Book Reviews From 2003
Reviews From 2003
February 2003 Newsletter
- Great Adventure Stories, ed. by Louisa Rudeen
- The Greatest Stories Ever Told, ed. by Christopher Caswell
- Salty and the Pirates, by Marie Delaney
- The Boaters’ Handbook, 3rd Edition, by Elbert S. Maloney
- Storm Tactics Video, by Lin and Larry Pardey
- A Prairie Chicken Goes to Sea, by Margo Wood
- The 12-Volt Bible for Boats — second edition, by Miner Brotherton
- Fort Ross: The Ship in the Shadow, by Roger McAfee
- Mean Low Water, by Eileen Quinn (music CD)
- Easing Sheets, by L. M. Lawson
- How to Read a Nautical Chart:…, by Nigel Calder
- Jack Corbett: Mariner, by A. S. Hatch
- The Evolution of Modern Sailboat Design, by Meade Gougeon and Ty Knoy
April 2003 Newsletter
- Your New Sailboat: Choosing It, Using It, by the Editors of Chapman Piloting
- Lines: A Half Century of Yacht Designs by Sparkman & Stephens, by Olin Stephens II
- Rules of the Road at Sea, book and CD
- The Cruise of the Blue Dolphin: A Family’s Adventure at Sea, by Nina Chandler Murray
- In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon, by Joan Druett
June 2003 Newsletter
- Sparkman & Stephens: Classic Modern Yachts, with Franco Pace photographs and text by John Lammerts van Bueren.
- The World’s Best Sailboats — Volume II, by Ferenc Máté
- The Cruising KISS (Keep It Simple System) Cookbook II, by Corinne C. Kanter
- Taking on the World, by Ellen MacArthur
- How to Install Fixed Windows, CD-ROM for Windows ’95, ’98, 2000, and NT, by Capt’n Pauley Videos
- Windsong: Our Ten Years in the Yacht Delivery Business, by Patrick and June Ellam
- Chart No. 1: USA Nautical Chart Symbols Abbreviations and Terms
August 2003 Newsletter
- I Left the Navy, by Eric Hiscock
- A-B-Sea: A Loose-footed Lexicon, by Jack Lagan
- Cruising at Last: Sailing the East Coast, by Elliot Merrick
- Naturally Salty: Coastal Characters of the Pacific Northwest, by Marianne Scott
- Smith’s Guide to Maritime Museums of North America, by Robert Smith
October 2003 Newsletter
- Wayward Sailor: In Search of the Real Tristan Jones, by Anthony Dalton
- Fair Winds, a music CD by Hoolie
- Not to be Used for Navigation, a music CD by Eileen Quinn
- Classic Sailing Stories: 15 Incredible Tales of the Sea, Edited by Tom McCarthy
- Cruising with Your Four-Footed Friends: The Basics of Boat Travel with Your Cat or Dog, by Diane Jessie
- The Mariner’s Book of Days 2004, by Peter H. Spectre
- Sailing Around the World: A Family Retraces Joshua Slocum’s Voyage, by Guy Bernardin
- Treacherous Waters: Stories of Sailors in the Clutch of the Sea, edited by Tom Lochhaas
- Intrepid Voyagers: Stories of the World’s Most Adventurous Sailors, edited by Tom Lochhaas
- Artemis, by Julian Stockwin
- Seaflower, by Julian Stockwin
- Back Under Sail: Recovering the Spirit of Adventure, by Migael Schere
December 2003 Newsletter
- Our Island in the Sun, by Garry and Carol Domnisse
- The Navigators Handbook, by Jeff Toghill
- Wendameen The Life of an American Schooner From 1912 to the Present, by Neal Parker
- A Boater’s Guide to VHF and GMDSS, by Sue Fletcher
- GPS for Mariners, by Robert Sweet
- Get Rid of Boat Odors, by Peggy Hall
- Hard Aground with Eddie Jones: Selected Sailing Essays for the Navigationally Challenged, by Eddie Jones
- Maximum Sail Power, by Brian Hancock
Great Adventure Stories: Against the Sea / The Greatest Stories Ever Told
edited by Louisa Rudeen (Hearst Books, 2001; 250 pages; $12.95) / edited by Christopher Caswell (The Lyons Press, 2002; 286 pages; $24.95)
Reviewed by George Zimmerman, Olympia, Wash.
Winter is here. For most of us that means our sailboats are under wraps and days on the water are only a pleasant memory. For those of us who would like a brief respite, two recently published books may take us back on the water, if only in our minds. Great Adventure Stories: Against the Sea and The Greatest Sailing Stories Ever Told are anthologies of boating stories, with each adventure just long enough to complete on the bus commute to work or as a quick read before going to sleep.
Against the Sea, edited by Louisa Rudeen, has 24 power boating and sailing (mostly power) stories, told by authors who experienced “when nature turns from a gentle companion to a wrathful enemy; when the going gets rough and there is no place to hide; when it all comes down to a man and woman against the sea.” Taken from articles previously published in Motor Boating and Sailing magazine, the book chronicles the extremes of boating. The table of contents provides brief summaries of the stories, so you can pick and choose your adventure, be it crossing the Atlantic in a 26-foot skiff, getting pulled overboard while fishing for marlin, or surviving in a raft after your sailboat has been sunk by an enraged whale.
This book acquainted me with the broader world of boating. I found a marked difference in the mentality between the powerboater (conquer the sea) and the sailor (partner with the sea). This provides me with a better understanding of the powered partners who share our waters. In some of the stories, I felt the reason for being “against the sea” was due to poor preparation or a disregard for the awesome and destructive capabilities of the sea. This was disturbing. Other stories demonstrate that in the world of boating . . . stuff happens. As boaters, we need to know our boats, equipment, navigation, and the other aspects of boating that make for safe passages. It’s a quick and adventurous read.
The Greatest Sailing Stories Ever Told, edited by Chris Caswell, consists of 27 stories (fiction and non-fiction) written by sailors. I felt more at home with this book, as the sailing mentality pervaded the book. I missed the brief summaries in the table of contents that was included in Against the Sea, however each story is introduced with a brief bio of the author and his/her relationship to sailing. The stories cover man’s love affair with sailing and the depths and relationship we sailors have with our boats and the sea. Written by the infamous, famous, and the not-so-famous, the time frame ranges from the days of the tall ships to the modern racing yachts of today. Stories include works from the pens of Tristan Jones, Joshua Slocum, C. S. Forrester, and Sterling Hayden. After reading the book, I was impressed by the collection of stories that Chris Caswell had pulled together. These sailing authors described many feelings I have experienced but was never able to put into words. In his introduction, Chris says he pictures the “readers of this book enjoying it in one of two places. The first is in a comfortable chair in front of a roaring fire and the second is tucked in a cozy pilot berth aboard a sailboat, with rain pattering on the deck and the smell of coffee on the galley stove.” My experience was that it was enjoyable in both places.
Salty & the Pirates
by Marie Delaney (Midnight Caravan Publishing, 2002; 213 pages; $59.95)
Reviewed by Maeve Espy Feinberg (age 9), New York, N.Y.
As you sail along with Salty and the Pirates, you’ll set out to solve a mystery packed with adventure and friendship. When Salty and his friends discover the old lost treasure of the ancient Zapotecs, they come to understand the real meaning of the legendary “power of light.” While making one of their frequent trips to their “secret cave,” Salty and his friend, Katie, discover adult footprints leading up to the cave and then to the local marina. Has someone been following them? For what reason? Salty and Katie are set on finding out who the ominous footprints belong to. This mysterious sign triggers a major treasure hunt that eventually uncovers the apparently “lost” treasure of the ancient Zapotecs. Along the way the reader will encounter pirates, thieves, skullduggery, and even mermaids!
Salty and the Pirates is not just a book, it is a complete kit with accessories and activities such as: a glossary, songs to sing, pictures to color, logs to fill out, colored pencils with sharpener, and a CD ROM which contains music for singing and playing and also a computer coloring system. All it lacks for the perfect cruise is a personal flotation device!
This book/package is geared for 8- to 12-year-olds. Though I enjoyed the detective/mystery aspect of the story, older readers may find themselves wanting a higher level of suspense and danger. Younger kids who may have trouble reading it to themselves, or who are emerging readers, may still really enjoy the story and some of the activities. A helpful addition might be to include a reading of the story on the CD ROM.
Salty and the Pirates may be just the right thing for passing the time away when you’re stuck in the doldrums. I recommend this enjoyable activity book for lads and lassies shipping aboard with their parents. And, ahoy mates, there’s a Salty II on the horizon.
The Boater’s Handbook
3rd revised edition, by Elbert S. Maloney (Hearst Books, 2002; 304 pages; $19.95)
Reviewedby Carl Smith, Chesapeake, Va.
One of the challenges and pleasures, of sailing good old boats is that you run the boat yourself. A big responsibility, one which requires experience, skill, and knowledge of many things. Much of the knowledge required is of things we use frequently, so it is at our fingertips. But there are many bits of knowledge that are infrequently used, some (we hope) never. Yet this is information we must know about and be able to access quickly should the situation arise. When you are out on your boat and have to make a decision, you often won’t have the option of asking for advice or technical information. Then you consult one of the references or guidebooks you keep aboard. Since space is limited on boats, we need to keep the few books that give us the most information in a format that allows us to make use of it.
The Boater’s Handbook has several good sections that offer sound and clear advice and several useful tables. Unfortunately, some parts are unclear, outdated and, in one or two cases, poor information. The section on emergencies is adequate, as far as it goes. It does not address being towed and does not tell you what to expect in the event of a helicopter rescue. The radio procedures section has some good bits in it but is not presented in a clear form. The section on maintenance has some very useful parts. Full-size drawings of various screw sizes would enable you to stop guessing and save a return trip to the hardware store. Going through the list and noting engine and tank capacities and repair part numbers is a good idea and will occupy you on a nasty winter night.
The book has very few “don’t do this” items in it. Cautions about staying away from tugs and tows and ships in channels should be very clear, but they are not. I don’t know where the table of recommended anchor gear sizes came from, but you won’t see my Tartan 34 anchored on a 3/8-inch rode. A reference to silicone and polysulfide rubber caulking compounds as “new” must be a carryover from the first edition. The flag etiquette section takes up space and has a lot of fluff in it.
Elbert Maloney’s book is a useful collection of information that has some value for novices, but my choice for on board reference is still the venerable, but regularly updated, Chapman’s.
Storm Tactics Video
by Lin and Larry Pardey (L&L Pardey Books and Videos, 2002; 84 minutes, $29.95 video or DVD)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Lin and Larry Pardey will be the first (and certainly the most credible) sailors to tell you that you won’t encounter many storms at sea. They want to encourage cruisers to go now, not to continue to put it off until they can afford the ultimate cruising machine and gee-whiz safety equipment. They worry about the hyper-emphasis placed on gear by overly zealous folks marketing marine products of all sorts. And yet, as they tell us in their newest video, when you’re out there, storms will happen about three percent of the time, and really big ones will happen about one percent of the time.
I’m a coastal cruiser, so the Pardeys’ idea of “really big” and their boat’s capabilities will vary from my opinion of “really big” and my boat’s capabilities. For Lin and Larry, “really big” is when you have to heave to for the safety of the boat and the crew, although they remind you that heaving to is also very useful in milder conditions. Since it’s simple to do, heaving to needn’t be reserved for really awesome storms.
In this new video, Lin and Larry discuss heaving to and describe the process visually, something they always felt was missing from their previously published Storm Tactics Handbook. Much of the footage used in the video was made during the Pardeys’ recent rounding of Cape Horn and in South Africa showing sailboats involved in an extremely windy race.
I have often noted that each proponent of a storm tactic will tell you what works for him and his boat and will neglect to mention that different boats behave differently. So I was pleased to see that Lin and Larry have been sensitive to this issue in their video; they discuss heaving to with different keel configurations and sailplans. They also focus on the use and deployment of parachute-style storm anchors.
Most important, they don’t try to bully or scare you into buying their video or some piece of safety gear. In between the discussions and the visuals, they run footage of beautiful places and beautiful boats sailing . . . as a reminder, no doubt, about why you want to be out there cruising in the first place.
Lin and Larry want to spread the word about the simple practice of heaving to, which they refer to as the “sailors’safety valve.” They don’t think enough sailors know about or have experience heaving to with their boats. In fact, Lin writes, “Eight years ago Bob Rimmers (along with his wife and child), on a boat named Quartermaster, got caught out in the Queen’s Birthday Storm north of New Zealand. We were sent a copy of the tape from Keri Keri radio which contained Bob’s last words. After suffering several knockdowns, during which his wife was badly injured and water began filling the boat through damaged cabin windows, Bob Rimmers asks, ‘What can I do?’ The radio operator says, ‘You can continue running, or you can heave to.’ Bob Rimmers did not know how to get his boat to lie hove to and said, ‘I guess I’ll just have to keep running.’ Those were his last words. Since hearing those words, we have had a mission: to make this program.”
I believe that those words indeed motivated the development of this video, and I applaud the Pardeys for choosing to illustrate their Storm Tactics Handbook so capably. I’ll stop short of saying that you can’t go to sea without seeing it. That sounds too much like the sort of safety gear hyper-promotion that the Pardeys are wishing all manufacturers would cease.
A Prairie Chicken Goes to Sea
by Margo Wood (Charlie’s Charts, 2002; 180 pages; $16.00)
Reviewed by Fred Jones, Elephant Butte, New Mexico
After reading Margo Wood’s autobiography I feel she is someone I would like to meet. Her story, starting with the day she was born, is simply fun reading. I could put it down anytime and enjoy mulling over her experiences; but when I wanted to sit down and relax, I needed to read a couple more chapters. Perhaps when you are securely anchored in your favorite cove, reading the book would make your day even better.
Her writing style is not stilted or academic, just eighth-grade English with the nautical words defined in the back for those who aren’t sailors. She isn’t trying to impress anyone, and I enjoyed the depth of feeling I could read between the lines. Except for the death of Charles and her parents’ ostracism, I could relate to all of her experiences, and I think you will admire her, too, for the decisions she made and the advice she asked for. As I read along, I kept wondering when she would tell about her business, Charlie’s Charts. It isn’t until the last third of the book that Charlie started making his charts, beginning with charts of the northwest passage. My wife insisted that we buy his northwest chart, when we headed north from Bellingham, even though I told her that Northwest Boat Travel and Waggoners were plenty. Then much to my surprise, we used Charlie’s charts just as much as the others.
Seems like when your wife gets to know a little about sailing she sometimes becomes critical of certain things you do; something Margo admitted doing. She tells how Charles broke her of the habit when he told her, “On any boat there can be only one captain. If you want to be captain, go ahead and make the decisions; otherwise I’ll be captain. When I say something, do it! I’ll take the responsibility for the decision, and if it’s wrong we can talk about it later, but don’t argue about it at the time.” With this statement she become “crew” instead of “wife.”
Another passage gives a clear picture of a storm they experienced: “As it turned out, that one-day gale was just an introduction to what the Pacific Ocean would deal us. Soon after, we found ourselves in a three-day storm that threatened to blow us past our destination of San Francisco. In order to reduce our speed, we rigged a sea anchor and lashed the wheel. The sound of the wind in the rigging changed its pitch from soprano to a scream.”
I really enjoyed reading this book.
The 12-Volt Bible for Boats, Second Edition
by Miner Brotherton, revised by Ed Sherman (International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 2003; 194 pages; $16.95)
Reviewed by David Publicover, Beaumont, Alberta
I don’t know about you, but ever since we bought an older cruising sailboat I’ve developed a mild addiction to books about 12-volt electricity. There are many books available on the subject, but so far it’s been hard to find one that wasn’t either too complex, too simple, too theoretical, or simply outdated.
The 12-Volt Bible for Boats promises to explain a boat’s electrical system so you can understand how your system works and how to maintain it in good condition. It also promises information about how to recognize when you have an electrical problem, how to troubleshoot to locate it, and what tools and techniques you’ll need to fix common electrical system problems. After reading the book, I’d say that it does a good job in delivering what it promises.
One of the more pleasing aspects of the book is the emphasis on keeping things simple. The explanations of the theory of electricity were clear, concise, and (thankfully) covered quickly. The use of “magic triangles” to determine the watts, volts, amps or ohms of a piece of equipment or circuit was a real treat. I’m amazed at how many times a book throws out half a dozen algebraic formulae and expects the reader to commit them to memory. The “magic triangle” method is very simple to use and remember.
The book emphasizes the relationship between the electric gizmos that we cart onboard and our need to generate the power to run them. While it doesn’t suggest going without electricity, it does point out that poorly planned changes and additions to your system may result in far more effort and expense than the intended convenience is worth.
Author Ed Sherman covers the standard topics of battery selection, maintenance and charging, wiring, motors, lights, and electronics. Some subjects are covered in more detail than others, but all are discussed with a focus on practicality. Unlike many books where unlimited wealth is assumed, The 12-Volt Bible for Boats openly leans toward saving your money. The book advocates the simple and less expensive route whenever possible but not to the detriment of safety. One of the best features of the book is the troubleshooting section and the maintenance tips. It’s like having your local boatyard guru at your shoulder.
No book is perfect. The methods of charging and isolating battery banks could have been more detailed, and some of the diagrams could have been bigger. I found it annoying that the author’s name was misspelled on the back cover. But overall, the book was clearly written and useful. By the time I had finished, I was ready to dig out my multimeter and head to the boat.
Fort Ross: The Ship in the Shadow
by Roger McAfee (Nighthawk Marine Limited, Vancouver, B.C., April 2002; 130 pages, $24.95)
Reviewed by Norman Ralph, Mandeville, La.
In Fort Ross: The Ship in the Shadow, Roger McAfee presents readers with a smorgasbord of nautical reading. The foreword raises the question, “What vessel first circumnavigated the North American continent?” This is not answered until the conclusion of the book. For the history buff, there is a bit of history of the Canadian Arctic and the role of the Hudson Bay Company and its arctic freighters that sailed the ice-choked Northwest Passage to service its far-flung trading posts. For the lover of wooden boats, there is the description of the building of the Fort Ross in 1938. And for the armchair sailor, there is the account of the trip in 1969 by the author and a group of friends to bring the Fort Ross from Nova Scotia on the Canadian east coast through the Caribbean and the Panama Canal to Vancouver, British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada.
The aforementioned topics each could stand alone as a fascinating subject for a book. However, the author has used the Fort Ross to tie these subjects together into one narrative. At times the reader feels like he is foundering in a sea of interesting, yet unrelated, material. But at no time does one lose interest in the story.
The information given on the construction of the Fort Ross reveals a wooden vessel that was built for the rigorous demands of the arctic north. She was 127 feet long with a beam of 28 feet 5 inches. Her frames were 10-inches x 10-inches on 18-inch centers. This meant that there were only 8 inches separating them, and a sister frame was bolted to each frame further reducing the space between frames. Her keel was 12 inches wide x 36 inches deep, with a 3-inch-thick shoe of oak. She was sheeted inside and out with planking from 3 to 5 inches thick!
The background events covered in the book take place over several hundred years and the account of the trip on the Fort Ross from the east to the west coast of Canada was told from a 30-year perspective. The reader must familiarize himself with the times of the late ’60s to fully appreciate the mindset of those on the cruise. An interesting feature in the narrative of the trip is the personal remembrances of seven of the members of the crew. The passage of time and the fading of details results in some insights that are enjoyable. One wonders what their comments would have been if they had written them at the conclusion of the trip.
This book has a lot to offer the reader who enjoys insights into events of our past as well as accounts of memorable cruises by those who don’t claim to “know it all.” Since few of us consider ourselves to be experts, we can relate with the events in this book.
Mean Low Water
by Eileen Quinn (Eileen Quinn, 2002; 42 minutes; music CD, $14.95)
Reviewed by Dan Spurr, Bozeman, Mont.
Anybody remember the ’70s song, “The Mighty Quinn”? The artist was Manfred Mann. Quinn, of course, was an Eskimo, the polar opposite of sailing songwriter Eileen Quinn’s subject matter. Forgive me the free association. And for playing “The Name Game.” (Banana-fanna-fo Quinn.) Segue to the CD spinning in my Sony boombox, left of center on my old leather-topped desk.
Eileen Quinn’s business card and letterhead is subtitled, “music for sailors . . . and normal people.” Cruising sailors might be more accurate, and to this “un-normal” audience her lyrics fly to the heart like a . . . er . . . uncontrolled jibe? Mean Low Water is Eileen’s third CD, preceded by No Significant Features and Degrees of Deviation. As in the previous two, the songs are mostly about the cruising lifestyle and are usually comic, often satirical, though always there is an underlying and deeply felt appreciation for the sea and the world around her.
“Come Back Dinghy” resonates with anyone who has ever looked over the transom to find the dinghy gone. Yikes! Eileen writes, “I know you’re out there somewhere, just beyond my reach, probably drinking margaritas, lying on a beach.” In “What Do You Do All Day?” Eileen answers this unimaginative question (“it’s so hard to resist a gleeful grin, when envy tinges their lily white skin, they’re imagining a booze and sun-induced coma, while hoping that your liver’s shot, and you’ve got melanoma”), by saying she’s really “busting my tail, a slave to a hunk of fiberglass.” Ain’t that the truth. So much for the romance.
But in “Building a Boat,” she sympathizes with the dreamy, angst-ridden man who sees his life slipping away, wishing for something powerful and life-altering. “It’s not that he’s unhappy, with the farm or the wife, it’s just that haunting feeling, that there may be more to life.” He sends away for boat plans and spends the next six years building his dream, only to die with the boat on the hard, “with the tiller in his hand.” The moral here is: Go now!
Most man-woman teams will relate to “If I Killed the Captain,” because, let’s face it, a boat is a mighty small space for two people to spend any length of time. And when one yells at the other for some trivial transgression, like coiling the halyard “the wrong way,” well, “perhaps I’d better kill the captain before he kills me.” There’s a little more edge to these lyrics than the others (“all that it would take is a timely little shove”), enough to give you the creeps, if only because you know that once in awhile someone does indeed push his — or her — partner over the side. After sailing away, listening to the screams, how does one atone? This song gives the impression that Eileen will worry about that later. At the moment, she’s ripped. “I mistook him for the lonely singlehanding sort, but there seems to be an ex-first mate in every single port.”
Occasionally Eileen unleashes a deeper, more soulful and melodic voice that reminds of Cheryl Wheeler. It’s as if this strong and beautiful other voice is half-captive inside her, yearning to get out. Maybe we’d hear it more often were she not so dependent on clever lyrics. (Hey, whatever sells!) Be that as it may, she is a talented songwriter with a sharp wit, a songstress who knows her audience and understands her material, perhaps too well (watch your backside!).
To hear audio samples, visit Eileen’s website at http://www.eileenquinn.com.
by L. M. Lawson (Paradise Cay Publications, 2002; 230 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Chris Delling, Sterling Heights, Mich.
Most of the reading that I do about sailing is of a technical nature, but reading about how to get the perfect coat of varnish, racing tactics, or high-latitude cruising can get a little dry. Once in a while I really want a diversion — a good yarn to pass away the cold winter nights. This suspense thriller, which entwines a cruising couple in a murder mystery fit the bill for me. Easing Sheets may be what you’re looking for, too.
The story starts with a couple setting off on their first extended cruise — from the Channel Islands of California, to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. When they happen to cross paths with a suspicious group on a stolen boat, the excitement begins. In fact, they repeatedly cross paths during the trip south. The story culminates in an exciting conclusion in Cabo San Lucas.
Lori Lawson tells a credible, entertaining story, wrapped around the cruising life. Her experience as a sailor is obvious here. Her descriptions of boat handling, sailing, and the cruising community are accurate and are an enhancement to the story, rather than being the reason for the story. This is a contrast to some works that overemphasize the sailing content, at the expense of a good story.
Overall, this is a very entertaining book. It overcomes a somewhat slow start and quickly develops into a book that you will have trouble putting down. It’s a book that will be appealing to anyone who enjoys a good thriller — not just sailors — which in my opinion, is an indication of a well-written book. The fact that it can help snowbound sailors survive the winter is just an added benefit. It’s not a must read, but I would recommend it nonetheless.
How to Read a Nautical Chart: A Complete Guide to the Symbols, Abbreviations, and Data Displayed on Nautical Charts
by Nigel Calder (International Marine, 2003; 237 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Using GPS and a chart plotter for detailed navigation, I have become over-confident. Jerry and I refer to our boat’s system as “Nintendo navigation.” We can go to a small lump protruding from the lake bed of Lake Superior at a depth of 15 feet — one of our favorite anchoring places — and drop our anchor there every time. That lump isn’t much more than 30 or 40 feet in diameter . . . not much longer than our boat. We couldn’t do this without GPS and the depth sounder, even though we know generally where it is.
This unwavering faith in our electronic system is setting me (and other sailors who share my feelings) up for a big comeuppance, according to Nigel Calder. And he’s right. His newest book, How to Read a Nautical Chart: A Complete Guide to the Symbols, Abbreviations, and Data Displayed on Nautical Charts is just what the title says and a whole lot more. It includes an improved version of Chart Number 1. For this reason if for no other, it belongs on your boat. But it’s real value is in the first sections where Nigel tells us that the charts aren’t as accurate as our GPS, that our satellite-based navigation equipment may be operating on different datum than our chart’s datum, and that there are limits to horizontal and vertical accuracy in all charts. Read this thoughtfully before putting the book on your boat’s bookshelf. Nigel’s message in these early sections is clear: Let the electronic mariner beware.
He warns us from becoming complacent and from cutting corners too closely. Nigel is one of the most humble of the current group of sailing authors and experts in that he makes mistakes and admits them freely in his books and magazine articles. The man who researches and tells us about the pitfalls of charts and the limitations of chart surveying methods goes aground and tells us so. Not even Nigel can ignore the Siren’s call of electronic overconfidence. In this book he prints a photo of his boat, Nada, hard aground on a rock ledge off the coast of Maine.
So study this latest Calder book before your next cruise and take it along as a reference on chart symbols and abbreviations. There will be many times in the future after avoiding an inconvenience or a tragedy that you’ll be thankful Nigel wrote this book and brought some very important navigational information to your attention. He has removed my over-confidence and replaced it with caution.
Jack Corbett: Mariner
by A. S. Hatch (Quantuck Lane Press, 2002; 270 pages; $24.95)
Reviewed by Ken Young, Cape Coral, Fla.
Have you ever wondered what life on a square-rigger was like . . . not as Horatio Hornblower, but as a sickly apprentice seaman crossing the Atlantic on your first voyage? How would you stand up to the cramped quarters and sail changes in all weather? Would you know how to “slush” when ordered?
Jack Corbett: Mariner can open your eyes to the seaman’s life in the mid 1800’s. In 1849, at the age of 20, Alfrederic Smith Hatch, went to sea in the hope of finding a cure for asthma. He met an old Irish seaman who took him under his wing and taught him to be a sailor. Jack Corbett would help this boy survive his first passage to England and back. Hatch, in return, opens Corbett’s eyes to the idea that life ashore is more than spending your wages on “women and drink.”
Hatch and Corbett make just one voyage together. The narrative of this voyage forms the centerpiece of the book. But there is more to the story than one voyage. Hatch leaves the sea and over the next 30 years becomes one of the movers and shakers on Wall Street. In time, he becomes president of the New York Stock Exchange. He has a wife and 11 children. Enter a much older Jack Corbett.
Hatch convinces Corbett to look after his children as he once looked after Hatch. Corbett will be an eccentric part of the family until his death. In his later years, Hatch was a principle figure in establishing havens for old sailors and those who were down on their luck. These early “shelters” were the models for many of the rescue missions that are still with us today. The New York City Rescue Mission was co-founded by Hatch in 1872. This same mission is still operating today and provided much relief to victims of the 9/11 attacks.
This book shows that not every ship was filled with a wretched captain and crew. It made me stop and think about the mentors I have known and the gifts of their knowledge. Who would have thought that the kindness showed by an old sailor to a young man would bloom into the concept of rescue missions that still serve others today?
After being out of print for some time, Jack Corbett: Mariner is back. Proceeds from the book are being donated to the New York City Rescue Mission in the name of A. S. Hatch. At the website, http://www.jackcorbett.com, you will found a ton of links to sites dealing with packet ships, seamen and other subjects touched on in the book.
The Evolution of Modern Sailboat Design
by Meade Gougeon and Ty Knoy (Winchester Press, 1973: 177 pages)
Historical book review by Will Clemens, Los Altos Hills, Calif.
How can a boat sail faster than the wind? What is the most efficient hull shape? Why does a tall, skinny Marconi point better than an old gaffer? The aptly titled Evolution of Modern Sailboat Design explains the economic forces and technical improvements that have shaped sailing vessels from the first Egyptian rafts to 19th century clipper ships to iceboats and experimental multihulls.
According to the authors, the most advanced modern designs are the result of the relentless quests to improve windward ability, increase speed, and lower costs of construction and operation. Smaller, quicker vessels have triumphed, making dinosaurs of large ships optimized for tradewind sailing or for hauling multiple decks of cannon. Modern design culminates in light boats capable of outsailing the wind, such as Marconi-rigged iceboats and experimental multihulls.
For example, the most efficient upwind sail, the ubiquitous Marconi, is the result of many inter-related innovations. The power-looms of the 19th century produced tightly woven sails, enabling greater precision of sail shape and eliminating a deficiency of earlier fore-and-aft rigs. Herrreshoff’s invention of sail track created a more efficient seal between the mast and sail and allowed for taller masts through spreaders and struts not possible when sails were rigged with mast hoops. Lessons learned through airplane design were applied to sail shape. Hollow masts — and later aluminum masts — combined with the elimination of extra spars reduced weight aloft. Lighter rigs reduced ballast and streamlined hulls. By the end of the 20th century, for the vast majority of boats, the Marconi improved to the point where its benefits outweighed those of all other rigs.
In looking to the future, the authors use iceboats and experimental multihulls to illustrate their predictions, which now may seem farfetched. After all, most of us still plod around with our single-spreader sloops and consider the vang or spinnaker (which the authors regard as an inefficient compromise) to be our most sophisticated aerodynamic tools. We are not, alas, skimming along on double-Marconi proas or shipping cargo on hydroplaning commercial sailing vessels. However, the discussion of experimental materials and designs does generate provocative concepts, and the reader will learn a great deal about the benefits and limitations of multihulls.
Writing 30 years ago, the authors blame racing rules for inhibiting innovation. Perhaps the true barrier today is the economics of the yachting industry, which forces mass production. The result is a lack of experimentation in new materials and the standardization of designs based on the all-around family cruiser or charter-fleet candidate. Perhaps a combination of easily customizable materials, such as epoxy and plywood or sheathed strip constructions and “mass-customizable” designs based on rapid prototyping and computer-controlled cutting, will shift the economics back to favoring one-off, local and experimental designs.
The Evolution of Modern Sailboat Design, co-authored by one of the Gougeon brothers, is available on the used market for $10 to $30. (If you’re looking for good old books, ask BookMark: Mark@goodoldboat.com.)
Your New Sailboat: Choosing It, Using It
by the Editors of Chapman Piloting (Hearst books, 2002; 192 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Ted Duke, Fairfield, Va.
Did you read the title and decide you were not interested? Already got your boat? Nothing here for you — wrong!This well-written paperback offers good insights into what boat might be right for you and how to avoid many of the possible pitfalls when choosing a sailboat. Not obvious by the title is the wealth of information included for prospective boat buyers after they buy the boat or for those who already own a boat.
This book is about how to find the right boat for you and your budget: new or used, large or small, dingy or trailerable, daysailer or liveaboard. It presents ideas on what kind of boat might fit your needs and discusses things prospective sailboat buyers might overlook in their eagerness to get their own sailboat. If you are already feeling the breeze, remember being there? It covers mundane things like marinas, trailers, joint-ownership, maintenance, insurance, financing, and so on. The book details what to look for when you are actually looking at boats, recommends test sailing, reminds you to check fit and finish and to seek your comfort level in the cockpit and belowdecks. It says you probably need a surveyor and discusses how to choose and locate one.
This book also explains many things new or prospective sailors need to know regarding safety, terminology, and maintaining a sailboat. The authors introduce ideas readers can research before they commit to a particular boat or plan for using it. These are items seasoned sailors know but those new to sailing might learn the hard way. It includes information on safety and ground tackle requirements and several helpful checklists. There is a good glossary and index.
This book will be of value to prospective or new sailors who have many questions about sailboats and using them. Many of the questions asked on sailing e-lists and bulletins by newbies are answered here. In short, there is much more here than just a guide to buying a sailboat. It’s well worth reading. You might even want to add it to you library for reference and to loan to guests who will sail with you to add some basics to their knowledge.
Lines: A Half Century of Yacht Designs by Sparkman & Stephens, 1930-1980
by Olin Stephens II, (David R. Godine Publishers, 2002; 228 pages; $125.00 hardcover, $250.00 limited signed edition)
Reviewed by George Colligan, Turin, N.Y.
For those of us who sail yachts designed by the firm of Sparkman & Stephens, the publication of Lines by Olin Stephens, the most influential yacht designer of the 20th century, is a momentous event. Anyone who truly loves sailing yachts to would feel privileged to look into the artistry of an individual who has so thoroughly set the standard of sailing design excellence for more than half a century.
In print for the first time are the lines — the actual three-dimensional draftsman’s representation of the hull shapes — of some of the greatest sailing yachts of the 50 years from 1930 to 1980. Included are drawings for Dorade, Stormy Weather, the New York 32, Baruna, Bolero, S&S 34, Running Tide, Intrepid, Yankee Girl, and many others. Each drawing is accompanied by a commentary on the design by Olin Stephens reflecting the significance of the design, its place in the evolution of design thinking, and the performance of the completed vessel. There are some brief insights into things that didn’t go so well but which lead to other developments and improvements.
Communicated as well is something of Olin’s personal sense of love for the boats he created and the team at Sparkman & Stephens which worked so diligently and creatively to bring these magnificent sailing vessels to life. Good Old Boat readers know many designers passed through the doors of Sparkman & Stephens on their way to excellent careers of their own.
Throughout the pages, the reader will find a clarity of vision about what makes a good boat. The narratives are rich in the lessons learned as yacht design moved from a purely intuitive venture to an ever more quantitative undertaking, all the while building on what was proven in the heat of competition and the test of the oceans.
If there is one shortcoming, it’s that it doesn’t have twice as many boats and drawings, but then Olin says these are his favorites; that, in itself, should be instructive enough.
This is a beautifully produced large-page volume. The full plans including the lines of the hull and offsets, the interior layout plan, and the sail plan are included. If you are a particularly ambitious student of yacht design, this is perhaps the only time you’ll get to see the actual design specifics of Freedom, Courageous, or Flyer. If you are a sailor with an appreciation of the aesthetics of sailboats, this volume will give you a unique glimpse into the creative mind of the best of the last century’s designers and artists who, at the age of 94, is still having an influence in the world of yacht design.
Rules of the Road at Sea
(Seaworthy Publications, 2003; CD and book; $59.95.)
Reviewed by S. Merrill Hall, Yarmouth, Maine
The ultimate guide to the collision regulations” — “Memorable learning tool.” This is supposedly everything you need to study and learn the Rules of the Road. The package includes the Rules of the Road at Sea CD, The Skipper’s Pocketbook, A Seaman’s Guide Pocket Book of The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, and the U.S. Navigation Rules CD touted to be a “Bonus Worth $25!” I was initially impressed.
The Skipper’s Pocketbook is filled with information on many boating topics similar to many other handbooks of this type. However, it’s printed in the United Kingdom, and some information is not appropriate for operating in U.S. waters and could be confusing to the novice. The Rules of the Road section refers only to the International Rules. In the U.S., where we operate under both the International and the Inland Rules, its value for quick reference to the Rules is diminished.
The Seaman’s Guide Pocket Book isn’t a guide at all but a pocket version of the International Rules without illustrations. Its practical value is minimal.
My expectations were high for both CDs. A well-done CD can be a powerful self-teaching tool. I fired up the “Bonus” U.S. Nav. Rules CD. The “U.S. Navigation Rules and the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway Rules” headings bring up copies of the Rules identical to USCG books currently in print. There is no attempt to be instructive. You’re on your own to read and study the text. In my opinion, this would be more conveniently done using a book. The “Apply the Rules” heading opens up seven sections where each contains a Q&A series to test your knowledge. Roughly 50 questions in Sections 1 through 3 on the International and Inland Rules could be helpful to learning. Those in Sections 4 through 7 have absolutely nothing to do with the Rules. They seem to have been taken from a professional mariner’s exam with questions regarding commercial vessel operations. Perhaps the publisher ran out of Rules questions and had to quickly do something to “bulk up” the content. This CD is, for the most part, not much of a bonus at all.
Ever hopeful, I loaded the Rules of the Road at Sea CD. The table of contents lists seven chapters of which five have instructional material. These cover the International Rules with explanations and questions and help-links regarding their application. The graphics are sometimes animated and include sounds and lights. This works quite well. However, several of the examples are somewhat whimsical and not reflective of common circumstances. The CD can be of learning assistance for the International Rules but, without inclusion of the Inland Rules, it is incomplete and therefore unacceptable for learning the rules that apply to U.S. waters.
In my opinion, the Rules of the Road at Sea package is over-priced for something of such limited practical value. The USCG Navigation Rules International — Inland can be bought for less than $15, and there are better self-teaching courses available at a fraction of the cost. That would be the way to go.
The Cruise of the Blue Dolphin: A Family’s Adventure at Sea
by Nina Chandler Murray (The Lyons Press, 2002; 306 pages; $24.95)
Reviewed by Beth Rosenberger, Minneapolis, Minn.
I am glad then, as gales blow and jar the house, and horizontal snows fly by, that my father with his typical creative, extravagant imagination, took his children out to sea to learn how to live.” This sentence ends a wonderful book full of adventure and stories that would interest sailors and non-sailors alike. As a sailor, I could put myself in Nina’s place as she and her family set sail from New England to the Galapagos Islands and back. What a wonderful book to escape a cold Minnesota winter day or to read while you swing from a anchor.
It was 1933, the middle of the Great Depression, when Nina’s dad, who was unemployed, decided to take his family sailing. This family included his wife, four of his children, his mother-in-law, and six crew members who would help sail the boat he chartered. His teaching skills would be enriched by his artistic wife and his mother-in-law who loved literature.
The trip began on a dangerous note as they encountered one of 21 hurricanes that hit the East Coast that year. They made it through 60-mph winds — all this without radar, GPS, or other modern electronic equipment. What sailor today would head out to sea without a basic radio? But they counted on a reliable crew and a sturdy boat. Their adventure starts with a storm, but along the way, many adventures await them. Who wouldn’t be thrilled to have a school of dolphins follow their boat or ride on a 400 pound, 200-year-old turtle in the Galapagos Islands? Friendly islanders in the Caribbean great the crew warmly; the children are anxious to meet these strange new children.
I invite you to come along with the Chandler family as Nina tells the amazing journey that changed her life and that of her silbings back in 1933 and 1934. As she states in her book . . . “the comprehensive sea-going curriculum awoke a curiosity in these children that never left the young mariners.”
In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon
by Joan Druett (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2003; 277 pages; 24.95)
Reviewed by Niki Taylor, Ayden, N.C.
Natives murdered Captain Howes Norris on the whaleship Sharon, and people assumed that the reason was because of their savage ways. Author Joan Druett searched for the real story behind the murder in her book, In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon. On May 25, 1841, the Sharon sailed out from Massachusetts to the whaling grounds of the northwestern Pacific. In the book, the author described their whaling adventures, the captain’s treatment of his crew, and his murder and its aftermath.
This was a fascinating read. Joan Druett not only wrote about this piece of maritime history, she turned it into a good adventure/murder mystery yarn. She also juxtaposed this story with fellow sailor Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick. Here was how she ended the introduction and segued into the story:
“When the events took place, Herman Melville was in the Pacific and undoubtedly heard about the murder and the heroic recapture, as gossip ran round the fleet fast. He also would have read the official version in the papers. He was home in New York when the story hit the headlines again after the Sharon arrived back in February, 1845. He heard more details from his old Acushnet shipmate Toby Greene, who in 1843, less than a year after the sensational events, had socialized with the Sharon sailors during several lengthy midsea visits. It is probably no coincidence that Captain Ahab found disaster in the same empty tropic seas where Captain Norris was killed. So what really lay behind the story of the Sharon?”
Joan extensively researched this story as evidenced by the chapter notes at the end of the book. She also included the Sharon‘s crew list and resources she used to research the book. Her well-documented research showed in her writing and added support to the credibility of the story. To further the Melville-Sharon connection, she provided a chronology of Melville’s adventures and publications. Melville fans will especially appreciate the Melville-Sharon connection, but the Sharon story stands on its own.
What readers will appreciate about the book is that it gives you the feeling of being there. You can almost smell the air and feel the water splashing against your face. Readers will feel like crew members themselves as they read about exchanging goods with natives and turning whale fat into oil. That, plus the murder mystery itself, makes for a fine read. Those who enjoy maritime history, whaling, and Melville should embark on the Sharon book voyage for a thrilling ride.
Sparkman & Stephens: Classic Modern Yachts
with Franco Pace photographs and text by John Lammerts van Bueren. Foreword by Olin Stephens II. (WoodenBoat Books, 2002; $59.95; 160 pages.)
Review by George Colligan, Turin, N.Y.
I had anchored for the night at Chesapeake City after a long solo-sail up the Delaware from Cape May. The next morning, I raised the anchor and swung Temujin, my Tartan 34C, back out into the C&D Canal for the remainder of the trip from Lake Ontario to Baltimore. I was pleasantly surprised to behold the sailing yacht, Bolero, tied to the pier at Schaefer’s Canal House, her 73-foot black hull and varnished trim sparkling in the morning sun. I stuck my coffee mug into the pedestal cup holder and swung the wheel to starboard instead of port to get a longer look as this classic beauty. The sight of this newly restored “grande dame” of sail was captivating.
I felt nearly the same way when I opened Franco Pace’s photographic tribute to the designs from the board of Olin Stephens II and the firm of Sparkman & Stephens. The first impression on opening the pages is one of astonishment at the aesthetic power and beauty of the sailing yachts presented in these pages.
The pictures of each of the S&S creations, which include Dorade, Stormy Weather, Finesterre, Ice Fire, and Kialoa, are accompanied by an informed, insightful and caring narrative by John Lammerts van Bueren, an accomplished sailor and yachting historian.
The narratives provide a history of each boat from its original owners through the years to the present owners and the current whereabouts of the boat. It’s good to know that Dorade is in excellent hands and still sailing with grace and speed. My favorite part of the narrative is the story, seemingly right out of The Great Gatsby, about Philip Le Boutillier in 1934, who heard a song by Harold Arlen being sung at The Manor on Long Island and told the young singer that she had just named his new boat which was about to come down the ways at the Nevins Yard on City Island. The song, Stormy Weather; the singer, Lena Horne.
Included in the volume is a pictorial and narrative description of the restoration process undertaken under the watchful eye of Federico Nardi of Cantiere Navales del’Argentario in Italy which brought Stormy Weather back to glittering life. Franco Pace’s photos of Stormy Weather charging through the shimmering Mediterranean are worth the price of the book.
What is even more astonishing about this book is the realization that these are not pictures of old boats that are rotting away after years and years of use and neglect. On the contrary, these are action photos of magnificent sailing yachts, which have been lovingly restored to original condition by dedicated owners and skilled craftsmen. Most of the yachts in this volume must be considered, from an aesthetic perspective, American national treasures. However their restoration seems to be occurring more in Europe than in the U.S.
Lastly, but certainly not least, the volume opens with a remarkable forward concerning the design process by Olin Stephens. His discussion of the intricacies of yacht design is revealing and informative; but what makes it even more compelling is that it is accompanied by photos of a very young bespectacled Olin standing on the decks of boats such as Ranger and Dorade, his first offshore design, which won the transatlantic Race when Olin was just a lad of 23.
Franco Pace, whose yachting photographs are world renowned, has produced two other volumes focusing on the work of William Fife and Charles Nicholson. I guess I’ll just have to get those also for my collection.
The World’s Best Sailboats — Volume II
by Ferenc Máté (Albatross/W.W. Norton, 2003; 299 pages; $65).
Review by Dan Spurr, Bozeman, Mont.
There’s no doubt about it: like sex, hyperbole sells. Magazines and books push it ’round the calendar: The best doctors in Dallas. The best chai in Berkeley. The best beaches in Rhode Island. Best mutual funds, best vacations, best of the best. Why waste your time groveling with second-raters when you can have The Best?!
The World’s Best Sailboats — Volume II follows Volume I of the same title, one of the most successful nautical coffee table books of all time. More than 100,000 copies are in print. Featuring 19 builders and hundreds of professional color images, it was also, from an author’s point of view, a rare financial success. Before writing it, Máté approached each company and sold them a place in the book. Besides this coverage for a flat fee, each company also received a certain number of bound overprints it could later use for sales and publicity. And Máté got the seed money needed to travel around and research the book. Royalties came on top of that. Clever, eh?
Such marketing does little to compromise a dream book, because you don’t expect to — and won’t — find critique in these pages. The 18 companies in Volume II (there are several that appear in both) include Alden, Cabo Rico, Hallberg-Rassy, Hinckley, Island Packet, Nautor, Shannon, and Sweden Yachts, and they are quality builders. There’s precious little to quibble with regarding their construction practices – though they do vary.
Beyond the 535 photos, which are rich, the appeal of this book, of any Máté book, is his engaging style. Easygoing, thought-provoking, and always with just enough surprises to keep you reading on. His study of each company begins with the principals. Like Alden’s Dave MacFarlane, whose demand for style and order (or is it nervous energy?) compels him over lunch to rearrange Máté’s utensils while they talk.
Each chapter then ranges through the company’s design philosophy, construction methods (such as an explanation of how Island Packet makes its own deck core material out of microballoons, and how two men laboriously install genoa track at Sweden Yachts), and a look at the model line-up. One can learn a great deal about how good new boats are put together. They, after all, are tomorrow’s good old boats.
Both volumes of The World’s Best Sailboats are a pleasure to look at, entertaining to read and, well, just plain nice to heft in your hands.
The Cruising KISS (Keep It Simple System) Cookbook II
by Corinne C. Kanter (SAILco Press, 2003; 480 pages; $24.95).
Review by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Having Corinne Kanter’s latest cookbook, The Cruising KISS Cookbook II, aboard is like having a pocket expert you can take on your cruise. It’s a substitute for the cooking class you never took and those books you never read. Corinne has done the work for you and condensed it down to what you need to know to manage a tiny galley that may go many miles from home, perhaps around the world. It’s full of cooking tidbits most of us never knew and reference information you can look up when you’ve got questions. It might be more fun to take Corinne along. But if that doesn’t work out, her book is a dandy substitute!
What’s so helpful? Information about foods you may not see in your local grocery store once you’re out in the vast community of cruisers: new and uncommon grains, international sauces, uncommon fruits and vegetables, and much more. She includes cooking terms you may have wondered about, tables such as Fahrenheit and centigrade oven temperature conversions, metric conversions, ingredient conversions from teaspoons to ounces to grams so you can accept a recipe from that nice French couple and actually use it for cooking, volume capacities (in cups) of bread and baking pans and pie plates, and oodles of information of this nature.
She discusses storage issues and provides sources of canned cheeses, meats, and dried eggs. She offers helpful hints for long-term cruising. She discusses conserving cooking fuel, cooking with a pressure cooker, a smokeless stovetop gill, a hand-operated food beater/chopper, making your own mayonnaise from scratch, yogurt, sprouts, sourdough starters, cooking stocks, variations to make hamburgers interesting. Ditto for chicken. On and on it goes. Are you dizzy yet?
Corinne adds information about helpful ingredient substitutions for when you’ve got almost everything you need . . . but not quite, and the store is hours, maybe days, from your cozy anchorage. A very helpful chart of cheeses. Troubleshooting tips for baking cake and bread (Coarse texture? Too little kneading.). A list of spices and their uses. Sauces for vegetables. Hints for cooking fish. Eating light. Microwave tips and a chart of vegetable microwave cooking times.
What’s more? Along with the information she found space for 645 recipes. The book even includes the best (32 pages) of her previous book, The Galley K.I.S.S. Book published in 1987.
Don’t expect to find all the helpful information, charts, and tables in one convenient place, however. The information is where you need it: bread tips with the bread recipes, for example. That arrangement requires you to get familiar with this book in advance so you know what’s available for future reference. I have 16 Post-it Notes stuck in my copy to help me find the information I need the next time.
Excuse the breathless delivery of this ramble. Corinne’s book belongs on the boat and in the kitchen at home (unless you live aboard, of course). It’s a marvelous resource and reference. I don’t tend to gush much, but this is a “first-rate gushable cookbook.” It’s the thing to give as a bon voyage or boat-warming gift. Your recipients will thank you for it. Maybe they’ll be inspired to cook something and invite you over.
Taking on the World
by Ellen MacArthur (International Marine, 2003; 353 pages; $24.95.)
Review by Butch Evans, Knoxville, Tenn.
“Life holds a lot of treasure.” This advice, given to Ellen MacArthur by her much-loved Nan characterizes Ellen’s driving spirit. From the time she was a young girl of 10, drawing pictures of sailboats in her school books and saving lunch money toward her first boat, Ellen knew sailing was her treasure, and she was determined to go after it. This is a book about grit and determination as much as it is about sailing. While reading it, I couldn’t help but admire Ellen’s tremendous spunk and drive.
From the prologue, an emotional account of crossing the Vendee Globe finish line in second place after an exhausting around-the-world race, which included a last-minute collision with a floating object, to the chapters that contain some of Ellen’s email logs during the race, this book grabbed my attention.
Descriptions of harrowing trips up 90 feet of slender mast for repairs while the boat races along under sail ring with tension and danger. Email transcripts from the trip spotlight Ellen’s extreme fatigue and her motivations for continuing as she tears across the empty southern ocean. The book has a lot of vivid and realistic descriptions that make you feel as if you’re there with her. It’s nearly as action-filled as a modern techno-thriller.
A very significant part of the book is the story of Ellen’s indomitable will. Unlike many other young people distracted by the temptations of youth, she decided early on to go after her treasure with all the tenacity she could muster . . . which turns out to be quite a bit. These personal qualities not only make a good racing story much more interesting, they are also the qualities that made it possible for her to survive one of the most brutal endurance races in the world. The Vendee Globe reminded me of the Iditarod sled dog race in its demand for physical stamina and willpower.
While this is Ellen’s first book, I thought she did a good job describing not only the mind-numbing difficulties associated with singlehanded racing around the world but also the personal reasons that drove her to sail for a living. Ellen is a gal with fortitude. In order to enter and become competitive in the exotic world of offshore racing she had to give her all. Her success is proof she’s done just that. This book gives the reader a first-rate view into her personal quest to succeed in life and the eccentric world of singlehanded racing.
Most of the book chronicles the Vendee Globe race, and I found myself wishing she’d written more about some of the other races she’s been involved with. The book also has a nice photo section, which adds to the quality of the book.
As a cruiser, not a racer, I’m not usually drawn to this type of book. However, the glimpse into Ellen’s driving personality made it interesting and enjoyable.
How to Install Fixed Windows
CD-ROM for Windows ’95, ’98, 2000, and NT, by Capt’n Pauley Videos <http://www.captnpauley.bigstep.com>. $12.95.
Review by Brian Gilbert, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Ah, the new media! Thanks to the Internet, low-cost computers, and inexpensive CD duplication costs, just about anyone with a good idea can get information to the public, no matter how small the audience. And that’s what Pat and Paul Esterle have done with this CD. They’ve produced a good-looking professional package on a very specific subject . . . installing fixed windows (or deadlights) in an older sailboat or powerboat. This is quite an accomplishment and a testament to their hard work and dedication.
When inserted, the CD immediately launches a PowerPoint slideshow. We’re presented with a series of text and photo slides that document the process of replacing the windows on the Esterles’ Columbia 35. With background music, no less. Navigating the disc is easy, and the photos are good, clear images. Since I use a Macintosh, I had to borrow a friend’s computer to view the CD. This isn’t a criticism, as I’m probably one of three people in the country who use a Mac and have an interest in sailboat restoration. Still, it would be possible to add a second folder to the disc containing JPEGs of each frame, allowing Mac users access to the information on the disc (sans dissolves and background music, of course).
Paul’s technique for installing these windows is correct, for example sealing the core edges with thickened epoxy when the old deadlight frames are removed. Another neat idea was the use of T-nuts embedded into the hull and covered with epoxy. This allows you to bolt the deadlights directly to the hull, without having nuts show on the inside of the cabin. There’s the additional advantage of one-person installation. But there’s no mention of whether these are stainless T-nuts or galvanized . . . the only T-nuts I’ve ever seen are galvanized. So there’s a question of eventual rust stains or galvanic reaction between stainless bolts and mild steel T-nuts, but since the whole thing is bedded in compound, problems like that should be a long time coming, if at all.
Another cool trick is the idea of filling empty caulk tubes with thickened epoxy, though I didn’t catch how you would get the tubes . . . perhaps you can buy empty ones from a paint supplier. In addition, there’s a photo series at the end of the disc that documents the entire replacement project, from start to finish. I felt this was one of the disc’s most useful features.
While I found this CD to be interesting, well-produced, and professional, I wouldn’t say it’s required viewing for everyone with a sailboat to restore. The subject matter — replacing deadlights — is awfully narrow. One wonders whether it’s worth devoting an entire CD to it. I had the feeling that one could get the same information from a good magazine article. I’d like to see more content delivered: more details, more supplier information, etc. There is very little text in this CD, so it’s like watching a slide show with no narrator. (In fact, that’s exactly what happened. This CD began life as a presentation given at a sailing seminar.)
If you’ve got windows to replace, and have read all you can find in books and magazines and are still unsure of yourself, then this might be helpful. Most boat restorers I know, with above-average problem-solving abilities and skill sets, wouldn’t list this CD as one of their all-time favorite, most useful resources. It’s just another tool.
Windsong: Our Ten Years in the Yacht Delivery Business
by Patrick and June Ellam (International Marine Publishing, 1975: 222 pages; out of print.)
Historical book review by Will Clemens, Los Altos Hills, Calif.
In the 1950s, just before the widespread production of fiberglass boats triggered the developments that have made boating accessible to anyone, Patrick and June Ellam delivered yachts along the Atlantic seaboard. In their book, Windsong, the Ellams chronicle the last years of coastal cruising as a truly adventurous, if not dangerous, undertaking. Read this book not only to appreciate the tremendous advances made in seafaring technology but also to mourn the loss of the very recent past when boating required skills and patience now unnecessary.
Today’s coastal cruiser typically sails in a boat not prone to mysterious and unpredictable leaks. The vessel is rarely out of sight of a marina, and its courses are clearly marked. More importantly, it is armed with a GPS that instantly solves eternity’s toughest navigational challenges. Aided by systems and materials that help it overcome the forces of nature, small shorthanded craft routinely round Point Conception, voyage to the Bahamas, or sail Downeast through the fog.
Reading Windsong, we appreciate that prior to modern advances, the weekend sailor would not have undertaken such voyages. The Ellams’ expertise was in their degree of preparation before a cruise, conducting a structural survey of their craft, assessing probable errors in navigation, selecting crew, and religiously maintaining a dead reckoning. These skills, while prudent, may seem quaint to today’s boater. Patrick Ellam’s level of skill was so distinct — he was the only man available who knew how to use a sextant — that he was hired on the spot to captain a tugboat from Bermuda to the mainland and down to South America.
In addition to appreciating the traditional skills of boating past, we catch glimpses of coastal life in the 1950s. After numerous passages along the still-sparse inland waterways, June notes when a house has added a new lamp in the window. We see the Ellams scramble out of Cuba when Castro’s forces come down from the hills. And we realize that the specialized skills of the Ellams were, at one time, valuable enough to enable them to run a sizeable business.
For today’s boater, Windsong reminds us that the sense of adventure is proportionate to the degree of self-reliance of the crew in handling the whims of nature and boat. Most encouraging, though, is how easy it is to recapture that adventure. Don’t start the motor. Do the repair yourself. Turn off the GPS. Anchor out instead of tying up. Maybe even get a smaller boat.
Windsong is available on the used book market for $10 to $20
Chart No. 1: USA Nautical Chart Symbols Abbreviations and Terms
(Paradise Cay, 2003; 100 pages; $9.95).
Review by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Paradise Cay has just released Chart No. 1: USA Nautical Chart Symbols Abbreviations and Terms as a replacement for the government version of Chart 1, which was discontinued by NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and NIMA (National Imagery and Mapping Agency) after the 1997 publication.
Paradise Cay’s publication is like the previous government versions in every detail: size, color, and content. It tracks the government version page by page. One can scarcely “review” a republished Chart 1, but it is important to bring to the attention of other sailors that a replacement is available. At just $9.95, it’s worth having an updated version aboard.
I Left the Navy
by Eric Hiscock (Edward Arnold, 1945; 176 pages; out of print)
Reviewed by Will Clemens, San Francisco, Calif.
Eric and Susan Hiscock’s cruising books are manuals for aspirations and ideals as much as technical manuals for world cruising. Whether we splice our own wire rope, repair our own sails, or navigate our boat out of its home bay, we read the Hiscocks to dream about “what if?” as much as “how to?” I Left the Navy is a remarkable precursor to their more famous cruising books, not for any sailing lore or skills but as inspiration for those of us landlocked by our everyday lives.
Unlike the Pardeys, who set sail during the postwar golden age of small boat voyaging, the Hiscocks came of age during a much bleaker era. Published during World War II, I Left the Navy tells of Eric’s medical discharge from the Royal Navy, his humbling string of odd jobs in a depressed wartime England, and ultimately his opportunistic return to sea.
Eric finds work in a fiberboard factory and as a farmhand on a friend’s estate. Though their labor is backbreaking, the Hiscocks find happiness in restoring a farmhouse and planting a garden. Eric describes every task precisely, whether it is lubricating a tractor, digging a furrow or harvesting the corn. This manic attention to detail and instinct to understand the purpose and workings of any process will be familiar qualities to any diligent sailor.
Although he and Susan are still years away from their famous voyages, Eric finds find his way back to boats. He is entrusted with editing a monthly yachting magazine and then finds a job shuttling boats around Britain for the Navy on occasional trips away from the farm. Although he works belowdecks as the engineer, he derives rich satisfaction from being on the water and serving his country.
I Left the Navy was not written as a sentimental memoir about a simpler, earlier time. Eric wrote this book in the moment, surely a frustrated young man wondering how his life would turn out. But the Hiscocks’ now-legendary practical skills, attention to detail, and careful planning are evident throughout all their youthful struggles. It is the good fortune of all of us that eventually the Hiscocks found a different life that inspired generations of bluewater and weekend sailors.
Used copies of this short book can be found for $15 to $30.
A-B-Sea: A Loose-footed Lexicon
by Jack Lagan (Sheridan House, 2003; 352 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Jack Lagan has written a delightful nautical dictionary (or sorts) best described in his own words as a ” loose-footed lexicon: a foot-loose, fancy-free and fore-and-aft alphabetic list of all the words known by Jack Lagan about the sea, seafarers, and seafaring.”
Since Jack is British, the U.S. reader must beware of the usual spelling anomalies — such as colour and realise — but this book isn’t meant to be used as a spelling guide anyway. Instead it’s a compendium of interesting and useful nautical information and trivia which Jack felt compelled to include. He offers quotes from classic nautical literature, tables and formulas of interest, and a touch of humor (oops, make that humour).
With this book you learn that one toilet on a British yacht is referred to as the “heads” (and that in his opinion the head or heads is the nadir of plumbing expertise). You learn that jabs are shots (the immunization variety), a kicking strap is a vang, and that crosstrees are spreaders. Armed with that sort of knowledge alone, you might be able to discuss sailing with a British friend without the occasional torch/flashlight or knock-me-up type of disconnect.
Jack also includes the historical background of certain nautical terms and discusses the evolution of their common uses. For example, shanghai is defined as “to forcibly recruit someone to the marine (usually through a combination of drink, drugs, and the odd blow over the head with a belaying pin); a great old Royal Navy tradition taken up by many other nations. Shanghai itself is a fascinating city. In Chinese ‘shang’ is used to signify the start of something and ‘hai’ means ‘sea;’so Shanghai is on the Huangpu River just south of where it joins the estuary of the magnificent Yangzi.”
He also takes on the age-old debate of “ship versus boat” and sums it up with: “Is that clear? All right, it might be difficult to define a ship or a boat, but most sailors certainly know a ship when they see one bearing down on them.”
There is a little ” nautical dictionary” making the rounds that pokes fun at nautical terminology with elaborate (but wrong) definitions. This is not that sort of book. Jack has fun with the terms, but he gives correct explanations. Leeward (pron. ‘loo-w’d’), for example, has this entry: “the side of a sailing boat presently away from the wind; see windward. If you are feeling seasick, make sure you know which side this is.”
Jack Lagan has fun with our favorite pastime. And we, recognizing his good intentions and sense of humor/humour, have fun with his new book.
Cruising at Last: Sailing the East Coast
by Elliot Merrick (The Lyons Press, 2003; 288 pages; $22.95)
Reviewed by Wayne Gagnon, Antigo, Wis.
Why do people sail, climb mountains, or backpack? According to Elliot Merrick, “Perhaps it is that we have gone and must go full circle. From primitive hunger needs, bark shacks, and skin clothes we ‘advance’ to our present civilization . . . Perhaps it is only by losing the primitive sense of oneness with nature that we can value it and learn to win back to perceptiveness again.” In other words, we need to be, or at least feel that we are, more self-reliant. Elliot Merrick certainly was that. Before retiring from the U.S. Forest Service, he spent four years building Sunrise, a 20-foot sailboat he that and his first wife, Kate, and later his second wife, Patricia, cruised up and down the East Coast from Georgia to Maine and back several times.
Over the course of his lifetime, Elliot wrote several novels, short stories, and magazine articles. Cruising at Last: Sailing the East Coast is simply a collection of short works he planned to eventually compile into book form. He died in 1997 before he had the chance. Fortunately for us, his daughter completed this task. The book starts by telling how the author and his wife spent summer vacations camping in a daysailer near Hilton Head, South Carolina, in the 1960s while dreaming of the day when they would own a truly seaworthy boat. Sounds like a lot of us, doesn’t it? Although written over a period of years and over several voyages, the narrative flows like the incoming tide at sunset. It gives the wanna-be sailor that if-he-can-do-it-I-can-do-it attitude and leaves the experienced sailor chomping at the helm to get back out there.
Cruising at Last takes us on an odyssey that’s part cruising guide, part travelogue, and part character study with just enough technical information about Elliot’s boat to scratch that particular itch. If you’ve read and enjoyed things like My Old Man and the Sea or North to the Night, you’ll probably enjoy Cruising at Last. It provides a nice contrast to the life-and-death stories by telling how pleasant being self-reliant in a small boat can be. It’s a book to be read on long, cold, dark winter evenings when our boats are stored for the season and we can’t wait to feel the deck swaying beneath our feet and the cool spray rinsing our faces again. To take a line from the film industry, this could be the “feel-good” book for the off-season.
Naturally Salty: Coastal Characters of the Pacific Northwest
by Marianne Scott (TouchWood Editions, 2003; 214 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Marianne Scott’s personal warmth and natural interest in others shines through her new book, Naturally Salty: Coastal Characters of the Pacific Northwest. In her work as a journalist, she has discovered and profiled a cast of boaters and entrepreneurs who have risen to the top of a sea full of salty characters.
Those she has selected for this book have welcomed her into their homes and told her of their trials and triumphs. In return, Marianne has painted their portraits in colorful words and descriptive phrases, portraying her subjects accurately while using her genuine interest in them to show the best side of each. She is an artist who captures each ray of sunlight as it warms her subject.
In selecting and profiling 30 coastal characters, Marianne has held a mirror up to the rest of us. Each of us has a story to tell; in telling these tales she reminds us of our own significance. Her subjects have been drawn to the sea and to boats. They have ricocheted through life discovering themselves as they went. Their paths — like those of so many boaters, coastal dwellers, and in fact everyone — have had interesting turns and loops.
These are men and women who have done amazing or unusual things. These are individuals who have lived long and vigorously, reminding us of the great value of our last decades. These are gutsy women and inspiring men. These people are us. In this book Marianne has brought out the best in us.
Smith’s Guide to Maritime Museums of North America
by Robert Smith (1st Books, 2002; three volumes; $10.50, $11.50, and $12.50)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
I may have to hide Robert Smith’s books from my husband. While I enjoy visiting maritime museums, I’m not sure I enjoy visiting them with Jerry. He doesn’t do anything unless he can be extremely thorough. A museum is not the sort of place to take a guy like that. So what will I do if Jerry learns about a terrific source listing more than 620 maritime museums, lighthouses, and related museums in North America?
Robert Smith’s three-volume set is a treasure. It lists museums by name, by location, and by type or specialty. And it provides a brief description of each. You say you’re interested in whaling museums, for example? There are 19 listed in Volume 1, which includes the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada as far south as Pennsylvania, including all of Ontario and part of the Great Lakes. Volume 2 includes the southern stretches of the Atlantic Coast and states adjoining the Gulf Coast. Volume 3 includes the Pacific Coast and inland through the remainder of the Great Lakes. (Even with 620 sites listed in three volumes, these guides do not yet include them all. Robert’s looking for input from others to tell him of museums he’s missed.)
Just when I thought we should be sure to post all these maritime museums, lighthouses, and canal and lock museums in our comprehensive Good Old Boat directory of all things nautical <http://www.goodoldboat.com>, I realized that would not be necessary. Robert has that covered, too. Check out his website at <http://www.maritimemuseums.net>. We’ll be sure to link it.
My hat’s off to Robert Smith, who has also authored two West Coast cruising guides, by the way. But he seems to be the modest sort. On the back covers of his books, he says, “Credit must go to all those dedicated individuals who have committed time, talent, and financial resources for preservation of the maritime adventure.” He’s so right. Get the books and go thank them yourself. Just don’t take Jerry with you.
Wayward Sailor: In Search of the Real Tristan Jones
by Anthony Dalton (McGraw-Hill/International Marine, 2003; 336 pages $24.95)
Reviewed by Daniel Keller. Newport, R.I.
Anthony Dalton’s book on the mysterious Tristan Jones reads, more times than not, like a detective novel – one in which the author is clearly and logically explaining that Tristan Jones’ claimed great feats as a sailor could not be entirely true. From the start, the author establishes a style of dryness and wit.
Ultimately, however, he provides his readers with a well-written, well thought-out, and very entertaining book.
This book uncovers the true sail courses Tristan followed. Anthony writes in a logical formula that works. First he mentions the facts and accomplishments that Tristan claimed, from his date of birth to total sailing miles recorded. Then he discusses how these claims are not possible and provides good, effective evidence. He often reveals this through the quotes of other sailors and authors. The book’s strength is that it clears the murky waters that surround our sail hero Tristan Jones, a tough task given that so many questions surround Tristan Jones, the sailor and person.
While he reveals, however, that all that Tristan claimed was not true, Anthony Dalton is not out to play policeman against Tristan Jones. He praises Tristan for being an accomplished sailor.
This book is worth a place in your sailing library if you want logical evidence about how and why a great author and accomplished sailor created some adventure tales and claimed amazing accomplishments under sail. As you read it, you will be treated to Anthony Dalton’s subtle, effective wit, a style that will keep you reading and tickle your intellect.
a music CD by Hoolie (Pirate Weasel Records; 2003; $15.00)
Reviewed by Michael Hewitt, Tucson, Ariz.
I don’t even know what some of Hoolie’s instruments are . . . bodrhan and bazouki, for instance, but any musical group that uses a performer in tap shoes for primary percussion is guaranteed to create a unique sound. Fair Winds is the third recording by the duo group, Hoolie. Now a quartet, Jerry Casault (lead vocals and guitar) and Katherine Morris (vocals and banjo) have teamed with Nick Garreiss (foot percussion) and Jon Potarykus (vocals, fiddle and mandolin). The product of their collaboration is a collection of 14 traditional and not-so-traditional jigs and reels, all with a Celtic flavor and midwest Great Lakes seasoning.
“Load ’em and Stack ’em,” is the story of lead singer Jerry Casault’s summer loading Japanese freighters with 100-pound bags of Michigan navy beans. The liner notes describe the backbreaking and dangerous work and the ultimate payoff for a very fit songwriter who used the money saved to backpack through Europe. “Powder Monkey” is a musical account of the real sea battle between the U.S.S. Constitution and the British ship, Guerriere, in the War of 1812, sung from the point of view of a young powder monkey. Hoolie’s songwriters researched the song in the U.S. Naval Archives.
None of the Fair Winds tunes has the mainstream appeal of a “Sloop John B,” “Southern Cross,” or “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” but if you’re a fan of Celtic sound or favor sea shanties, Hoolie will be one of your favorites. It’s hard not to tap your foot when listening to Fair Winds, but Hoolie is a group that crys out to be experienced live. Unless I had seen them in person, I would be unlikely to play Fair Winds more than a few times. On the other hand, I wouldn’t hesitate to attend a performance and afterward thoroughly enjoy the recording. Hoolie is the perfect group to perform at Mystic Seaport or in concert on the grounds of Old Ironsides’ berth in Boston. Heck, I’d go just to find out what a bodrhan and bazouki are!
Not to be Used for Navigation
a music CD by Eileen Quinn (Silverbirch Productions; 2003; $14.95)
Reviewed by Michael Hewitt, Tucson, Ariz.
Not every songwriter can pull off lyrics about Nigel Calder books, duct tape, and WD-40. Canadian singer-songwriter Eileen Quinn can and does, in her fourth CD, Not to be Used For Navigation. Her lyrics and her sentiments leave no doubt that she is a sailor first and a singer second. From Quinn’s cover photograph taken from the spreaders, through a dozen insightful songs about the frequent joys, too-common frustrations, and the sometime loneliness of cruising, this is a CD that will resonate with any sailor.
“A Sailor’s Daughter” is a poignant song about the deep relationship between an aging father and the daughter he taught to sail. Probably autobiographical, the song will powerfully touch any father-daughter crew. Another favorite is “He Don’t Love Me (Like He Loves His Boat”). Quinn sings about a woman agonizing over her man’s infidelity. He’s gone all weekend, he’s coming home late, and finally at night he calls out her name . . . the name of his boat. Many spouses of good old boaters will commiserate with her inability to “compete with this plastic romance.” It is a funny and very clever song, although perhaps too close to the truth to be enjoyed by everyone.
A solo performer is challenged to keep her songs from sounding too similar, even when the lyrics range from hose burns to going home. Eileen Quinn shines brightest when harmonizing with herself, and so her music begs for a duet. I’d like to suggest a collaboration with Jimmy Buffett. He, and we, would enjoy the humor and irony in her songwriting.
Eileen Quinn’s Ovation guitar and her resonant voice put to music the real experience of cruising. While it was difficult truly appreciating this CD on the desert drive from home in Tucson to the boat in San Diego, when played in the cockpit, Not to be Used For Navigation was the perfect accompaniment to the subtle sounds of a boat at anchor.
Classic Sailing Stories: 15 Incredible Tales of the Sea
Edited by Tom McCarthy, (Globe Pequot, 2003; 336 pages; $9.95)
Reviewed by Freedom Mayjack, Norco, Calif.
Was Shakespeare a sailor? Editor Tom McCarty has put together a collection of 15 classic sailing stories written by such famous authors as Aaron Smith, Joseph Conrad, Erskine Childers, Joshua Slocum, James F. Cooper, Herman Melville, Richard H. Dana, Jerome K. Jerome, Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Hakluyt, Robert L. Stevenson, and Owen Chase. These are short stories, ranging in length from six pages by William Shakespeare to 61 pages by Ernest Shackleton, written between 1567 and 1919. I began with the brief introduction to gain an insight into Tom McCarthy’s intention of organizing this mixture of fact and fictional stories. His concept had me excited within a few paragraphs. But I soon realized the significance of the word “classic” in the title.
The first story, written by Shakespeare, was a struggle. After enduring an endless Shakespearean dissection by a humanities professor many years ago, I promised myself I would never read Shakespeare again. Even this short six-page story left me searching for its true meaning. I felt like a teenager plucked out of a large city gang and dropped into a mansion in the Hamptons to learn Chinese!
Much of the first half of this book left me feeling this way. Since many of the stories are centuries old, I spent too much time trying to understand the content or translating it into modern English. The second half was much better. I enjoyed Herman Melville’s stories, ” Rounding Cape Horn” and “The White Whale,” as he shared personal feelings. I was uninspired by Richard H. Dana and Edgar Allan Poe.
With all the possibilities and variety of reading available in the modern world, I like to leave the classics to the teachers and students. I suspect ordinary salts who enjoy day, weekend, or full-time cruising prefer books that capture their attention within the first 20 pages. I, for one, wish to be filled with emotion.
Whether I’m angry, laughing, or crying doesn’t matter as long as I’m captured . . . unless, of course, I’m straddling my boat’s diesel, searching for the dropped half-inch wrench, with a first mate holding the flashlight . . . then I desire an emotionless how-to manual.
Cruising with Your Four-Footed Friends: The Basics of Boat Travel with Your Cat or Dog
by Diane Jessie with forward by Alvah Simon (Seaworthy Publications, Inc., 2003; 148 pages $19.95)
Reviewed by Randy Leasure, Halfmoon Bay, Calif.
If you currently have a dog or cat or are considering getting one as a pet on board, this book is an insightful, well-organized collection of short stories and useful information to help you make the decision. What could be a list of dos and don’ts is a collection of real-life examples of cruisers who are out there living the cruising lifestyle and have incorporated pets into their lives aboard.
Diana Jessie covers all the basics including what are good choices for pet size and breed based on your itinerary and boat type. She also discusses different types of care and upkeep, feeding, and one of the biggest concerns: what to do about the bathroom situation. Also included are good examples of setting up a place for your pet to call its own. This is very important for your pet and can be a simple as an old blanket.
She includes helpful animal regulations information when clearing in and out of other countries and tips on how to get your paperwork in order just as you would with the vessel’s documents. She includes what vaccines are needed for various countries and islands as well as what additional clearance fees are warranted. Just like our choice of boats, everything is a compromise, but the joys of having your pet along can far outweigh any slight inconveniences. Dogs and cats seem to adapt much more easily to the minimalist cruising life than we do. They also have the ability, when we humans fall short, of providing unconditional love. As I read this book, I could relate to the special bond that comes with living on board with your pet. After living aboard for more than 10 years with my cat, Motorboat, I know it would not be the same without my faithful companion.
Lord Byron said it best about our animal friends: “Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity, and all the virtues of man without his vices. This praise, which would be unmean flattery if inscribed over human ashes, is but just a tribute to the memory of Boatswain, a dog.”
Diana uses examples of traveling with pets on board culling this information from logs and interviews with cruisers. Robin Lee Graham and Tania Aebi both completed teenage circumnavigations with feline companions along. Alvah Simon’s Arctic survival tale, North to the Night, gives credit to his cat, Halifax, who helped him through the long cold dark winter with companionship and even helped alert him when there were polar bears about.
Next time you ask who is on dogwatch or whether there is enough money in the cruising kitty, remember your furry friends. Pick up a copy of this book to help you enhance your cruising adventures.
The Mariner’s Book of Days 2004
by Peter H. Spectre (Sheridan House Inc., 2003; 112 pages; $12.95.)
Reviewed by Eric V. Nelson, Celina, Ohio
Trying to capture the essence of The Mariner’s Book Of Days 2004 in a short review is like trying to capture moonbeams in a bottle. True, it is a unique desk calender, but it is so much more. Call it a desk calendar with an attitude. To those of us who are fascinated by lore and traditions of the sea, it is a treasure trove of information. This is the 13th edition of this calendar. Each has contained a completely new collection of marine fact and legend. The vast amount of nautical lore boggles the mind.
Items in this edition range from the practical (how to wash clothes at sea), to the historical (excerpts from ships’ logs and nautical history of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries). There is also the occasionally bizarre entry (a 1777 recruiting poster for the continental ship, Ranger, captained by John Paul Jones, promises: “Any Gentlemen Volunteers who have a Mind to take an agreable [sic] Voyage in this Pleasant Season of the Year may, by entering on board the above Ship Ranger meet with every civility . . .”). Anyone who has read even one of C. S. Forester’s Hornblower novels knows that life in any 18th century naval vessel was unlikely to be either agreeable or civil.
Peter Spectre’s nautical miscellany is delightfully digestible. Each left-hand page has a selection of marine information and highlighted notes from past nautical adventures — famous, infamous, and obscure. The right-hand pages are weekly day planners. Each day provides a brief note of a significant nautical event that occurred on that date along with plenty of white space for noting appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, and so on.
The Mariner’s Book Of Days 2004 could easily be read in a single evening, but this is no way to treat this charming book. Rather, put it on your desk and as each week begins start by reading the left-hand page. The information contained on these pages often warrants several readings during the week. Each date on the right-hand page contains a nugget of nautical knowledge to be digested while considering the day’s appointments and chores. By the end of the year, you will have a new appreciation for nautical tales and lore.
This is a desk planner that will not be in the trash at the end of the year, but rather will earn a permanent place on every owner’s nautical bookshelf. It is a safe bet that readers of The Mariner’s Book Of Days 2004 will find themselves scouring the shelves of used bookstores and the Internet looking for the 12 previous editions of the calendar.
Sailing Around the World: A Family Retraces Joshua Slocum’s Voyage
by Guy Bernardin (Sheridan House Inc., 2002; 235 pages; $24.95)
Reviewed by Craig Anderson, Punta Gorda, Fla.
“Sailing a replica of Spray isn’t as simple as it might seem, ” writes Guy Bernardin. “I had to very quickly forget completely my years of racing, learning everything over again . . . It was a new style of sailing, a different philosophy. I had to discover it little by little, learn it, and absorb it, not without some bouts of temper.”
Guy Bernardin purchased Spray of Saint-Briac in 1992 in Camden, Maine, and named her after Joshua Slocum’s celebrated ship and the place in Brittany where Bernardin first learned to sail. He sailed her around the world in tribute to the legendary Slocum and to mark the centennial of his historic solo circumnavigation completed in 1898.
Guy didn’t make the pilgrimage alone as Slocum had done 100 years earlier. Not that Guy, a bluewater sailing veteran who has participated in two OSTARs, two BOC Around Alone races, and the Vendee Globe single-handed race, lacked the credentials for such a challenge. But he took his wife, Annick, and their young son, Briac, as crew. Throughout the book, the reader witnesses a father’s pride at watching Briac’s development and emerging love of sailing and the sea.
There was more to this acquisition than honoring Joshua Slocum and commemorating the anniversary of his historic trip, however. Guy longed to learn whether this ship was everything the famous seafarer claimed. Although it took some time and patience to unlock the boat’s mysteries and learn her ways, the French-American skipper quickly adjusted to Spray‘s peculiarities and found his answer. She more than lived up to Slocum’s accolades.
He writes with glowing respect of the boat’s beauty and sailing qualities, especially her ability to sail a course unattended for long periods of time. That was a characteristic that also impressed Slocum and actually enabled his single-handed journey in a time before windvane steering and autopilots.
The circumnavigation began and ended in Newport, Rhode Island. Departing in 1995, the Bernardins returned in 1998 just in time to be the centerpiece in festivities in Newport and Fairhaven marking the 100th anniversary of Slocum’s original attainment. Although traveling more or less in the wake of the first Spray , the journey was more a paraphrase than a literal re-enactment.
Not exactly a page-tuner, Sailing Around the World is a well-written tale told warmly and winsomely by an unpretentious and unassuming sailing superstar. His admiration of Joshua Slocum is unmistakable and, in the spirit of the man he sought to honor, he made the journey look easy which, of course, we know it wasn’t. You will enjoy this book, especially if you’re a Joshua Slocum aficionado.
Treacherous Waters: Stories of Sailors in the Clutch of the Sea / Intrepid Voyagers: Stories of the World’s Most Adventurous Sailors
edited by Tom Lochhaas (International Marine, 2003; 350 pages; $16.95) / edited by Tom Lochhaas (International Marine, 2003; 378 pages; $16.95)
Reviewed by Richard Smeriglio, Moose Pass, Alaska
Armchair sailors and northerners who anticipate a winter lay-up take heart. While enjoying a cup of something hot, you can hear the percussive smack of wave on rock, see bananas in the rigging, and smell the fear of sailors caught by a murderous sea. As a fiendish wave overtakes Richard Maury on the 35-foot schooner, Cimba, ” The stern was sucked down . . . the bows fought as always they fought . . . her own buoyancy was all that could save the craft from being shattered, hove under.” Feel the poignant loss of Gordon Chaplin after a hurricane wrecks his anchored boat and he last sees his lover under water as she sinks away into the black.
In this twin anthology of excerpted chapters, the editor aims to whet the reader’s appetite for the lengthier works from which the chapters came. In the main he succeeds. Most, but not all, of the selections can stand alone as complete short stories. Because almost all the selections come from previously published works, well-read good old boaters will have some familiarity with them. Accounts by Chichchester, Rousmaniere, Dumas, Moitessier, the Smeetons, and the Pardeys appear. Obscure and out-of-print accounts by lucky fools and heroic madmen also appear. The editor sought to preserve neglected gems of sailing literature and rightly so. Wouldn’t a sailor wish to preserve a storied wooden schooner despite her advanced age and thereby make the world better?
Arranged in groups by topic, the stories touch on much of what draws us to sail with the wind upon the waters. The human drama, tragedy, singlehanding, racing, dangerous shores, and little boats all have sections in these books. A 6-foot, a 10-foot, and a 13.5-foot boat each makes it across the Atlantic. If you have to ask why, you wouldn’t understand; but it seems so unnecessary to start with such a craft. The reader can feel the slightly alarming intensity of Ellen MacArthur as she slaloms along at 20 knots in the Southern Ocean, self-driven to win an around-the-world race. The long-distance solo sailors (especially the British ones) seem just a little daffy. Bernard Moitessier proves the exception as he seems to grow saner and more self-aware as he sails. People die in these stories. The reader will come to know what all bluewater sailors dread or know or both: the monstrous consequences of a single wave.
The books have solid production values for paperbacks. The glue and covers look as if they will last on shore at least. The editor has included bibliographies and sources for readers inclined to get the rest of the story. Regrettably, he omitted any charts, authenticating photos or even sketch maps of the sailing grounds. The publisher plans additional volumes in this series and could correct this oversight. Readers may have to wait, however. Editor Tom Lochhaas plans a transatlantic crossing in Allegro, his 27-foot Albin Vega, which should provide salty grist for the literary mill.
Artemis / Seaflower
by Julian Stockwin (Scribner, 2002; 336 pages; $24 hardcover) / by Julian Stockwin (Scribner, 2003; 336 pages; $24 hardcover)
Reviewed by Randall Rogers, Maple Grove, Minn.
“Aft the more honour
Forward the better man”
As Dave Olson put it when reviewing Kydd, by Julian Stockwin (Scribner, 2001; 256 pages) in the September 2001 issue of Good Old Boat: “I miss Patrick O’Brian.” Dave’s context was that he had completed the 20-book O’Brian series and was in sore need of something to “fill the void.” In his estimation Kydd — and the books to surely follow — would again fill his literary hold. I, too, miss Patrick O’Brian.
But unlike Dave, I had only advanced to the fourth book in the O’Brian series when provided the opportunity to review Artemis and Seaflower, installments two and three in the Stockwin Napoleonic-era series. I started my read at the beginning, of course, with Kydd. And what a read it’s been! Having also read all of C.S. Forester’s Hornblower books, I can say that Stockwin is first-rate seafaring fare. Not necessarily better, certainly not worse, but assuredly excellent.
In Artemis, Thomas Paine Kydd, a pressed sailor having earlier endured the title of “grass combin’ bastard,” is now rated able seaman in the Royal Navy. Along with his mysterious friend, Nicholas Renzi, who is in self-imposed exile, he is assigned to the crack frigate Artemis. They soon see action with the French frigate, Citoyenne, followed by a return to Portsmouth for refit. While in England, Kydd gets caught up in family struggles, his sea life fading into the past as his pigtails fall to the floor. Rescued by Renzi’s intellect, Kydd’s family issues are resolved, enabling him to return to Artemis. Driven by storms, lust, and cannibalism, Artemis and her crew find their way to India, the South Pacific, and ultimately around the world. Artemis achieves fame and infamy; Kydd becomes petty officer.
The book Seaflower is all about the Caribbean as Kydd discovers his talents as tactician and leader and the ” fog” lifts about Renzi. Following a court martial, land action, hurricane, a condemned ship, and a dockyard job in Antigua as Master of the King’s Negroes, Kydd and cohorts join the cutter Seaflower.
Seaflower serves the Crown well by outsmarting more powerful foe and by conveying key naval intelligence. In the end, Seaflower finds “the hard;” Kydd and Renzi become master’s mates.
Julian Stockwin writes with a level of intensity and clarity of emotion both dark and exhilarating. He achieves for the reader the reality of Kydd’s world — from the seeming delights of the South Pacific to the pall of Caribbean slavery, from the smell of Stockholm tar in the rigging to the horrifics of sea battle. He writes of real ships and real battles and does it with a sense of historical and cultural relevance. In his own words, “I have to ‘see’ things in my mind’s eye before I can write about them. I try to go to the very places that were so important to history, to caress the old stones, to sight along a great gun that men once served in bloody battle, and most precious and transcendent, to step aboard men o’war of Kydd’s day. . .”
At the close of the 18th century, only 120 British sailors had made it from fo’c’sle to quarterdeck — that is to say, from common seamen to officer positions usually reserved for well-born gentlemen. Twenty-two went on to be captains of their own ships. Three became admirals. These men were singularities, “titans” of maritime history, and these are the men who Stockwin memorializes in his hero Kydd.
The next installment in the series, Mutiny, is due for release in the U.S. in June 2004. (Check <http://www.julianstockwin.com> for more information.)
Although I look forward to my return to the beloved O’Brian series, I will, for now, feel the loss of Mr. Thomas Paine Kydd and Mr. Nicholas Renzi. In the back of my mind I’ll be wondering if Kydd and crew aren’t engaging the enemy just over the horizon.
Back Under Sail: Recovering the Spirit of Adventure
by Migael Scherer (Milkweed Editions, 2003; 203 pages; $22.)
Reviewed by Ken Carter, Alexandria, Ky.
Migael Scherer starts her book in Juneau, Alaska, where she is living aboard with her husband, Paul, on their sailboat, Orca. She enjoys time spent with friends, especially Joyce. Migael and Paul sail on to Seattle, where she is brutally raped in a laundromat. After the rapist has been tried, convicted, and sentenced, depression nearly crushes Migael. Soon afterward, Joyce is diagnosed with cancer and dies.
Five years earlier Migael had been invited to sail in a race on Joyce’s boat, Eagle, as part of an all-woman crew. The race was to take place in Juneau, take six days, and cover 200 miles, but Migael had come down with the flu and had been unable to go, a decision she regrets. Now she is invited once again to sail in the race but this time with five men, only two of whom she knows. She is to be the only female aboard. Paul encourages her to participate. She accepts the invitation but wonders about her decision to be in the race: will she fit in, will she let the others down, will she be able to pull her own weight? She worries about being on a sailing adventure without Paul. She realizes that she’s grown tired of waiting for something to happen, of always looking over her shoulder.
Once she has become part of Eagle‘s crew, Migael spends some time reflecting about the things that have happened to her and the people she has met. Throughout the race, her thoughts bounce back and forth. Even in the midst of the beautiful Alaskan setting, black thoughts haunt her. But during the race she starts to see herself in a different light. She is important. What she has to say is worth listening to, and she is just as much a part of the crew as the others. Most importantly, her marriage — made rocky after the attack — has started to turn around. Paul begins to see her for who she is. She begins to realize that she is the one who has to pick up the pieces and start the rebuilding process.
This is a good book, not to be read as a novel but more like a road map. There is enough emotion in this book that all readers can relate to. Throughout life there are situations that happen that will knock the wind out of our sails or run us aground. Sometimes it may seem that darkness is consuming us., For Migael and for the rest of us, I like how the book ends. She doesn’t know what lies ahead, but another voyage and more adventure await. She knows that she and Paul will face their adventures together.
Our Island in the Sun
by Garry and Carol Domnisse (Trafford Publishing, 2003; 425 pages, $39.95).
Review by C.H. “Chas” Hague, Des Plaines, Ill.
Hundreds of cruisers have sailed from California down the coast of Mexico. Few have been as prepared as Garry and Carol Domnisse. Garry spent 30 years in the U.S. Coast Guard. Carol is a registered nurse. Both are enthusiastic sailors and amateur radio operators. They met, married, retired, and set off on an adventure described in their book, Our Island in the Sun.
Garry and Carol sailed from Long Beach in April 1996 in Yellow Rose, a Valiant 40. Their plan to sail to Hawaii and Alaska was squelched after 100 miles by bad weather in the Pacific. Instead they headed south, exploring Baja and the Gulf of California before sailing to Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco. They went on to Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica before passing through the Panama Canal and on to the Yucatan Peninsula and finishing the trip at Key West.
Along the way they delighted in the pleasures of cruising: enjoying the villages, villagers, and delicious exotic food of the Central American coast; discovering a lovely resort in Drakes Bay, Costa Rica, that you can’t get to from here; and passing through the engineering wonder that is the Panama Canal.
They also experienced the usual tribulations of living aboard a boat: checking into ports not set up to handle private yachts and trying to find parts in third-world countries (a trip to obtain a new heat exchanger ends with “the taxi ride from hell”). They also had to deal with winds in the Gulf of Tehuantepec that went from calm, to cat’s paws, to 40 knots in less than 10 minutes!
The book is a large-format paperback, with quite a few photographs and lots of charts. The charts are a disappointment. Reproduced in black and white, the scale is too small to give a feel for the distances and locations traveled, and the lettering is too small to be legible. The result is a series of anonymous blobs of coastline with course lines. I would have preferred fewer, larger-scale charts with dates, courses, and locations clearly overprinted. I would also have liked a fuller description about the repairs Yellow Rose needed and more information on the outfitting and provisioning Gerry and Carol did before they set off.
A sailor contemplating a cruise along the west coast of Mexico and Central America will find solid information in this book concerning weather, anchorages, and things to see and do.
The Navigators Handbook
by Jeff Toghill (The Lyons Press. 2003; 128 pages, $16.95).
Review by Don Chambers, Lawrence, Kan.
What a handsome book this one is! Glossy paper, attractive page composition, nice diagrams, and some splendid photographs: gleaming varnish and brass on a classic wooden yacht and a stunning view of a white stone lighthouse glowing fiery-red in the last moments of a sunset. Then there is a startling photo of Ellen MacArthur (the fastest woman circumnavigator) sitting mid-ocean at her nav station: sunburned, red-eyed, and looking suitably terrified.
Once past the beauty, however, the book claims too much. To be sure as claimed ” . . . this book, together with a club membership and good training, will ensure that seafaring skills of navigators are never wanting.” But, if the reader had good training and experienced sailing mates, would he or she need this book?
Indeed, the book will provide, as is claimed ” . . . an introduction to the art of navigation for boatowners new to the subject . . . ” but a handbook or a reference book it is not. A novice at celestial navigation (like myself) would have been better served by a single worked-out example, rather than beginning by instructing the reader to first ” . . . take a sextant altitude of Polaris.”
The British author doesn’t escape writing a book that is mildly Euro-centric: U.S. readers will be surprised to learn that: “Charts can be in fathoms or metres but eventually all charts will be metric,” or that ” . . . most charts are produced by the Hydrographic Office and . . . are known as Admiralty Charts.” U.S. readers might be mislead by the discussion of chart soundings in which the chart datum is said to be taken from the “lowest astronomical tide,” rather than Mean Low Water data on which U.S. charts are based.
Still, the book has virtues. For dinghy sailors with ambitions, it would be a useful introduction. Inexpensive at $16.95, it makes a nice gift. There are reasonably clear and simple discussions of laying off courses, leeway, dead reckoning, and compass bearings. There is a short overview of electronic navigational tools and charts useful for a person who is unfamiliar with them.
This is a book for wishing, one for sailors with no previous navigation experience who want to brave big waters. The next step would be for readers to find books like Piloting and Dead Reckoning, by Schufeldt, Dunlap, and Bauer, and the U.S. Sailing Association’s Basic Coastal Navigation.
Wendameen The Life of an American Schooner From 1912 to the Present
by Neal Parker (Down East Books, 2002; 94 pages; $16.95).
Review by Scott Simpson, Coventry, Conn.
Have you ever spied an old wooden boat sitting quietly in her cradle and wondered about her past? How beautiful she must have been! Why, oh why, was she left there to rot? Could she be returned to her days of glory? Would anyone ever invest the time and money to rescue her from the grave of neglect? It would take a special someone to handle the task.
Captain Neal Parker was just that sort of person. As his friend and mentor, Professor Carl Beam once told him, “Whatever you do, do deliberately.” He applied that philosophy to his restoration of Wendameen with conviction and, in the process, discovered her colorful past.
Neal first saw Wendameen in a shed on City Island, New York, as a teenager. Later while looking for “the right boat,” he discovered Wendameen once again . . . sitting in the mud in Connecticut and for sale. He knew little of her past but, as he worked to get her home and start the refit, the pieces began to fall together. From letters and news clippings sent from relatives of previous owners and through his own research, he put together her past and found her future.
He discovered that Wendameen, a 67-foot John Alden-designed schooner, was launched in 1912. The original owner, Chester Bliss, was president of the Boston and Albany Railroad. The next owners were Robert and Erwin Uihlein, sons of Schlitz brewery president August Uihlein. Next in line came a trio of Chicago lawyers, K.R. Beak, Eugene L. Garey, and Paul L’Amoreaux. It was then that yachtbroker Gerald Ford purchased Wendameen. She was hauled for survey and would spend the next 51 years in storage. With the Depression in full swing, there was no buyer for her. As Gerald worked to keep her fit, the hurricane of ’38 hit, leaving thousands without homes. There was no one to finish the effort, and Wendameen fell into disrepair. It was here that Neal Parker first saw her sitting in her storage shed, and the rest is history.
While the author went to great lengths to provide the reader with an unsurpassed view into her history, I could not help but feel shortchanged on the actual restoration work. He does go into some detail about his struggle to finance the restoration and about the project itself. But I expected to read in detail about her refit and launch. Despite this expectation, I did find the book quite interesting and would recommend it to anyone interested in old yachts.
A Boater’s Guide to VHF and GMDSS
by Sue Fletcher (International Marine, 2002; 161 pages, $16.95).
Review by George Allred, Indialantic, Fla.
“Breaker, breaker . . . 10-4 Good Buddy.” Is this how you use your VHF radio? Or have you just bought a new VHF radio and are trying to figure out what the PTT button is? If so, this book is for you. There is a lot of new technology surrounding today’s VHF radios, and this book will help you become proficient when using and operating yours. It aims to be the companion to your VHF owner’s manual. There’s a wealth of information here. The author goes into a lot of detail on how to use your radio, including usage, etiquette, and protocol. If you want to sound professional, read this book.
But the focus of this book is using the Digital Selective Calling (DSC). You can use a DSC-equipped radio to make automatic calls to friends who also have DSC radios. And you can make automated, distress, and other calls to the Coast Guard.
Unfortunately, the Coast Guard is not uniformly ready to receive such calls. This is scheduled to begin in 2006. That’s why I was a bit confused about the purpose of this book. It seemed to gloss over the standard VHF functions focusing instead on DSC capabilities. The bottom line is that Channel 16, used to hail your buddy and the Coast Guard, will be around for a long time.
Having said that, there really is a lot of DCS info in this book. This book also has a very good section on the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). It describes how this system ties together the DSC-equipped radios (VHF and SSB), EPIRB, NAVTEX and Search and Rescue Transponders (SART). The information in the appendices is also very good, both to read through and to have on hand at your radio.
If you are a novice with your boat’s radio, this book would be a good item to help you learn. But if you an experienced user and a bit technical, this information is probably already on your boat or computer.
GPS for Mariners
by Robert Sweet (International Marine, 2003; 170 pages; $15.95).
Review by Roy Kiesling, Santa Cruz, Calif.
If I were new to GPS and wanted to learn the subject in the slickest and most efficient way possible, finding this book would be like coming down on Christmas morning to find that Santa had left absolutely everything on my list under the tree. First of all, the author had technical and managerial responsibilities during the creation of the GPS system. In a time when so many books are written by someone who read three books and then wrote his own (and publishers let them get away with it), this writer has the solid and fundamental mastery of the subject that lets him guide the reader step by step through the entire system from basic theory to detailed application on the water.
This is a book designed to be read straight through. When other writers use the evasion, “this is not a book that is meant to be read right straight through,” they are warning the prospective buyer that they lacked the grasp and discipline that would enable them to organize it for him. What they are offering is a do-it-yourself project. Put it back on the shelf. In this case, however, author Robert Sweet has done the hard labor for you. Read what he offers from start to finish, in sharp clear prose that is more of a delight than a chore, and you will know what you need to know to go safely and efficiently onto the water with your GPS.
Be warned, though, that this book is very dense with information. I approached it from a background of 10 years spent learning about GPS, through using it at sea and writing articles about it. I concluded that nothing is left out, and nothing is wrong. A major bonus for the practical boater is that it offers a virtual course in coastal navigation. It also provides detail, which can be hard to find elsewhere, of the actual wiring connections for interfacing GPS receivers with other equipment.
A friend complained to me that GPS for Mariners falls short of being specific enough about precisely which brand and model GPS to buy, but that is simply the nature of the business these days. Products appear and disappear with such rapidity that no published book could keep up in any useful way. What this book does do is give a clear overview of what features and capabilities you are likely to find in a GPS receiver, what they do for you, and how to evaluate whether you will find them useful. Those are the aspects that are changing less rapidly. A valuable appendix gives the Internet sites (URLs) for the major sources, from manufacturers, government, and dedicated hobbyists, for the most current information.
I am happy to give this book the highest possible recommendation. (You might actually want to skip Chapter 1 the first time through, because it may be more than you want to know about GPS history and the location of the ground control stations. Go back to it later, though, because these things are fun to know.)
Get Rid of Boat Odors
by Peggy Hall (Seaworthy Publications 2003; 90 pages;$19.95).
Review by Michael Gude, Ames, Iowa
You don’t have to look very far in your local marina to find someone with an on-board odor problem. In fact, sometimes it seems that those with the worst problems have a knack for finding you. Author Peggy Hall (a.k.a. The Headmistress) has taken the delicate issue of boat odors and broken it down into easy-to-understand parts and presented it with clarity and a sense of humor. Peggy is recognized as one of the few experts in marine sanitation, and it shows in this book. She brings together everything you have ever wanted to know about your head but were afraid to ask.
The book begins with a summary of the legal issues that pertain to small boat sanitation systems presenting the issues plainly without legal lingo. This information will keep you on the legal side of the Coast Guard but, understandably, does not cover all the state or local regulations that may apply to you. Peggy goes on to describe how many popular marine sanitation devices (MSDs) do their jobs. Refreshingly, she names models and manufacturers and includes prices.
The chapter, “Choosing and Installing a System,” diverges somewhat from the book’s title, but I found it to be very informative. Each type of MSD system is explained, from the simple Porta Potti to electric vacuum toilets. Standards of installation, such as hose diameter and even the thread count on the pump-out fitting, are described. Peggy also gives advice on how to get the old system out with minimal mess and headache.
She explains exactly why your holding tank smells bad (the answer isn’t as simple as you may think) and what to do about it. Do you know how to tell if sewage odor has permeated your system’s hoses? Peggy does, and she tells you how. Onboard odors are not restricted to the head, and neither is the content in this book. She offers advice and information on managing a smelly bilge. Also covered is how to properly flush your marine toilet, something many sailors seem to have forgotten.
Reading this book is like having an expert sit down with you and explain the how and why of marine sanitation while sparing you the gory details. If there is an aspect of marine sanitation not covered in this book, I don’t know what it is. Particularly if you have persistent odors on your boat, this book is for you. If your friends or marina neighbors have a problem, this book would make fine, if not-too-subtle, gift.
Hard Aground with Eddie Jones: Selected Sailing Essays for the Navigationally Challenged
by Eddie Jones (Writer’s Club Press, 2003; 152 pages; $14.95).
Review by Carolyn Corbett, Brainerd, Minn.
Eddie Jones – devout sailor, veteran columnist, computer guru – is a very funny guy. He also has a reservoir of wisdom that has little to do with learning and lots to do with living. “Time,” says Eddie, “is the only contraband we carry into this life, and what we don’t spend on others, we should exchange for memories.”
Well, Eddie, thanks for the memories. And the guffaws, the chortles, and the snickers. Hard Aground with Eddie Jones: Selected Sailing Essays for the Navigationally Challenged is filled to capacity with some of the best material about life with boats that has bobbed to the surface anytime recently.
Eddie’s new book is a collection of cruising and boating columns that originally appeared in Carolina Cruising and Coastal Cruising magazines. The stories are written for the navigationally challenged, by the navigationally challenged so the author claims.
In the book, Eddie recalls his first boat show: “Like some nautical neophyte tripping over docklines and trailer hitches, I was easy prey for the barracudas in blue blazers. They exploited my enthusiasm and ignorance and were helped, I suppose, by my mistaken belief that I could steer a sailboat toward some fixed point across a body of water by means of a wooden tiller and soiled sails.”
About a year after Carolina Cruising published its first issue, Eddie was at another boat show, this time in Raleigh, where he met editor Bert Quay. “At the time I thought all boating publications made lots of money and paid their writers exorbitant fees. I was a little disappointed my bride didn’t share my enthusiasm for this new vocation, but I knew she would come around to my way of thinking once the paychecks started adding up. Besides, I’d finally found gainful employment on the strength of my two greatest assets — laziness and ignorance.”
As his articles appeared in print, Eddie developed a loyal following of fans. Folks stopping by the booth at the Annapolis boat show didn’t want to talk subscriptions, chat with the editor, or offer to write an article for publication. All they wanted was to meet Eddie Jones.
Eddie is a “land-cuffed” cruiser: though his heart is on the water, the rest of him is home in Carolina. As his inner sailor beam reaches along the banks of the Abacos, the family man is earning a living, teaching Sunday school, and dreaming of the day when he and his wife will sail off in a boat that is “bigger than her wingspan.”
Eddie has a glorious gift for finding humor in the mundane, for painting cruising calamities with a bilge-flavored brush, and for evoking word pictures that tug at the hearts of all who are currently anchored to family, homes, and jobs as yet another flotilla of sailors make their way south for the season.
Maximum Sail Power
by Brian Hancock (Nomad Press, 2003; 353 pages; $44.95).
Review by Ike Stephenson, Muskegon, Mich.
Maybe you’ve repaired a sail? Perhaps even while underway. But have you repaired a sail while aloft in a bosun’s chair? Not just slapped sticky-back tape on the sail, but sewed it with needle and thread? That’s one of the experiences Brian Hancock has to draw on in Maximum Sail Power.
Brian sets up his book around a hypothetical visit to the sailmaker. The first chapter is a little uneven. He says “old-fashioned service is gone, unless of course you’re spending upward of $50,000.” I’d take issue with this. There are many small lofts that – -while carrying brand names such as UK, North etc. — are really one-man gangs. These folks earn their money via commission and will provide wonderful in-person service.
There are two other strong points made in his first chapter. One is that boat information is extremely important if you’re having a sail built. As someone who works in the industry (Torresen Marine), I can say that the more information you can provide about your boat’s model, engine model, and so on, the better things will go for you.
Brian also makes the point that “an educated customer is a sailmaker’s best customer.” Hear, hear! Will reading this book make you an educated sail buyer? Yes, and in several ways. One item you can learn about is the cloth that sails are made of. I’ve read many an article and book on just how to adjust trim but few that tell as much about sailcloth as this book does.
Individual fabrics, such as Dacron, Kevlar, and PBO are covered. How modern fabrics are made into sailcloth is also covered. He discusses several types of weaving and laminating — even Cuben fiber, which is literally a trade secret.
Brian also utilizes case studies. One example has to do with high-latitude sailing, the other with the Cape to Rio race. I don’t know how helpful these will be to the average sailor.
The book is thorough and covers all aspects of the sail wardrobe. There’s an entire chapter on storm sails. One point well made is that you should get your trysail and storm jib out of the bag and fit them. It is much easier to do this before the storm!
The working staysail gets a lot of positive ink. While this can be a useful sail, I’m not sure how this will benefit of a lot of the sailors I know. They tend toward the use of a roller-furling headsail. I don’t see many folks who are primarily daysailors adding a working staysail to their Catalina 30, for example. Practical advice, perhaps, but for a limited audience.
There’s even a chapter on repairs and repair kits. While using the book as an on-the-job reference, I found that it lacks information on sail cleaning. This is a popular question from my customers.
Maximum Sail Power may not raise to the level of masterpiece, but it does fill a bill as a reference work that’s better written and more interesting than most.