorten sail to slow the boat down.

“…on deck, Bruce slipped on his life line and harness, glanced at the compass to confirm our course, watched the raucous seas for a moment, noting streaking foam atop the 10- to 12-foot waves, and looked up to survey the already reduced mainsail.  He stepped to the upper deck and eased the halyard. Leaning against the boom to free both hands, he pulled the mainsail down, preparing to take in another reef.

I stayed in the cockpit to handle the coiled halyard. I heard a loud bang, a noise I hadn’t heard before, and looked up. “Bruce, what was that? Bruce!”

No answer. He wasn’t there. I let out a garbled scream. My worst nightmare! Bruce had fallen over-board! The boat surged ahead as my mind whirled with what I must do.”


Carmen, thank you for this opportunity to talk about my book. You have an interesting blog and I’m so happy to be your guest.


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  1. I admire anyone who undertakes such a daunting journey and am glad you chronicled your experiences so I can live them vicariously as I know this land-lubber will never have the chutzpah to try it myself. The play pool in my back yard for the grandkids to splash in is about as deep as I want to go. Congratulations on your success.

  2. Mary – You have been my hero ever since I read TUBOB. Now I can’t wait to read Sailing with Impunity. Oh, how I’ve dreamed of being able to sail out from land in order to gaze at an inky sky void of artificial light. And the solitude?!? I’d eat it up! Astronomy is a passion of mine – second after writing. You are an amazing gal.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thanks for commenting, Karen. I would like to hear Mary’s viewpoint on astronomy from a sailing slant. In our after school program two years ago we bought a huge telescope and looked at a couple books about the stars and related Native American legends to Non-Native ones. I love the stars.

    2. Hi Karen,
      What surprised me was that we viewed many different stars than we would have from the northwest. I do go into that in the book. And yes, the stars are so much clearer in a sky not muddied up with lights from earth. Thank you, Karen, for your nice comments.

  3. What a great interview, Carmen and Mary! I cannot conceive of doing what you and Bruce did, Mary. I so admire you for your strength and fortitude, not to mention your writing ability! With that excerpt, I can hardly wait to read Sailing with Impunity. Not sure I can wait until October to get the book from you. Is it available any place besides Amazon? So pleased for you that you have done this, and Carmen, thank you for giving us chance to learn more about sailing and Mary’s adventure!

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Julie, thank you for stopping by! I don’t know anything about sailing either and can’t wait to read Mary’s book!

    2. Hi Julie and thank you for your nice comments. Impunity is available through Amazon and also Barnes & Noble. It’s available at my local stores, too, but probably not out your way. As far as doing the journey, I guess it’s probably a matter of all the right stuff coming together to make it possible.

    3. Hi Julie. When you asked where Sailing with Impunity was available, I forgot to mention that it is available through my website, too. For autographed or personalized copies, just leave a note in the Contact section. Thanks for asking!

  4. Alice Trego says:

    What a great interview, Carmen and Mary! I enjoyed reading Mary’s answers to Carmen’s great questions. Even though I am unfamiliar with nautical terms, and I’m unable to swim a lick, I was right there while reading this fantastic excerpt! Sailing With Impunity is on my TBR list, for sure!

    1. Thanks for your comments, Alice. There’s some wisdom to staying on solid ground, for sure. On the other hand,….

  5. To take an adventure like this, you have to be “all in,” totally invested in money, time, and spirit. I’ve read this book and am amazed at what Mary had to give up to do it: friends, family, home, community, hobbies, garden—basically all the things we fill our lives with. She let adventure fill her life and it gave back in an experience of a lifetime.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Peggy, thank you for taking the time to stop by. Your right, what Mary gave up for a period of time was tremendous.

    2. Peggy, not people actually can conceive what it takes to do something like this. I appreciate your comments. I imagine some people thought we were crazy. Oh well, nothing new there!

  6. Thank you for sharing about Mary’s book, Carmen! It is now on my TBR list! What a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Shanna, I agree. I can only imagine the fun, quiet times and any horrific storms. Sea legs to boot. Thank you for stopping by.

    2. Thanks, Shanna, for your interest. A trip like this isn’t to be taken lightly, as you can imagine. For us, it was once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

  7. Good gosh, Mary, that excerpt almost stopped my heart! I’m so anxious to read the book,which waits in my Nook, but first I have to settle down. Thanks Carmen, and Mary.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Irene, thank you for stopping by. I know Mary’s book will be one filled with excitement and adventure. She writes in a way that bring the reader into the journey right along side her.

    2. Irene, LOL! Sorry about your heart! Thanks for buying the book. I’m so glad it’s available in a format you can enjoy.

  8. Carmen, again, thank you for inviting me to appear on your impressive blog. I enjoyed sharing our adventure with you.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Mary, my pleasure. I can’t wait to get my copy at the conference. Best wishes with Sailing with Impunity.