Author Sullaway tells her own tall tales of the high seas


A doting, active mom with two kids and a loving husband, Mount Soledad author Neva Sullaway could never have imagined her fate 16 years ago, when she began to write her life story. The tales and characters compiled in her new memoirs as “Chasing Dreamtime: A sea-going hitchhiker’s journey through memory and myth,” hardly hint at the surprisingly confident, stable and active woman of 52 she has become.

Sullaway’s passion and experience has rendered her something of a nautical renaissance woman.

Sailboarding photojournalist, writer, editor and publisher of Freesail Australia magazine, her literary debut came as author of “One with the Wind: A Sailboarder’s Guide to Australia.” Returning stateside, her short film “Woodcarver” and her second book, “Sailing in San Diego: A Pictorial History” continued the accolades.

These days, she multitasks with skilled calm: administering children’s aspirin and liquids to two sick youngsters while doing a phone interview about her latest book, interruptions and fractured conversations all realigning and adjusting, like a sailor scanning the horizon and adapting to the swells or conditions as they come.

“Bear with me,” she said. “I’ve got a daughter with a sinus infection and the kids are asking for this and that. The doctor says no medicine until he can diagnose when the test results come in. I can tell him right now by testing intuition, it’s all the symptoms. What more do you need to know?”

Interruption over, Sullaway deftly segued back to the interview.

“It’s funny. We don’t trust our own intuition these days,” she said. “But that’s why, out there, all this distraction, this artificial, false information we’re bombarded with daily, is stripped away. It’s just you and the ocean and the elements, and it’s not gonna wait for a test. You’re about to get pounded, mentally and physically, and you better know what to do and know when it’s coming before it comes.”

Obviously grateful to be performing such routine maternal duties, such a genteel, domesticated existence was anathema to Sullaway as a 20-something, when she found herself “stupidly married, right out of college” to her school sweetheart, and suddenly faced with a decision. She could surrender and be a submissive, suburban housewife. Or she could escape, go searching for herself in “just about anything else in the world except that. That kind of confinement, for sure, was not for me.”

To make matters worse, her young beau had suddenly become the antithetical husband demanding, she said, “that no wife of mine is going to have a job or go to school.”

“And that was it,” Sullaway said. “I told him goodbye, then. Not me, I didn’t sign on for this, no way. And that’s when this story began.”

Sullaway secured her own skiff and set about to circumnavigate the globe. She metamorphosed from a self-professed straight arrow in school - the type who showed up for her first day at La Jolla High in her Catholic school uniform - to a literary stereotype: the wanderer, the outsider in search of everything and nothing in particular.

“I really was completely up for anything,” she said about the decision to sail around the world.

Published by Brookview Press, “Chasing Dreamtime” is hardly a cookie-cutter book. It’s not written or ghost written, as most such books tend to be, by a