Book Reviews From 2000


Reviews From 2000

100 Problems in Celestial Navigation; Self-Contained – With Answers

by Leonard Gray (Paradise Cay Publications and Celestaire, Inc; 1999; 168 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Tom Beard, Port Angeles, Wash.
Good Old Boat, January 2000

To some modern navigators the admonition: “Do not rely on a single source of navigation” means they are safe with a second GPS receiver aboard. I remember one night sailing down the East African coast, in and out of the 5-knot wandering Agulhas Current, when the U.S. Air Force shut down the GPS system. My almost total dependence on “reliable” modern navigation systems (loran, Satnav, and GPS) over the past 30 or so years had made my ancient celestial knowledge rusty. The cruise along the African coast became a very uncomfortable trip. Fortunately, I had aboard my cherished – and equally ancient – British, pre-WWII sextant of brass, silver, and ivory.

Perhaps with today’s nearly total reliance on modern navigational systems, 100 Problems in Celestial Navigation might fill an important role, rather than – as you might initially think – just stimulating the memory, or providing games for armchair sailors.

The celestial learning curve may have some sharp spikes in it when you’re trying to recapture old knowledge at the navigation table aboard a tossing sailboat at sea, with saltwater-soaked skin and only three hours sleep over the past four watches. Confidence may be lacking in the solutions. Safety may be lacking in the results.

Navigators – beginning and experienced – can enjoy fascinating voyages at home or aboard a boat in the stillness of the harbor. Gray’s second edition of 100 Problems puts you back to sea in a realistic way with problems designed to review and instruct. It gives you the vicarious enjoyment of actually being there. These are not just academic “canned” problems. The author includes “blunders” to test problems you might experience during real voyaging. He doesn’t always offer neat solutions. Problems are designed to test your judgment and ability to search for alternative clues, proving that navigation is not all science but a creative art as well.

All reference tables are included to complete the voyages presented, as is a sight reduction form for publications H.O. 249 or H.O. 229. Furthermore, an appendix includes a review of procedures for all the necessary methods. After completing just a few of the 19 book voyages, both the pollywog and shellback should navigate comfortably by celestial spheres with newfound confidence.

I found this book to be a refreshing approach to the study of celestial navigation. It removes the typical pedantic study and adds stimulating, imaginative adventure. The beginner learning celestial navigation will experience the problems of voyaging across the equator or international date line, and the “old pro” might be reminded of former voyages. The reader/navigator can never get lost. The answers are in the appendix – not so at sea, unfortunately.

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A Unit of Water A Unit of Time: Joel White’s Last Boat

by Douglas Whynott (Doubleday; 1999; 303 pages; $23.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, January 2000

Douglas Whynott spends June 1996 to July 1997 observing events at the Brooklin Boat Yard in Maine. It turns out to be a significant year for observation, and he weaves a detailed tapestry of the boatbuilders, the townspeople, the boats under construction and repair, and members of the White family, who run the yard. He makes you understand the people involved and teaches you a great deal about boatbuilding.

The emphasis is on three generations of Whites, beginning with the famous E. B. White, an amateur sailor and famous author who also worked for The New Yorker. E. B. wrote for adults and children, but it is for the children’s books, such as Charlotte’s Web, that he is best remembered, along with the ever-popular grammar guide, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.

E. B. White moved to Maine in 1938 to become a writer, after spending summers there while working in New York. In Maine, he passed his love of sailing on to his young son, Joel, who later studied naval architecture and eventually became owner of the Brooklin Boat Yard.

In 1997-98, the slice of time under Douglas Whynott’s microscope, Joel is battling (and eventually dies of) cancer, and his son Steve, has taken over the operational responsibilities. But Joel remains upbeat and continues working and designing a couple of boats, one of which is completed. He is also doing some oral readings of his father’s works, which are being commercially taped and sold as White on White.

Whynott ties all this together with profiles of town life, the boatyard, the workers there, Joel’s special relationship with Jon Wilson (the founder of WoodenBoat, which is headquartered nearby), and the glory of Maine.

At one point in the book, Bob, one of the yard workers, tells the author, “The displacement of a boat is a good indicator of the time and money involved.”

Whynott responds: “Displacement is also equal to the weight of the boat, right?” Meaning that the amount of water displaced by a boat is equal to its weight.

“Exactly equal,” Bob says.

“These seem odd equivalencies,” the author muses, “the idea that a water’s weight could be equal to the time and money spent displacing it. Didn’t that make a unit of water equivalent to a unit of time, and didn’t this seem right, that in the boatbuilder’s realm, water could somehow equal time?”

It’s getting to know those who inhabit the Brooklin Boat Yard and reading Whynott’s quirky insights that make this book a joy to read.

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Sailing Among the Stars: The Story of Sea Dart

by Laurel Wagers (Sheridan House; 1999; 128 pages; $9.95)
Reviewed by Jim McCarty, Glens Falls, N.Y.
Good Old Boat, January 2000

It is nice to see a story about an older boat and one rich in history like Tristan Jones’s Sea Dart. I have followed some of Jones’s writing and knew he was quite an adventurer, one who has sailed many an ocean. You won’t be disappointed with the chapter devoted to his story of life under sail on Sea Dart. Although it follows what has been written in other works, the book gives a more condensed version of his life.

The book tells of Sea Dart’s ever-changing owners who, in one way or another, try to keep up her beauty through expensive refits. Several times, owners felt the price was too high and tried to find organizations willing to take over this little part of history. As she is an old wooden boat, many were wary of the price they would have to pay to maintain Sea Dart.

It would seem that with all her credentials, Sea Dart would have no trouble finding an owner who would maintain her properly. But Tristan Jones set forth a list of wishes that he hoped would be followed by anyone who took over the ownership. He stated that she could never be resold for profit. The boat was to be put to good use, teaching children to sail, as he had done all his life. In the end, Sea Dart does find the “perfect home” and today continues showing what great adventures can be had, even in a small old wooden sailboat.

Sea Dart was built in 1960 as a shallow-draft family cruiser in England. Who could have foreseen what an ocean sailing vessel she would turn out to be? This boat is filled with the history of a wonderful life under sail. She has traveled across oceans, logging thousands of miles, with a list of ports of call that would make any of us jealous. She has traveled countless rivers and inland lakes along with crossings of mountains and jungles. She was sailed, trucked, shipped, dragged by oxen across uncharted land, and put on a train. This is just a small part of the travels of a very different-style boat.

Although this story takes a lot of shortcuts in telling about the life and times of Sea Dart, it makes for some interesting reading. If it whets your appetite to learn more about the sailing life of Tristan Jones and his boat, then it has done its job. There is a fine bibliography that will guide you to even more details about the life of a very entertaining man and his many loves, the boats he has owned, and the oceans he has sailed.

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Sailboat Electrics Simplified

by Don Casey (International Marine; 1999; 176 pages; $21.95)
Reviewed by Jerry Powlas, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, January 2000

Don Casey wants to make electricity as simple as possible. So in Sailboat Electrics Simplified, part of the International Marine Sailboat Library series, he omits extensive theory and keeps his explanations brief. Yet the necessary information is there for the would-be doers of the world.

Don promises a simplified presentation of electrical systems and delivers on that promise. He has written several books meant to make complex technical topics accessible to non-technical sailors. The challenge is to deliver just the right amount of information – not too much, or you lose the reader, and not too little, or the reader will get into trouble for want of understanding and guidance. Don gets it just about right.

Following the introductory sections on safety and basics concepts, Chapter Three has an excellent explanation and discussion of batteries: how they work (and fail) and how types differ from one another. He covers starting, deep-cycle, gels, and AGMs. This may be the best-written survey of current battery technology in print.

He also covers DC and AC wiring, from wire types and selection to over-current protection, and includes helpful tips on wiring methods. He recommends the use of good materials and practices. But he is practical in his approach and points out ways to save money. For example, while there is a growing trend in new boats to install circuit-breaker panels that look like they would be appropriate for controlling a nuclear power plant, Don points out that there really isn’t anything wrong with using fuses. He notes that if a boat is properly wired, circuit beakers offer very little advantage, since there will be very few occasions when a fuse would blow or a circuit breaker would trip. This is valuable advice because a centralized circuit-breaker panel, besides being expensive, will often require twice as much wiring.

There is a well-thought-out chapter on troubleshooting, which includes a fine section on using a digital multimeter. Don’s philosophy on multimeters is simple: If you don’t have one, you need one. If you have an old analog meter, replace it with a digital multimeter. With this tool, you can troubleshoot all the electrical power systems on your boat.

This hardcover book also offers good sections on shore power, lightning protection, bonding, and radio-frequency grounding.

It relies heavily on illustrations. The excellent additions have been done by the author, and by Kim and Jamie Downing, and by Jim Sollers.

Sailors who are highly motivated, willing to read, and ready to study this book will be able to delve more deeply into the mysteries of their boats’ electrical systems.

Batteries included. Careful reading required. A good book.

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The Custom of the Sea

by Neil Hanson (Wiley & Sons; 2000; 315 pages; $24.95)
Reviewed by Bill Hammond, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, March 2000

A book like this comes around rarely. It reads like a gothic novel buthas all the research and facts of a court presentation. It is a true story, but its truth may be instinctively denied by the reader, so terrible is its basis. Despite an absorbing and well-written plot, the reader may at times be tempted to stop reading – if not in revulsion, at least in prayerful contemplation – but the urge to turn another page will prove too irresistible.

In brief, The Custom of the Sea is a masterpiece of literature, historic jurisprudence, and English maritime history. Above all, it is a stark testament to Man’s will to survive.

It is a sailor’s book, but the ethical and legal points it raises will be debated with equal passion by lawyers, priests, housewives, CEOs, and others who may not know a bowline from a bow line.

It’s the 1890s and the “golden age of yachting” is in full swing in England. Tom Dudley has been commissioned to deliver a racing yacht, Mignonette, from Essex, England, to her owner in New South Wales, Australia. At first it is difficult for Dudley to secure a crew, there being some question regarding the yacht’s seaworthiness. But ultimately he is able to settle on three: two able-bodied seamen, Stephens and Brooks, and a young lad, Richard Parker, who is keen on adventure and the romance of sailing.

Off the coast of Africa the Mignonette is hit by a ferocious storm. For five days the ship runs barepoled with the hurricane-force winds until a rogue wave broaches and swamps her. With only a sextant, a chronometer, a wooden baler, and two tins of turnips, the men crawl into a 13-foot lifeboat and watch the Mignonette slip beneath the waves.

What follows are the horrific details of three weeks in an open boat with sporadic rainwater to drink and no food to eat beyond the turnips and a sea turtle they happen upon. Their suffering and agony intensify as each hour of each day passes with no ship sighted on the horizon.

On the 24th day Captain Dudley says, in little more than a whisper so swollen is his tongue, that the time has come to follow the well-established “custom of the sea.” Lots must be drawn to determine who will die so his body and blood might sustain the others. The deed done and their bodies now nourished, the three remaining men hang on until a German vessel sights them and returns them to England.

At home, a new wave of horror awaits them. Captain Dudley has done nothing to hide the truth of what happened in the lifeboat. To his mind, he has only done what others before him in similar circumstances have done for centuries, without punishment.

But the home office in London has been waiting for an opportunity to expose and forever outlaw the custom of the sea. The citizens of Southampton and other seafaring towns may greet Dudley and his shipmates as heroes, but English law regards them as murderers. The trial that ensues becomes as engrossing as the deeds in the lifeboat, as both sides argue their case before the bench, the press, and God.

However large one’s personal library may be, there are only a few books therein that have the power to leave a lifelong impression upon the reader. I predict this will be one such book.

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Sails & Sailing

by Franco Girgetti (Mystic Seaport Museum; 1999; 175 pages; $50)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, March 2000

Lovers of sailboats, the shapes of their hulls, and the shapes of their sails (no matter how many masts or how the sails are cut) . . . people who are caught immobile in contemplative reflection at the silhouette of a sailing vessel or the lines of one at anchor . . . sailors whose hearts sing at the sight of a sailboat, whether lighted or muted by any of nature’s moods . . . these connoisseurs will be captivated by this new book.

Mystic Seaport is home to the Rosenfield Collection, an archive of nearly a million treasured photographs focusing on boating throughout the 20th century as father and son, Morris and Stanley Rosenfield, photographed recreational and competitive boating and collected the images of other nautical photographers. Devoted to sailing images only, this book captures the history, the exuberance, and the beauty of North American sailing in 85 images both breathtaking and insightful.

This new arrival to an exclusive group of coffee-table masterpieces, Sails & Sailing is lavish without pretentiousness. Its gorgeous black-and-white photos are subtly touched with amber in a duotone process – a printer’s rich understatement of classy good taste. While it looks like a historical collection of black-and-white images, do not be fooled. No expense was spared in selecting these images and publishing them as powerful expressions of the photographic art.

Sails & Sailing itself is a work of art because of the quality with which it was crafted and the images on which these crafts are focused.

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Revised and Expanded Cruising Guide to San Francisco Bay

by Bob and Carolyn Mehaffy (Paradise Cay Publications; $29.95)
Reviewed by Denece Vincent, Tracy, Calif.
Good Old Boat, March 2000

San Francisco is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. What better way to see the city and its environs than from your own cruising yacht?

Bob and Carolyn Mehaffy, using many photos, chartlets, and lush descriptions of the available attractions at each stop, have shown San Francisco Bay to be a multi-faceted sailing destination. Their new guide surpasses even their previous book on this topic.

The Mehaffys spend the first third of their book familiarizing the reader with the history and geography of the area and providing information useful to the mariner. For the benefit of visiting voyagers, they have a small section dealing with gear commonly used by local sailors. This is presented in a friendly and conversational tone that carries through to the rest of the book.

At the heart of a cruising guide are descriptions of local anchorages and attractions. Here the Mehaffys’ new guide shines. Dozens of potential weekend or vacation spots suiting all moods and seasons are vividly described. I was delighted to find their descriptions of the places I was most familiar with to be quite accurate. This gives me very high expectations for the other sites I have yet to explore.

The one exception is that no mention is made of the often tumultuous wakes and strong currents that can trouble boaters anchored at Paradise Cove. Perhaps the authors felt these would be so obvious to experienced cruisers that they didn’t merit a mention, but it did make me wonder if anything negative might have been left out of any of the other descriptions.

On the other hand, the section on Tomales Bay, much of which appeared in Cruising World (June 1999), now carries a photo of the sobering “Notice to Mariners” about the Tomales Bar and additional information about the often-dangerous bar across the entrance to that bay. It also rhapsodizes less on the enticements of this cruising area than the earlier version does.

I would not hesitate to recommend that local boaters take a good look at adding this volume to their bookshelves. Voyagers planning to pass through the area should consider this book a must-have. They will find even more reason to spend time sailing San Francisco Bay once they are aware of all this area has to offer them.

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The Epoxy Book

by W. Kern Hendricks (A System Three Resin publication; 48 pages; $5 – but free with the System Three Epoxy Trial Kit Phone: 800-333-5514;
Reviewed by Peter C. King
Good Old Boat, March 2000

This is not a book about boat construction; it’s a book about using epoxy resin in boat construction. The value of this book lies in the background of its authors. These people are chemists. They explain why they sell four different formulae for epoxy resins, and they pull no punches about safety – they suggest you take your business elsewhere if you’re not going to pay attention.

The chapter on measuring and mixing systems alone makes this book worth reading. It deals with weight and volume techniques, error ranges, and problem symptoms.

The heart of the book concerns the techniques of epoxy use. Coating, fiberglassing, fillers, structural adhesives, filling, fairing, and molding are all covered. Do you know the difference between thixotropic and bulking agents? Maybe you should. What about the different additives that improve tensile strength? You’ll read this section many times. It’s packed with real advice. For example: “We now recommend against using acetone or similar solvents for cleaning the surface to be glassed. Much acetone sold today is reclaimed and may have impurities that interfere with secondary bonding by leaving a film of residue on the surface.”

There’s more good advice about painting epoxy and its use for specific jobs on boats of all materials, but it doesn’t stop at the back cover. There’s also a complimentary booklet called The Epoxy Catalog that lists the materials you need, including resins, cloth, fillers, additives, and measuring and mixing systems. And, while the subject is serious, the illustrations are not. Both books are filled with cartoons by an artist from Queensland, Australia. Very droll.

Aren’t these books simply a marketing tool? Of course. But at least you understand their agenda. By teaching you about a confusing subject, they hope that you will buy their products instead of someone else’s.

Even if you decide to use another brand of epoxy, the rules are the same. And, even if you don’t fix anything with it, won’t it be nice to understand your repair people when they talk about applying diglycidol ether of biphenyl A?

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Cruising is Contagious: Adventures of a Cruising Couple

by Charles and Corinne Kanter (SAILco Press, 1999; 208 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Molly Welsh, Bradenton, Fla.
Good Old Boat, May 2000

Charles and Corinne Kanter have taken a look at equipment needs and checklists, put them together with some personal cruising stories, and come up with a book that makes for interesting reading.

Admitted “frugalphiles,” they take a look at cruising with the idea that “if you haven’t got it, it can’t break!” It is refreshing to read about someone who is living the cruising lifestyle without all the high-tech, expensive gadgets some say are essential.

The Kanters live in the Fabulous Florida Keys (their words) and cruise up and down the East Coast and to Cuba and the Bahamas. The section on Cuba is particularly interesting. As journalists, the Kanters had special permission to be there and to spend U.S. money. The authors subscribe to the theory, “when in Rome . . .’ and live, eat, and travel like the local folk do. The look into the lives of the people of Cuba is most enlightening.

Another section talks about Tristan Jones, who became a friend of the Kanters, and includes a list of the books written by him.

The book closes with a chapter designed to help readers choose good, seaworthy boats that will fit their needs. Not only does the authors’ cruising experience come into play here, but also Charles Kanter’s years as a marine surveyor.

The authors do make it sound a little too easy to earn money while cruising, and they admit to having a source of backup income. They also are biased toward catamarans, but if the reader can look past personal preferences – and one chapter that was in need of some proofreading – they will find an interesting and entertaining book, written by experienced cruisers.

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Heart of Glass: Fiberglass Boats and the Men Who Made Them

by Daniel Spurr (International Marine/McGraw-Hill; 2000; 388 pages; $27.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, May 2000

Dan Spurr, editor of Practical Sailor magazine, has written the book good old boaters (indeed, perhaps the world) awaited. Heart of Glass is the text that belongs on good old reference shelves everywhere. Dan threw himself heart and soul into this 11-year research project, a labor of love which benefits all of us.

If you’ve wondered about the family relationships between the many boats designed by Carl Alberg, Cuthbertson and Cassian, or Phil Rhodes . . . if you’ve had trouble unscrambling the messy relationships of Cals, O’Days, and Rangers, or of Albergs and Ericsons . . . if you’ve pondered the origins of fiberglass and the first sailboats to come out of the molds . . . the answers to these and other questions can be yours with the help of Dan’s extensive research and exhaustive interviews.

Dan writes, “The timeline of fiberglass boatbuilding is a long passage of many legs on which the waypoints are the names of those who dared to buck convention, who dared to risk their careers and reputations – Herbert Muscat, Ray Greene, Taylor Winner, Carl Beetle, and John Wills, to name a few. These are men who, as children, made leaky boats from materials found on the beach and who, as their sophistication grew, blew up their mothers’ mixing bowls trying to catalyze a new resin . . . Those first boats were crude by today’s standards, but they had no seams and did not leak . . . Gradually, boat buyers overcame their skepticism of plastic and accepted the risk – first in dinghies, then on runabouts and daysailers. Americans took to the water in unprecedented numbers, effecting a fundamental change in recreation and leisure-time activities.”

It was Dan’s mission to save as much of this history as possible before more is lost. A good old boater himself, Dan knew the rest of us would rely on this book as a reference tool, so he thoughtfully provided a historical timeline, short bibliographical information on companies, and an index so we can look up and find references to designers and types of boats.

Is this the final word on fiberglass? Probably not. Someone else will have to spend 11 more years answering the inevitable questions which arise from this book: more of the intricacies of who, what, when, and why. But Dan has given us a valuable foundation. It may be one of the members of the good old boat community who invests the time and takes our communal knowledge to the next level. Or it might be Dan himself. He invites our participation: “On the chance that the book merits a second edition, however, I invite any readers with information about boats or persons omitted from or included in this book to write me in care of International Marine, P.O. 220, Camden, ME 04843.

“Heart of Glass,” Dan says, “is for all the people who brought fiberglass boats to life. Few, to my knowledge, got rich. Most got by. Nearly all did it for the love of boats.”

Dan can count himself in the group of those who did it for the love of boats. The rest of us who love these boats thank him from the depths of our hearts.

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Details of Classic Boat Construction – The Hull (2nd Edition)

by Larry Pardey (Pardey Books and Videos; 1999)
Reviewed by Dave Gerr, N.A., New York, N.Y.
Good Old Boat, May 2000

In 1991, when Details of Classic Boat Construction first appeared (published by W.W. Norton), I rushed to get a copy. I wasn’t disappointed. Larry Pardey and his wife, Lin, built their cutter, Seraffyn, themselves, the old fashioned way – plank on frame. And what a beautiful job they did on her. What’s more, they’ve lived aboard and cruised extensively for many hard ocean miles. This combination of practical boatbuilding combined with practical voyaging gives Larry a unique and valuable perspective.

The current, slightly revised, edition is very similar to the first edition of the book. It provides one of very finest step-by-step explanations of the hows and the whys of traditional carvel boatbuilding ever published. Extraordinarily clear process photos and line drawings make things plainer still.

I did have reservations about a couple of items. Larry includes lists of the pros and cons of various construction methods and options. I found these lists to be weighted toward traditional techniques. Such traditional techniques are excellent, but I could redo many of the pro-and-con lists quite differently, reaching substantially different conclusions.

The other reservation is that Larry comes out full-bore and guns blazing against the use of modern marine epoxy for virtually any boatbuilding application. Indeed, this — he stated — was one of the reasons he revised and reissued Details of Classic Boat Construction. He provides examples of epoxy failures and lists many epoxy shortcomings. As with his comparative lists, however – strong as his condemnation of epoxy is – I, and the boatbuilders I work with, can’t agree. I have designed several entirely wood-epoxy craft, now many years old. One 42-footer, for instance, has over 10,000 miles on her, 70 percent of them in southern waters, and she’s good as new. Yards like Rybovitch Spencer, Covey Island Boatworks, Van Dam Marine, and many others have built literally hundreds of wood-epoxy vessels, which have proven incredibly tough, long-lived, and maintenance-free.

So, do these two reservations detract seriously from the book as a whole? Not at all. The explanations of plank-on-frame construction are so clear and comprehensive that everyone who owns a traditional wooden boat, is repairing one, or is building one really should have a copy of this book for reference. Even builders of modern wood-epoxy boats will benefit from the superb construction information in Details of Classic Boat Construction – The Hull. I consider it a must-read and hope Larry will go on and write future volumes on the cabin and fitting out.

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An America’s Cup Treasury: The Lost Levick Photographs, 1893-1937

by Gary Jobson, foreword by Ted Turner (Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, Va., 1999; 174 pages, 151 photographs; $45)
Reviewed by Will Sibley, Shady Side, Md.
Good Old Boat, July 2000

As a child growing up in Maine, one of my early memories was seeing the immense J-class boat, Ranger, sailing on Casco Bay. Gary Jobson’s annotated treatment of newly recovered photographs of America’s Cup giant sailing craft was, for me, a powerful reminder of the glories of past participating yachts in the Cup series.

Jobson has been involved in Cup racing since campaigning aboard Courageous in the late 1970s. He is a most appropriate analyst for the rediscovered photos by Edwin Levick and his sons which document the grandeur of Cup contenders in the period between 1893 and 1937.

The text of this volume provides a year-by-year account of America’s Cup races and includes many anecdotes which document a history of features – good and bad – of the racing yachts, owners, and crewmen. The book includes informative notes in brief form on race strategies, events, and outcomes.

The key feature of the volume is the marvelous collection of photographs from the hands of Levick and his sons. Some depict the grandeur of the yachts, while others provide us with details of rigging and organizations and visual insight into the humans involved in these large-scale racing ventures.

The America’s Cup yachts between 1893 and 1937 can be placed in three categories. From 1893 to 1920 the yachts were very large, ranging around 130 feet in overall length, carrying enormous gaff rigs with topsails and multiple jibs. From 1920 to 1930, vessels were reduced in size to about 75 feet in waterline length, but they retained gaff rigs.

The year 1930 marked the advent of the J-class yachts, of which 10 were built in the period 1930 to 1937. These boats were built to a rule permitting significant variation in displacement and length, but with a relatively fixed sail area. Most were about 120 feet overall, but Ranger, built in 1937, was the largest at 136 feet overall with a waterline length of 87 feet. J-class yachts were marconi-rigged, with masts weighing 5,500 pounds carrying mainsails weighing upwards of a ton. Raising the main might require 15 men. And stepping the mast must have been a joy!

The book is easy and pleasant to peruse at leisure; one’s reading can begin or stop nearly anywhere, since the account is arranged chronologically with each Cup competition handled separately.

For Internet buffs, additional interesting material is available. One site, <> provides a competition-by-competition account. Another, at <http://www.mystic>, provides an additional source of wonderful photographs of many America’s Cup racers under sail.

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Green Flash

by L. M. Lawson (Paradise Cay Publications, 2000; 256 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Carolyn Teclaw, Annandale, Va.
Good Old Boat, July 2000

Break. Break. Break. Staccato, rushed and emphatic, the words punched across the airwaves . . . “My wife’s gone . . . I was off watch and just got up . . . I don’t know what happened.”

Green Flash is a mystery about what may be the two biggest fears sailors have — losing the person you love overboard and being suspected of having given a little push. When cruisers Jessie and Neal Fox find Jennifer Stover’s body floating in the ocean, it’s just the beginning of a tangled chain of events that leads them from the middle of a passage to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, then on a car trek into the mountains, into Mexico City, and back to the harbor at Zihuatanejo.

Even though suspicion is the driving force behind the story, it’s also a story about doing the right thing, no matter what. Jessie and Neal agree to complete their passage and hand over the body and the video camera that’s attached to it to U.S. authorities. After they anchor in Mexico and find themselves face-to-face with Jennifer’s husband, they realize they may possess the answer to any questions about the woman’s fatal fall.

At that point, what’s right becomes an open question. Neal insists on handing over evidence to the authorities; Jessie thinks they should give the grieving widower the video containing the last moments of his wife’s life. The cruising community, ever gossipy, nosy, and opinionated, is divided and vocal. Individual characters are quick to add pressure and intrigue to the already tense situation.

In true mystery style, the plot is complicated by lots of twists and turns. It includes bandits, Mafia, illegal export of antiquities, sabotage, and a little romance besides. In the end, Jessie and Neal wish they’d never taken their sailboat over the small bit of ocean that held a body.

While I wouldn’t say it was a book I couldn’t put down, Green Flash is a good, solid mystery with the added bonus that it takes place on and around sailboats. Some sailors might prefer that it was more about cruising and less about the mountains and art of Mexico, but then it would be an entirely different tale.

Green Flash is well written and the characters are human and likable, despite a couple of details in the story that might make you wonder if you’ve missed something. What’s most important is that this mystery will probably keep you guessing right up until the end of the book. I’ll be looking for the next adventure of Jessie and Neal that will surely follow this one. Definitely worth reading, pack Green Flash in your duffel and take it along with you for a weekend on the boat.

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We Followed Odysseus

by Hal Roth (Seaworthy Publications, Inc.; 1999; 225; $27.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, July 2000

Hal Roth is perhaps best described as an adventurer — but not the foolhardy type. Hal is also a storyteller extraordinaire. Fortunately for him and his wife, Margaret, who has supported his many dreams, Hal’s had some great stories to tell.

The Roths discovered sailing in 1962, while they were in their 30s. They bought Whisper, their 35-foot Wauquiez Pretorien, in 1966 and set off on an 18,500-mile South Pacific voyage the following year. This earned them the coveted Cruising Club of America Blue Water Medal and resulted in Hal’s first sailing book, Two on a Big Ocean. Not bad for beginners.

Many miles and books later, the Roths, now in their 70s, have discovered another adventurer and retraced his route through the Mediterranean. This adventurer was the Greek, Odysseus, known as Ulysses to the Romans. It’s uncertain whether this man was a mythical hero, a real human enlarged significantly by literary embellishments over the centuries, or an obnoxious ill-mannered braggart and, in Hal’s words, a noble thug. The author of the Iliad and Odyssey, Homer himself may be a legend.

In the book, We Followed Odysseus, Hal and Margaret struggle with fact and fiction and wind up having a two-year odyssey of their own telling the story of Odysseus, intertwined with the reality of that man’s world 32 centuries later. They had to look a long way back. Ruins scarcely exist, and other evidence is harder to come by.

Homer’s stories of Odysseus begin with the Trojan War of 1200 BC. The tale of the siege is reported in the Iliad. Our hero’s travels home are told in the Odyssey. The journey which, at its shortest could have been only 565 nautical miles, took Odysseus perhaps as many as 3,000 nautical miles and 10 years in a gradually diminishing fleetof boats (starting with 616 men and 12 ships) beset by weather, gods, humans, and monsters until only Odysseus is left to return home alone.

The fighting ships of the time were powered by oarsmen or square sails, depending upon the weather, and were useless to windward. Because they were in open boats, had very limited navigational tools, had no sleeping quarters, and needed to provision often, these sailors stayed near shore, which lengthened their journeys. Complications came for Odysseus’ crew when they were blown to sea without charts or a means for getting bearings.

“Why,” Hal asks, “in God’s name would anyone want to go to the trouble of retracing the voyages of a prickly Greek who may not have even existed?” Then he answers his own question, “Because the tales are just true enough to be possible.” Archaeological evidence suggests that at least part of these tales is true. Besides, Hal and Margaret had fun following the route, and the rest of us can have just as much fun speculating with them about the stories which were told, and enjoying the Roths’ modern-day voyage in an ancient cruising ground.

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The $50, 5-Hour Canoe Sail Rig

by William C. Mantis (Mediterranean Avenue Press, 1999; 95 pages; $9.95)
Reviewed by Dale Hedtke, St. Paul, Minn.
Good Old Boat, July 2000

This is not your typical how-to book, as the title may suggest. While there is a well-presented discussion about rigging your canoe for sail, the author takes the reader on a brief romp through the history of naval architecture and provides social commentary on the relationship mankind has had with boats. Its subtitle, A Complete Builder/User/Experimenter/Historical Guide and Philosophical Treatise, is a synopsis of the book’s contents. The promise of practical information on creating a workable, inexpensive, lateen sailing rig for a canoe or other small boat is fulfilled, along with a fascinating exposure to a variety of hydrodynamic theory and design details. For example, did you know a dolphin has a total surface area of 40 square feet?

The goal of a $50 sail rig that can be constructed in 5 hours (50/5) seems very attainable. The author argues that the simplicity and low cost of an easily transported and maintained sailing vessel is preferable to the complexity of a cruising yacht. He does a good job of describing the concept of a sailing canoe and supports his claims that a lateen rig is a practical choice for the 50/5. His materials include a closet rod for the mast, electrical tubing, and other hardware-store metal parts for supporting the mast and holding parts together, exterior plywood for leeboards, some 3/16-inch nylon rope, and an acrylic tent fly for the sail. Fabrication and attachment of the mast, sail, and leeboards are described in clear fashion in the first part of the book. Building and sailing concepts are simply presented and do not presuppose any sailing knowledge on the reader’s part.

The second part of the book presupposes a greater degree of sailing experience and engineering knowledge, but it is not beyond the capability of interested sailors. The arguments are compelling, but not always well supported in the limited space given. Aspect ratios of sails and blades, wind-pressure calculations, discussions of wetted surface area, and the frontal area of dolphins are all mentioned. The information made me think about some of the long-held “truths” I have about certain concepts, and the historical perspective is fascinating.

Bill Mantis is well read on boat design and hydrodynamics. If you’d like a simple guide to creating a practical sail rig for your canoe, buy this book. If you’d like to have your intellect stimulated with discussions about hydrodynamic design, historical, and political commentary, or witty comments about the common condition, buy this book.

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Song of the Sirens

by Ernest K. Gann (Sheridan House Inc., 1968; New edition 2000; 318 pages; $16.50)
Reviewed by Thomas G. Vincent, Catonsville, Md.
Good Old Boat, July 2000

If I had to come up with an alternate title for this book, the only one that could do it justice would be Zen and the Art of Sailboat Maintenance. It has all the same elements: an epic journey, intellectual observations, and practical technical explanations. A romantic, yet thoughtful book, Song of the Sirens is rich in detail, colorful characters, and poignant insights. An unabashed naval romantic, I enjoyed it immensely.

It’s the story of one man’s love affair with the old boats he has owned or chartered. Focusing on his favorites (his 17 sirens), the book explores the fascination man has with the sea and attempts to explain the allure of the vessels he has designed to sail upon her. Like the sirens of Greek mythology who, with enchanting songs, lured sailors to dash their ships against hidden rocks, Gann’s ships are seductresses, tempting and urging him on until he plunges forward into their purchase, unmindful of the dangers that lie ahead. And dangers there are. For the ships he describes are not the sleek beauties pictured in glossy magazines. These are sailing and working vessels with flaws and problems.

All the things we lovers of old boats know so well are here: leaky bilges, recalcitrant pumps, cantankerous generators, and motors that gleefully wait for the most inopportune times to strike. Nor are his crew members always ideal. The tension and frailty of human relations, which stressful situations and life in close quarters intensify, are explored. All this is presented with a wry sense of humor. I particularly loved his description of the boat with two heads that shared common plumbing so that when one was flushed, it drenched the unlucky person sitting on the other one.

Romance there is aplenty in this book. However, like Persig’s book about motorcycles, Gann’s is a distinctly masculine love. His reminiscences tend to focus as much on t’gallants, tops’ls, and typhoons as they do on people. Moreover, Song of the Sirens is not simply an autobiography. The ideas expressed take some thought to understand. While Gann’s digressions into intellectualism might not appeal to those seeking a pure romance or adventure novel, I found them to be a welcome counterpoint to the mundane details of, say, life on board a fishing trawler. Song of the Sirens is well worth reading.

In his introduction, Charles Doane describes the book as one he has read several times, and that it has “spoken to him” each time. I can understand why. It’s truly a story that can stand up to multiple readings. Ernest K. Gann has woven together a wonderful tale about our romantic relationship with the sea and the old boats that carry us there. I was charmed by this book, and I fully expect that it will charm me as much when I re-read it 10 years from now.

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The Annapolis Book of Seamanship

by John Rousmaniere (Simon & Schuster, 1999; 403 pages; $40)
Reviewed by Jon Paulus, Parma, Ohio
Good Old Boat, July 2000

When we go to sea in good old boats, we go to enjoy the romance of sailing. In the preface to The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, John Rousmaniere says that to enjoy the romance fully, we must have “forehandedness.” That’s a state of mind, a kind of mental and technical preparedness. We’d do well to listen to him. With more than 40 years and 30,000 sea miles of experience, he’s a top-gun sailor. He’s also a sailor who’s able to translate his experience to the written page. Credited with 15 nautical titles, John Rousmaniere’s name is spread across the seascape of sailing literature.

This extraordinary book could be called The Chapman’s for Sailors. First published in 1983, it quickly became the yardstick by which to judge other sailing references. The U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Power Squadrons use it as the text for their sailing classes. It’s now available in a third edition. It’s an exceptional place to gain forehandedness.

Charles F. Chapman’s Piloting, Seamanship, and Small Boat Handling is focused on powerboating, while this book will make you a better sailor. It is clearly and logically organized. John starts with basic skills and “bathtub naval architecture.” He includes chapters on weather, health, and safety. Building on these basics, he covers advanced topics like heavy-weather sailing and emergencies. He uses some clever devices to underscore important points.

For instance, a brief section on dead reckoning introduces the chapter on magnetic compasses. Some chapters conclude with useful review quizzes. “Hands on” sections, sidebars with quick-reference facts, are placed throughout the book. The illustrations and graphics are fresh-looking and complement the excellent writing. In this edition, John made some significant changes. He does a superior job of gender-neutralizing the language. For “helmsman” he substitutes the word “steerer.” Sailboats, with a nod to tradition, continue as “she.” Sections on multihulls, equipment updates, and terminology are new to this edition. New section or old, every current sailing topic seems to be addressed.

This book will be immediately beneficial to the beginning sailor. A sailor of medium ability will find a lot to recommend it. The most seasoned sea dog will also find it useful. It will be a life-long reference for any sailor. John Rousmaniere sets himself the goal to provide sailors with the knowledge and skills needed for forehandedness. That, for him, and us, is the basis of confident, comfortable sailing. He certainly accomplishes his goal, for the book is the consummate sailing reference.

But this reference book has heart as well. John Rousmaniere, the sensitive romantic sailor, is in evidence. On almost every page, his love of sailing shines through. This book really leaves behind only one unanswered question: buy one copy, to carry between home and boat, or one for each place?

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Marine Weather Forecasting

by Frank Brumbaugh (Bristol Fashion Publications; 2000)
Reviewed by Larry Rudnick, Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
Good Old Boat, September 2000

Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. This little ditty is pretty useful, and the author of Marine Weather Forecasting knows it also; it’s short and easy to remember. This small book is designed to let you forecast the weather and is intended for the sailor who wants to spend his time sailing but who wants to know what is going to happen today and tomorrow.

This is not a handbook on meteorology nor a guide on weatherfax and satellite imagery. The premise is that with basic tools, the average sailor can predict local weather over the next 24 to 48 hours.

Tools of the trade are the barometer, the thermometer, and the psychrometer. The what? The psychrometer is a tool to measure the dewpoint, which is needed to forecast fog and rain. Other tools are pilot charts to get the average conditions and your own two eyes and brain.

I’m no weather expert, but I do live in the year 2000. The author writes, “Since there are no weather maps at sea and few weather observations available, the yachtsman must depend upon his own abilities to make short-term forecasts for his local area.” Obviously, this skill is desirable and is the reason for the book, but weatherfax is available and weather broadcast sources seem to be ignored. There are charts and diagrams converting inches to millibars, the Beaufort Scale, dewpoint temperature determinations, and others. Basic cloud-shape pictures are shown, although in black-and-white.

In one section, a forecast method is presented using the barometer and current wind conditions. This is useful, but the style is very dry, and following the technique is difficult. In another section, we are treated to a rough drawing of the world’s wind patterns and a description of the monsoons in the China Sea. Interesting, but I doubt if most readers will ever be in the China Sea.

My biggest disagreement is with some of the storm tactics. Oil is recommended to calm stormy seas, although it does say that this may be illegal. Will I ever try this? No, because of the environmental hazard and because many cruising writers say this is ineffective and a waste of time. The assertion is also made that it is the wind, not the waves that present the greatest danger to a small boat. Perhaps you feel differently, but I grew up with the opposite idea.

Marine Weather Forecasting has a good premise and some interesting tidbits. Unfortunately, it wasn’t right for me.

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Captain Jack’s Complete Navigation

by Jack I. Davis (Bristol Fashion Publications, 1999; 235 pages; $34.95)
Reviewed by Larry Rudnick, Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
Good Old Boat, September 2000

Time, speed and distance. Much of navigation starts with these basics, and Captain Jack starts with them, too. This book (really two, or maybe three, books in one) presents navigation in an easy-to-read format grounded (forgive the pun) in the essential basics. He gives us the problem and the means to solve it. Typical navigation books go into a lot of math, but Davis tries to present it painlessly using real examples. He provides practice questions to get you to remember how to work the problem when you need to at 2 a.m. going down the coast coming up to a new harbor.

Interspersed with double-the-angle-on-the-bow and can-dead-men-vote-twice rules are sea stories and sound advice based on the author’s thousands of sea miles. The title says “Complete Navigation.” We get “complete” by the inclusion of basic celestial techniques in the book’s second part. The author admits to having relearned celestial navigation six times with each time being as difficult as the first. It wasn’t until he started teaching it that the material got organized in his head so he could remember it. The geometry of celestial navigation is presented in a simplified way with diagrams. The Nautical Almanac is also explained, although these tables are confusing even for someone who has been through a class. You do “get it” eventually, but it takes some concentrated staring before your aha-so-that’s-how-it-works experience.

The last section relates some of the author’s sea stories. Some deal with navigation, but all address problems at sea. These range from rigging to weather to recalcitrant crew and are entertaining and instructive. They also illustrate some of the advice sprinkled throughout the book, such as when to heave to. They are worthwhile and sometimes very funny.

I liked this book. As a navigation primer, there are enough practical examples and work problems to suit a beginner. The topics covered could be explored in greater depth, but there are other texts for that. It isn’t Bowditch and doesn’t try to be. A good thing; I never read Bowditch with as much enjoyment as Captain Jack.

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Spanish for Cruisers: Boat Repairs and Maintenance Phrase Book

by Kathy Parsons (Adventuras Publishing; 1999; $24.95)
Reviewed by James Baldwin, Fraser, Mich.
Good Old Boat, September 2000

Cruising is often defined as “doing boat maintenance in exotic places.” If you’re planning to sail to Spanish-speaking countries in South America and the Caribbean, there is a new book out by author and cruiser Kathy Parsons that will make the inevitable boat maintenance part of your cruise much less frustrating.

Kathy, who has had years of experience teaching Spanish, compiled this book during a recent cruise of Central and South America. Kathy says, “I’ve seen how frustrating it is for most cruisers to communicate in Spanish-speaking countries. Dictionaries and travel phrase books don’t have th e specific boating and mechanical vocabulary and phrases we need. Ideally, you want to feel comfortable maintaining and repairing your boat with the help of the local economy. You want to be able to take advantage of the inexpensive skilled labor and often excellent local materials available in these countries.

The vocabulary in this book has been extensively tested by cruisers and reviewed by Spanish-speaking mechanics, boatyard owners, canvas workers, and shopkeepers. Spanish for Cruisers provides the essential boating, hardware, and mechanical vocabulary and phrases that are impossible to find in any other single source.

The book is divided into 25 sections, such as Materials, Hardware, Electrical, Talking to Mechanics, Refrigeration, Sails, and Tools. There are also sections on basic conversation, pronunciation, and asking for directions. The format is well laid out with many diagrams, a complete index, an extended back reference cover that can be used as a bookmark, and a soft plastic spiral binding that allows the book to lie flat.

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Boater’s Checklist

by Clay Kelley, edited by Carol-Faye Ashcraft (Bristol Fashion Publications; 1999; 140 pages; $21.95)
Reviewed by Ted Duke, Fairfield, Va.
Good Old Boat, September 2000

Ever reach for a chart only to realize you left it at the pier? Had to go back to get it, which made you late and ruined your whole day? Captain Clay Kelley has checklists to keep that kind of thing from happening. If you use a checklist, there are things you probably never thought of including. If you don’t use a checklist, perhaps this book will help you start. It could lead to less stressful boating.

Captain Kelley has experience on sailing and power vessels and holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-Ton Master’s License. Among the checklists is Getting Underway, which includes last-minute things you should check. The Monthly Maintenance Checklist helps you remember things that you never get around to doing. Guest Briefing covers what you should tell your passengers. Leaving the Boat provides reminders of what you need to do to leave your vessel safe and ready for the next trip. Did you ever forget to turn off the VHF? Engines, batteries, ground tackle, VHF usage, and safety issues are covered. One interesting chapter is Fall Lay-up because in any marina or storage yard you see many boats that obviously weren’t properly prepared for winter storage. Most folks are in a hurry to get the boat put away and there are many who don’t realize there are things they need to do to prepare for exposure to the rougher elements. A simple checklist, properly followed, would add years of life to their equipment.

Captain Kelley offers a chapter on items unique to sailboats. Of course, many of the other checklists have items unique to sailboats or apply equally to sailboats and powerboats. In all, 25 checklists are presented. Also included is an appendix listing suppliers’ and manufacturers’ addresses and phone numbers (Web site URLs and e-mail addresses would have been helpful). Another appendix lists recommended tools and supplies to be carried on board small cruisers, mid-sized cruisers, long-term cruisers, and boats being lived aboard. An excellent glossary rounds out the book.

These checklists are very inclusive and, therefore, are best for a larger, more complex yacht. However, although not all items are applicable to your boat, there is something here for even those trailering a daysailer. The best idea for many boaters may be to prepare their own checklists using this excellent resource as a starting point. I have started to update my checklists already. Boater’s Checklist is required for those who are collecting a complete library of books applicable to their boat and their boating venue.

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Logs of the Dead Pirates Society, A Schooner Adventure
Around Buzzards Bay

by Randall S. Peffer (Sheridan House, Inc. 2000; 256 pages; $23.95)
Reviewed by Tim Speevack, Branford, Conn.
Good Old Boat, November 2000

On a sunny Fourth of July, six high-school students and their instructor join author Randall Peffer aboard the schooner Sarah Abbott for the first of three cruises on Buzzards Bay. The students are participating in the Oceans program, which brings students from all over the globe together to learn about marine biology through classroom and on-water training with experienced field biologists as their instructors. This particular summer, the program will focus on a “thorough and coherent investigation of Buzzards Bay.” It is this investigation that forms the backdrop for the main focus of the book: Randall’s loving and thorough description of Buzzards Bay.

While it’s not intended as a cruising guide, Randall shares some of his favorite hidden anchorages with us, along with his experience from many years of sailing these waters. We also learn about the bay from the students. With each location they visit, we learn about the changing ecosystems in the bay, and projects that are under way to help solve the current problems, like the scallop restoration project on the Westport River. Randall delves into the history of each location, giving insight into each area. He remembers the time the Wampanoag Indians used these beaches as their summer camps and the time the wealthy elite built rambling estates there in the 19th century. And he includes the early whaling ships along with the fisheries of recent years. The combination of these perspectives, young and old, present and past, gives the reader a deeper understanding of the bay than any cruising guide could.

Logs of the Dead Pirates Society also tells the story of the students who sail on the Sarah Abbott. The Dead Pirates Society is a club into which the teenagers are initiated during their cruise. In the head on Sarah Abbott is a plank that present and past crewmembers have signed, leaving an oath cast in wood to live up to the motto “Stir it up!” Though the teenagers are not the main storyline of the book, they contribute a bit of life to what might otherwise be a dry subject. The observations they make throughout the book provide an interesting contrast to Randall’s own and seem to surprise even him. Throughout the book, Randall talks about a lingering “saudade,” or uneasiness, and in the end, I think it is the perspective of youth that resolves his saudade.

The reader cannot help but yearn to explore Buzzards Bay. I found myself reaching for the chart again and again as the story progressed from one harbor to another. Above all else, Logs of the Dead Pirates Society is about the bay. From the inner harbors to the windswept shores of Cuttyhunk, Randall demonstrates his great respect and love for the bay and is passionate about wanting others to feel the same way.

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Living Aboard

by Gordon and Janet Groene (Bristol Fashion Publications, 2000; 246 pages; $24.95)
Reviewed by Rachel Apter and Dion Kolliopoulos, San Diego, Calif.
Good Old Boat, November 2000

As sailors to whom the thought of living on a boat is about as appealing as living in a dark and musty cave, we were wary of this latest guide to living aboard, assuming it would be yet another book touting the wonders of the liveaboard life. Surely the authors of this book will be no different than so many others &endash; painting a rosy picture of the perfect life that awaits those of us who free ourselves from the shackles of everyday life and sail off into the sunset.

This is not that book, and these are not those authors. Living Aboard is a wonderful guide for all who ponder turning a boat into their home, for those who have already made up their minds and are preparing to pack up and do it, and for those who are living aboard. It is divided into practical sections, covering everything from choosing your boat to the equipment needed, unforeseen costs, personal belongings, medical issues, mail, kids, pets, tools, cleaning, safety, security, and how to gracefully return to shore-based living.

Sometimes this attention to detail goes overboard. The chapter on generators and refrigeration systems was overly technical and difficult for the average reader. This discrepancy could be attributed to the differences in writing styles between Gordon and Janet. Readers who are more technically inclined may have an easier time understanding and enjoying those chapters we found dry and difficult.

Aside from those sections, the book was easy to read and full of useful information. It offers options and advice that you may not have considered. It should be kept in your nautical library onboard or on the hard as a reference book for those times when you need a professional opinion. This book is not meant to be read once and discarded; even the physical structure is different than “ordinary” books. The book is bound with a plastic comb, and the cover is heavily laminated. The Groenes intend for this book to be able to withstand the rigors of boating life.

If you are entertaining the idea of moving aboard, this book is a must read. It should be a part of your library because you will refer to it at all stages of your adventure: planning, packing, selling, equipping, moving, living, and going. It’s not a book that will convince you the liveaboard life is for everyone; it’s a book that will help you decide if living aboard is the life for you.

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Boatowner’s Handbook

by John Vigor (International Marine, 2000; 176 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Roy Kiesling
Good Old Boat, November 2000

In the 7,000 years or so since humankind first discovered the joys of “messing about in boats” (in that immortal phrase from The Wind in the Willows), many lessons have been learned to increase the pleasure and convenience of the experience and to enhance the likelihood of surviving it. In his small volume, Boatowner’s Handbook, John Vigor has succeeded masterfully in setting forth the important ones, while producing a book so enjoyable that it can be read for pleasure to pass part of a rainy afternoon at an anchorage or before dropping off to sleep at night.

Starting with the barest fundamental of the most elemental boat (What is the smallest practical length of dinghy to carry two persons? Answer: seven feet), the author goes on to address in concise and orderly chapters a full range of essential topics, bringing it up to the present day with a clear statement of the relative roles of GPS and Loran for navigation. Book publishing has its time constraints: the book was completed too early to know that GPS “Selective Availability” was to be turned off on the first of May, 2000, and not late enough to mention the WAAS augmentation that is coming for GPS, or Digital Selective Calling for VHF. There is still a place for magazines and for dockside news.

What the book does offer is a treasure trove of the sort of information you need in a hurry to get on to the next step of a project. What size pilot hole do you drill for setting a wood screw? (Hardwood 90 percent, softwood 70 percent of the screw diameter.) What is golden advice to take with you when buying through-hull fittings? (“. . . connecting fittings should all be bought at the same time and checked for compatibility.”)

But this is by no means a “cookbook.” For questions such as hull stability and sail center of effort that simply have to be calculated, the formulas are given, but require no more than multiplication and division. In the area of maintenance, the table of adhesives and sealants is excellent, while the author wisely recognizes that he serves you best by giving you the vocabulary to discuss your particular problem with a local expert on the scene.

For those who dream of cruising, there are pages diagraming the annual cycles of world weather patterns and a concise guide to local forecasting with wind vane and barometer. If the boat of your dreams exists only on paper, you will find invaluable diagrams showing the proper dimensions for bunks, eating tables, and nav stations. And finally, a basic provisioning list, with the shelf life of foods and typical weekly consumption per person.

In a recent past life, I was involved in replying to nautical questions that arrived at the office of a major marine supplier. One thorny question prompted me to say that our only hope was to find a grizzled mariner and ask him. I found one and got the answer, and “grizzled mariner” became a watchword in our small group. This book places one as near to your hand as your bookshelf. If I were outfitting a vessel today, a copy of Boatowner’s Handbook would go on the list shortly below the items that the Coast Guard requires to be carried, probably just below the rigging knife.

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Fastnet, Force 10

by John Rousmaniere (W. W. Norton & Company; 1979, 2000; 287 pages; $14.95; paperback)
Reviewed by Donald E. Bowen, Valley Center, Calif.
Good Old Boat, November 2000

Force 10: Wind speed 48 to 55 knots. Very high waves with long overhanging crests. The resulting foam in great patches is blown in dense white streaks along the direction of the wind. The whole surface of the sea takes a white appearance. The tumbling of the sea becomes heavy and shock-like. Visibility is affected. – Beaufort Scale of wind and sea conditions.

Salt water weighs 64 pounds per cubic foot, and a moderately large breaker 6 feet high, 10 feet across, and 6 feet thick carries, at a speed as high as 30 knots, 23,000 pounds of water. The average boat in the Fastnet Race weighed considerably less than that.

Tales of the sea are filled with stories of small boats in large storms. This reprint of John

Rousmaniere’s 1979 book is a true tale of many small boats in a very large storm. The English Fastnet Race of August 11, 1979, raced small and large boats through a very large storm to become, as the subtitle says, “The Deadliest Storm in the History of Modern Sailing.”

Numbers of boats sunk (5), boats abandoned (19), and crew swept overboard and lost (15) become more than just numbers when interspersed with the stories of the survivors clinging to broken boats and desperate rescue efforts. John tells the stories of boats that had an easy time and about boats that lost crew overboard never to be seen again. John also includes stories of heroic rescue efforts by the Royal Navy.

This book is one that should be started when you have time to read it through. It is well written with many personal observations as a crewmember on a boat in the race. He also includes suggestions on what happened, and how many of the problems could be prevented in the future. This updated version includes a comparison to the Sydney-Hobart race of 1998 and what the yacht racing community did or did not learn. It is a must read for anyone venturing beyond the shoreline.

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Installing the Spartite Mast Wedge Replacement System

second in a series, by Pat and Paul Esterle (Cap’n Pauley Video Productions, 2000; 22 minutes; $19.95 plus $3.50 shipping and handling)
Video reviewed by Bill Dimmitt, Sioux City, Iowa
Good Old Boat, November 2000

We’ve all been there. You’ve got a wonderful old boat that’s begging for some serious TLC. But your list of wants and needs is long, and your boating budget is (as always) stretched beyond fiscal reason. What to do? I suspect the answer for Pat and Paul Esterle came in a flash of inspired desperation. As long as they were going to do all this stuff anyway, why not record their results and offer the videotapes to the rest of us? Blunders and Band-Aids aside, they would try to show us the way. Wish I’d thought of it.

Now put yourself in the Esterles’ well-intentioned Docksiders, and you’ll get an inkling of what to expect. Slick i t is not. But it has an appealing, real-world honesty that I hope won’t become too polished as things progress. Paul apologizes for this perceived shortcoming up front, and you know he’s one of us. He makes no pretense about being an expert, and his low-keyed, let’s-do-this-together approach is refreshing and informative.

Watching the videotape, it becomes clear that casting Spartite is really pretty simple. Nearly everything needed comes with the product. The secret, as with so many things, is careful preparation. Not the least of which is getting your mast properly positioned – and this isn’t mentioned in the tape. Spartite is a one-shot deal, so do your homework. Other than that, each step is documented reasonably well and potential users will soon realize that installing Spartite is easier than sailing your boat. I suspect this was Paul’s first experience (why would you need a second?) and, just like the rest of us, he had to open the box and dive in. It’s reassuring that things turned out so well. But the end result can only be rated average, due to minor cosmetic issues that others can avoid. Therein lies the value of this tape: watching it will give you an insight that otherwise could only be gained from experience, and you’ll probably do a better job. My only real criticism is the use of plastic model paint as a final finish. One-part polyurethane is, and should have been, the obvious choice.

So if you’re curious about Spartite, but afraid the project would be difficult, or you might botch the job, this tape may ease your mind. It won’t win awards for cinematography, but it has Spartite’s blessing and that should speak for itself. To its credit, the company also has a Web site <> that provides an abundance of serious technical information. Check it out before buying the tape or the product.

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Basic Boat Maintenance

by Frank Brumbaugh (Bristol Fashion Publications, 2000; 178 pages; $24.95)
Reviewed by Ted Duke, Fairfield, Va.
Good Old Boat, November 2000

This book is not just about maintaining a boat. To quote the author, “This book departs from the limited scope of similar books in that the author’s definition of boat maintenance includes the maintenance of safety, convenience, and healthful conditions for all aboard.” This is not a comprehensive repair manual. Although some repair procedures are included, the idea of the book is to assist boat owners in maintaining their boats on a regular schedule, instead of repairing things as they break. If these procedures are followed, boat owners will face fewer “emergencies” caused by a sudden failure of equipment. The book is written for boaters who cruise extensively, but there is a wealth of information that any boat owner needs to know. The author has included some information applicable only to sailing vessels, and some only to motor vessels, but most of the information is applicable to any vessel.

The Annual or Start of Cruise Preventive Maintenance List adds items not normally checked daily, but which should be checked prior to any cruise. The daily, weekly, and monthly preventive maintenance lists are very complete, with items to check, what to inspect for, and suggested action if you find a problem. Included are tables of wire sizes for DC circuits, wire sizes for AC circuits, the storage life of commonly used foods, and troubleshooting guides for gas and diesel engines. There is an extensive list of tools and supplies, with indications of which are needed for daysailers, mid-sized cruisers, long-term cruisers, and liveaboards.

The book is printed on acid free, mildew resistant, archival quality paper. The covers are laminated. The binding allows the book to lie flat so you can actually use it without holding it. Unfortunately, the maintenance tables, which contain very useful information, have very small type. They are readable, but will be difficult for some readers to see.

In most cases, there probably is not enough detailed information to enable you to correct a problem. The strength of this book is in the excellent preventive maintenance ideas and the checklists that will help you discover a problem before it becomes an emergency. If boaters will use this book as a stimulus to keep ahead of their potential problems, boating will be more enjoyable for them. Basic Boat Maintenance would be a valuable addition to any boat owner’s library.

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