The Freakin’ Old Guys (FOGs for short, and that first word isn’t the one they use) are a group of older sailors doing a messabout in the San Juan Islands. There is Gibson Stanford, known as Gib, retired judge; Rufus Gunnermeyer, a blacksmith; Peter L. Lacy, the group’s lawyer and ladies’ man; Zack Hilber, spatially challenged former CIA operative; Hornsby Blair, known as “H” or “The Admiral,” the de facto leader of the group; and Steve Latrans, a man with secrets. A last-minute addition is Sean Homes, a punk teenager in perpetual trouble. The group decides he would benefit from spending time with “real men” in a challenging environment. It sounds hokey, but the scene where the men meet to discuss the young man’s future comes off powerfully—this is what men do (or should).

Soon after setting out, the group of sailors is beset by weather, mysterious cell-phone calls, the Russian mob, the Ukrainian mob — then things get really weird. I do not want give away too much of this great story, but the sailors end up far away from their cruising ground in both distance and time.

The biggest drawback of the book is that too much is going on, most of it at the same time, and it gets difficult to follow. But there is a lot of sailing in the story, and the descriptions of handling the small boats, including navigation, sail handling, and heavy weather, is dead on. The characters of the FOGs are a pretty accurate description of older sailors. (I’m a bit FOGgy myself.) The 14- to 18-foot sailboats belonging to the members of the group are characters in themselves. The action sequences, ashore or afloat, are exciting. And the wrap-up is, within the context of this unbelievable story, believable.

This is one you will have trouble putting down.

Caly’s Island by Dick Herman (Authorhouse, 240 pages; 2011)