Contributor to John Kretschmer's article "Coping with Covid-19 in the Caribbean"
"Where's Home? Article about the decisions Gary and Niamh had to make when the pandemic started closing sea borders all around them.
"Wild Spirits" Article published in The Journal about Paul Hopkins & Phil Pugh's journey rowing in The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge
Caribbean Compass Magazine Review
AtlanticMore Than Just There
Book Review by Caitlin Richards
Flares Up: A Story Bigger Than the Atlantic, by Niamh McAnally, Pitch
Publishing, Chichester, England; 2022. 408 pages. When asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, Edmund Hillary FLARES UP A Story Bigger Than Ine Allantic responded "because it's there." In Flares Up: A Story Bigger Than the Atlantic, Niamh McAnally delves into why Paul Hopkins and Phil Pugh,
two middle aged men with no seafaring experience, chose to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. "Because it's there" would be a facile answer, and fortunately isn't the one given by either man. McAnally happened to "be in the right place at the right time with an Niamh McAnally open-minded intention - to capture a moment of glory for someone
else." In this case the two someone elses were people she didn't know. She and her husband were finishing lunch on their boat at Nelson's Dockyard in Antigua when they "noticed people walking towards a podium at the end of the dock," and learned that Hopkins and Pugh were about to cross the finish line of their 3,000-mile row across the
Atlantic. Taken with their story, McAnally wanted to write about it - but she didn't want to write a how-to book about rowing the Atlantic, she wanted to know the why. If they would "dig deep to the emotional reasons of why" and "how it had impacted them and their families," she was in. Flares Up uses a dual narrative for the first half of the book, starting with Paul Hopkins, a 50-something,
balding fireman in his third marriage. While recovering from a brain hemorrhage, Paul attends a sea survival training course where he meets a young man who is planning to row from New Castle to Amsterdam, a notion that worms its way into Paul's head - but he wants something bolder. A Google search for "the world's toughest row" takes him to the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Paul thinks that if he can complete this row, he will be part of an elite group and can finally turn off the tape in his head telling him that he will never amount to anything. Phil Pugh is introduced as he is getting ready to run a marathon with his three sons - he and two of the sons will be taking turns pushing the wheelchair of Tom, the third son, who has cerebral palsy. Phil, 60, is on his second marriage and has a 26-year-old debt to God that he is paying by "undertaking a new and
strenuous challenge" each year for the next five years. The challenges need to be both "physically demanding and an adventure that Tom would love to do" if not confined to his chair. In alternating chapters McAnally spools out the lives of the two men, their relationships with their wives, how they meet, and their struggles with financing, finding a boat, and training. Part two joins the pair in their boat on their trip across the Atlantic.
McAnally spent over two years doing extensive interviews with the two men, their wives, and their children, and doing research on everything from being a fireman to all that can be encompassed in MAIALL ocean rowing, and it shows. Or rather, it doesn't show, because her writing flows effortlessly.
McAnally's use of the dual narrative and plenty of dialogue allows the reader to really know these two men and the women who share their lives. McAnally doesn't tryto hide their warts; while their achievement is impressive, the men are flawed. Their single-
minded dedication to the project is not always admirable, coming as it does at the cost of their relationships with their wives, children, friends, and health. Yet McAnally's storytelling is so full and well-rounded that the reader is always cheering for Paul and Phil and feels as though they are on the boat with
them, and at the end, wishes they were on that dock in Antigua
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