Book Reviews From 2001
Reviews From 2001
- The Boat That Wouldn’t Sink, by Clinton Trowbridge
- Changing Course, by Debra Ann Cantrell
- The Complete Book of Sailing Knots, by Geoffrey Budworth
- Letters from the Lost Soul: A Five Year Voyage of Discovery and Adventure, by Bob Bitchin
- The Best Tips from Women Aboard, edited by Maria Russell
- Celestial Navigation in a Nutshell, by Hewitt Schlereth
- Chesapeake Sails, A History of Yachting on the Bay, by Richard Henderson
- All This and Sailing, Too, by Olin Stephens
- Fun Afloat!, by Theresa Fort
- Cruising for Seniors, by Paul H. Keller
- Creative Ropecraft, by Stuart Grainger
- Gentlemen Never Sail to Weather: The Sequel, by Denton R. Moore
- Sail Repair and Modification and Make Your Own Boat Cushions, by Jim Grant
- White Squall, Last Voyage of Albatross, by Richard Langford
- The Shadow in the Sands, by Sam Llewellyn
- Heavy Weather Tactics Using Sea Anchors & Drogues, by Earl Hinz
- The DK Complete Sailing Manual, by Steve Sleight
- Wooden Boats Volume II, photographs by Benjamin Mendlowitz, text by Maynard Bray
- Adventure, by Joseph Garland
- The Ship and the Storm, by Jim Carrier
- The Warm Dry Boat, by Roger McAfee
- Cruising Guide to the Florida Keys, with Florida West Coast Supplement, by Capt. Frank Papy
- Sail On: A Book for Life, by Susan Sternkopf with illustrations by Glenn Halak
- Summer Studies: Retro Cruising on the Great Lakes, by Ron Dwelle
- Wake of the Green Storm, by Marlin Bree
- Practical Seamanship: Essential Skills for the Modern Sailor, by Steve and Linda Dashew
- Cruising in Seraffyn, by Lin and Larry Pardey
- Nigel Calder’s Cruising Handbook, by Nigel Calder
- Kydd, by Julian Stockwin
- The Essential Boat Maintenance Manual, by Jeff Toghill
- New Plywood Boats, by Thomas Firth Jones
- Success, Doom and Madness: A Voyage for Madmen, by Peter Nichols
The Boat That Wouldn’t Sink
by Clinton Trowbridge. (Vineyard Press, 2000; 192 pages, $19.95)
Reviewed by Jay Burdick, Irvine, Calif.
Good Old Boat, January 2001
She was the sinking ship of all sinking ships: born sinking; the only sailing sieve on this or any other coast; a romantic but impossible craft.”
The Boat That Wouldn’t Sink chronicles the love story of a sailor, his family, friends, and an old, leaky, attention-demanding, 34-foot wooden catboat called Scatt II. She was nearly a wreck when they found her, but in their youthful exuberance, they knew they’d be able to save her, replacing pieces one at a time.
The first time she was launched, she filled with water within two hours. They pulled her back out and patched, filled, and sealed every suspect spot. They found afterward that she leaked only moderately. “If you pumped her for 10 minutes or so every few hours, you could keep even with the flow.” The engine worked occasionally: “Hitting it with a hammer seemed to help.” The sail resembled “a great circus tent” with a 200-foot mainsheet.
What follows is a series of adventures and misadventures (mostly misadventures) and getting to be known by the local Coast Guard, who were called upon to rescue her way too many times. Their only piece of reliable equipment, it seems, was the much-used pump.
Disconcertingly for many sailors, a vivid description of the boat capsizing and the subsequent damage is followed by a section in which they took on paying passengers. They hired a youngster to hide from the passengers below deck, behind closed cabin doors, and continually pump out the water leaking in. Because of luck, and maybe Neptune’s blessing, they never did sink with passengers aboard. The business was successful enough to finance further repairs to the Scatt II and to generally improve her condition.
Scatt II’s crew, consisting of the author, his wife, Lucy, their four children, and miscellaneous friends and relatives grew to love her for all her idiosyncrasies. They sailed, bailed, and explored the eastern coastal areas from New Jersey to Maine for 26 years.
The book is pleasant and easy to read as it tells the story of the Scatt II and her family. Many sailors will identify with the mishaps and humor while the family learns about sailing and their boat. While this book is not Farley Mowat’s classic, The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float, it is enjoyable and just the thing for any wooden-boat owner to pick up after a few hours of bailing.
by Debra Ann Cantrell, (McGraw Hill/International Marine, 2001; 186 pages, $21.95.)
Reviewed by Barb Perry, Huron, Tenn.
Good Old Boat, January 2001
I love skinny little books. They are usually thought-provoking and insightful, with the basic premise not lost and buried under a barge-load of non-informative words. Happily, this one is no exception. It’s well written, concise, and informative.
Debra Ann Cantrell met a challenge for change in her life. In this work, she explains how she and others accepted and embraced major changes in their lifestyles, made successful transitions from “lubbers to cruisers,” and grew on many levels as a result. Because her partner wanted to change to a liveaboard cruising lifestyle (she was not interested, but wanted to see him fulfill his dream), she conducted a five-year study of women who followed the dream and became cruisers with their partners. Using her career talents, Debra has taken the information gleaned from her efforts and created a portable seminar about change – what it is, what it entails, how to face it and cope, and the reward of accepting the risk and making changes.
While the book is intended for women who have been asked to leave land for life on water, it would be appropriate for any person or couple contemplating a major lifestyle adjustment. It is infused with vitality, joy, realism, and a sense of “I-can-do-this” via the quotes, comments, and stories of 100 women.
She offers exercises to pin down what you want and how you feel. The vast array of subjects seems to cover most of the questions, concerns, and benefits that would be important to the average person. A few of the areas discussed are the process of change, steps to becoming an involved boat person, ideas to keep you busy while cruising, and how things will be different (and in some cases more difficult) on a boat. She tackles the multifaceted problem of fear – water, weather, heeling, and the “what-ifs” that go with it. She discusses other emotional issues of family, gain and loss, communication, partner compatibility, and conflict with candid openness but without bashing.
The book seems fresh and honest, and the author is warm, enthusiastic, and encouraging. Debra never tries to tell her reader what to do or how to do it. She offers information, options, choices, ideas, and ways for you to determine which is best for you. She says take your time, make your best choice, and risk the challenge. In her own words, “A life without change is void of vitality, passion, and joy . . . But in order to change we must take risks.” This is a safe risk – read it. Even if you believe nothing changes, everything does – and this svelte volume may help you through the chaos.
The Complete Book of Sailing Knots
by Geoffrey Budworth (The Lyons Press, 2000; 144 pages, $18.95 in U.S.; $28.95 in Canada.)
Reviewed by Donna Palmer, Pleasant Lake, Mich.
Good Old Boat, January 2001
While you were standing on a dock or a pier, did anyone on a boat ever throw the end of a rope to you and expect you to know what to do with it? It is comforting to a singlehanding skipper to trust that the person receiving the line is knowledgeable enough to tie it off to a dock cleat or piling. This is one of many reasons why boaters of all levels of proficiency can make good use of the information within the covers of this book.
Along with being the author of this superbly written and beautifully illustrated, easy-to-follow, instruction guide for 69 of the most useful nautical knots, Geoffrey is the co-founder of the International Guild of Knot Tyers. As only an Englishman can do, he carries a great, but subtle, dry humor through his book.
The author not only leads you through each knot with easy-to-follow instructions and illustrations that include applicable uses for each knot; he then gives a comprehensive guide to the history and development of each knot. This is an enjoyable book about what can be a very boring, dull, and confusing subject.
He states: “It is true that the days are gone when dockyard riggers and sailormen devised and named new knots, bends, and hitches. Today it is the anglers and the climbers who are the innovative knot tyers.” He adds: “Both groups require knots that are strong and secure – only the scale differs.” The book covers numerous tips, terms, and techniques related to tying knots. It then breaks down the knots into five categories: stoppers, bindings, and shortenings; single, double and triple loops; bends; hitches; and other useful knots. The book concludes with the 10 golden rules for knot makers, a complete glossary, a thorough bibliography, and an extensive index. Geoffrey’s ending comment is: “Some knots are thousands of years old and, during the millennium just completed, knotted ropes have facilitated the growth and development of nations in numerous ways.”
As all sailors learn sometime during their boating days, equipment only fails when we are miles out on the water and far away from a repair yard or when the weather kicks up furiously enough to cause a life-threatening situation. In many of the situations we get ourselves into, the best knot &endash; well tied &endash; can come to the rescue. Therefore, I recommend this volume as a prime, essential reference for your boating library. You never know when your knot-tying expertise may be needed down the road or out across the waters of life.
Letters from the Lost Soul: A Five Year Voyage of Discovery and Adventure
by Bob Bitchin (Sheridan House Publication; 2000; 288 pages, $29.95.)
Reviewed by Chuck O’Brien, Leonardtown, Md.
Good Old Boat, January 2001
Attitude is the only difference between an ordeal and an adventure. That’s the adage Bob Bitchin lives by as he ventures across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in his 1981 Formosa 56, the Lost Soul. Highlighting five years and 45,000 miles in a compact, analogy-laden book, Bob takes the reader from California to French Polynesia and back in a mere 83 pages; followed by another 51 pages of cruising down the West Coast and through the Caribbean on to the Azores; and then he squeezes in the Mediterranean and return passages, back to California, in the final 100 pages.
Not surprisingly, the reader will find this book a smorgasbord of all-too-brief summaries of passagemaking, boat maintenance, port descriptions, shoreside excursions, individual biographies, and thoughts on life in general. Other authors may write an entire book on a single topic or region. For sailors who have already followed the exploits/expletives of Bob Bitchin in his numerous Latitudes & Attitudes magazine articles, this book is redundant.
This book is, in most cases, a word-for-word repetition of those articles that have appeared in the magazine since it was founded by the author in March of 1997.
What happens when a 350-pound tattooed biker-turned-sailor goes cruising? Bob, admittedly, trails the wake of an indulgent, decadent, cruising lifestyle. Misadventures range from being in a Costa Rican prison to reckless, near-catastrophic, passes through reefs. I can’t help but believe that this is the image the black-clad biker wants to portray. I suspect Bob Bitchin is as much a savvy businessman as he is a competent cruiser. It takes seamanship and proficiency to salvage a large cruising boat that had been neglected for years, extensively modify and outfit it for extended bluewater passagemaking, then maintain it and cruise halfway around the world. After returning, Bob started a successful new cruising magazine, now in its fourth year. Both efforts take planning, discipline, and business focus.
Unsuccessful at selling the Lost Soul after his return in 1995, the author has recently completed an extensive overhaul of his boat and will, no doubt, be headed offshore again, seeking more of the “bluest, whitest, greenest” islands on earth to party on.
Like a controversial movie that some applaud and others scorn, Letters from the Lost Soul will not have ambivalent readers. If you like the magazine, I recommend the book.
The Best Tips from Women Aboard
edited by Maria Russell (Seaworthy Publications, 2000; 179 pages, $14.95.)
Reviewed by Toi Mize, Arlington, Texas
Good Old Boat, January 2001
Never spend more than 30 seconds fighting a fire. If the fire can’t be extinguished, get everyone off the boat.” This tip from the new book, The Best Tips from Women Aboard, hit me like a ton of bricks. After living on board four days a week for three years on our Islander 34, Seafox, I had never heard or read this vital information.
This 177-page tip-filled book covers many areas of boating from safety, storage, and supply lists to engine winterizing and “pooh boxes” on board for pets. I particularly enjoyed the sections on tried-and-true products, keeping fruits and vegetables fresh (I am having a real problem with lettuce), and cleaning tips. The use of specific product names and where to purchase them was an added bonus. I am eager to try the simple recipes for cleaning products made from basic ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, Clorox, and salt. I have found double-duty supplies to be best on my limited-space boat. Sections on children and pets gave me enough information to make an informed decision about having them . . . or not.
I bogged down in the Engine Room and Fuel chapters. These sections seemed too technical and wordy. I absorbed just enough information to be dangerous. In my opinion, this chapter should be a book of its own with lots of pictures. Although land-locked at this time, I found the tips on cruising south of the border along with communications while cruising most informative and a definite read before you go. I paid real attention to the section on what to expect during a Coast Guard boarding. I find detailed information such as this before the event makes for calm nerves and calm cruises.
This book covers a lot of topics. It gives basic information that would benefit anyone who finds himself or herself aboard. In every book I read I feel it is worth the time spent if I learn one thing I can use. In this quick, easy read I found lots of things.
Celestial Navigation in a Nutshell
by Hewitt Schlereth (Sheridan House, 2000; 144 pages; $13.95.)
Reviewed by Richard Emerson, Lansdale, Pa.
Good Old Boat, January 2001
I was introduced to celestial navigation, in part, by Hewitt Schlereth’s earlier book Commonsense Celestial Navigation, now out of print. I was, therefore, eager but somewhat intimidated by the prospect of reviewing a new work by Schlereth. Unfortunately, this book is a disappointment.
The book opens with an excellent summary of what navigation is all about: “Navigation . . . has two steps: (1) Keeping the [dead reckoning position], and (2) Periodically checking it by other means. In reality, navigation is a process of the one checking the other.”
In short, the job is about making an educated assumption about the boat’s position and then checking the assumption with outside data. In the case of this book, that data comes from sextant work with the sun, moon, planets, and stars.
What follows is a lengthy (for a “nutshell book”) discussion of why celestial navigation works. The discussion brings in spherical trigonometry and presents specialized terms, for example, “great circle,” without defining them. The steps through sight reduction using printed pre-computed tables are direct, if somewhat clouded by theoretical discussions. The table entries in the examples are highlighted in the illustrations by careful use of screening over the tables. Unfortunately, the line illustrations are no more than workmanlike. This book deserves better artwork.
After reading about the importance of keeping the dead-reckoning track, I found the plotting-sheet examples of this critical task received far less discussion than how positions are determined. With a number of lines of position, or LOPs, on a sheet, clarity and organization are vital if the plotting sheet’s information is to be understood. Why Schlereth draws lines toward the sun’s geographic position (the spot on earth where the sun is directly overhead) escapes me. It’s enough to mark the LOP with the time of the shot that produced it and the appropriate symbol for the sun. The process of constructing the LOP is enough to reconstruct a line to the geographic position – something that is rarely needed anyway.
I’ve skipped over the particularly nice choice of using Venus as the introduction to shooting something other than the sun to get an LOP. The concluding discussion of accuracy in navigation is also well worth reading. As a whole, this is a book that tries hard to reach port but seems to be still at sea, foundering in complexities best left for extended discussions of celestial navigation.
Chesapeake Sails, A History of Yachting on the Bay
by Richard Henderson (Tidewater Publishers, 1999; 278 pages; $39.95.)
Reviewed by Rolph Townshend, Annapolis, Md.
Good Old Boat, March 2001
Chesapeake Bay, known to locals as “the land of pleasant living,” has been a major yachting center for well over a century. Its yachting history, which is actually a record of the Bay’s good old boats and the personalities who sailed them, is well documented by sailor/author Richard Henderson in his latest book, Chesapeake Sails. If you have ever been involved with the yachting scene anywhere from Norfolk to Baltimore, it will bring back many fond memories of sailing when the Bay was cleaner and less crowded, the boats were of wood, and the people who sailed them were clearly unique.
Richard Henderson begins by noting that much has been written about the Chesapeake’s workboats and the watermen who run them, but little, if anything, has been written to document the Bay’s yachts and those who race and cruise them. He begins in the late 1800s with racing workboats and the era of the P, Q, and R classes. He weaves in the formation of the Bay’s yacht clubs as he moves on in time to the cruising racers and later to fiberglass yachts.
Although the book’s primary focus is on the various yacht designs and classes, the real memories that are recalled come from the individual yachts, the people who sailed them so successfully, and the many fine old photographs that are included. Whether you know of the Lightnings, Hamptons, Comets, and the like (known in the book as “small fry”) or the larger cruiser/racers like the Oxford 400s, Bermuda 40s, Alberg 30s, the Owens cutters, and the New York 32s, you will find a wealth of history on the many boats that have graced the Bay over the past 100 years. Names like Arnie Gay, Carlton Mitchell, Buzz White, Ralph Wiley, Karl Kirkman, and R. Hammond Gibson are among the many well-known sailors and designers who fill the pages. Boats like Kelpie, Dyna, Running Tide, Royano, Vamarie, and Brown, Smith and Jones will also jog old memories. Combining the boat descriptions with the skippers who drove them and the short tales of little-known events, makes this a most interesting record of the history of Chesapeake Bay yachting. The photographs alone are worth the cost of the book.
If your past includes Chesapeake Bay racing, you will find this book a joy to read and own. If you just want to know a bit of the Bay’s yachting past, you might simply want to borrow a copy from a library.
All This and Sailing, Too
by Olin Stephens (Mystic Seaport Museum, 1999; 280 pages, $45.)
Reviewed by Ted Brewer, Gabriola Island, B.C.
Good Old Boat, March 2001
Olin Stephens is a brilliant and largely self-educated designer who nevertheless became one of the past century’s most distinguished and revered naval architects. In 1927, at the age of 19, with his partner Drake Sparkman, he founded the prestigious firm of Sparkman & Stephens. Later Olin’s brother, Rod, joined them to look after things in the field, and together they reigned supreme in the world of ocean racing and the America’s Cup contests for more than 50 years, from the early 1930s to the 1980s.
Stephens-designed yachts were second-to-none in the racing field, whether they were inshore 6-, 8-, and 12-Meter sloops or bluewater cruiser/racers. Olin’s designs ran the gamut from the little Lightning sloop to the lovely schooner, Brilliant. So many famous yachts have come from his fertile imagination that there is room here to mention but a few: Dorade, Stormy Weather, Baruna, Finisterre, and, of course, the famous 12-Meter yachts, Vim, Constellation, Freedom, and so many, many others.
Not only were the S&S yachts fast, they were strong and beautiful as well, being designed in an era when ocean racers were also cruisers between races, and their crews were enthusiastic amateurs, rather than paid professionals. The numerous photos and drawings are testimony to a past era when yacht design was as much art as science. In Olin’s words, “. . . I feel doubt whether our technological and scientific learning has given us a better sport or a happier world. I fear we have lost.” I agree wholeheartedly with him as, I’m sure, do many other sailors.
The book is a wealth of information about many S&S designs and a virtual history of ocean racing and America’s Cup challenges over the years. It took me back to my days with Bill Luders in the 1960s when I met so many of the men mentioned in the book and began my practical education in yacht design. A very pleasant surprise for me was when I turned to page 128 and saw that Olin Stephens and I had the same taste in cars; I still think fondly of my old Riley, despite its faults.
I cannot remember when I have enjoyed a yachting book more. This is history that reads like a Tom Clancy novel, and it contains a wealth of wisdom and insight as well. Every yachting enthusiast should put this book in his library. I guarantee it will be read and reread many times.
by Theresa Fort (FortWorks Publishing, 2001; 170 pages, $19.95)
Review by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, March 2001
Theresa Fort, a homeschooling mother, and her children, Amy and Alex, the “homeschoolees,” have assembled a delightful boating-activity book for families who enjoy being together on the water. Dad, Chuck Fort, also made significant contributions to this family project which combines the foursome’s favorite learning activities in 170 pages of action and entertainment.
This book can be part of any homeschooling curriculum for liveaboards, but it need not be. It’s useful any time families are on the water together, whether for weekends or vacations. It might just be the thing to keep stashed in a locker for the times that grandchildren or other small visitors come aboard. “Bored? Nothing to do? Not a chance on this boat!,” you’ll say.
The pages are full of energy, with lively graphics, and the activities have been tested and approved by Amy and Alex at various ages and stages of development. Get the book and get ready for the coming boating season by stocking up on a few handy supplies recommended within. Then anticipate a fun-filled season for kids on your boat from ages 5 to 75.
Cruising for Seniors,
by Paul H. Keller (Sheridan House, 2000; 160 pages; $17.95)
Reviewed by Ken O’Driscoll, Waterloo, Ontario
Good Old Boat, March 2001
There used to be a bumper sticker, popular in marinas, that said “Old Sailors Never Die, They Just Go a Little Dinghy.” The premise of this book is that they should go cruising offshore. The author and his wife did, embarking on a circumnavigation when they were newly wed and in their sixties. He has written about those travels in two other books (Sailing the Golden Sea and Sailing the Inland Seas), and in the current book provides a dozen chapters of advice, primarily intended for senior citizens whose “mental attitude is the primary deterrent” keeping them from setting off into the cruising life.
The first six chapters discuss topics of importance for would-be cruisers, including whether to go or not, and mostly focus on the choice of boat and its attributes. While it is difficult to find fault with any of the opinions expressed by the author, few of them relate explicitly to seniors’ issues. He does call attention to the sailing consequences of the lessening of physical endurance and strength to be expected when one passes 60 (don’t push yourself or your boat), and also to the loss of balance and its importance in a seaway (grabrails everywhere!). Otherwise, most of the advice is such that the book could just have easily been entitled Cruising for Inexperienced Sailors Who Are Safety Conscious and Not in a Hurry.
Several of the later chapters in the book are written by experts on the topics of weather, boat electrical systems, and medicine. One, by the author’s wife, Emily, looks at cruising from a woman’s perspective. None of these chapters address any issues that are unique to seniors, except for the one on medicine, Medicine for Geriatric Cruising, by Mark Anderson, M.D. If you are a senior and about to go cruising offshore (or even coastwise), you would do well to read this chapter – it might even justify the purchase of the whole book. For younger sailors, this chapter might frighten you into making your parents abandon their cruise – don’t do it, they’ll survive.
In sum, if you are a senior, want to go cruising, and know little about sailing, this book might be a good place to start reading. At a minimum, you’ll also want to read the books offered as selected references by the author in his last chapter.
by Stuart Grainger (Sheridan House, 2000; 128 pages; illustrated; $10.95)
Reviewed by Dan Smith, Key Largo, Fla.
Good Old Boat, March 2001
When Creative Ropecraft was first published in 1975, there was limited written material on the subject. During the next 25 years, an awareness of the possibilities for intricate, but functional, ropework proliferated. Perhaps Stuart Grainger’s original book stimulated this interest, but he passes much of this credit on to the International Guild of Knot Tyers, an organization formed in 1982.
The author has diligently laid a foundation for the novice knot tyer, while at the same time providing a concise refresher course for those who have already been to sea in ships. Essentials such as splicing an eye loop, joining two ends together for a short or long splice, then constructing the handy monkey fist to weight down a heaving line, are just a few of the stimulating exercises offered.
As the reader advances beyond the basics, he is introduced to the Turk’s head, probably the most important of all single-strand fancy knots. Starting with a three-lead, four-bight, Stuart Grainger works his way up to the beautiful six-lead, five-bight example. I had learned to tie this years ago by using another author’s drawing and must admit to a rampant frustration trying to decipher where the leads should go. Creative Ropecraft greatly simplifies the process.
Later, the legendary star knot is introduced. The author counsels patience in learning to tie this most distinctive knot. Without question, the pictures offer a fail-safe entry into laying up the star knot.
This book offers instructions for coachwhipping. There are unlimited designs developed by grafting, half-hitching, and spiral hitching. Handsome drawings of netting show neat methods of covering rounded objects with overhand knots and sheetbends. The sheetbend is the primary knot used in making fishing nets. Details of these are greatly magnified to enhance understanding and simplify direction. The book concludes with six practical projects: a lanyard for a knife or whistle, a hammock, a rope-edged serving tray, a table lamp, and a door knocker. Each is meticulously illustrated with written instructions.
The cover itself is a rich gold color, attesting to the real treasure that lies within. The tradition of maritime artcraft with dreams of square-riggers will live on as long as there are people like Stuart Grainger to lead us through life with readable and workable books like Creative Ropecraft.
Gentlemen Never Sail to Weather: The Sequel
by Denton R. Moore (Prospector Press, 2000; 236 pages, $15.00)
Reviewed by Myrna Farquhar, Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Good Old Boat, March 2001
I really appreciated the merits of this book when I didn’t have it during a recent trip to the Caribbean. The Sequel has nothing to do with gentlemen and/or sailing to weather. It is, however, an indispensable resource for cruisers.
Suppose you are chartering a boat. This is the perfect companion to help you out of indelicate spots. Forgot to charge the battery? No problem, here’s a recipe for restarting the diesel in spite of those missing volts. Knotmeter’s broken? Never mind, construct a Dutch log to measure your speed. Mainsail’s spilling all over the place on takedown? Here are several ways to rig lazy-jacks.
Do you know the difference between an embassy and a consulate? Why fold, rather than roll, charts? Why not to splice an eye in the end of a bucket lanyard?
All these tidbits are not offered free of opinion. With plausible reasons, Denton Moore suggests: replace refrigeration with a pressure cooker; don’t use an automatic bilge pump; the best anchor rode is not all-chain; why you shouldn’t carry a life raft; and more.
There are chapters on picking the right boat, outfitting, vessel management, seamanship, weather, piloting and navigation, and traveling out of the USA.
This book is a gem. Drawn from questions fielded at speaking engagements across the country, it is relevant and to the point. I won’t go cruising without it.
Sail Repair and Modification and Make Your Own Boat Cushions
by Jim Grant (Sailrite; CD-ROM format $9.95; Videotape format $15.95)
Reviewed by Diana Nelson, Yellow Springs, Ohio
Good Old Boat, March 2001
Looking for a good boat project? How about replacing those sad-looking boat cushions or adding a set of reef points to your sail? Sailrite’s proposition has always been that if you have a sewing machine you can do your own sail and canvas work, and they are right. Volume 1 of Sail Repair and Maintenance (available in video or CD) covers simple repairs such as mending a tear in the sail or batten pocket, and adding a window or reef points. The Make Your Own Boat Cushions edition covers the whole process, from selecting the right foam to inserting it in the cover.
Both CDs (or videos) have good tips, such as using an awl to pre-drill holes for hand sewing a sail and using a stapler to baste the pieces of the cushion covers. The process of inserting the ring at a cringle is particularly well covered, as is the process of assembling the boxing, piping, and plates for a cushion cover.
Jim Grant is very reassuring at the complicated parts, and he warns the viewer when not to take short cuts. Just as I was thinking that I could get away with not putting basting tape around the curved corners of the sail window, he explains why that would be a bad idea.
There are some problems, however. The first is a usability problem. Although inserting the CD launches the player, I had trouble starting the video portion. The player’s start button does not start the first segment; the viewer must click the bullet to the left of the title text. Not obvious.
In the discussions, there are places where a little more detail would have been helpful. How should the intermediate reef patches be positioned? How much longer than the tear should the patch be? There is a four-minute segment on sizing foam for cushions that concludes that you should just follow the rules in whatever book you are using. (Some rules of thumb are provided.)
Some of the video production problems are distracting. Since the filming was done in the Sailrite loft, you can hear telephones ringing and conversations in the background. The graphics/text in the batten repair section are illegible, and some of the superimposed text is hard to read. And one safety issue: the demonstrator in one segment is shown pulling the electric knife toward his thumb and the power cord.
If you have a computer, the CDs are a better value than the videotapes. They also make it easy to choose a single topic, rather than having to watch an entire video. If you are thinking about taking on one of these projects, these videos may be just the thing you need to build your confidence and show you how it’s done.
White Squall, Last Voyage of Albatross
by Richard Langford (Bristol Fashion, 2001; 126 pages, $17.95)
Reviewed by Janet Groene, Deland, Fla.
Good Old Boat, March 2001
Not until a year ago did I see the manuscript, yellowed and frayed, that had been forgotten in Dick Langford’s office for 30 years. I cried when I read it then and cried again recently when I turned the last page of the finished book, White Squall, Last Voyage of Albatross. Some readers will remember the sinking of the school ship with the loss of four students and two adults in the early 1960s. The movie White Squall brought the story to today’s audiences. Now Dick Langford, who was the English teacher on board the brigantine, chronicles the real voyage — not the Hollywood version.
Typical of books published by Bristol Fashion, this one is plain-jane, with black and white photos that could be clearer and spiral binding that is practical but not pretty. Covers are tough, acid free, mildew resistant, archival quality paper for a long life on service at sea. The production could be more slick, but the content succeeds nevertheless.
As the voyage proceeds, you get to know the kids and crew and care about them. You join them in their hijinks and great discoveries. You’ll feel the awe of starry nights, sun-toasted shores, and days under sail. The book has humor, sweetness, and great poignancy because you know from the start that lives and the ship will be lost in the end. Dick’s own story of being dragged down with the ship and escaping only at the last second is chilling, and his numbed grief at the loss of life is achingly credible.
I admit to special prejudice because Dick Langford has been a close friend for 20 years. Years ago, he showed my husband and me brilliant color slides he took during the voyage. They survived because they had been shipped home before the sinking. Even then we didn’t know he had written a book. Sadly, too few of the photos are used in the book, and they are converted to black and white, but the originals are going to Mystic Seaport for posterity.
This is a compelling armchair travel yarn that will resonate with nostalgia buffs, anyone who has cruised the Caribbean and Galapagos, and all those who love the sea.
You’ve seen the movie. Now read the book.
The Shadow in the Sands
by Sam Llewellyn (Sheridan House, 1999; 288 pages, $14.95)
Reviewed by Homer Shannon, Windham, N.H.
Good Old Boat, May 2001
Reading Erskine Childers’ classic marine spy novel, The Riddle of the Sands, is not a prerequisite for enjoying Sam Llewellyn’s new sequel, The Shadow in the Sands, but it will enhance your enjoyment of it.
Set in the German lowlands on the North Sea in 1903, The Shadow in the Sands picks up the plot where Riddle left off. The Germans are planning an invasion of England using the shallow, commercially insignificant but unmonitored harbors of the East Friesland region. Carruthers, one of the two main characters in The Riddle of the Sands, has circulated stories of German activities in the region to the British Admiralty and English press, but there is little concern over the reports.
One person who takes the reports seriously is the Duke of Leominster. Funded by the Duke, a three-man team, disguised as bird-watching yachtsmen, is dispatched to the German coast to confirm the military activities. A complicated series of events follows.
Those who read both books in sequence will recognize the dramatic contrast in the styles of the two works. The Riddle of the Sands was published in 1903 about events that took place in 1902. The Shadow of the Sands continues the story in 1903 but was published in 1998. Literary styles and expectations for adventure stories have changed significantly in the nearly 100 years between their publication dates.
In the original, the most dramatic events are tame by today’s standards. In Llewellen’s sequel, the reader witnesses a beating, a murder, two sexual encounters, and a collision with the Kaiser’s yacht, all in the first 75 pages, before the real action begins.
The difference between modern morals and those of Victorian times is significantly, and somehow embarrassingly, apparent in the two books. In the original, the hero hints at longings for the heroine but never even kisses her. In the sequel, the hero manages to seduce the heroine in a lurid and unlikely affair that would never have made it past the censors in 1903. The use of casual and explicit sexual events in a Victorian setting does not seem appropriate.
The Shadow in the Sands moves at a much faster pace and has a much more complicated (if implausible) plot than its predecessor. This makes for fast and exciting reading but the gentle, almost surreal, mood of the wanderings of Carruthers and Davies in the original is largely lost. Reading The Riddle of the Sands before The Shadow in the Sands will provide the reader with a lasting mental image of this very unusual maritime region, which enhances the more dramatic images conjured up in the newer book. Or you can skip the original and read only The Shadow in the Sands; just accept it as a good Tom Clancy-style thriller set in an earlier age.
Heavy Weather Tactics Using Sea Anchors & Drogues
by Earl Hinz (Paradise Cay, 2000; 164 pages, $19.95)
Revieweded by Terry Thatcher, Portland, Ore.
Good Old Boat, May 2001
Several years ago I circumnavigated Vancouver Island. An experienced friend urged me to cancel the trip: “Stay inside, behind the island,” he admonished. “Inside, you might lose your boat, but out there, you can lose your life.” He was right, of course; and of course I went anyway. That summer, the weather and ocean treated me kindly.
Lucky sailors have little practical experience in dealing with gale conditions. Prudent sailors prepare themselves and their boats as best they can. They have to learn what to do by reading the experts, questioning those who have weathered storms, and practicing, if possible, before a storm hits. Then they have to improvise when all hell really does break loose.
Long-distance sailor Earl Hinz has just revised and re-issued his contribution to the literature of storm seamanship: Heavy Weather Tactics Using Sea Anchors & Drogues. Hinz’s underlying premise, surely correct, is that cruising boats are rarely big enough and rarely carry sufficient crew to confront a major storm with “active tactics.” But he also knows enough about storm conditions to understand that not many boats, and even fewer humans, can withstand the conditions imposed by the often-prescribed passivity of “lying ahull.” Instead, his answer is to throw out a sea anchor and meet the waves head-on. Or, if conditions allow you to run for it, tow a drogue to slow the boat and retain control.
Of course, in practice it isn’t so simple, and Earl gives us history, anecdotes, and practical direction on this critical topic. The book ought to be studied by anyone who contemplates an offshore voyage. The section on wave dynamics provides a particularly helpful summary of more detailed analyses found elsewhere. The discussion of life raft sea anchors will make you rethink your reliance on integral “ballast bags.” His many practical suggestions will help you make decisions about your own storm tactics, including ideas you might have overlooked even after substantial thought or experience. Have you considered whether your wheel steering system, even if tied off, can be damaged by the backward movement of a vessel lying to a storm? Do you have a well-designed riding sail?
While you can expect to learn plenty from this book, don’t expect to be entertained by a “good read.” Earl’s material needs organizing. He occasionally provides contradictory advice, for instance when discussing the best speed for running with a drogue.
You may be left questioning whether his prescriptions are the right ones. No scientists are on the ocean conducting controlled tests of how a tired crew on a battered small boat can best survive an offshore gale. Hinz recommends that you also read Shewmon’s Sea Anchor and Drogue Handbook and Victor Shane’s Drag Device Data Base. He is absolutely correct. If you want to go offshore, study them all: Cole’s Heavy Weather Sailing, the Pardeys’ Storm Tactics Handbook, and Dashew’s Surviving the Storm. If you still want to put to sea in a small boat, God be with you.
The DK Complete Sailing Manual
by Steve Sleight (DK Publishing, Inc., 1999; 320 pages; $30)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, May 2001
Steve Sleight, previously involved in creating another sailing manual, Bob Bond’s Handbook of Sailing, has now created his own version of a sailor’s how-to guide with his Complete Sailing Manual. Although it promises on the cover to deliver “everything you need to master the sport” there’s no substitute for time spent on the water. Yet it is a book that anyone, no matter how skilled, can pick up and benefit from reading.
The first half of the book focuses on dinghy sailing and racing skills. The second half focuses on cruising, navigation, weather, boat care, and safety. It is well illustrated, making the book valuable as a training text.
In between expected material – helmsman and crew, turning forces, tacking, jibing – are the nuggets of gold reminding us why we’re out there sailing and telling us the author is one of us: “The reality (for most of us) is that sailing sometimes involves getting wet and cold, occasionally scares the hell out of you, and usually costs more than we will admit to our nearest and dearest. Why do we do it? Because more than most other activities, it offers a reward that, if it could be bottled, would be worth a fortune. Satisfaction at learning new skills (and you never stop learning aboard boats), and being responsible for ourselves in a potentially hostile environment are just part of the reward.”
And he makes this further point: “There is no doubt that it is best to start sailing young – not because it is difficult to learn to sail at a later stage, but because you waste less time missing out on the joys of sailing.”
Published in Britain, this book has a few terms that remind us that we no longer share a common mother tongue, but it is clear that sailing has made comrades out of us all, just the same.
As noted, this book won’t substitute for on-the-water experience. But it’s a good companion. Everything you need to master the sport? Probably not, but it might be part of what you need.
Wooden Boats Volume II
photographs by Benjamin Mendlowitz, text by Maynard Bray (W.W. Norton & Company, 2000; $49.95)
Reviewed by Art Hall, Pownal, Maine
Good Old Boat, May 2001
I clearly recall the occasion that triggered my love of wooden boats. It was 1967, a time before locks and “No Admittance” signs. I was 13 years old, and the place was Seth Persson’s boat shop in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. My brother and I were poking around and stepped into a room with a good-sized sailing yacht under construction. I remember standing ankle deep in shavings and peering up at the graceful thing before us, my nostrils filled with the sweet smell of freshly worked wood. The hook was set. How, then, could I resist a work so replete with the sights, sounds, and smells of wooden boats as Wooden Boats Volume II, by Benjamin Mendlowitz and Maynard Bray?
Open the pages and you almost expect to smell varnish, gleaming varnish, perfectly applied varnish, varnish like I could only wish to have on my own boat. But not all boats are floating palaces of perfection, and Volume II acknowledges working vessels that don’t have the time or exchequer to attain a yacht-like finish. These boats are no less beautiful in their own way, and no harbor scene is complete without them. The writer and photographer also remind us that a finely wrought vessel does not have to be big to be beautiful. Boats as seemingly mundane as a canvas-covered canoe can excite our senses just as well as opulent Fife yachts of the Edwardian era.
All the boats in Volume II are wonderful in and of themselves; however, it is the talent of Benjamin Mendlowitz that brings out the best in them. He possesses a remarkable ability that balances subject, light, clouds and sea state. There’s just something about those late-day, low-light pictures that make me stop and pause. I only wish I could row my peapod around the Concordia yawl Starlight and admire her from other angles.
His wonderful photographs are further enhanced by the dialog of Maynard Bray. Maynard’s words are always carefully chosen, well researched, and convey a certain reverence for the boat he is describing.
If the photographs and their accompanying text seem familiar, it’s because they have previously graced the monthly pages of the WoodenBoat Calendar. If Santa has faithfully given you a calendar every year for as long as you can remember, you probably have many of these pages already tacked up on the walls of your shop. What Wooden Boats Volume II lacks in originality it more than makes up in its beautiful coffee-table format, perfect for those who would rather not search the walls of a dusty shop for inspiration.
Ownership of this book is a frivolity. This is a book you buy for hedonistic pleasure. So when life’s little problems seem to get you down, let me suggest that you brew yourself some tea and run through the pages of Wooden Boats Volume II. It’s the next best thing to being aboard.
by Joseph Garland, (The Curious Traveller Press, revised edition 2000; 200 pages, $29.95).
Review by Sandy Larson, Lakeland, Minn.
Good Old Boat, May 2001
The dory fishing schooner, Adventure, was well named, for she had many. The book begins with the description of one that was a bit too scary. The “Old Lady,” in her 22nd year, was 50 miles off Cape Cod with 105,000 pounds of fish in the hold, a frighteningly huge leak gushing into the engine room, and a 30-knot gale to add excitement to the situation. Only one of the bilge pumps worked. Still, there were coffee cans, buckets, and haddock baskets, and every crewmember worked to pour out the sea as fast as it flowed in – or almost as fast. That was a close one . . .
This book describes every aspect of the Adventure’s working life, from the 1920s through the 1980s. While learning her history, we also learn a bit about her captains and crew, and the techniques and trials of early 20th-century fishing on the North Atlantic banks. The text seems disorganized but is well-documented, with hundreds of first-person accounts and newspaper quotes. Perhaps best of all are dozens of wonderful photographs from the period that bring the stories to life. And the stories abound.
There are the stories of captains and crew who sailed on Adventure. Captain Jeff Thomas had her built along the lines of his favorite knockabout schooner, a design by Tom McManus, at the James & Son yard in Gloucester. She was launched in 1926 and sailed by Captain Jeff until he died in Adventure’s pilothouse in 1934. Captain Leo Hynes was next until he retired her as a fishing schooner in 1952. And there are stories about many of the crew members, even the engineroom sea-dog, Skippy.
My favorites are the tales of the perils of fishing the “spots” on the North Atlantic banks. Imagine being set into the sea with a dory filled to the top with tubs of trawl. Perhaps, if the weather wasn’t too bad, the drop might be made “on the fly,” with the schooner sailing at 8 or 9 knots. There you are, in the North Atlantic on a January day or in pea-soup fog in an 18-foot boat. These flat-bottomed craft are a treat to row. Mike O’Hearn, one of Adventure’s crew, felt he had the right trick, “I thought I could always keep her on her bottom unless the wind lifted her right out of the water. I could always bring her bow-to, but if it was too big a sea it was not good to bring her too sharp; just cant her to it a little.”
Once you’d baited the hooks and set out the line, you might get a smoke or two. Now the backbreaker. If you’re the bow man, you brace yourself and with every ounce of your strength, haul in the huge, writhing fish (usually haddock or halibut, sometimes cod) hand-over-hand. The stern man grabs them, sends them off into the bottom of the dory, and rebaits the hooks. Then, do it again, until you’ve filled your small craft to the top. Finally, in spite of the fact that you are bone tired, you pull yourself aboard the schooner and join the crew dealing with the slippery mess. When the last fish is cleaned, the hold iced, the last trace of the cleanings sent back to the sea, the bloody deck hosed down, dinner bolted and coffee gulped, it’s time for the second set. If you’re lucky, that’s done by midnight, and you can collapse into your bunk with all but oilskins and boots on, only to be roused at 4 a.m. to begin your second 24-hour day. The caption below one photo reads: “Do we love fishin’? Wal, most o’ the time.”
And then there was the time off Sable Island . . . but it’s time to let you read these stories yourself. They are well told in this book and, along with its great photographs, give you an intimate taste of life aboard Adventure. You’re sure to enjoy it.
The schooner Adventure, a National Historic Landmark, is being restored and preserved by Gloucester Adventure, Inc. as a tribute to the fishing heritage of the city of Gloucester, Mass., and surrounding Essex County. She is a 122-foot historic dory fishing schooner built in 1926 in Essex, Mass. Built of white oak and yellow pine, she was fashioned as a “knockabout” – a design without a bowsprit. Adventure is being returned to active sailing as a floating classroom for maritime and environmental education. For more information, visit the Web site at <http://www.schooner-adventure.org>; call 978-281-8079; or write P.O. Box 1306, Harbor Loop, Gloucester, MA 01931.
The Ship and the Storm
by Jim Carrier (McGraw-Hill/International Marine, 2000; 272 pages; $24.95.)
Reviewed by Reese Palley, Key West, Fla.
Good Old Boat, July 2001
The loss of the schooner Fantome, in which 31 people died, is a tragedy that has become painted with passion and prejudice. It is hard to imagine that a book could be written that would not fall into a posture of obfuscatory defense or egregious attack. She was lost in Hurricane Mitch in October 1998, the worst hurricane ever recorded in terms of lives and property destroyed. Mitch sank the Fantome and erased the physical progress that Hondurans took a generation to build.
This story, in which opinions of responsibility and judgment are widely divergent, could only be chronicled with an even hand by a mature and able journalist trained to report, not to judge. I confess that I could not give the devil his due, whether the devil be the human owners, as some believe, or whether, as others claim, that it was that old devil the Sea itself that called the dirge. But Jim Carrier, in his exhaustive and even-handed reportage of the death of the Fantome in his book, The Ship and the Storm, carefully records the lessons that must be learned from this tragedy. The book reads with the force and flow of a work of fiction. The people, both on and off the beleaguered vessel, are three-dimensional, real blood-and-muscle folk with families, hopes, and husbanded Christmas gifts gone now to the deep with them.
The vessel, built by an English duke, never achieved the nobility that had been built into her. When she was lost, she had been reduced to the fakery and the fantasy of pale and pulpy landlubbers desperately reaching for adventure. The ship is revealed in the book so exquisitely that the reader can walk through her decks and companionways as through a hologram and follow the desperate movements of officers and crew attempting to save an unsaveable ship.
What is best reported in The Ship and The Storm is the coalescence of bad judgment and bad luck. All who watched and waited on shore prayed to the very last random twist of the blindly malicious storm that the vessel might somehow have survived. In the end, the Fantome sank somewhere off the coast of Honduras, where she was inexorably blown into shoal water. With the winds shrieking at 150 miles an hour and seas pushed up vertically to heights that could have topped the masts of the 300-foot vessel, she went down so suddenly that no cry for help was heard. It is a cautionary tale for charterers who put their lives in the hands of others who may well be businessmen and absentee landlords.
But it is also a book that should be read for the sheer power of a sea tale of horror, greed, ineptitude, screaming winds, and towering bad luck. There will be other books on this subject, but there is not likely to be another that tells the tale so fully, so graphically, and so free of judgment.
The Warm Dry Boat
by Roger McAfee (McAfee publisher, 2001; 120 pages; $24.95.)
Reviewed by Bob Wood, Hinsdale, N.Y.
Good Old Boat, July 2001
If you’re willing to dig a little, this book contains a wealth of practical knowledge on creating a comfortable boat. Its composition and structure are slightly different from the average non-fiction work, and there are a few awkward passages reflecting the author’s concentration on substance rather than style and polish. These only serve to emphasize the no-nonsense, real-world experiences of a lifetime on the water. For those who are going down to the sea for a weekend or a season, this book will make your bobbing world a whole lot better.
This book is a large format (8 1/2 x 11 inches), soft-bound, with 120 pages. Its style is elementary and straightforward in its sequencing. At first glance, it appears quite basic, but look further. There is actually a lot of information for you, whether you’re a world cruiser or merely contemplating a boat purchase.
Roger’s premise is excellent: that a warm and dry boat is the key to successful cruising in temperate and in tropical climates. The book sets forth a comprehensive stem-to-stern course of action to reach that goal. Additionally, it covers several ancillary comforts like water systems and appliances.
Through the step-like chapters, design elements such as construction, shade, heating, cooling, ventilation, and retro-fitting are covered. Many of the author’s experiences are used to illustrate the solutions. You’ll find solid, basic instructions on components often overlooked in the rush to the sea: neglected gaskets on windows, hatches, and doors are excellent examples.
There are innovative topics like fiberglass insulation and water heating that will make you pause and rethink your boat’s abilities. And there are concepts like foredeck shading and evaporative cooling that suddenly make a lot of sense. Several of Roger’s observations and remedies are unique; you won’t find them anywhere else. The rationale is clear, and the methodology is invaluable.
I could find just two minor points to disagree with. The first is his wholehearted embrace of diesel-fueled stoves . . . my experience has not been nearly as favorable. The second is not including a section on ozone or ion generators for combating mildew.
If you’re looking for a frothy digital-wireless-techno-speak piece, it’s not here. However, if you want an instructional book that will save you literally hundreds of groaning hours battling stifling humidity and creeping mildew, I’d recommend The Warm Dry Boat for your workbench. This one is not for gathering dust on the bookshelf but will be useful as your personal trainer to make happen all the good things that are cruising.
Cruising Guide to the Florida Keys, with Florida West Coast Supplement
by Capt. Frank Papy. (Papy publisher, revised 11th edition, 2001; 260 pages; $19.95.)
Reviewed by Roland Barth and Barbara Bauman, Tavernier, Fla.
Good Old Boat, July 2001
“We went sailing not to escape from life but to keep life from escaping us.”
These opening words in Frank Papy’s latest edition of his Cruising Guide to the Florida Keys, with an accompanying photo of his wife at the wheel, capture perfectly the essence of sailing the marvelous blue-green waters of the Florida Keys.
This comprehensive 11th edition builds solidly upon the accumulated rich experience of Capt. Papy’s 24 years of cruising the Keys from Miami to the Dry Tortugas, and up the west coast of Florida.
We have lived and sailed in the Keys for many years. On our passages, we have relied on a salt-soaked 5th edition of the guide. So we are intimately familiar with the waters and the book. Why indulge in this revised 11th edition? Well, because in the Keys, the beauty and the waters are eternal; but civilization, like the sandy channels, is ephemeral.
In addition to the usual detailed charts and information on anchorages, currents, bridge heights, and compass bearings, we find that we now should ask for Kay Carter instead of Lynda Gargano at the Holiday Isle Marina on Windley Key when calling ahead to the dockmaster for reservations. Other useful additions include a table of GPS waypoints for the Keys, a listing of where one can swim with the dolphins, instructions on how to anchor Bahamian style (useful when one needs to limit swinging in a crowded anchorage) and tide tables for Miami and Key West harbors, with a separate table for corrections for the upper Keys, Flamingo and Everglades National Park, and the Lower Keys.
The guide is a stunning collection of aerial photographs of the Keys. The photos of watercolors by Islamorada artist Millard Wells provide as good a rendering of the colors of wildlife and waters as can be had without actually seeing them yourself. Details that would take mariners years to discover for themselves are presented clearly: courses and passages for 4-foot- and 6-foot-draft vessels; possible one-, three-, and multi-day cruises, and numerous tips from other helpful sailors.
We’re glad the guide has little to say about the skinny waters and mudbanks out in the far reaches of Florida Bay. Happily, these remain the province of a very small band of self-guided cruisers and a very large band of waterfowl and sea creatures.
Like the rest of life in the Keys, there are a few funky aspects to the guide. It is evident that part of the updated text includes material that has been either cut-and-pasted or scanned in from another source. This can be somewhat jarring visually, or even confusing when the text seems not to fit the rest of the content. We found the ads in the volume distracting and unfortunate. However, these are minor considerations in an otherwise excellent guide.
If the reader takes away nothing else from this guide, the captain’s three rules for sailing are enough: Never be in a hurry. Don’t spit into the wind. Don’t sail where the trees grow.
Roland wrote Cruising Rules, a collection of short tales for those in a relationship, in a boat, or both. Contact him at RSB44@aol.com.
Sail On: A Book for Life
by Susan Sternkopf with illustrations by Glenn Halak (Sternkopf and Halak publishers, 2000; 16 pages; $9.95. Call 262-691-3082, 303-816-2115, or email Susansternkopf@aol.com)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, July 2001
With this new book, author Susan Sternkopf and illustrator Glenn Halak teach children (and their adult friends) the facts of life. But wait! This colorful book is not about reproduction – it’s about having a positive attitude in the face of adversity, about appreciating the beauty that surrounds us, about the realization that life will have its ups and downs.
Sailing makes a good metaphor for a lifetime of smooth and rough experiences, pleasure and discomfort, hope and fear. An example: “You can count on a few hard knocks, you’ll be pushed back by wind and tide. You’ll learn to take it all in stride . . . sail on.”
Susan Sternkopf is a Colorado elementary-school teacher who has developed sailing programs for children with a focus not so much on racing as on building self-reliance, sportsmanship, and a love of wind and water. She believes these lessons can guide children through tough times. With simple and charming rhymes illustrated by bold and colorful strokes, Sail On is a lovely reminder to all of us about the true facts of life.
Summer Studies: Retro Cruising on the Great Lakes
by Ron Dwelle (Xlibris, 2000; 405 pages; $16 paperback, $25 hardback.)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, July 2001
For many of us, sailing is an introspective activity. This is certainly true for Ron Dwelle. In this book, Ron tells of cruising for 20 years on lakes Michigan and Huron . . . meandering from port to port and anchorage to anchorage and moseying in a similar way through the byways of his mind from rumination to rumination. Call it Ron’s sentimental journey – a sentimental journey home. The Great Lakes are home for this sailor.
Ron is not one to follow the crowds or to do what everyone else is doing. He is one of those rare Great Lakes cruisers who does not dream of escape to the Caribbean. Each summer he turns the bow of his boat north and writes of his cruises in the colder and more remote waters he has grown to love. He compares his Great Lakes sailing with experiences racing offshore and cruising the East Coast and comes to the conclusion that he grew up sailing in the world’s best cruising grounds.
In doing so, Ron reassures Great Lakes sailors that their sailing experiences are as challenging, memorable, and valid as those experienced by sailors on both coasts. Ron has been there, done that, earned the T-shirt, and returned home. Likewise, he gives credence to coastal cruising as a pastime and to cruisers as individuals who go for the pleasure of the voyage as well as for the destination: “Cruising is about passagemaking. No sooner does someone learn how to sail than they want to go some place . . . More and more, I’ve come to regard only the true cruisers as serious sailors, and the passages are the paradigm of their existence.”
Indeed, Summer Studies is a passage in many ways, a look inside the head of one Great Lakes sailor who genuinely enjoys the activity and the locale. While you may not agree with all his conclusions, the introspection is worth the voyage.
Wake of the Green Storm
by Marlin Bree (Marlor Press, 2001; 223 pages; $13.95)
Reviewed by Steve Clark, Ottawa, Ontario
Good Old Boat, September 2001
Big water doesn’t have to be salty to be worthy of respect. The Great Lakes are pretty big, and Lake Superior is the biggest and definitely the baddest. Marlin Bree was cruising Superior in the summer of 1999 when he encountered the green storm, so called because of the unusual color of the sky and memorable because of its 72-knot winds. With a dose of luck, Bree survived the storm in good shape and proceeded with his cruise.
The green storm actually takes up a fairly small part of his newest book as this 66-year-old solo sailor and his 22-year-old homebuilt wooden sloop, Persistence, potter about the islands off the Canadian shore of Superior.
The author sprinkles his book with historical accounts of Lake Superior disasters. Most of these involve commercial shipping, but there are some stories like the Gunilda, a pre-World War I, 195-foot private yacht, that came to disaster because of incredibly bad judgment and too little fear. Along the way, he meets local characters, friendly ports, and favorite anchorages. These show the lake’s less-forbidding side to encourage recreational sailors.
Marlin Bree has an interesting attitude toward boat outfitting. He carries not one but two matched 5-hp outboards, just in case one fails. He also likes to back up in threes with three compasses (in addition to his GPS) and three types of coffee.
In this book this sailor spends almost no time talking about rigging and trimming but spends a lot of time under a dodger, comfortably punching coordinates into his GPS and steering through the autopilot remote.
Nothing makes him happier than tying up and discovering a sauna on an otherwise deserted island. He talks about the interesting fellow cruisers he encounters on the way and waxes poetic about their boats. One of these is the Orenda, a 40-foot wooden-hulled beauty originally built for Gordon Lightfoot. It was Lightfoot’s song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, that, ironically, did much to create popular awareness of the potential for peril on Lake Superior.
The book contains 17 pages of notes to expand on the author’s observations, along with several maps, pictures, and drawings. It is recommended for anyone planning a cruise in the area or just looking for a sailing-read when confined to the harbor.
Practical Seamanship: Essential Skills for the Modern Sailor
by Steve and Linda Dashew (Beowulf Publishing, 2001; 644 pages; $69.95; an additional CD version $19.95 when purchased simultaneously)
Reviewed by Sally Perreten, Old Saybrook, Conn.
Good Old Boat, September 2001
Now you can leave most of your other books on seamanship at home, perhaps even the dog-eared, lop-spined old Chapmans that takes most of your bulkhead bookshelf. Steve and Linda Dashew’s Practical Seamanship is a must-have aboard, and it’s an all-season must-read.
Anecdotal, chatty, continuously informative, with countless illustrative tales and photos of nautical mishaps and disasters, this book tells us not just how to do it, but why, when, and often, where. Virtually every page is studded with clearly drawn diagrams, photos, and/or illuminating sidebars (a few of which have discontinuities.)
The section on anchoring may just be the most complete discussion in print: 82 pages with enough photos of beached and wrecked boats to get you out of your bunk to check wind direction and the chafing gear. To keep you out of trouble while you’re awake, every aspect of safe seamanship is thoroughly explored. A particularly useful section is devoted to fishing traffic, tugs, freighters and their navigation lights and behaviors. Those who don’t know where to start with radar or electronic charting will find a careful and gentle guide to set them on the right path.
Throughout there are hints and tidbits that leave you wondering why you never thought of them. OK, so you take a small compass with you in the dinghy when you shore your dog in foggy areas or go for dinner ashore. But how ’bout that dinghy anchor languishing at the bottom of a cockpit locker? Or your handheld GPS – with the waypoint of the mother ship? These items can save you from being washed out to sea on the tide should you be blind, bewitched, or bewildered. Hate trying to turn on a dime in a jam-packed harbor? Page 476. Are you able to stop quickly under sail? Page 597. Easier docking skills? Pages 487 to 496.
Medical matters and first aid are covered in your other books, so keep ’em aboard. And only three pages are devoted to knots, so you’ll still need your Cyrus Day. This small section, however, has a knot invented by Rod Stephens that is often preferable to a bowline. Another tip: using a lashing of Spectra line in lieu of a shackle.
Speaking of shackles brings to mind a small and presumptuous quibble. The Dashews suggest that in some cases it’s a good idea to have a snapshackle on the end of the dock line being thrown ashore. They do recommend that you “take care when throwing this, to miss the folks on the dock.” Most of us are just glad to get a line to the dock, period. Maybe it’s best to forget about the shackle until you, too, have sailed 200,000 miles. Even then, you will still need this fine book.
Cruising in Seraffyn
by Lin and Larry Pardey (L&L Pardey Books, 2001; 224 pages; $21.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, September 2001
Lin and Larry Pardey did not set out deliberately to circumnavigate the world twice, nor to become a pair of well-known and authoritative authors of books and articles on sailing, nor to live aboard, earning their living for more than 30 years as sailing writers, delivery skippers, and maritime “tradesmen.” Knowing who the Pardeys have become today (and acknowledging the grace with which they handle this success), it is particularly enlightening to re-read Cruising in Seraffyn, their first book, now republished as a 25th anniversary edition.
Before they were halfway around the world, these two innocents had discovered their ability to market their written words, the joy of living simply, and a love of travel that would propel them from milestone to milestone even when no master plan laid it out in advance. While young, they were never foolish. More than two decades later, they realize the wisdom of choice in the boat they selected and built and the simple lifestyle they adopted. They have matured, honing skills and gaining experience, but they have retained their positive outlook, love of sailing, and amazing energy, all of which shine through in their first book.
Can a book that has been in print for 25 years have anything worthwhile to offer today’s sailors, beyond an introduction to these 20-somethings who set off from California to see the world in a 24-foot boat they built themselves? Can it offer more than a reminder that even Lin and Larry Pardey were once beginners and that we all must start building skills by first raising the sails? Yes. This book is as worthwhile now as it was then. This new edition of a book first published in 1976 reminds us that cruising has not changed significantly in 25 years. All you need is an affordable seaworthy boat and an adventurous spirit. With this, and the other books and articles that followed, Lin and Larry are said to have inspired 50,000 sailing dreams.
A good book, even if there had been no changes whatsoever, this edition has been made better with the addition of the Pardeys’ contemporary perspective on the years they’ve spent sailing, their thoughts about their two Lyle Hess-designed boats, and musings about the changes that have taken place in the cruising scene since their first voyage in 1969. They’ve also included many photographs that haven’t been published previously (found, Lin says, in the bottom of a box of photos).
A rumination on the past 25 years, a bright ray of inspiration for would-be bluewater cruisers, a cheerful, delightful look at Lin and Larry Pardey at ages 24 and 29, still imbued with that marvelous passion they possess today . . . all this is contained in a bright new package, one that is just as relevant today as it was a quarter century ago.
Nigel Calder’s Cruising Handbook
by Nigel Calder (McGraw-Hill, 2001; 588 pages; $49.95)
Reviewed by Ron Chappell, Pasisade, Colo.
Good Old Boat, September 2001
Ordinarily, I would not get too excited about another new cruising book, even one by as eminent an author as Nigel Calder, whose previous work, Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual, has become an icon on both sides of the pond. While the cruising genre is a particular favorite of mine, recent offerings seem to have grown a bit redundant for those of us striving to keep abreast of the field. This book is a whole new ball game.
First of all, it’s a very big book, physically and in terms of its diverse subject matter. At just under 600 pages, in an 8 1/2- by 11-inch format, it is not something I would refer to as a “handbook” unless speaking to a gorilla. The word “encyclopedic” springs to mind, as it is truly monumental in scope and execution; a good thing, too, when you consider it carries a suggested price of $49.95.
McGraw-Hill did a commendable job of putting it all together. It looks like it might last, even in a marine environment, where it will most assuredly find a home. It features a water-resistant cover and flexible spine, designed to lie flat when opened, a wonderful feature on a pitching chart table, far at sea, where information is scarce and time of the essence. This book covers nearly everything, and it covers it in exquisite detail. It covers it in a manner anyone can understand. There are chapters relating to most any conceivable contingency a cruiser might run into, from boat selection, equipage, and maintenance, to the more esoteric areas of daily life on a cruising sailboat (and much more than I wanted to know about navigational history).
Nigel Calder remains the quintessential “systems man,” and his section on surveying a prospective purchase with its attendant checklist is, by itself, worth the price of the book. The section on weather and prediction should be required reading for every television forecaster in the country. There are up-to-date chapters on shipboard health and disease prevention criteria for every sector of the world. Nearly every page is clearly illustrated, and at the end of each technical chapter is a “worksheet” so you can evaluate your own vessel or system.
Here is a man not afraid to infuse his material with the very latest in technological know-how, even though it may at some point appear dated. For the mathematically inclined, there are charts, graphs, and formulas enough to satisfy the most gifted. And all this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have read this book cover to cover, word for word (it took a very long time). Is it the proverbial “one-book cruising library,” the definitive work on the subject? I think it may well be.
by Julian Stockwin (Scribner, 2001; 256 pages; $24)
Review by Dave Olson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, September 2001
I miss Patrick O’Brian. For years, I would find the latest book in his Aubrey/ Maturin series neatly wrapped as only my wife, Jane, can do. I have now read them all because he is not here to write another. Maybe Julian Stockwin will help fill the void. With his first book, Kydd, he is off to a great start!
Nautical fiction fans have something to be happy about as Stockwin releases his first book in what promises to be a fine series detailing the naval career of Thomas Payne Kydd. Though written in the fashion of Patrick O’Brian and C. S. Forrester, Stockwin takes readers along a new path by detailing the raw emotion of an intelligent man engaged ashore in the craft of wigmaking and then pressed into the King’s service. Once aboard Duke William, a first-rate battleship, this “lubber landsman” learns the hard life, the bitter disappointment, and the despair and confusion of being pressed. Stockwin makes us feel the emotions and trials endured by Thomas Payne Kydd.
Everyone lovesa story that surrounds a man overcoming adversity, proving his mettle and demonstrating to himself and others that he is far more substantial than he was originally given credit for being. Stockwin comes through with the “good goods.” To the internal applause of the reader, Thomas Kydd makes the transition from self-pitying “landsman” to able seaman. Stockwin has an excellent handle on his material and an outstanding story basis. Each new book should prove to be a gem.
Julian Stockwin is cut of the genuine Royal Navy cloth. Joining at the tender age of 15, he has seen service all over the world. He recently retired from the Royal Navy Reserve as Lieutenant Commander. I’m certain Jane will be looking for the release of Volume II.
The Essential Boat Maintenance Manual
by Jeff Toghill (Lyons Press, 2001; 288 pages; $29.95)
Reviewed by Kevin Hughes, Key Largo, Fla.
Good Old Boat, November 2001
Jeff Toghill has combined a lifetime of worldwide sailing (being an administrator and instructor at sailing and navigation schools) and vast experience as a maritime legal consultant to produce a comprehensive and valuable introduction to boat maintenance.
This book is especially attuned to someone very interested in working on boats but who may not have any previous experience in things mechanical or who may fall short of the description of craftsman, carpenter, or old salt. A key to this being an excellent book for this level of experience is the use of photographs. There is hardly a page without one, and many pages have two splendid photos illustrating a broad range of themes. Pictures of boats displaying typical or unusual features; detailed pictures of rigging, carpentry, fixtures, equipment, and procedures; pictures of boatowners, boatyard workers, sailors, and craftsmen fixing and using boats, hand tools, and power tools. Most photos show how to do something; some others (my favorites) show how not to do something. (Boatyard employees are not always safety conscious.)
The book starts out very basic: “Every boat is a box.” It proceeds with a straightforward discussion of construction materials and how to work with them. Even specific tool use is discussed, in case the reader is not familiar with common or specialty tools. Sails and rigging have their own chapters along with engines, electronics, underwater stuff, safety gear (what good is maintaining the boat if you wreck it or yourself?), and maintenance trouble spots.
The author takes each of these subjects to a high level of understanding, with enough details to reduce the fear of trying a do-it-yourself vessel repair, improvement, or installation. He stops at a point at which more understanding or experience is required and refers the reader to professional assistance. You go in, you do what you can, and get out – nobody gets hurt. The book finishes off with a chapter detailing several common boat projects (accompanied by the same terrific photos and technical illustrations) and the obligatory glossary.
All in all, Jeff Toghill has used his vast nautical experience to produce another clear, concise, and correct book (he has published more than five dozen) that prepares a solid foundation for a new boatowner, young sailor, or perhaps sailing spouse interested in messing about in boats. Did I mention the great pictures?
New Plywood Boats
by Thomas Firth Jones (Sheridan House, 2001; 200 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Bob Chambers, La Mesa, Calif.
Good Old Boat, November 2001
The perceived value of a thing changes as the technology to make it smoother and shinier changes. The author’s comparison of a hand-thrown coffee mug with a new plastic one is an example of strength and integrity versus newness and endlessly repeatable perfection.
Homemade boats often appear to be well, homemade, so one must appreciate the level of heart and quality achieved in the handmade boat. Having said that, I take exception with the author’s notion that boat designing and building is not an art. Separating oneself from “artist’s status” does not exonerate one from the criticism that must follow the creation of something that is not artful or, worse yet in the case of a boat, ugly or unsafe. Ferenc Maté stated that he would rather see a poorly constructed ugly boat than a well-built one, for the poorly built boat would surely fall apart and disappear, sparing us from having to look at it for any longer than necessary. To all the design characteristics that make a thing artful, we must, in the case of a boat, add “purpose.” The boats in this book are mostly purposeful and artful, as we can detect in the lovely Melonseed and Puxe.
Anyone considering any level of boatbuilding will want to have this book in his or her library. The author’s experience in building and sailing his boats is an invaluable resource for all of us. Every discussion of a boat design includes handling characteristics, from a designer’s and a practical perspective. The reader will learn much about what makes a boat strong and perform well.
There are discussions of technique included here that are just not found in most “popular” home building publications, and they are presented in a matter-of-fact style that most of us will find extremely resourceful and humorous.
Of particular interest are his discussions about different kinds of plywood, as well as other building materials. Everything imaginable in terms of building materials, including glues, epoxies, and fasteners is covered in an understandable fashion, serving to inform and to whet the appetite for further study and practice.
In addition, the author reminds us that we are building boats, not furniture. If you’re interested in boatbuilding, buy this book. Thomas Firth Jones is a charming writer, and you’ll likely laugh out loud at several of his observations. His point of view is about people and about the fun, sense of accomplishment, and skill that comes from building small boats. Some readers will index many of the technical descriptions and techniques outlined here, as they are interspersed throughout the book. However you decide to digest this resource, you will surely find it to be a most welcome help in your shop.
Success, Doom and Madness: A Voyage for Madmen
by Peter Nichols (Harper Collins, 2001; 289 pages; $26)
Reviewed by Ray Crew, Tarpon Springs, Fla.
Good Old Boat, November 2001
Between the summer of 1968 and the summer of 1969, while the first men orbited and landed on the moon, nine other men set out in nine ill-equipped little boats, determined to be the first to sail alone around the world without stopping. Only one finished.
The rest fell victim to weak vessels, illness, and insanity. But regardless of their fates, each man met himself on the voyage, and that’s the thread that holds this book together. After all, the story of the first Golden Globe race has been told many times and in many ways: from the winner’s perspective in A World of My Own by Robin Knox Johnston, from the philosopher’s perspective in The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier, and from the ultimate loser’s perspective in The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall.
It’s hard to imagine that there would be much new to say. Though Nichols borrows liberally from previous accounts, he also weaves the tales of lesser-known contenders Nigel Tetley, John Ridgeway, Chay Blyth, Loick Fougeron, Bill King, and Alex Carozzo into his narrative. He even includes some previously unpublished 1999 pictures of Donald Crowhurst’s star-crossed trimaran, Teignmouth Electron, rotting in a Bahamian boatyard.
In his 1997 book, Sea Change (an account of his own singlehanded Atlantic crossing in a 27-foot English cutter), Nichols admits his captivation with the participants’ stories. But what matters most to him is how isolation at sea strips a sailor of all pretense. And the sailors in that first Golden Globe race were more isolated than it is possible to be today. They had more in common with Drake and Cook than they had with modern circumnavigators. They sailed without GPS, EPIRB, weather faxes, or laptops. And Knox-Johnston’s boat, Suhaili (the only finisher), was built from teak by Indian carpenters using axes, adzes, and hand drills.
The voyages of Knox-Johnston and Moitessier are the best known of the nine. Merchant marine officer Knox-Johnston simply couldn’t abide the thought that anyone but an Englishman would be the first to go around alone non-stop. And though his boat was disintegrating around him, he plodded on, sustained by examples from British seafaring tradition.
Moitessier might well have won had he not decided to abandon both the race and the vulgarity of Western civilization in order to save his soul by taking his steel-hulled ketch, Joshua, on a second circuit of the Southern Ocean.
But the most compelling story to emerge from the race, and the one that clearly holds the most fascination for Peter Nichols is the tragic schizophrenic decline and death of Donald Crowhurst. Crowhurst’s trimaran, Teignmouth Electron, was a failure — something Crowhurst didn’t finally admit to himself until he was deep in the Atlantic. Unable to face quitting the race, he drifted for months in the Atlantic, fabricating a circumnavigation with false logbooks. The guilt and the pressure drove him slowly mad, and his logbooks chronicle his mounting insanity and eventual suicide.
Regardless of how well you know the story of the first Golden Globe, this book will grip you because Peter Nichols never forgets that the true voyages of these nine men were not outward upon the sea but inward upon their souls to a place of personal definition.