08 July 8, 2012
Dear Neal,

I would like to share the following story with you that begins with a friend of mine hearing you speak at one of your motivational speaking engagements in the Boston, MA area sometime in 2010 or 2011. In listening to your childhood health issues and how you overcame them, she bought your book “Journey of a Hope Merchant” as a gift to give to me. She told you about my health issues with a neurological condition requiring five neurosurgeries in 2004 and how I returned to sailing in Boston Harbor in 2010, a pastime that I loved and that I never thought I would ever return to participating in. Your inscription inside the cover reads, “To Larry, now you are back in the boat, may all the oceans of dreams be yours. Never give up. –Neal Petersen.

I am back to sailing, but restricted to harbor sailing because of my balance issue and basic need to restrict myself to the cockpit and the need to rely on good crew to make their way about the boat to tend to the other tasks, but I am still “back in saddle” so to speak and thoroughly enjoying it again.
While I am not an “ avid reader,” even though your novel is an excellent and a well written one, I put it down several times and had to start re-reading it from the beginning because of the time lapse between reads and because of my memory deficit from the multiple neurosurgeries. Then, however, a major change occurred in my life that created a new found interest in reading “Journey of a Hope Merchant” from start to finish in a continuous effort. Ironically, I made contact with a woman on an internet dating site that lives in Cape Town, South Africa. I emailed her just to tell her that I felt she was a very attractive (gorgeous) woman and that I felt that her self-written bio was absolutely wonderful, that she seemed like a terrific person with a terrific personality and that it was too bad that she either didn’t live closer or have relatives in the United States so that she could come visit. I was never expecting anything more than to either “make a pretty woman’s day” or, at most, to have a pen-pal relationship develop. She wrote back saying that, while she didn’t have any relatives in the United States, that we could develop a friendship. That friendship, however, grew quickly into serious amorous feelings for each other and we are now very much in love with each other. I am flying to Cape Town on 14 August to spend 5 wonderful weeks with the love of my life (until 18th Sept) and then I am returning to Cape Town again on 28 Nov to spend 3 months with her. I have mentioned several places in your novel to her during the course of my reading the book of which we plan to visit many of them. One, in particular, is going to the top of Table Mountain, where we will put our own personal spin on the picnic that you had with your date. I (we) will probably venture to some of the other places that you mention in your novel such as the various Yacht Clubs that you hailed from and visit the botanical garden (?) that your mother volunteered at and visit “False Bay”, but I have no plans on entering those shark infested waters or entering “Cape Flats” to see the home that you grew up in. I am sorry, but my level of adventure stops short of that.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Journey of a Hope Merchant” with my new found interest, having a Cape Town girlfriend, now the love of my life, to provide the impetus to reading it completely without stopping and restarting. It was a wonderful book and I am waiting with anxious anticipation to spend 5 weeks with the love of my life exploring beautiful South Africa.

Oh, by the way, my girlfriend’s name is “Crystal” and I say that she is “my South African Gemstone, the most perfect gem in the entire country.” I also say that she is Crystal more beautiful and more perfect than any “Waterford Crystal.”

If you have any suggestions or recommendations as to what “we” should do or see while I am in South Africa for either my first 5 week visit or my subsequent 3 month visit, I would appreciate any input.

May you always have safe passage with those very harrowing ocean races.

Best regards,
Larry Hunt


Hi Darlene and Neal,

I met you when you a few months ago while you gave a presentation at a “Critical Matters” conference in Victoria BC Canada. I know I have a small chance that you might remember me but you signed a copy of your book “Journey of a Hope Merchant” for my aunt and I. My bike was stolen that morning and your message really was so timely for me. I am training for a big race in June and that bike was not fancy but very valuable to me. Your compassion and positive perspective helped me through this event.

I wanted to update you on what happened and how your message helped me. No one found my bike and so I ran everyday instead of having a bike to cross train. I read your book. And then I read it again. I have continued my training and replaced my bike. I was so inspired by your story that I scrapped up enough money and convinced the bank to loan me enough for a small sail boat. People are calling me crazy. People are reminding me that I don’t even know how to sail. I know, and you reminded me, that there are only solutions and that I can find the knowledge I need to learn. I think about your story a lot. When I finish my race I will learn to sail.

Although I have never had to experience discrimination like you have, I have felt ostracized and was severely bullied growing up. To this day people criticize my lifestyle, calling me a “gypsy” and laughing or telling me I’m crazy or that my dreams will never be realized. They are too big, I am too young, they are too far fetched… they say to me. I know this isn’t true but it is hard to face so much negativity sometimes. After reading your book I don’t feel as alone. I leave for my race in 50 days and I want to thank you.

All of the best from your fan,
Donna Carrigan


February 2005 Bob Carp wrote…


I am Bob Carp. My girlfriend, Judy, and I met you at the Strictly Sail show in Chicago. I purchased a copy of JOURNEY OF A HOPE MERCHANT, and you asked if I would email you my thoughts.

Neal, you have led an incredible life, and have the gift to be able to express it in words in such a way that one can not only see it, but can also feel it, and experience it emotionally. I have to tell you; I am an Ex-Marine Viet Nam Veteran and capable of masking my feelings about most things, but as I read the closing words of this manuscript, I was in tears. I heard my girlfriend walking toward my office, so I shut them off. Judy asked? “How is the book?” I looked at her, turned my head and started crying. She said, “Tell me, tell me what’s wrong?” I picked your book up off the desk and handed it to her. I have already summarized most of it for her as I read it. When I am reading a good book, I often summarize the charpters I’ve read, at the end of the day. I could not do this with the last three chapters of this work. I simply handed it to her and said, “Read the last three chapters.” She walked toward the living room, and I wiped tears from my eyes. A short while later she walked into my office with glistening eyes and said, “It’s beautiful,” and kissed me.
Neal, you are an extremely courageous individual and I salute you, a Marine salute, a salute signifying the honor and respect you deserve, not just from me, but from everyone.

I knew when I met you that you were not an ordinary person. But, your broad smile and happy demeanor betrays the hardship and adversity you have endured, and that makes you even more special. To live the life you have lived and still embrace life with unquestionable optimism is incredible. THANK YOU!
You humble fans,

Bob Carp and Judy Walldorff


Fantastic Story!, November 14, 2005
Reviewer: Flying Dave (West Hartford, CT)
I read this book non-stop and I had to write a review. By way of full disclosure, I met Neal Petersen on November 3, 2005 and spent five days sailing with him on a passage from Connecticut to Bermuda. That time with him prompted the purchase and reading of this book. He is a fantastic guy with a truly inspiring story. The book recounts Neal’s life story and struggle against the odds to reach his dream of racing a sail boat alone around the world. At every turn there are choices. Listen to the naysayers or pursue what appears to be an impossible dream. Throughout the story there are detractors and supporters. This book has drama, adventure, romance, and inspiration. This is a story not only about Neal’s adventures sailing, but about how to live life to the fullest. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!