I have just finished reading Cork Boat, a memoir book.
It was written by John Pollack and published in 2004 by Pantheon Books, New York.
Most people have childhood dreams; however few of us ever fulfill them. John Pollack followed an idea he had in his mind since he was six years old: to build a boat out of wine corks and take it on an epic journey.
In this book the author tells the charming and inspiring story of his adventure. Overcoming one obstacle after another he managed to collect all the corks he needed, most of them donated by Cork Supply USA.
He teamed up with an old friend and architect, Garth Goldstein, recruited a hundred volunteers to do hard manual work, and built a boat made of 165,321 wine corks held together entirely by rubber bands.
The boat that took them two years to complete (1999-2001) had a wooden deck, a Viking-style V-shaped prow, and two oars.
Later he won sponsorship for a launch in Portugal in a trip down the Douro River from Barca d'Alva, near the Spanish border, till Oporto in a 17-day journey.
John Pollack had become disillusioned by his job in Washington, D.C where he worked as a former speechwriter for a Congressman, so he decided to quit his job, although he sometimes wondered “Had I made a mistake, leaving behind a steady job with perks and benefits just to build a cork boat?” (page 36). Later, when his savings were running out, he accepted a job in the White House, where he worked as one of President Clinton´s speechwriters while he was still assembling the corks to build his boat and collecting more corks from the White House.
He gives us an account of the cork wars with their plastic rivals and quoted Paulo Portas, our current Minister for Foreign Affairs: “Paulo Portas, a prominent Portuguese politician, told the Guardian: This is a campaign based on falsewoods” (page 39)
In Portugal he was interviewed by Expresso and answering a question about why he had chosen Portugal and the Douro, John Pollack said: “ Portugal was the king of cork, exporting more cork than any other country in the world; that the Douro region was known worldwide both for its beauty and its wine; and that Portugal had produced some of history´s greatest navigators- Magellan, Cabral and Vasco da Gama. Finally I noted that our sponsor, the Cork Supply Group, was based in Portugal. How could we celebrate the Cork Boat´s maiden voyage anywhere else?” (page 171).
When the book was published the cork boat remained in Portugal.
Cork Boat is a happy story of friendship, determination, the power of imagination and humor. In the epilogue “…the wooden bowl is filling up again (with corks). But Garth says that for our next project, we ought to build a rocket ship out of bottle caps. I´ve always wanted to go to the moon”.