The story of Wayne McLennan’s primitive voyage to America’s most northerly state begins, as do most of the stories in this fascinating book, in a bar. An elderly drifter tells him, and anyone else prepared to listen, about the Alaskan gold rush, and about how the poorest prospectors were forced to make the journey from Washington State up the coast to Skagway, from where they could gain access to the gold fields, by rowing, because they couldn’t afford passage on a sailboat. The unspeakably arduous trip takes two and a half months. McLennan and his friend Doug make up their minds instantly. They move to Seattle, endure the very worst jobs available to gather funds, and commission a shortsighted old man to hand-build them a 22-foot ‘Grand Banks dory’ – a rowboat they will soon call home.