Book Reviews From 1999
Reviews From 1999
- The Compass Book, by Mike Harris
- Yacht Design Explained: A Sailor’s Guide to the Principles and Practice of Design, by Steve Killing and Douglas Hunter
- Water Craft magazine
- Cruising Coast and Islands, newsletter
- Sweet Waters, Tales of Fishing, Sailing, Romance and Adventure, by Susan Peterson Gateley
- Shackleton’s Boat Journey, by F.A. Worsley
- Illustrated Sail and Rig Tuning, by Ivar Dedekam
- Eye on the Sea, by Mary Jane Hayes
- All in the Same Boat: Family Living Aboard and Cruising, by Tom Neale
- Unlikely Passages, by Reese Palley
- Coming About: A Family Passage at Sea, by Susan Tyler Hitchcock
- The Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat: A Guide to Essential Features, Gear and Handling, by John Vigor
- The Cruising Sailor, by Tom Dove
- Boat Improvements for the Practical Sailor, by Stephen Fishman
- Narrow Waters: An artist’s memoir of sailing through sound, swamp, city, forest, marsh, and glade, by Dee Carstarphen
- Baja Sailor Tales, by George Snyder
- Kawabunga’s South Seas Adventure, by Charles Dewell
The Compass Book
by Mike Harris (Paradise Cay Publications, 1998)
Reviewed by Robert Chave.
Good Old Boat, January, 1999
A while ago and some miles off Los Angeles Light, I was sitting in my boat with water over my shoes watching the remains of a breaking sea trickle out of the cockpit footwell. I remembered that dog hair slows the cockpit drains. I also saw that my GPS had salt water draining from the battery case. While both GPS and dog had remained on board during the mishap with a wave, only one of the two was sure to be the same following the bath. I looked at my compass with new respect and turned the boat toward home.
For those who find every now and then that they must use the steering compass as if they need it, The Compass Book will provide reassurance in quantifying the errors to be expected. For bluewater cruisers the question is simpler. Should a professional be paid to wring out the errors, or do they elect to do this job themselves? The do-it-yourselfers among us take away from the job comprehensive knowledge of what we have done. The increased skill and satisfaction which come with swinging and adjusting your own compass stems from the learned ability to re-check this calibration during normal navigation and how to repeat the compensation any time or place this becomes necessary. An iron engine block amidships, the hatch rails of the cabinhouse, the stainless steel tanks, and the standing rigging all deflect earth’s magnetic flux paths in ways which can be measured and amounts which can be compensated.
Author Mike Harris provides a clear and concise guide to measuring compass errors and to positioning compensating magnets (also, for a metal boat, the irons) so as to reduce these errors to negligible levels. Swinging the boat and adjusting the compass will take an afternoon, much of which is lost in waiting for still water, taking sightings, moving magnets, swinging the boat, and letting the compass settle to repeat these steps. During this process you’ll appreciate the simplicity of Harris’ diagrams and worksheets. The method can be applied whether internal compensating magnets are provided with your compass or not.
As I approached the harbor, my dog began singing softly with the fog horns. The main channel and the heavy channel traffic lay safely to port. Having allowed for the actions of the southbound California current, the following sea, and windage, I think I know why steering compass, autopilot fluxgate-compass, and GPS heading never agree. Having swung the steering compass myself, I knew with confidence that one of the three was correct.
Yacht Design Explained: A Sailor’s Guide to the Principles
and Practice of Design
by Steve Killing and Douglas Hunter (W.W. Norton, 1998, $49.95)
Reviewed by Jerry Powlas, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, January, 1999
Why do some yachts have long overhangs and sharp ends while others have plumb bows and very broad sterns? In Yacht Design Explained, Steve Killing and Douglas Hunter explain how different racing handicap measurement rules have spawned very different types of boats.
Yacht Design Explained is a well written and illustrated “explanation of the science behind the art of yacht design,” the mission stated in the introduction. The authors start by presenting enough fundamentals to allow the reader to understand the more complex topics which follow. Simple nomenclature is followed by an explanation of line drawings, hull speed, drag, and stability. With these fundamentals in hand, the reader is swept along on a review of design considerations with sections on hulls, keels, ballast, rudders, rigs, and sails.
There are numerous explanations and examples of how the CCA, IOR, and IMS measurement rules have influenced the design of racing and non-racing boats. Killing contends that some design characteristics that made sense for a racing boat being measured for a handicap make no sense for cruising boats. In some cases, adoption of the racing boat characteristics will actually make cruising boats slower. He contends that cruising boats tend to add these undesirable features just because they are fashionable, and he points out that when designing to a measurement rule, it is desirable to trick the rule by employing characteristics that the rule will measure as slow, while they are, in fact, not as slow as the rule predicts. A boat designed without regard to a racing measurement rule should always be a better and simpler boat.
Hunter’s illustrations and Killing’s text support each other very well. In many instances several examples are offered to explain the same point. This allows the reader to visualize the concepts with a richness not always offered in a technical volume of this sort.
Steve Killing also offers frank discussions of aspects of his personal career. He describes work that went well and work that did not go well. For example, he explains the limitations of scale model tank testing and describes how data from tank testing led to America’s Cup boats that were notably slower because of features that tested well in the tank, but did not scale well to full-sized models.
The book ends with a section on the America’s Cup. Killing and Hunter recap how the various measurement rules influenced the designs of the challengers and defenders. Breakthrough features like the winged keel are explained in terms of their response to peculiarities in the measurement rule. Killing contends that a winged keel is a solution that is rarely appropriate unless draft is severely penalized, as was the case in the 12-meter rule.
The book succeeds in making the America’s cup design competition more interesting than the actual racing, in many cases, has been. For example, the recent monohull and multihull race/legal battle farce may have offered little for people keen on competitive racing, but it did generate some technically interesting boats.
In Yacht Design Explained the authors have not only demonstrated their mastery of the topic, they have made this complex subject very understandable. It is recommended reading for those who are curious about why boats are the way they are.
Water Craft magazine
(Six issues USA $38US; Canada $39.50)
Reviewed by Jerry Powlas, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, January, 1999
Water Craft magazine is a little different. It is a publication from “across the pond” that has all the mystique that a lilting English accent gives to the spoken word. The magazine characterizes itself as a “magazine about practical and affordable boats.” This is certainly true from their local viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of a North American reader, it is a magazine that features beautiful yachts and small boats with a great deal of character. Boats with gaff and lug rigs and lapstrake hulls share the pages with Marconi rigs and fiberglass hulls. You won’t see the Euro-look boats with bucket handle travelers in this magazine. It offers stories about more traditional boats, some with traditional plank-on-frame construction, some in steel, some in glass. Not all the boats are small, but the emphasis is definitely on smaller, affordable boats.
A fair amount of the content is about people building their own boats. The workshop pictures are of remarkably high quality, the equal of the boat and yacht photos which are also excellent. While the paper and photographs are coffee-table quality, the articles range from workshop stories to thoughtful boat reviews. It is a little different.
Water Craft is published six times per year, and is available in most countries, including the United States and Canada. You can probably tell that we liked it.
Water Craft subscriptions and sample copies for U.S. and Canadian readers are available from ArrowHeart Publications Ltd., P.O. Box 496, Boothbay, ME 04537. Phone: 800-804-7670.
Cruising Coast and Islands
newsletter by Tom Neale ($29.95 six times per year)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, January, 1999
You can’t read Cruising World magazine and not know Tom Neale, but you might not know that Tom and his wife, Mel, are publishing their own newsletter these days. Called Cruising Coast and Islands, the first newsletter, which appeared in the fall, is 16 pages of information meant specifically for cruisers who sail the East Coast and the islands farther south.
The first issue includes a look at the “stuff” people attach to their boats, a cruising guide to the Berry Islands, a brief look at some of the stopping places along the Intracoastal Waterway, a recipe for key lime pie, newsy updates and photos of other cruisers, a “Dear Crabby” column about getting along with your mate, a woman’s-point-of-view column by Mel, and a lore and legend section. There are many other tips and notes, but this gives the general flavor for the content of future newsletters by the Neales.
Cruising Coast and Islands will be published every other month and cost $29.95 for a subscription. For more information, see the website at http://www.tomneale.com, call 877-277-4628 (toll free), or write for a sample copy in care of P.O. Box 161, Gwynn, VA 23066.
Sweet Waters, Tales of Fishing, Sailing, Romance and Adventure
by Susan Peterson Gateley (Whiskey Hill Press, 1998, $14.50)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, January, 1999
Susan Peterson Gateley of Silver Waters Sailing/Whiskey Hill Press has a new book out on Lake Ontario — Sweet Waters, Tales of Fishing, Sailing, Romance and Adventure, with a special photo supplement by Wayne County Star photographer Bill Huff.
Susan, who offers sailing lessons and day trips aboard a 32-foot good old boat, has collected stories from Lake Ontario netters, yachtsmen, artists, and lakeshore residents for a number of years. Many of the stories published in Sweet Waters were obtained while the author cruised in Canada aboard her previous boat, the 23-foot wooden sloop, Ariel.
Among the tales told in the 150-page illustrated paperback, are memories of bootlegging from the late Guy Hance of Sodus Point, commercial fishing in Pultneyville and Port Bay during the 1930s, boat building, and an artist’s magnificent obsession, a six-year restoration of a 28-foot Atkins cutter.
Sweet Waters also contains a photo supplement with commentary by Sodus Point native Bill Huff. His photos bring alive days of steam tugs, schooners, ice yachts, and lighthouse keepers on the lake.
Susan previously published Ariel’s World, an Exploration of Lake Ontario. To order a copy of either book, or to go sailing with the author, write to P.O. Box 202, Wolcott, NY 14590 or call 315-594-1906. Or send email to: email@example.com.
Shackleton’s Boat Journey
by F.A. Worsley (W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, $13.00)
Reviewed by Andrew Blight
Good Old Boat, March, 1999
Most readers of Good Old Boat are likely to have a good old sense of adventure. Quite a few will harbor dreams of striking out to distant horizons aboard their less-than-state-of-the-art vessels. Shackleton’s Boat Journey simultaneously satisfies our appetites for vicarious adventure and reminds us why we reserve the bulk of our adventurousness for the imagination: it is not the risk of disaster to our frail ships as much as the certainty of profound discomfort to body and mind. In Shackleton’s historic boat journey, the boats fared remarkably well, but the discomfort rose to a colossal scale.
For those who do not know or have forgotten the details of this chapter of Antarctic exploration, Sir Ernest Shackleton was one of the major players in the early 20th century race to be first to the South Pole. Since he neither won the race nor died trying, he is less well remembered today than Amundsen and Scott, though the sum of his achievements was arguably greater than either of these explorers. His achievements on the ice were matched by his heroic journey of escape by sea and the rescue of his whole party, which is the story of this book. In the spring of 1915, the expedition’s ship, HMS Endurance, was crushed by ice and eventually sank. The crew and expedition members were forced to make their escape over the shifting pack ice. They eventually found shelter on Elephant Island at the edge of the ice in April of 1916 as winter was taking hold. No one in the outside world knew of their fate or their whereabouts, and they were most unlikely to be rescued by chance from those isolated wastes.
The only possibility of long-term survival was for a small groupof men to take one of the ship’s remaining lifeboats and sail it across the Southern Ocean to raise assistance for the larger group that would remain on the island through the winter. This book tells the story of the voyage that Shackleton and five members of his team made from Elephant Island to the whaling station of South Georgia in early winter through the worst seas in the world. It was a journey of more than 1,000 miles in a 22-foot open wooden boat, with no more than a canvas cover, an excess of ballast, and a freeboard that had been extended to just over two feet by the expedition’s resourceful carpenter. The James Caird was named after the principal sponsor of the expedition and was a double-ended, clinker-built lifeboat. It had already been patched after being holed by ice. Its sailing abilities are not explained in any detail, though the little boat managed to perform some remarkable escapes from deadly shores, despite its makeshift rig.
The slender volume is introduced with a substantial essay by Sir Edmund Hillary, of Everest fame. He is connected to this story both by his own low-temperature adventures and by the New Zealand nationality he shares with the author of the book, Frank Worsley. The introduction proves useful since Worsley, captain of HMS Endurance and navigator for this boat journey, wastes little time setting the scene or explaining the times, writing as he was to readers in 1956. The book has been reissued a number of times over the years. This latest paperback edition is nicely produced, with a set of evocative photographs from the expedition.
Worsley’s story of the voyage is mostly spare, clean prose, describing the mechanics of survival by a small band of “dirty, smelly little men in Burberry overalls.” Nonetheless, the text frequently breaks into poetic evocation of the seascape and the elements, the hardships, and the wonders of “hooch,” the miraculous hot soup that nourished them through their long and painful struggle. These flights of eloquence draw the reader into the experience in a compelling way despite the occasional shocks that come from encountering the political incorrectness of a different era and the schoolboy humor of these dedicated servants of the Empire, many of whom would return home only to die within a few months in the trenches of World War I.
Like much biographical prose, this account is uplifting to the spirit, reminding us in condensed form of the wonders of human endurance, companionship, and practical skill. It also reminds us of the powerful and particular value of a good old boat in the right hands and the scale of achievement that is possible with courage in the absence of equipment.
Illustrated Sail and Rig Tuning
by Ivar Dedekam (Dedekam Design, 1999, $2.002)
Reviewed by Jerry Powlas, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, March, 1999
Illustrated Sail and Rig Tuning is a little book which takes on a big job. Since it’s 9 1/2 by 6 3/4 inches and 80 pages, we had to wonder. The book is intentionally small and of high quality paper so it can live in cockpits where it belongs. It is succinct and heavily illustrated and does indeed deliver as the title claims.
Author Ivar Dedekam does not mince words. He offers very understandable instructions on how to tune your rig and trim your sails. The physics and fluid dynamics (never called by those names) are all kept light and are done with few words and many illustrations. This part is completed by Page 5. Some beginners may understand it, but experienced sailors will not be bored with this part. Pages 6 and 7 go through the beat reach run illustrations and will be useful for instructing true beginners who are aboard. This is not however, a book for beginners. After Page 7, they will need something else.
Page 8 starts sail shape, twist, flow gradients and all the good stuff that puts the last three quarters of a knot in your boat speed. Unless you have already won the class nationals in your early teens, there is likely to be something in this book for you. If you are convinced that cruising sailors don’t need to know how to trim their sails, Ivar is not. He offers the fine detail that a good crew will use to fight for inches in a three-hour dual and then explains what the cruising sailor will want from that.
By Pages 17 and 18 Ivar is putting together how to control jib shape using both the halyard tension and the forestay tension. He relates the desired shape to wind speed and sea conditions and offers the reader an understandable explanation of how these four variables work together. This is where you widen the groove so you can steer through the chop and in the dark. I’ve seen this misunderstood in major publications and then wrong again when they tried to correct themselves. This little book gets it right in just two pages and lets you understand it. The trick is that you must consider all four variables at once.
By Page 60, sail trim is done. It’s all in there in 60 pages including extensive instructions on flying downwind sails. The way to use the first part of the book is to read it carefully and then use it as reference when sailing. Keep it in the cockpit in a zip-type plastic bag.
The second part of the book describes tuning standing rigging. Again, the text is brief. The illustrations show which wires to loosen or tighten to get your stick straight and tuned. The tuning is described as two step-by-step processes, one at the dock, and one under way.
This book is a translation from Norwegian to English. Nothing is really lost in the translation process, but the North American English-speaking reader will find that the version of English is more akin to that spoken in the mother country than in North America. There are some differences in terms, like kicking strap (vang), and rigging screw (turnbuckle), and some of the metric dimensions may not be immediately familiar. As with many translations, a strict grammarian might cringe or get a chuckle, but none of that detracts from the intended mission of the book which is to instruct and be a handy reference for tuning sails and rigging. There is nothing else like this book that we know of.
This book was impressive enough for us to start thinking about having a Good Old Boat Bookshelf, offering a few special books for sale. Ivar offered us (and several other outlets) the opportunity to sell his book, and we accepted. As time goes on, you will find ads for this book and others we favor in our pages. If you’d like to purchase a copy, send a check for $24 (this includes $2 for postage and handling) for each copy ordered to Good Old Boat. Be sure you give us a full mailing address with your request.
Eye on the Sea
by Mary Jane Hayes (Breakaway Books, 1999, $22.00)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, May, 1999
Readers of Good Old Boat know Mary Jane Hayes as one who captures the beauty of boating eloquently in vibrant pictures. We print these photos to remind ourselves why we’re doing all this work on our good old boats. But there’s more to Mary Jane than our readers have had a chance to see. What she can see with her eyes and record on film, Mary Jane can also describe in words that sing paeans of praise for the love of the sea.
In her new book, Eye on the Sea: Reflections on the Boating Life, set for publication in April, Mary Jane writes about her perceptions with a prose both poetic and descriptive. In describing the best things in boating she paints a scene as vivid as any of her photos.
Among my gifts from the sea: Windfilled rushes twinkling dryly . . . a bone-white beach . . . one sail slipping into the horizon . . . any of those charming little towns founded on the sea, whose streets slope steeply down to the water . . . wakes wide as bridal trains and waves curving neatly away from a bow . . . spinnakers like puff pastries . . . dinghies following sailboats like faithful household pets . . . flemished lines . . . a hatch full of stars . . .
You cannot always sail at the best of times, and Mary Jane gives equal time to the character- and experience-building moments we’d all prefer to put behind us.
Wham!!! It struck like that, a west wind of 35 knots without warning and almost knocking us down. “Get down the main! Quick!” my husband exclaimed. I lumbered forward as fast as my cumbersome foulweather gear would permit and hauled it down. “Take your time. Take your time,” I whispered to myself, shaking a little – more from being startled than afraid – as I braced against the boom while I unscrewed the main’s halyard shackle. “Unscrew it straight so it won’t wedge stuck,” (as it can at certain angles) I counseled myself. Naturally it jammed. “I can’t do it!” I cried, aware before the words were out that I had to. “Of course you can,” insisted the skipper encouragingly. Shutting the tumult out with a deliberate effort, I concentrated on the task. “Now for goodness sake, don’t let it go!” I warned myself, hanging onto the shackle for all I was worth as I ducked under a canvas flapping so rudely I hoped it wouldn’t knock me overboard and took the shackle to the lifeline to secure it. Lose the main halyard in a wind like that and all kinds of disastrous mischief would result! “From now on,” I pronounced, as I scrambled back to the shelter of the cockpit and took the helm so that Warren could furl and tie the main, “we’re going to wear our harnesses when it blows up!” . . . Within minutes we were experiencing gusts to 40 and then to 45 and 50, and almost in disbelief, had switched our anemometer to its highest gauge. In an hour and a half we had gone from a flat calm to a fresh gale.
The chapters in this book are short and unconnected, so reading can be done for inspiration – one short bit at a time in much the same way that people read daily meditation journals. It just might be the right book to have belowdecks when you’re recovering from one of those onboard character-building experiences. Having the book at hand may help you or members of your crew remember why you’re all out there in the first place.
Where others capture images in words or pictures, Mary Jane is capable of doing both. This rare ability gives her a very special “eye on the sea.” Her book by the same name allows her to share her observations with the rest of us who are not blessed with this gift.
All in the Same Boat: Family Living Aboard and Cruising
by Tom Neale (International Marine, 1999)
Reviewed by Fernando A. Garcia Ortiz, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Good Old Boat, July, 1999
At 33,000 feet over the Atlantic, I look down on a cloudless day and imagine someone on a small sailboat living and dreaming down there. It is one of those days when my “eight to six” has extended far more than I would prefer, and I am enjoying reading about a family who chose another road . . . or should I say another rhumb?
In All in the Same Boat: Family Living Aboard and Cruising you will read about choosing the right boat and systems, maintaining them, provisioning and cooking, communications while cruising, anchoring, and fishing. And you’ll notice themes related to raising a family afloat: education, health, finances, work, and play. But this book is about taking your life and dreams in your hands and leaving mediocrity behind. It tells us what it takes to build the right attitude, get away from land, and live a better life. Don’t get me wrong. Tom Neale does not judge your life or mine; he just extols the virtues of his family’s chosen path.
The Neales have chosen a boat to be their home for the past 20 years and raised their family doing what most of us only dream about. They will not tell you that the life you live is not genuine but rather that the dream you have is possible. You just have to work at it.
Lucy and I live in a two-bedroom condominium apartment in a typical neighborhood, drive over 15,000 miles a year, and work in air-conditioned spaces – a life Tom aptly describes. Like many others, we share a dream of knowing our greater neighborhood firsthand. We bought a good old sailboat because of this dream. Doubts nevertheless are always there. How do we do it?
Tom’s approach to the subject will help the reader considering these issues realize that life aboard is not an extended vacation. It will be fun only after understanding that it involves work of a different kind. The fact that the well-being of you and your family will depend only on yourselves is primordial. You need to develop the right attitude step by step. Sailing and navigational skills are mentioned first, but this is not a basic sailing course. Financial matters also need to be considered as well as communicationwith those ashore. Do you have small children or teenagers? What will their needs be? Comfort in a boat is not a joke; it will be forever linked to your safety. Water. Power systems: 12-volt or AC? What type of head do you need? Will you need ice? Medical emergencies while in paradise, how do we handle them? All these subjects are treated honestly and without disproportionate enthusiasm.
Although Tom’s name is on the cover, by the time you finish reading All in the Same Boat you will understand this book is more of a family endeavor than a one-person effort. Anecdotes by the other family members are interspersed with the main text.
In times and places where almost nobody will care for poetry and where the validity of the school system is in question, All in the Same Boat includes poetry by daughter Melanie (who also fixes a generator), sections written by daughter Carolyn (the musician in the family), and more from wife Mel (a photographer and painter). It covers recipes and parenting issues. This book is refreshing reading about attainable dreams.
As you read through some 350 pages of solid cruising and liveaboard counsel, your thoughts will wander just as mine did . . . if you happen not to be cruising at the time.
The Neales live and cruise on Chez Nous. At the time the book was written, this was a 1979 Gulfstar 47 Sailmaster. They have just moved to a 1975 Gulfstar 53 Motorsailer. The family also publishes a newsletter called Cruising: Coast and Islands.
by Reese Palley (Sheridan House, 1999).
Reviewed by Bill Barth, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, July, 1999
Reese Palley has written about things he knows — sailing, people, and art. His sailing books are: There Be No Dragons, Unlikely People, and Unlikely Passages. There Be No Dragons gives the wannabe ocean cruiser a rational approach to the dangers and the technical knowledge needed to voyage in a small boat safely. Unlikely People is a collection of very interesting and humorous personality sketches of people Reese has met in different ports of the world.
Unlikely Passages uses a travelogue approach in each chapter. Those introductory passages are not nearly as unlikely as the musing he gets into. Reese is crazy — like a fox. He makes statements that bruise your sensibilities and then comes to conclusions you can’t help but agree with. For instance: In Chapter 4 he says he is not a moralist and he doesn’t believe in God, but for the eleventh tribe (the sailing tribe) he says, “The Word of God is curiously difficult to improve upon . . . when even the agnostic sailor, faced with unacceptable odds, will seek His intercession.”
So in Unlikely Passages, Reese covers sailing from Angels to Zen. In between he throws in a dash of sex, vomit, and God. This is a book I had to put down on occasion – but I had to pick it up again. Reese has a galling way of coming to truths I usually agree with. He said all he really wanted to accomplish in writing this book was to elicit a little giggle, and he got mine.
Unlikely Passages had a short life when it was first published in 1984, since the publisher went out of business shortly thereafter. It was republished in 1998 in its original form.
Reese is currently working on a book about the Schooner, Fantome, which was lost in Hurricane Mitch. He sails Unlikely VII, a 46-foot cutter, out of Key West.
Coming About: A Family Passage at Sea
by Susan Tyler Hitchcock (Ballantine Books, 1999)
Reviewed by Skip Koski, Charlotte, N.C.
Good Old Boat, July, 1999
If you ever wondered what life is like on a sailboat during a passage at sea, this is a real-life account of the interaction of a family of four: the husband, an experienced son of a sailor; the wife, a total novice with no experience whatsoever but a strong desire to regain, through this adventure, the closeness that she and her family once had; and two young children who are whisked from the comforts of home, friends, and school and thrust into a new environment so different that no one could have told them in advance what it would be like.
This event would change their lives forever, from the decision to embark to the final sail to home port. As they reach new levels of experience — interacting with each other and the friends and places they encounter along the way – you discover the closeness and camaraderie of the sailing community that abounds no matter where you go.
From her description of Hei Tiki, you get the feeling you are there with Susan as she sees the boat for the first time and realizes how tiny their world is about to become. It’s a lot to ask two people to share such a small space for an extended time, much less two adultsand two active children. At the beginning of the voyage and when crossing the Gulf Stream, you realize that simple things you take for granted every day are very different when you cruise. Even the terminology of everyday communication is different. To the uninitiated, some of it is gobbledygook, and anyone who remembers being a novice sailor can relate to the frustration Susan must have felt when asked to do even basic tasks, like anchoring.
To the cruising sailor, daily life at sea means being aware of everything around you — the wind, the sun, even the anticipation of a storm – all these things make you feel more alive as you go about your day. You realize the frustrations and pain that can be caused by being so dependent on the limitations imposed by your environment such as not being able to just run to the store when you need something.
As a sailor who has been from lake to bluewater, I have always relished a good sailing story. And more than a good story is what Susan Tyler Hitchcock weaves as she opens her life to the reader with this literary adventure.
I read somewhere that we write what we know about – and I have found it to be true . . . it becomes obvious to the reader as the journey unfolds that Susan takes you into her soul as she relates the uncertainty of the original decision to go cruising and attempts to find the connecting threads of her family’s life that seem to be unraveling as everyday life extracts its measure of due. Thenshe sweeps you along with the family as they are thrust into the world of the cruising sailor. Novice that she is, Susan is game to learn and to become a vital part of the crew that sails thissmall vessel through the blue-and-emerald seas in and around the many islands that begin off the coast of Florida and extend tothe Virgins in the Caribbean.
Join them as their journey progresses and experience the events that make up “the cruising life.” Your life will be richer for it; mine certainly is.
The Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat: A Guide to Essential Features,
Gear and Handling
by John Vigor (International Marine, 1999; $29.95)
Reviewed by Hope Beecher Wright, Port Washington, N.Y.
Good Old Boat, september, 1999
In The Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat, John Vigor offers a hands-on guide to the evaluation and upgrading of a production fiberglass boat for long-term bluewater cruising. He shows what to look for, what to avoid, what equipment to buy or make, and how to get ready for the big move. John uses the price of a beer to add up the cost of various pieces of equipment mentioned in his book. He does this because retail prices change quickly. “At any date in the future, you need only to inquire after the current retail price of a bottle of beer served in a restaurant or a yacht club bar, and simple multiplication will give you a pretty good idea of the current price of the equipment mentioned in this book,” he says. An interesting theory.
John compares characteristics of coastal versus offshore cruisers. He emphasizes the importance of the ability to maneuver clear of dangers in all kinds of weather and the “habitability factor” to accommodate human beings comfortably and safely. The design must allow the boat to right herself quickly from capsize and to resume her voyage safely.
His unique diagnostic questionnaire tells us if our boat is capable of offshore voyaging, and his step-by-step illustrated instructions show us how to refit for ocean passages. Once you have passed the seaworthiness indicator test, you move on to the detailed inspection of the hull, deck, cockpit, and rudder with descriptions of necessary repairs or modifications.
The end of each chapter lists a synopsis of helpful hints relevant to it with the heading “Think Inverted.” This brings forth such pleasant thoughts as, “Is there a quick-release snap hook or carbiner right there at your chest soyou can reach it to free yourself if you’re dragged underwater?”
Those with Atomic 4s will cheer to read: “There is a modern fashion for replacing gasoline engines with diesels, but this is not always the wisest move. Gas engines are cheaper, lighter (or more powerful for the same weight), easier to repair and service, quieter, and much smoother-running.” (See Good Old Boat article on the subject in the June 1998 issue.) However, if you insist on changing, John advises you to aim for 3 or 4 hp for each ton of boat weight. “If you’re determined to have a dirty, smelly engine, it might as well be a powerful, dirty, smelly engine,” he summarizes.
John believes that there are more forces than luck involved in survival at sea. Cautious and intelligent preparation is necessary, so his chapter on safety equipment goes over all you need to know including how to deactivate your self-steering gear in case you fall overboard.
“No one who has experienced the tyranny of the tiller will ever go to sea again without some form of self-steering device . . . for no more fiendish a punishment could be devised than to force a sailor to sit at the helm hour after hour, day after day, week after week,” pleads John. This chapter gives you a good understanding of the theory of CLR (center of lateral resistance), secret forces, weather and lee helms, directional stability, flattening the sail, raking the mast, autopilots, wind-vane gears, and twistle yards.
John Vigor has given us a book which not only hands us practical advice in a clear format but also the hope that an offshore voyage is fully within our grasp if we are willing to follow his road map. For the price of 10 beers, the purchase of The Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat is a bargain to add to our nautical library.
The Cruising Sailor
by Tom Dove (Bristol Fashion Publications, 1999; $21.95)
Reviewed by Davis Main, Chesapeake, Va.
Good Old Boat, September, 1999
It may be an oxymoron, but Tom Dove’s book, The Cruising Sailor, is a great little book. Its 133 pages are only 8.5 by 5.5 inches but full of helpful ideas and information. The author’s aim is “to introduce newcomers to cruising under sail, although experienced sailors will find useful information and a bit of entertainment.” And that is exactly what he has done.
I have long admired Tom’s storytelling and writing ability. In this book he intersperses three fiction-based-on-fact stories among all the details and explanations to keep the whole thing interesting. I had a good laugh with one of his stories of inept skippers trying to anchor in a sheltered cove prior to an afternoon Chesapeake Bay thunderstorm. One can pick up tips and ideas — from correct anchoring procedures, to standing watch, to meal preparation in advance – just from the stories.
Tom also writes of basic things like hull and cabin sizes and types, weight, power, speed, rigging, construction techniques, surveys . . . all very helpful if you are determining what type of sailboat to purchase for cruising, or if you’d like to know more about that boat which commands a significant portion of your life and income. He gives excellent boathandling advice, for example, on chain-rope-chain-rope anchor rodes and how to use a spring line to dock alongside a pier or to enter a marina slip stern-to, first time, every time, and make everyone watching think you’re a pro.
I appreciated the three Appendices. Appendix One lists useful boat design formulas, including how to figure maximum hull speed for a displacement hull. (We often discuss this at the dock, but no one ever seems to remember how to calculate it.) Appendix Two lists a couple dozen excellent sources for equipment, books and magazines (yes, our favorite, Good Old Boat is listed). Appendix Three offers excellent checklists of tools and supplies for small cruising boats without electrical or plumbing systems and for medium and larger cruising and liveaboard boat s.
There is an index and a fairly complete glossary written in “straight-forward English” so anyone can understand. However, I was a little confused with this definition: “Mile: A statute mile (land mile) is 5280 feet. A nautical mile (water mile) or knot is 6080.2 feet.” Of course, we all know that a “knot” is not a nautical mile (distance), but a nautical mile per hour (speed).
So that this book can go cruising and last, Bristol Fashion Publications publishes it on acid-free, mildew-resistant, archival-quality paper placed between heavily laminated covers to prevent water penetration and mildew. The binding allows the book to lay flat on any surface.
Tom makes the point that cruising can be enjoyed in any number of ways and that cruising does not have to be reduced to camping on the water. Cruising, he says, is “the achievable dream,” and he has gone a long way toward helping us reach that goal. It’s a great little book indeed.
Boat Improvements for the Practical Sailor
by Stephen Fishman, (Sheridan House, 1999; $23.95)
Reviewed by J.R. Holm, Apple Valley, Minn.
Good Old Boat, September, 1999
I purchased my good old boat at the end of the 1997 sailing season. As a first-time boatowner I knew that what I didn’t know was what I needed to know the most, but I didn’t yet know what that was. I immediately went in search of materials that could educate me. One book that would not have found its way into my reference materials is Boat Improvements for the Practical Sailor by Stephen Fishman.
When I first saw the cover, I thought, “Great! This is a book that will give me direction on how to make accessory covers.” Instead, it simply told me what they are used for. Disappointment aside, I started looking for information that would benefit a first-time boatowner. Many chapters started out with helpful information but fell short of making me feel I had learned something.
Stephen spent time creating a helpful-tools-of-the-trade list, but he stopped short of completing it. Spare parts are equally as important in the toolbox as the tools. A novice needs to know the importance of both. Seasoned owners already have their tool needs figured out.
The few pages dedicated to weighty topics such as refrigeration, moving/adding a radio, or adding more power were not enough to begin or finish the project for the average boatowner. And, when it comes to spit-and-polish or wood refinishing, it only glosses over what is necessary to make a boat shine. The book seems to be written for the first-time boatowner. The information for the novice is good, but it lacks completing details. The seasoned sailor already knows much of what is covered.
His book would have served the reader better by following a clearer path. In an attempt to cover too many topics and too many levels of boat maintenance skills, it falls short of meeting most readers’ needs.
Narrow Waters: An artist’s memoir of sailing through sound, swamp, city, forest, marsh, and glade
by Dee Carstarphen (Pen & Ink Press, 1999; $19.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, September, 1999
A camera is probably the only tool that Dee Carstarphen and her husband, Stu Hopkins, don’t use in telling the tale of a trip down the Intracoastal Waterway. Dee’s book, Narrow Waters: An artist’s memoir of sailing through sound, swamp, city, forest, marsh, and glade, was created with pen and ink and colorfully illustrated on every page with lovely watercolors and other media. Most amazing it in the rare and unusual class.
Yet the snapshot analogy is the best way to describe the book. It is a compendium of snapshots recording moments in time on their journey. In one small book Dee captures the essence of the cruising lifestyle as she and Stu experience it with their Allied Seawind, named (would you believe?) Sea Wind. Dee provides brief notes of what they eat and how they store food without an icebox. She gives a glimpse — a snapshot really — of their activities as they travel. Their fondness for remote anchorages, taking walks (often in search of wood for their woodburning stove), and observing wildlife is just as obvious as their interest in the history of the communities through which they pass, the fun they have in people watching (rubbernecking as they call it) in the populated areas, and the routine and emergency boat maintenance which must continue as they travel.
With a few strokes of the pen and paintbrush and a couple of descriptive words, Dee describes the boats they see along the way and offers snapshots of people they meet. For instance, just this is offered about a boat they pass: “Sea Wind carries on, however, past the Hobucken Swing Bridge. Here are docks where working shrimpers and small freighters tie up. One old dear named God’s Mercy catches our eye.” That’s it! That’s all she says. It’s enough, however. A drawing of the “old dear” at the bottom of the page fills in any detail missing in that brief mention. In this case, a picture truly is worth a thousand words.
People get the same brief treatment, although at least one couple merits a couple of sentences: “Nearby powerboat with exotic couple living aboard. Man sports lavender pants, yellow shirt, and captain’s hat. His lady with a long gown and braid. Boat’s name Bismi Ilahi R-Ahmani R-Ahim, port of Pashtuniston. A large black bug insignia, a black flag, and black dinghy.”
In the same compressed prose, reminiscent of a jotted note, Dee shares snapshots and snippets of local history, a touch of the local tourist information, and a chance to appreciate local color. When their journey ends, a mere 131 pages later, following a circumnavigation of South Florida, the brief snapshots have melded to provide a rather detailed portrait of the author, her husband, their Allied Seawind, their cat, and their cruising lifestyle. They are people I’d enjoy cruising with. My kind of people. Maybe yours also.
Although the beautiful illustrations on each page may remind you of a children’s book, make no mistake: this is a waterway guide in a class all its own. It is a glimpse of coastal cruising at its best, supplying in painting and prose the reasons we’re all out there sailing and gunkholing with our good old boats.
This little illustrated book should be presented as a gift to anyone heading down the ICW. It is a treasure.
Baja Sailor Tales
by George Snyder (1999, $12.95)
Reviewed by Andrew Fowlie, Ashland, Mass.
Good Old Boat, November, 1999
“You know, especially now, that life does not exist to be fair. It throws us obstacles to our well-being, as it’s supposed to. Who we are depends on how we handle those obstacles, how we deal with them, and get on with ourselves. You know that. It’s what builds character.” So says Phil, one of the characters in George Snyder’s book, Baja Sailor Tales, a collection of stories, poems, and reflections on sailors he met while sailing along the Baja Peninsula.
George creates a tapestry of characters, weaving them through his short stories. We visit with these characters, go down different paths, then meet up with them again in a later tale.
Phil is a weathered sailor who intends to cruise for most of the years he has left in his life. He laments the changes to the world of cruising, the cruisers of the ’90s: “sailing couples on vessels of 40 feet or more, loaded with gadgetry and ham radios.” These men, who consider themselves the last great adventurers, the rugged individualists unencumbered with the trappings of society, gather daily at the local bar and share their stories.
We learn about Trixie who tends bar at La Faena and has been in Mexico for six years. After three abusive husbands and a prison sentence, Trixie has ended up in Mexico. She goes to school there to learn the language and history. She’s waiting for a teaching certificate. She becomes a Mexican citizen, and the school has found her a place to live. Life is looking up.
And yet, life is not full of happy endings. Later we learn that Trixie’s past has caught up with her, and she ends up back in the bars. Baja Sailor Tales is, in some ways, a dark book about people at the end of the line with nowhere else to go and no one to go home to. This is the seamier side of cruising.
Yet these characters are living life to the fullest and doing what many only talk of doing. The stories are full of boats and seas, of riding the crests of the waves, and of landing on the rocks. If you enjoy reading the adventures of the Paysons, the Neales, or the Pardeys, this may not be the book for you. For a look at the other side, for what some may consider to be the “real scoop” about the cruising life, however, Baja Sailor Tales may be just the ticket.
Kawabunga’s South Seas Adventure
by Charles Dewell (1999, $29.95)
Reviewed by Bill Hammond, Minneapolis, Minn
Good Old Boat, November, 1999
People who love to sail tend to dream. Any body of water, fresh or salt, and a little time on one’s hands can provoke compelling fantasies. Dreams played a significant role in the decision of Charlie and Margaret Dewell to set sail on a most incredible journey. Both had been in the insurance claims business for 20 years. Charlie had messed about in boats at local marinas most of his life and had read extensively the accounts of sailors who had cruised the South Seas. He and Margaret decided to act, even though their combined bluewater sailing experience was practically nil.
Their story is told in Kawabunga’s South Seas Adventure. There have been many books written about sailing in the South Seas; what differentiates this book – and what makes it so enjoyable to read – are the personal appeal and writing ability of the author and the uniqueness of his boat. Kawabunga is a 20-foot Flicka, a boat featured in this issue on Page 4. She was a good old boat in need of some TLC.
That she got. It took much of the Dewells’ life savings, but in May of 1995 Kawabunga was ready to leave San Diego for the Marquesas, thence to Tahiti and the Hawaiian Islands, then back to California.
Charlie sailed the long first and last legs alone. There were times when he found himself questioning the sanity of his decision to cast off his old life for a new one. His engine died as he arrived in the horse latitudes near the equator. Drifting backward for days on a glassy sea beyond radio range can cause even an insurance office to assume enviable qualities.
But when he first spotted Nuku Hiva on the horizon. Charlie modestly wrote: “I felt a great sense of accomplishment, knowing I had navigated through one of the world’s great oceans to a remote, wild, and captivating island.”
There were many other accomplishments, adventures, and relationships to follow. In Tahiti, Charlie and Margaret witnessed the uprising for independence that sent much of Papeete up in flames and brought French warships steaming into the harbor. The passage north from Bora Bora would have tested the mettle of even the most seasoned BOC participant. And the people they met everywhere – from native Polynesians, such as Luti and his family on Christmas Island, to fellow sailors from around the globe – confirm one’s faith in the fellowship of man and the camaraderie within the international sailing community.
This is a book worth reading, keeping, and rereading on future occasions. It says to each of us, “You can fulfill your dream, whatever that dream may be, if circumstances permit and you have the courage to pursue it.”