Boat Sense: Book Review

BoatSense book reviewBoat Sense: Lessons and yarns from a marine writer’s life afloat, by Doug Logan (Seapoint Books, 2019; 120 pages)

Review by Gregg Bruff

Comfortable. Boat Sense is a comfortable book to read. And enjoyable. And informative. And don’t forget humorous. Boat Sense is likely directed at those who are thinking about buying a boat, or are relatively new owners, but informs old hands as well. Doug writes from decades of experience aboard boats (both power and sail) and marine journalism. I found his book a great combination of wisdom, stories, and what we all depend on now and then, checklists.

There are several themes that run through Boat Sense. His opening chapter of stories exhibits a sense of humility, toward both the other creatures we share the planet with and the landscape (or seascape, as it were) off the bow.

Doug suggests that we may all be better off if we avoid a “clutter of systems and gizmos” that only separate us from our on-the-water experiences and may take the place of basic seamanship and self-reliance. He seems intimately connected to a place when he writes “and when a whiff of spruce in the fog corroborates your plot and helps you connect to all the invisible things around, then dead-reckoning will be even more of a thrill than that gorgeous new chartplotter glowing in your helm station.” With reverence to the basics, he refers to the ship’s compass as, “the center, the One Truth.”

There are sections of the book that help tutor the would-be new boat owner. He encourages these readers to ask the all-important questions of themselves. How much mechanical knowledge do you possess? Do you like to fix things? Can you afford to pay someone else to do the upkeep on your boat? Do you like to go fast and get somewhere quickly, or is poking along and enjoying the trip of value?

Then there are the lists. What boater can live without at least one good ongoing list? Boat Sense provides even the water-worn traveler with interesting and informative lists, on topics such as: Speed, Time, and Distance; Basic Navigation Gear; Galley Gear; Recommended Tools for Different-Sized Boats; Boatyard Chores – Who Does What?; and Checklist for Leaving the Boat.

Near the end, Doug waxes a bit philosophical, considering the why of being on the water. For example: “But there’s something underneath everything else when you’re on a boat doing what you love. It’s an obvious thing, and yet it’s tough to find words for it. In sailing maybe it’s that feeling of traveling by means of your own skill, right along the junction of air and water…and go where you want.”

Doug has been managing editor, technical editor, and executive editor of Sailing World, webmaster for Cruising World, and senior editor for Boat Group websites. He has written hundreds of articles and edited dozens of books about boats, sailing, and the sea.

Gregg Bruff is a retired National Park Service ranger who relocated from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan and the “banana belt.” He and his wife Mimi sail a Columbia 8.3 they call Arcturus. Gregg is a landscape painter, writer, avid reader, and enjoys all things outdoors. When not sailing, he enjoys teaching classes and working with students on the high-ropes challenge course at Clear Lake Education Center, where Mimi is the director.

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