Boxing the Compass

A Life of Seafaring, Music, and Pilgrimage

By (author): Michael L. Hadley
ISBN 9781772034738
Softcover | Publication Date: April 2, 2024
Book Dimensions: 5.5 in. x 8.5 in.
336 Pages
$29.95 CAD
E-Book Price: $13.99 CAD

About the Book

An award-winning historian and mariner takes readers on an engrossing international journey of self-discovery that explores timely themes of human conflict, ethics, and reconciliation.

A member of the so-called Silent Generation, Michael Hadley has a great deal to say in his twilight years. Opening with his Depression-era childhood on a lonely lighthouse on the west coast of Vancouver Island, this remarkably nuanced memoir spans decades, countries, and oceans.

Hadley’s reflections move through his years growing up in wartime Vancouver in the 1940s, his concert tours on the British vaudeville stage in the 1950s, and his early teaching career in Manitoba in the 1960s. He shares his naval service on both coasts and on the Great Lakes, and his professional experience in Germany, where unexpected friendships with former submariners trigger an interest in how countries deal with difficult wartime pasts. Human conflict, ethics, and multi-faith engagement in criminal justice reform and Restorative Justice shape Hadley’s understandings of reconciliation, taking him on prison visits across Canada, the UK, and Uganda.

Whether examining ancient historical sites and battlegrounds, navigating at sea, or riding camels in the desert, he seeks universal patterns of human experience. At once a deeply personal chronicle of a fascinating life and a measured, mature reflection on some of the most cataclysmic events of the past century, Boxing the Compass is an unforgettable journey that will leave readers reflecting on the experiences that affect us all.

About the Author(s)

Michael L. Hadley is an award-winning writer, scholar, yachtsman, retired naval officer, international traveller, and lecturer. He is the author and editor of several books on naval and maritime history, including Spindrift: A Canadian Book of the Sea (co-edited with Anita Hadley) and Citizen Sailors: Chronicles of Canada’s Naval Reserve, 1910–2010 (co-edited with Richard H. Gimlett), and his work has won such prestigious awards as the John Lyman Prize of the North American Society for Oceanic History and the Keith Matthews Award of the Canadian Nautical Research Society. He is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Victoria and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.


"Showcases a life lived on the author's own terms."
Library Journal
“No journey in life proceeds without getting one’s bearings. Michael Hadley has deftly navigated the cardinal points of a life and revealed their treasures. His charts both musical and navigational are trans-global, his reverence for ancestry and service indelible, his connecting place and human experience a tangible history—each a literary destination for his reader. Hadley has boxed the compass of a life well lived and brought us to home port safely again.”
—Ted Barris, journalist, broadcaster and author of Battle of the Atlantic: Gauntlet to Victory
“What an adventure life can be, for those willing to set sail. By turns a mariner, public servant, musician, and scholar, Hadley recounts a rich journey across the eventful twentieth century and into the present with the sea as his throughline. Insightful and inspiring.”
—Elliot Rappaport, author of Reading the Glass: A Captain's View of Weather, Water, and Life on Ships
“In Boxing the Compass, an adventure story and intellectual autobiography, Michael Hadley vividly recounts his travels with the Kitsilano Boys’ Band and service as a Canadian naval officer; his experience as student and teacher of German literature and research of submarine warfare; and, fulfilling a life-long spiritual quest, his advocacy of restorative justice in places as far afield as Uganda. Literary and musical allusions, both popular and classic, enhance this elegantly written memoir. Boxing the Compass is a tour de force.”
—Patricia E. Roy, professor emeritus of History at the University of Victoria
“This memoir is compelling, erudite, and courageously introspective. Hadley’s rich and varied experiences lead him to profound insights into the nature of belonging, belief, and justice. Read this and gain a deeper understanding of the world we live in and the roads our humanity takes us down.”
—Dr. David J. Hawkin, author of Christ and Modernity and The Johannine World, and retired professor of Religious Studies at the Memorial University of Newfoundland
“Michael Hadley takes us on an extraordinary journey offering a profound reflection on life. From his early years growing up on a coastal lighthouse station to the rhythmic world of jazz, the disciplined path of a naval officer, and the halls of academia, his narrative weaves a tapestry enriched with wisdom, compassion, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to humanity.”
—Cathy Converse, award-winning author of Against the Current: The Remarkable Life of Agnes Deans Cameron
“Michael Hadley has written an extraordinary book reflecting an extraordinary life. Taking us from his growing up to his retirement (though his inquiring mind will never retire), there is a kaleidoscope of experience. The impetus and insight of his writing on restorative justice has helped move it from being experimental to becoming established in many countries as a natural way to bring healing from extreme harm.”
—Tim Newell, author, retired prison governor of HMP Grendon, and co-founder and trustee of the charity Escaping Victimhood