Orcas resident shares his book on tides

Jonathan White would watch his wife and son walk out the door to embark on a fun outing, and he’d sit down at the computer to work on his book.

“It was too important not to do, but there were sacrifices we made as a family,” said White. “It’s like you are running a marathon. I was looking at the whole picture: my diet, my sleeping habits. My whole schedule shifted around this book.”

After six years of writing, reading more than 300 research books and traveling around the world to see the largest tides in the world, White has released “Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean.”

He will speak about his project on Saturday, Feb. 18 during an Orcas Currents lecture at Orcas Center starting at 5:30 p.m. Following the talk, he will sign copies of the book during a reception, which will include hors d’oeuvres and beverages, in the Madrona Room. Admission to both events is free.

He will also give presentations on Friday, Feb. 17 at the Lopez Bookshop and Sunday, Feb. 19 at the San Juan Island Library. Both events start at 7 p.m.

White first became fascinated with tides after nearly losing his 65-foot schooner Crusader in a strong Alaskan tide. An avid sailor and surfer, he recognized that the sun and moon had something to do with it, but wasn’t clear on the particulars.

“I grew up around the ocean, and I always had a tide chart in my back pocket,” he said. “Tides are complex and poetic, and I wanted to write a book that paid tribute to them and was accessible to all. I wrote my first article about tides in 1994 for Orion magazine, so it’s been on my mind and psyche for 22 years.”

White has an undergraduate degree in theater and literature from Lewis and Clark College and a master’s in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. He was a carpenter all through college, where he created sets for the theater program, and built a 26-foot sloop that he sailed around the Atlantic.

As founder and former director of the Resource Institute, a Seattle nonprofit, White spent 11 years building a seminar program aboard the Crusader, which sailed from Puget Sound to southeast Alaska. These experiences were recounted in his first book “Talking on the Water,” which included interviews with Peter Matthiessen, Lynn Margulis, Gary Snyder and several others. He has also served as chair of the Northwest Straits Commission and the San Juan Initiative and is a local building contractor.

White met his wife Donna aboard the Crusader. She came to help teach a class called “Hook, Line and Singer” with Orcas resident and musician Susan Osborn.

“I saw her foot through a porthole, and I fell in love with her,” said White, who lives on Orcas with Donna and their son Matthew, both of whom fully supported White in his endeavor – even when he worked on his book during vacations.

“So many times I heard him say, ‘I just have to show up at the computer,’” said Donna.

After his appearances in the San Juans, White is embarking on a tour schedule with more than 70 speaking events across the country and into Canada from now until June. His book, which has been available at island book stores since late January, is already receiving positive buzz: an oceanography professor at Southern Oregon University planning to build a curriculum around it.

“It’s a long, slow process and so much of it is solitary and private so it’s exciting to have it out there,” said White.

For more information about “Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean,” visit www.jonathanwhitewriter.com.

Orcas resident shares his book on tides