Author takes on Atlantic peril in 'Pearl'

Tori Murden McClure, author of "A Pearl in the Storm," speaking Sunday at the Mystic Art Association, describes her ordeal as the first woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean. McClure's book is a One Book, One Region selection.

Mystic - One hundred local residents gathered at the Mystic Arts Center on Sunday afternoon to hear the remarkable story of Tori Murden McClure, the first woman to row alone across the Atlantic Ocean.

McClure's book, "A Pearl in the Storm; How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean," is the 2010 One Book, One Region selection.

In June of 1998, McClure left from North Carolina, bound for France in her 23-foot-plywood boat with no motor or sail. Eight days later she lost all communication with shore, which meant losing track of the Gulf Stream that she had planned to use to help guide her, and the current weather conditions.

After rowing 3,800 miles, McClure floated alone, helpless into what turned out to be the worst hurricane season in the North Atlantic.

Speaking to the audience, she recalled Sept. 5, 1998. Hurricane Danielle forced her to call her exploration quits and set off her emergency beacon, but only after battling with herself for two days on whether or not to set it off.

"The boat capsized five or six times. I think it was five or six, it may have been more," McClure said.

"I remember doing two end-over-end pitch poles. The first dislocated my shoulder, the second put it back in place. Now that's my definition of a bad day," McClure said.

After returning to her hometown of Louisville, Ky., frustrated and angry at her failed mission, McClure began working with Muhammed Ali on the early part of the Muhammed Ali Center.

Ali convinced her that she did not want to be known as the woman who almost sailed across the ocean. She attempted the row for a second time and completed it in December of 1999.

McClure took the audience through the process she used to write her book. It's the same process that helped her discover her "authentic self" and to answer why she chose to row across the Atlantic.

"The why of the book is to kill my own sense of helplessness that came from the early tragedies of my life. What I really needed to find, I had been jutting out of my life," McClure said.

Kris Meier, a Mystic resident, started reading the book Sunday morning before the lecture.

"She has such a wonderful sense of humor, she makes me excited to finish the book," Meier said.

The goal of the One Book, One Region program is to encourage eastern Connecticut residents to read the same book and then discuss it. The One Book, One Region committee consists of 14 librarians, teachers and community members who meet regularly to evaluate book suggestions made by residents of the region. The committee has been choosing one book each year for 10 years.

Betty Anne Reiter, director of the Groton Public Library and member of the One Book, One Region committee said, "This book just stood out because it's different than the books we have chosen in the past."

"The book has also attracted an extra crowd, the rowers and the scholars, which ultimately says, 'Anyone can read it,' " Reiter said.

Pawcatuck resident Bob Harris was taken aback by McClure's lecture.

"This wasn't what I was expecting at all. She just helped to allow me to have hope in future difficult situations of mine. Her determination and drive is very inspiring," Harris said.

An inspiring tale:

Book title: "A Pearl in the Storm; How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean"

Author: Tori Murden McClure


Where to find it: Bookstores, libraries


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