A Well-Worn Sailboat and Its Captain

existential talks between an author and his boat

Sam Peters, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Local writer Tom Pamperin’s first book is called Jagular Goes Everywhere: (Mis)adventures in a $300 Dollar Sailboat.
Local writer Tom Pamperin’s first book is called Jagular Goes Everywhere: (Mis)adventures in a $300 Dollar Sailboat.

The touch of a soft breeze, the fierce power of a strong headwind, the meditative solitude, and the mild insanity of trying to stay afloat in a small chunk of wood and fiberglass just for fun: These experiences of small-boat sailing are hard to replicate and even harder to translate from inside the boards of a tiny vessel and capture on the page.

But Tom Pamperin does just that in his new book, Jagular Goes Everywhere: (Mis)adventures in a $300 Dollar Sailboat. The book is a narrative collection of haphazard journeys Pamperin takes with his constant – and snarky – sailboat sidekick, named Jagular.

“I’m definitely more of a sailor than a builder. Any boat I built I wasn’t sure what it would do. And wasn’t quite sure I wanted to know.” – Author Tom Pamperin on boatbuilding

In 2008, Pamperin and his brother decided to build a pair of 14ish-foot boats. He credits Jagular’s name to a snippet from Winnie the Pooh: “What do Jagulars do?’ asked Piglet, hoping that they wouldn’t.” During a phone interview, Pamperin explained the connection.

“I’m definitely more of a sailor than a builder,” he said with a chuckles. “Any boat I built I wasn’t quite sure what it would do. And wasn’t quite sure I wanted to know.”

Jagular offers up a balance of action and reflection, as Pamperin takes to the water with the boat as his only companion. “Out there, your whole world becomes simple,” he mused. He searches for a contentedness in that simplicity as he captains the reader through lakes and oceans across the country.

From the barren and oil-rigged Texas coastline to the forested and blustery Northern Channel along the north shores of Lake Huron, Pamperin keeps us right with him at the tiller with a quick and witty present -tense narrative.

“I want to make people feel they are on the boat,” said Pamperin.

Boat parts break, boat parts are bandaged back together, and the shabby pair dodge their way through thunderstorms and rocky reefs. His descriptions juxtapose a man-made and natural world while taking the reader on a wild ride through the waves and gusts. Order and disorder clash in Pamperin’s mind until he usually decides, “To hell with it,” and heads out into another far-too-windy passage.

All of the action is paired with a snappy internal dialogue between Tom and his boat, where they spar about the merits and detriments of cynicism versus romanticism.

“I’m constantly pulled in two directions. On one side, I’m taking an international trip in a little boat and it’s quite romantic. But my mind steps back and sees the cynical, ridiculousness, and not so romantic part of the whole situation. I want all the time to be romantic in my writing, but the rational part of me realizes that and accepts the co-habitation of my two sides.”

Most of Pamperin’s funding for the book came from Kickstarter, a route that is growing in popularity with writers around the world. Pamperin raised the necessary editing and printing costs of $6,000 in a few days.
“In the world of small publishers, nobody is really making money. This (lack of profit) falls down to the reader, and because I was writing somewhat of a niche book, I knew I needed to self-publish,” he said.
Jagular is a rollicking good boat adventure, an introspection into the interplay between cynicism and romanticism, and a call back to the simple style of taking a journey. For small boat enthusiasts and those who just love a good story, pick up this book today and join Pamperin and Jagular as they banter their way through the waves.

Despite the many close calls Jagular went through, he is still tucked away mostly intact in Pamperin’s Chippewa Falls garage.

“I might have to spruce him up a little bit,” said Pamperin.

As for himself, Pamperin is almost done with a “much-improved” boat, is editing an anthology of sailing stories by other sailor writers, and took home an honorable mention at the Council of Wisconsin Writers banquet this spring for Jagular Goes Everywhere.

His days sailing with Jagular might be at an end, however: “I hope to hand him off to a kid who can mess around and enjoy it. I got so much value out of my few hundred hours with him.”

Jagular Goes Everywhere is available online at www.tompamperin.com or at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire.