Looking for sci-fi paperback with a rowboat on dry land on the cover...


New Member
Feb 24, 2024
I am trying to identify a science fiction novel that I gave to my brother as a present probably in the mid 1990's, but no later than late 1998. The book was a standard paperback in English targeted at typical adult sci-fi readers and was sold in the United States with an illustrated cover. I do not know the author or title, but I remember that the cover illustration showed a small boat, probably an aluminum rowboat on a slope (toward the right side of the illustration) in a dry land environment. I think that the story started with the boat being dug up in circumstances that indicated that it had been buried some time in the distant past when an aluminum boat would be very much out of place. I do not know whether the plot involved time travel or aliens (or both?) as the cause of the anachronistic boat.

I've wanted to find the book for over a decade, and last summer I looked through 15 boxes of the brother's old sci-fi paperbacks without success. I tried ChatGPT, but was informed that it did not have access to specific information about sci-fi books covers.

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
While I don't recall that specific cover art, Jack McDevitt's book "Ancient Shores" starts with a farmer in one of the Dakotas finding a sailboat buried on his land, which was once part of the lake bed of an ancient lake created by an ice dam. Could this be the book you're thinking of?
Pyan, the Art Index looks interesting, but none of the cover art subject themes seems to include what I remember, and they do not seem to have a way to browse through the entire collection of cover images efficiently.

GBD, the description of the Ancient Shores fits my impression of the book I am looking for and it was published in 96, so there's a 2-3 year window for me to buy the book at the particular bookstore I remember before I moved out of town. However, searching online for an image of the cover brings up variations of the 'first edition cover' shown in the book's Wikipedia page with a woman in a white dress or top in front of a blue green domed cylinder(?) on a reddish background with purple above and below. I didn't read the book and my memory could be faulty, so the difference between sailboat and rowboat does not concern me, but I remember the cover showing a boat being or having been dug up on a sandy badlands slope that certainty could have been in the Dakotas. Certainly paperbacks can be sold with varying covers over time, but unless I can find one that fits my memory, I will have to keep looking.

Thanks to both of you,

I remember the cover showing a boat being or having been dug up on a sandy badlands slope that certainty could have been in the Dakotas
No idea myself, but this is so intriguing I kept following it and doing sporadic searches.
The only book so far mentioned, did have its covers change, but it was a start: ISFDB's "View all covers for "Ancient Shores".
It was a dud end. No boats, but obviously a great need for dark-haired mysterious-looking women.
That cover art index was something I'd been wanting in SF search sites, but a text search didn't even have "boat".

No great luck, but I just asked DuckDuckGo "image search by description". I knew Google images had an image search by url or by uploaded image, but didn't know that it had a description search.
Changed the wording around to "science fiction paperback book cover with small boat on dry sand" -- because starting with "boat... badlands dry sand" gets you a *lot* of boats on plenty of water. Why?? Yeah, it's a mystery.

One of those wordings got one image of... a book cover with a boat on dry sand! Almost certainly not the right one, after all those results that don't even get the question right. In case the link goes bad, here's an image. Interestingly enough, the only result that came within an A.U. of the question is "A superior SF thriller, both slick and gritty."
"Sand" by Hugh Howey

Amazing it got anything -- not a small boat, not on the right, more like the Midwest in a tornado than the Badlands.
But it was fun to try to find it, and you might have some luck with words from your memory of it.
Ravensquawk, yes, Sand was published too late to be the book I'm looking for, but following your information I figured out how to use Duckduckgo's image search by description and think I'll give it a serious try when I am less swamped. I'll also have to figure out whether it is just a Ddg feature or is common to other search engines, if so it is news to me.


DDG doesn't track you or violate your privacy, but goggle images (deliberately misspelled) has a set of menus under this image description search.

Clicking the "BOOKS" oval gets you Murray Leinster's "Sand Doom" and "The Sandcastle Empire" and a bunch of others, that narrow down the search a bit and actually are science fiction.

Who knew? :)

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