A book I read around 1995 or 1996. I don't remember much more than enjoying it and that the protagonist was discovering he had telekinetic abilities, and stabilized a sailship through a storm using telekinesis.

  • 2
    Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! This question would be improved by going through the checklists here; How to ask a good story-ID question?
    – Valorum
    Oct 15 '19 at 22:07
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    @dancer42 Definitely a storm, and not a series of river rapids?
    – LAK
    Oct 16 '19 at 15:36
  • @LAK might be river rapids. was long ago and i only have a vague memory of it.
    – dancer42
    Oct 19 '19 at 5:53

Wild Seed (1980), by Octavia E. Butler

Wild Seed (1980), a novel by Octavia E. Butler, is part of the Patternist series. The fourth book by publication date, it is set the earliest in the series' internal timeline.

Doro, the primary antagonist of the novel, has spent centuries refining human bloodlines for advanced abilities. One such product of this breeding program is Doro's son Isaac, a strongly telekinetic supporting character who is a friend of the protagonist Anyanwu.

On a sea journey aboard a sailing ship, Isaac uses his talent to prevent the vessel from sinking during a hurricane. The text describes how Isaac stands uncannily steady on the pitching deck in the blowing wind while he concentrates on telekinetically pushing the ship to safety:

[Anyanwu] could distinguish Isaac easily from the others. He stood apart, his arms raised, his face turned down and to one side to escape some of the wind and rain, his clothing and yellow hair whipping about. For an instant, she thought he looked at her—or in her direction—but he could not have seen her through the darkness and rain. She watched him, fascinated. He had not tied himself to anything as the others had, yet he stood holding his strange pose while the ship rolled beneath him.

The wind blew harder. Waves swept high over the deck and there were moments when Anyanwu found even her great strength strained ... She could see that other crewmen were holding on with fingers and line. She saw no one washed overboard. But still, Isaac stood alone, not even holding on with his hands, and utterly indifferent to wind and waves.

The ship seemed to be moving faster ... It seemed that the ship was sailing against the wind, moving like a spirit-thing, raising waves of its own.

(Source: Wild Seed, Chapter 5)

Goodreads.com shows examples of cover art for Wild Seed, such as this image of the July 1st, 1980 edition from Doubleday Books:

    Cover of Wild Seed

You can borrow Wild Seed as an e-book from the Open Library.

  • This seems more likely than mine, but I'll leave it just in case.
    – LAK
    Oct 20 '19 at 3:32
  • not sure it's the right one but seems like a good read. will check it out. thanks @LAK and @ Gaultheria for answering.
    – dancer42
    Oct 20 '19 at 13:49

This is a very long shot, but in the absence of any other answers I'll give it a try.

In either The Many Colored Land (1981) or The Golden Torc (1982) by Julian May, there's a scene where a group of humans, rebelling against the 'elf-like' psychic overlords called the Tanu, travel down a river in ancient Europe.

The human captain of the boat is unwilling, so one of the characters, named Felice Landry (you say 'he' in your question, but she's a young woman), uses her new and imperfectly-controlled power of 'coercion' to force the captain to sail them down it. He mentally struggles against the control, and dies just as the boat is traveling through some very dangerous rapids. Felice is forced to save the boat by using her more powerful but still not fully developed or controlled power of 'psychokinesis' to lift and stabilize the boat to get them to safety.

  • thanks for the answer, this is not the book. i think in the book sailing the ship through the storm was a turning point in the development of the protagonists telekinetic force. and he discovered that he had the force, not knowing it in advance.
    – dancer42
    Oct 20 '19 at 13:46

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