Book Reviews From 2004
Reviews From 2004
February 2004 Newsletter
- How to Sail Around The World: Advice and Ideas for Voyaging Under Sail, by Hal Roth
- Navigating the Edge, by Jill Knight
- Call of the Ancient Mariner, by Reese Palley
- Chapman Piloting & Seamanship, 64th edition, by Elbert S. Maloney
- How Boat Things Work, by Charlie Wing
- The Silent Landscape: The Scientific Voyage of HMS Challenger, by Richard Corfield
April 2004 Newsletter
- A Splendid Madness, by Tom Froncek
- How Boat Things Work, by Charlie Wing
- All the Time in the World, by Sharon Kratz
- High Latitude, North Atlantic, 30,000 Miles Through Cold Seas and History, by John R. Bockstoce
- The Practical Encyclopedia of Boating: An A-Z Compendium, by John Vigor
- London Goes to Sea, by Peter Baumgartner
- What Shape is She In?, by Allan Vaitses
- Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats, by David Pascoe
- A Speck on the Sea: Epic Voyages in the Most Improbable Vessels, by William H. Longyard
- Captain John Williams Master Mariner, by Robert Townsend
- The Complete Para-anchor Set-up: Modern Rigging Techniques for Sailboats and Trawlers, by Zack Smith
- The Walkabouts: A Family at Sea, by Mike Saunders
June 2004 Newsletter
- The Windvane Self-Steering Handbook, by Bill Morris
- The Spirit of Sailing: A Celebration of Sea and Sail, by Michael Kahn
- Navigator, Celestial Navigation Software, by Omar Reis
- The One Pan Galley Gourmet, by Don Jacobson and John Roberts
- First Aid at Sea, by Douglas Justins and Colin Berry
August 2004 Newsletter
- Small Boat to Freedom: A Journey of Conscience to a New Life in America, by John Vigor
- A Cruising Guide to New Jersey Waters, by Don Launer
- Compass: A Story of Exploration and Innovation, by Alan Gurney
- Wind & Wave, a 2005 Calendar Celebrating Yachting, by John McVie
- French for Cruisers, by Kathy Parsons
- Seaworthiness: The Forgotten Factor, C. A. Marchaj
- Wet Pets and Other Watery Tales, edited by Hazel Hitson Weidman and Jacqueline Korona Teare
- How to Rename your Boat and 19 Other Useful Ceremonies, Superstitions, Prayers, Rituals, and Curses, by John Vigor
October 2004 Newsletter
- The Last Great Adventure of Sir Peter Blake: Sir Peter Blake’s Logbooks, edited by Alan Sefton
- Ship to Shore: A Dictionary of Everyday Words and Phrases Derived from the Sea, by Peter D. Jeans
- The Lo-Tech Navigator, by Tony Crowley
- She’ll Cross an Ocean, If You Will, by Dan Smith
- A Complete Cruising Guide to the Down East Circle Route, by Cheryl Barr
- Unfurling the Heart: Love’s Persuasion, by Susea McGearhart
- Ham Radio For Dummies, by Ward Silver
- Ralph Stanley: Tales of a Maine Boatbuilder, by Ralph Stanley and Craig Milner
- The Biggest Boat I Could Afford: Sailing Up the U.S. Coast in a Dinghy, by Lee Hughes
- Escape from Someday Isle, edited by Linda Ridihalgh
- A Voyage Toward Vengeance, by Jule Miller
December 2004 Newsletter
- Your First Sailboat, by Daniel Spurr
- Return to the Sea, by Webb Chiles
- Des Pawson’s Knot Craft, by Des Pawson
- The Sailor’s Hornbook or ABC; With a Vermiform Appendix on Racing Terminology, by David O’Neal
- Working Rope: Field Guides for Rigging: Basic Braided Splices, by Brion Toss and Margie McDonald
- Chasing Dreamtime: A Sea-going Hitchhiker’s Journey through Memory and Myth, by Neva Sullaway
- GPSNavX, navigation software for the Macintosh, www.gpsnavx.com
How to Sail Around The World: Advice and Ideas for Voyaging Under Sail
by Hal Roth (International Marine, 2004; 400 pages, $29.95)
Reviewed by Frederick Street, Zimmerman, Minn.
In the hands of most other authors, this might be a presumptuous title. Yet Hal Roth’s latest offering distills years of voyaging and many thousands of sea miles into a clear, no-nonsense discussion of what it takes to voyage far and wide in a sailing vessel. This book presupposes a certain knowledge of and skill level in sailing. But Hal makes the argument that people of average abilities of any age can sail around the world and that experience is the best teacher. He writes, “… you must find out about sailing firsthand. You do not become a seaman by reading.” Having said that, he launches right into what turns out to be an incredible wealth of information for the prospective circumnavigator.
The first several chapters of the book deal with the process of finding, evaluating, and outfitting an appropriate vessel for bluewater sailing. Certain widely-held beliefs are shaken a bit here; Hal takes the unusual view that a boat with a fin-keel and a skeg-hung rudder can be a perfectly good vessel on the open ocean. Indeed, a good portion of his voyaging has been done on such a sailboat.
His biggest thrust in the subject of outfitting is that a vessel that is simple and simply rigged is going to serve its owner far better than one rife with complicated systems. This is not to say that Hal and his wife, Margaret, are a minimalists; they have not gone so far as to espouse doing away with engines and electronics. But Hal makes the case that simplicity, reliability, and forethought are to be valued highly and will pay off in time spent enjoying the cruise instead of time spent repairing equipment. He maintains that simplicity will also result in greater safety, a subject he takes very seriously.
The next section of the book discusses route planning and heavy weather sailing. Hal takes a decidedly conservative approach here and once again gives comfort and safety priority over nearly all else. While he deals in detail with several different approaches to handling storms, he suggests that the reader should try to sail in storm-free seasons and avoid getting into situations where more drastic measures are necessary.
The final third of the book covers additional subjects, including a bit on provisioning and refrigeration (or rather, the lack of it), costs of cruising, engines and propulsion, and schooling at sea. The section on children and schooling aboard seems to be offered as an afterthought and includes mostly secondhand information.
The last chapter, titled “The Dream and the Reality,” neatly sums up Hal’s love of the life aboard in its opening sentences: “The big secret of world travel is to do it in a sailing yacht. It’s by far the best way to see the globe.” In spite of the huge amount of practical data in this book, Hal remains a romantic at heart and urges the reader to strive after “the pleasure and the freedom” of a life under sail. I highly recommend this beautifully written and well-balanced volume to those committed to working toward that reality, as well as to those of us who can only dream.
Navigating the Edge
by Jill Knight (Harper Collins, 2002; 309 pages; $10.60)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Australian Jill Knight has written a number of articles for Good Old Boat and others about her sailing adventures and sailboat maintenance while cruising aboard Cooee, a 37-foot wooden cutter . . . a boat now more than 100 years old . . . on which she circumnavigated . . . alone. As they say of the female in a dancing team, she did everything a male dancer does, except that she did it backward and in high heels.
Those of us already in awe of what Jill has accomplished are not surprised, therefore, that she next sat down and wrote a rather powerful first novel. Called Navigating the Edge, her book is set in the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Town, South Africa, to the coast of Brazil.
Her background as a corporate psychologist makes it possible for Jill to develop a cast of characters, primarily sailors, who are reacting to a range of traumatic life experiences as they interact. As could be expected, some grow healthier while others grow distinctly crazier drawing others and their sailboats into harm’s way as they do.
Armchair sailors reading this book are soon drawn in and navigating the edge of their seats as several life-and-death struggles occur in mid-ocean.
Without giving away the plot, I’ll say that Jill’s sailing scenes are descriptive and accurate, her characters well developed and interesting, and her plot line is fantastic and frightening. This one could make a good gift for a friend. The recipient need not be a sailor to enjoy it. It wouldn’t be cheating (would it?) to read it yourself before you wrap it up.
Call of the Ancient Mariner
by Reese Palley (International Marine/McGraw-Hill 2004; 258 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Reese Palley has gone around in the world long enough to develop character. He has followed his own course long enough to become a character. And he has gone around at sea long enough to qualify as a salty character. In his newest book, Call of the Ancient Mariner: Reese Palley’s Guide to a Long Sailing Life, this old salt would tell others how to do likewise. It hasn’t been a bad existence for Reese. On the contrary. Now is the time for those who would do likewise to listen up. The master is speaking.
By his own definition, Reese may be old (he’s celebrated his 80th birthday and then a few). But he hasn’t lost any brain cells yet. Looking over his shoulder, Reese sees the aging Boomer generation just behind him. The Boomers (forever young at heart) would like to keep sailing. Reese has just written the handbook they need.
In his no-holds-barred manner, Reese has always put strong opinions forth . . . take ’em or leave ’em. He advises his readers (those who would like to grow old, particularly since they find the alternative unattractive), “Slay dragons, go east as the Aardvarks go west, put yourself in harm’s way, hold unpopular opinions loudly, and always seek an opportunity to tug at the tail of the tiger. At your great age, you have little to lose. You gain the admiration of the world while they acknowledge your audacity.” That’s been his plan all along, and he’s sticking to it.
Reese offers suggestions about healthy eating, staying active, pacing yourself, and other rules for living life to the fullest. In addition, he interviews other aging skippers to prove that he is not the only one out there. One of these interviewees, Dave Clark, tells Reese: “Of course there are dangers and some risks, but what kind of a life would it be if there weren’t a bit of daring in each of us? I’m not so afraid of dying as I am of not living while I’m here.”
My own definition of what is “old” has slowly ratcheted upward, I’ve noticed. With this book in hand, I think I’ll target 80 as an age at which I can still go sailing. My hat’s off to Reese Palley for convincing me that I can do it.
Chapman Piloting & Seamanship, 64th Edition
by Elbert S. Maloney (Sterling Publishing, 2003; 928 color pages; $49.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
A book like Chapman needs no introduction and no review. It’s an extraordinary reference book full of information useful to all sailors. It’s enough to say that a new edition was released in late November 2003. If your own edition is decades old, as ours is, this may be the year to go for an updated copy.
How Boat Things Work
by Charlie Wing (International Marine / McGraw Hill, 2003, 175 pages, $29.95)
Reviewed by Don Launer, Forked River, N.J.
If you have ever tried to disassemble a winch, fix your steering system, repair a galley pump, or rebuild your head, the chances are that you have been frustrated more than once. Charlie Wing’s book, How Boat Things Work, addresses these projects and many more. If you’re at all interested in how things work — and what boatowner isn’t — then this thin, hardcover, large-format book is a gold mine of information. The first thing you notice, when leafing through the book, are the extraordinary illustrations. I found them so perfect that I immediately looked for the name of the illustrator, but none was listed. In an email exchange, the publisher explained that Charlie also did all the illustrations. This accounts for the close melding of text and artwork. These illustrations portray intricate, exploded, color drawings of 80 different systems and devices and show how they’re assembled, how they work, and how they can malfunction. Although Charlie has his Ph.D. in Oceanography from MIT, it could just as well be in English, drafting, or art. The text accompanies these illustrations in short, clear, concise sentences. It leads the reader through each phase of the disassembly or assembly process; in fact the combination of writing and illustrations is the best I have ever seen in a book of this genre. The exploded views of parts of a diesel engine alone are worth the price.
When Charlie and his wife departed Portland, Maine, on their 39-foot cutter to follow the sun to the Caribbean, all the tasks he describes in the book were a mystery to both of them. Finally, after many miles and many equipment failures, it was clear that learning to take things apart and repair them were essential skills for these cruising sailors. The result of this learning process is How Boat Things Work, the book they wished they’d had when they first started their cruising odyssey.
The Silent Landscape: The Scientific Voyage of HMS Challenger
by Richard Corfield (Joseph Henry Press, 2003; 285 pages; U.S. $24.95, Canada $34.95)
Reviewed by Wayne Gagnon, Antigo, Wis.
In December, 1872, the British ship HMS Challenger left Portsmouth, England on a voyage that would last until May, 1876, cover 68,900 miles, and add volumes to the already growing body of knowledge of the sea. Until that time, any scientific voyage, including that of HMS Beagle of Charles Darwin fame 40 years earlier, was also charged with expanding the British Empire. The Silent Landscape: The Scientific Voyage of HMS Challenger, by Richard Corfield, is the story of Challenger‘s historic voyage, the sole purpose of which was a purely scientific exploration of the world’s oceans.
The reader is given some idea of what life on board was like for the “scientifics,” as they were called by the crew, as well as for that crew, one-fourth of whom deserted by the end of the three and a half-year voyage. However, the larger portion of the narrative is devoted to Challenger ‘s scientific findings and what they have lead to today. For example, the author gives a detailed explanation of the technology Challenger used as they stopped every 120 miles to take soundings and every 300 miles to dredge a bottom sample as they crossed the Atlantic Ocean. He then goes on to follow the evolution of that technology until we arrive at the modern methods of multibeam sonar and satellite navigation systems used today. The author details the Challenger‘s findings on the Sargasso Sea, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, deep-sea exploration, plate tectonics, coral growth, the Bermuda Triangle, Antarctica, and many other fascinating discoveries.
At times the book seems like a textbook; some sections may be beyond the grasp of those without a strong scientific background. But the author’s style is such that the reader can glean enough information to make reading it worthwhile. He also includes a useful list of suggestions for further reading and a detailed topical index. If you’re looking for something to entertain you with swashbuckling heroics, you’ll probably find little in here to satisfy you. But if you’re interested in history or science or if you’re naturally curious about how we’ve come to know as much as we do about the oceans, you will probably find The Silent Landscape to be, at the very least, an excellent reference book and, at the most, a valuable asset to your personal library.
A Splendid Madness
by Tom Froncek (Sheridan House, 2004; 210 pages; $23.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
There is a strange force within sailors which causes them to retreat to the water on boats when that water offers scant refuge, guaranteeing neither safety nor security. Author Thomas Froncek knows this phenomenon well. In his latest book, A Splendid Madness: A Man. A Boat. A Love Story. Tom tells how he discovered sailing and its joys when middle-aged, long after his brief introduction as a youth. His book — not so much about sailing as it is about the relationship between a man and his boat — talks of the responsibilities and rewards, the challenges and the addiction of boat ownership.
Like so many before him, Tom is drawn gradually to his splendid madness. Candid and observant, he recounts his learning curve and the little revelations about boating and about himself. In doing so, Tom reminds sailors of their own paths and similar experiences when they were smitten. These events are sometimes humorous and sometimes discouraging, but in total they are rewarding, drawing the sailor irresistibly back to the boat.
“Yes. Yes!” sailors will exclaim as they read this book. “It was like that for me too!” By putting his finger on his own pulse, Tom Froncek has recorded other sailors’ heartbeats, as well. He describes his own experience and, in doing so, details how the rest of us were drawn in, mesmerized, by sailing and sailboats.
Must one be a sailor to read this book? Not really. In fact, those who live with sailors without understanding them might be well served by Tom’s insights. Others who simply wonder what it’s all about might also find this book interesting on an intellectual level. However without the passion, they surely will go away agreeing only that sailors are indeed possessed by a madness . . . one they, thankfully, do not share.
Sharing Tom’s passion, however, and coming to sailing in middle-age as well, I found pleasure in each achievement, his daring for farther distances and longer cruises, the bonds he formed with his first boat, and the joys and frustrations of boat ownership. Sailing, like life, is about making passages, after all. I found pleasure in accompanying Tom Froncek on his.
All the Time in the World
by Sharon Kratz (1st Books Library, 2004; 150 pages; $16.75)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Jim and Dianne Carlin had all the time in the world to sail their Island Packet 38, September Song, around the world. That’s the way author Sharon Kratz is portraying their travels by sea and explorations on land, a voyage which took five years, circumnavigating via the Panama and Suez canals. The Carlins started and ended their journey in Texas, November 1996 through April 2002.
Sharon intended to tell the Carlins’ interesting tale in a magazine article or two. But once she met with the couple, she became so mesmerized she was inspired to write this book, her first.
Writing and publishing a book, particularly about someone else’s travels, is no small undertaking in itself. Sharon tells the Carlins’story so well that readers experience the highlights of their travels with them. Readers make the voyage without having to spend “all the time in the world” doing so. Sharon cuts right to the chase scenes: the inevitable storms, global political hostilities, pirates, and mechanical failures. She also adds interest with a look at cultural experiences, food, native people, other cruisers, and sights along the way, including inshore sightseeing.
Jim and Dianne did not sail endlessly; they put September Song into storage several times while they returned home for months at a time for family events. The Carlins often took family members along for extended passages or met family members for tourist travels while overseas. This opportunity to take a break from life aboard and to be reunited with family will be reassuring for those who want to cruise to distant shores, but are reluctant to leave family behind. By example, the Carlins tell other sailors who would follow in their wake that cruisers can have the best of both worlds — the watery one and the one they left behind.
Did they have all the time in the world? Not really. Many cruisers have taken longer to circumnavigate. And there are places they rushed past that they would like to visit someday. But perhaps that’s for the best. If you’ve seen it all and done it all and got the T-shirt, what’s left? The Carlins ‘ horizon has expanded. Other travel beckons even though September Song has gone on to new owners and new travels.
Telling the Carlins’story may launch Sharon’s writing career in a direction she did not foresee. Now that she has completed a book, who knows? And since she and her husband are sailors, the Carlins ‘ tale may inspire further cruising for them just as it might for readers of All the Time in the World.
For all of us, this book presents a realistic view of long-term cruising today. It is a valuable resource for any sailors wondering whether making a circumnavigation is right for them. If distant shores beckon, this book offers a sneak preview of what you can expect. Read it. Enjoy it. Then pursue your dream.
High Latitude, North Atlantic, 30,000
Miles Through Cold Seas and History
by John R. Bockstoce (Mystic Seaport, 2003; 216 pages; $24.95)
Reviewed by Michael Hewitt, Tucson, Ariz.
High Latitude, North Atlantic briefly chronicles the discovery, settlement, anthropology, and history of the barren lands from north of Alaska across the Canadian Arctic and the Atlantic to northern Scandinavia. Because it is the sea that ties together these isolated outposts, it is fitting that the tale be told from the deck, well actually from the sheltered pilothouse, of an ocean-capable sailing vessel.
John Bockstoce skippered Belvedere, a much-modified 60-foot steel motorsailer, through a dozen summers in the waters of Scotland, Norway, Greenland, Iceland, and northern Canada (one chapter was set aboard the motor vesssel Itasca, a 175-foot former North Sea oil rig supply ship converted to a yacht and strengthened for ice.)
John’s credentials are impeccable. With more than 20 seasons in the northern oceans, he has completed the Northwest Passage a remarkable three times! Few have more experience or better-honed skills for navigating the treacherous ice-infested waters of the North Atlantic. But even more than a sailor, Bockstoce is a respected Arctic historian. He holds a doctorate in archeology from Oxford, was curator of Arctic collections at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts, and his book credits list nine other academic works.
This unusual combination of aptitudes creates a dilemma for a reviewer . . . High Latitude, North Atlantic may be too much of a sailing epic for archeologists and maritime history buffs and too much of a history lesson for armchair adventure sailing enthusiasts. John walks the line well, but I would easily have tolerated a much longer book to have more details about the challenging passages, treacherous anchorages, and thoroughly inhospitable weather endemic to the North Atlantic. There can be no doubt that the “rough spots” nonchalantly described by John Bockstoce were more likely horrifying ordeals. His understated style reflects his professional training as an historian: present the facts, don’t embellish them.
Sailors in more temperate waters write of encounters with dolphins, sea turtles, and exotic reef fish. The non-human characters in High Latitude, North Atlantic include beluga whales, reindeer, and polar bears. John describes two encounters between his inflatable dinghy and marauding polar bears. The first, in Northern Labrador, resulted in a small bite-inflicted puncture near the end of the boat’s sponson.
He recounts the unwillingness of the inflatable repair center personnel in Rhode Island to believe that the damage was caused by a polar bear bite. The second, two years later, resulted in another bite and another limp dinghy. ” In September the life-raft repairmen, seeing our battle-scarred dinghy for a second time, now believed our story about how it had been violated.”
This is a beautiful book, printed on glossy paper with scores of the author’s spectacular color and black-and-white photographs. Because the voyages are so grand, the setting for each chapter is marked on a satellite-photo globe with detail provided by larger-scale maps. Viewing the Earth from a perspective above the North Pole takes some getting used to. Nevertheless, the book cries out for more — and more detailed — charts. As you would expect from an academic author, each chapter is thoroughly referenced, and appendices provide a detailed description of Belvedere’s remarkable modifications and a chronology of the North Atlantic history from Irish monks reaching the Faroe Islands ca. 700 to the first surface crossing of the Arctic Ocean and the North Pole by the American and Canadian Ice breakers USCGC Polar Sea and CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent in 1994.
John Bockstoce’s history of the North Atlantic depicts the rugged, daring men and women who braved unforgiving climate and seas to settle and commercialize one of the most inhospitable regions on the globe. High Latitude, North Atlantic is a fascinating blend of nautical adventure and history, and should be considered essential reading to any still clinging the misconception that Christopher Columbus was the first to reach the New World in 1492. A great read any time, you will especially enjoy it during the hottest days of summer!
The Practical Encyclopedia of Boating: An A-Z Compendium of Navigation, Seamanship, Boat Maintenance, and Nautical Wisdom
by John Vigor (International Marine, 2004; 356 pages; $29.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
John Vigor is the answer guy if you’re having onboard arguments about nautical terminology or the science of sailing in general. His new book, The Practical Encyclopedia of Boating: An A-Z Compendium of Navigation, Seamanship, Boat Maintenance, and Nautical Wisdom, is just what that long title promises.
Problems with your alternator or diesel engine? John’s troubleshooting guides are there to help. Weather forecasting and cloud charts: John’s there for you. A right-of-way decision tree? Page 250. How to figure your boat ‘s capsize screening formula? See John about it. Center of effort, center of buoyancy, center of gravity? Ditto. Sail reduction strategies? Ask John. Buoyage systems (printed in color, of course). Likewise.
Need a smile? John offers that also. Check out the entries for coins under the mast, the black box theory, and sailing on Friday for special insight as only John can offer it.
John does the copyediting for Good Old Boat magazine. That means he’s wearing his technical and editor’s hats when reading each article before it goes into the layout process. We rely on him to keep us straight (nautically speaking). We’re not sure whether or not John keeps his vast storehouse of yachty technical information in his head. But he’s one guy who knows where to find it when he needs it. And with his book, you can too.
London Goes to Sea
by Peter Baumgartner, (Sheridan House, 2004; 224 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
In telling his story, London Goes to Sea, Peter Baumgartner speaks for many sailors. There is no major drama — no sinkings, world-circling voyages, or perfect storms. Nevertheless there is minor drama aplenty (just ask Peter how dramatic it felt at the time) as the boat goes adrift or is grounded or the engine fails.
Yet without drama and hype, Peter has accomplished what only a small fraction of sailors take on: he has brought an older, neglected sailboat back from an eventual death. Peter invested mechanical talent and elbow grease. His reward was an affordable, beautiful, and fully functional cruising sailboat. His achievements and those of others should be celebrated.
It is in recording and celebrating this accomplishment that Peter speaks for other sailors. They considered their achievements to be inconsequential. Peter celebrated his by writing a book about his boat and her restoration. And once she was floating, Peter celebrated the pleasure which comes from living simply while cruising in a sailboat. He enjoys leaving land-based stresses behind and reminds others of the reasons for investing time and talent in an older boat. In doing so, he encourages those who would do likewise to find and fix a fixer-upper sailboat.
Because he writes beautifully, shares his personal insights, and is so remarkably self-aware, Peter Baumgartner takes his readers with him on a voyage of boat ownership and the fulfillment of a dream. It is a tale well told.
What Shape is She In? / Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats
by Allan Vaitses (International Marine, 1985; 165 pages; out of print) / by David Pascoe (D. H. Pascoe & Company, 2001; 417 pages; $69.95)
Reviewed by Dan McDougal, Williamsport, Md.
These are two books on surveying, and both are well written. I advise every boatowner to read them both. Both authors elucidate what it is that surveyors do, and every boater needs to understand the survey process.
Who? Selecting a surveyor is neither easy nor properly done by anyone other than you. (Nor should the surveyor be paid by anyone other than you.)
What? There is a lot of negotiating to do with your surveyor before the boat is present. Will there be a sea-trial or a land-based survey only? Will the engine be included? Does the surveyor know what you want the boat for? Can you be present at the time of survey?
What type of report do you need? The report can be long, short, technical or less so. It can be made for your-eyes-only or shared around.
Both authors give analytical and anecdotal material which will make you ask, “Why didn’t I know this?” Since they do the same task for the same clientele, the similarities are noteworthy and lend great assurance to each one’s respective authority. There are, however, some differences.
What Shape is She In? Allan Vaitses is a better writer. His prose is wry and clear, and his eye for the human condition is the equal of the great novelists. His chapters are stories, each of a different boat. They are so packed with expertise revealed, human nature, and the day-to-day lore of the marina, that they are eminently re-readable as entertainment and for instruction. This is a little gem of a book — verily a sleeper with its small size, modest cover design, and odd, medical-sounding title.
But the really notable feature of Allan Vaitses is the Sherlock Holmes quality of his mind; the smallest detail blossoms before your eyes into logical conclusions on how the boat was built or used. This is then brilliantly transformed into the surveyor’s worries about the boat and its need for extra attention. That he gives you his findings and immediate thought process along a strict chronology is his delightful strength.
Allan is a full-time builder and repairer of sail and power vessels. Time and again, he expands on a finding in terms of exactly how that item is made, how it fails, and how it is repaired. No speculation, this guy does it!
With his newer book, Surveying Fiberglass Boats, David Pascoe shows that he is a clear writer but seems to lack Allan’s brilliance at this business, both in terms of the vessels and the people. David Pascoe’s book is much larger, longer, and more complete. Even after having read Allan’s book a dozen times, I still learned a lot about boats from reading David’s. His is more patient and organized in its presentation. Also, he goes into brand names and specific defects, which Allan forswears in his introduction.
Both authors have a pleasant and likeable persona in their books as well as a striking body of knowledge we don’t have . . . or even knew existed. This raises the final reason that every boatowner should read these books. It is known how boats are (differently) put together, and it is known how they come apart. Therefore, each of us must be somewhat of a surveyor of our own boat in an ongoing fashion. To the question, “Do I need to know how to survey?” The answer is: “Of your boat, absolutely!” Having said that unequivocally, the other more subtle reason is to know just how much help is out there for you if and when you need it.
Besides being extremely pleasant and informative reading, these books will leave you a better skipper, a better shepherd of your vessel’s parts and systems, and a wiser and more effective consumer of marine services. If that’s not enough, should you be now, or in the future, a buyer of a vessel, these authors can and will save you.
A Speck on the Sea: Epic Voyages in the Most Improbable Vessels
by William H. Longyard (International Marine/McGraw Hill, 2003; 375 pages; $24.95)
Reviewed by Michael Hewitt, Aboard Concordia, San Diego, Calif.
William Longyard’s introduction to A Speck on the Sea begins with the question, “Why would anyone cross an ocean in a small boat?” In the following 375 pages, he presents more than 100 reasons from sailors as varied as famed captains William Bligh and Ernest Shackleton, who set to sea in launches, to the not-so-famous Australian Ben Carlin and his wife, newlyweds making a 1950-51 Atlantic crossing in a surplus Army GP-A Jeep.
A Speck on the Sea is encyclopedic both in breadth and in layout. The author begins with unnamed Inuit kayakers around 63 A.D., organizes his chapters chronologically, and ends with Spanish Count Álvaro de Marichalar y S áenz de Tejada’s Atlantic crossing on a Sea Doo in 2002. His research exhausting, virtually every significant small-boat voyage is chronicled. Perhaps most fascinating is the infinite variety of vessels. In addition to the afore mentioned Jeep and personal watercraft, there are open canoes, rubber rafts, and even a 26-foot double-ended lifeboat made of sheet iron and set up with a three-masted square rig! Also encyclopedia-like, this book includes 41 pages of appendices, references, notes, a bibliography, and a thorough index. It is beautifully illustrated with black and white drawings and photographs. Very few reference books make for such riveting reading.
A later chapter covers the quest to captain the smallest vessel completing an ocean crossing. Hugo Vihlen firmly held that record for years, crossing the Atlantic in his six-foot April Fool. In 1983, Eric Peters claimed the new record in his five-foot, ten-and-one-half-inch Toniky Nou. The race was on for a crossing in a boat so small that no one would raise a campaign to beat it. One persistent challenger was Tom McNally, and William recounts his back and forth competition with Vihlen. In 1992, Vihlen’s five-foot four-inch Father’s Day was challenged by McNally’s Vera Hugh I, an inch and a half shorter. I won’t spoil the ending, but at this writing neither of those boats is small enough to hold the record!
From the absurd to the ingenious, small boats are as varied as the skippers who use them to go to sea. A Speck on the Sea is a fascinating book and will provide more nautical trivia per page than just about any other source. Most importantly, is serves an invaluable purpose to the average sailor . . . easing the endless quest for a larger vessel. Before reading this book, I wondered if my 32-foot cutter was truly capable of an ocean passage. Now, it feels unsportingly large!
Captain John Williams Master Mariner
by Robert Townsend, (Odyssey Publishing, 2002;186 pages; $22.95)
Reviewed by Susan Peterson Gateley, Wolcott, N.Y.
While the romance of Mother Ocean is undeniable, much modern-day yachting takes place on freshwater. Of the top 10 states for registered pleasurecraft, six are Great Lakes states with Michigan ranked No. 1. Yet Great Lakes sailing stories have generally made up only a small portion of sailing literature and much of that amount seems concerned with wrecks and catastrophe. Robert Townsend’s highly readable recent work, Captain John Williams Master Mariner , is a delightful breath of cool air off the lakes.
This history follows the career of Captain Johnny from his first trip at age nine in 1866 to his last crossing of Lake Ontario in 1936. It is based on C. H. J. Snider’s lively weekly newspaper column “Schooner Days,” lightly edited and compiled in book form. It is a fascinating portrait of daily life in commercial sail at a time when small family-owned schooners played a role in commerce much like today’s independent truckers.
Williams was skillful and a quick study who made the transition to steam and command of a corporate-owned bulk carrier, but most of the book concerns his various schooners. Williams never lost a man or a vessel during his years of command, but he knew of others who did, and some of their first-hand accounts illustrate how hazardous and challenging the relatively close quarters of the Great Lakes were to navigation in un-powered vessels during the months of November and December.
But most of the book concerns itself with a time when the Great Lakes waterfront was a lively place inhabited by colorful characters and their vessels. You ‘ll meet the hard steering Speedwell (which demanded a three-point sheer from her course as a regular thing and four points on Sundays), the trim two-masted Duncan City which survived a wild night and a blizzard off Toronto, and the hard working Sir C.T. Straubenzee ( known generally as the Benzy), and the men who sailed them. This was a time when the independent entrepreneurs who often owned and commanded their ships needed ingenuity, bold action, and a lot of hard work to make a profit year after year as Williams did. His adventures and solutions to problems make for a great winter read as the gales of November hammer the shores of the Great Lakes.
The Complete Para-anchor Set-up:Modern Rigging Techniques for Sailboats and Trawlers
by Zack Smith, (Fiorentino Para Anchor, 2004; DVD or VHS; $29.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Rather than a review, this is more of an announcement of a new DVD and video created by the folks at Fiorentino Para Anchor, who no doubt noticed that sailors and other boaters lack experience in deploying and retrieving parachute anchors. The trouble is that when you need a para anchor the most is not the time to learn how to use it. Zack Smith’s movie shows many launchings and retrievals and helps boaters determine what type of rode, chafe gear, bridle, trip line, or sail trim is necessary for their boats. The movie, available in DVD and video formats, is available from Fiorentino by calling 800-777-0732 or at their website: http://www.Para-Anchor.com.
The Walkabouts: A Family at Sea
by Mike Saunders (Stein & Day, 1975; 284 pages; out of print)
Reviewed by Will Clemens, Los Altos Hills, Calif.
Tinkering WW II veterans and refined husband-and-wife teams dominate the literature of cruising’s post-war golden age. These pioneers proved that small boats could safely cross oceans, serve as homes, and offer a lifestyle disconnected from civilization’s pressures. But what about the rest of us? We have kids, jobs, and the need to get somewhere and eventually get back to work. We probably also do not have extensive ocean-cruising experience.
Mike Saunders, in The Walkabouts, tells us of his family’s protracted evacuation in the early 1970s from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to England as the remnants of the British Empire fall away. The Saunders cruise a leaky 32-foot wooden ketch, with a wife, four children, toys for a year, and a homemade windvane down the east coast of Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope, to South America, and up to England. Walkabout is an honest, detailed view of life afloat: torn sails, seasickness, spilled food, and fighting children in addition to inspiring landfalls, wonderful personal encounters, and the satisfaction of the voyage. Some sailors might frown at their seamanship, but the Saunders family lived the adventure and proved that a family ocean cruise is within reach of everybody.
Resourcefulness takes on a new meaning in the Walkabout. The Saunders’ vessel was the only seagoing sailboat available in the country. Those accustomed to grabbing parts from West Marine and calling ahead to our marina via cell phone can barely relate to the difficulty in locating fittings, berths, and workmen. The Saunders expect their young children to tough it out, letting them get doused by the ocean to teach them a lesson and setting them free in the harbor for entertainment. One can imagine a visit from the child welfare office today to rescue children from such “irresponsible behavior.”
The Saunders lived the dream of the average weekend sailor. They had a mission, sold everything, made the voyage, and had the family experience of a lifetime. Their whole story, including the mishaps, frustrations, and discomforts — in addition to the triumphs — may inspire you even more than the cool predictability of the better-known masters.
The Windvane Self-Steering Handbook
by Bill Morris (International Marine McGraw-Hill, 2004, 224 pages; $25.95)
Reviewed by Joe Orefice, Baltimore, Md.
Windvanes hang like medals from the stern, a hallmark of many a long-range cruiser. While walking the docks, we see them hanging proudly on boats’sterns. We wonder about the stories the crew could tell of their adventures in the tropics while imaging ourselves on these dedicated cruising machines going to far off-destinations for adventure and excitement.
For a long voyage on a shoestring budget, the windvane is the device of choice, usually a used one. Those who are fitting out their boats find windvanes to be energy and fuel savers. There are many windvanes to choose from and, for those who would make their own, many engineering feats to consider. Author Bill Morris has tried to distill and lighten the stodgy world of windvane engineering and application without turning his book into a cure for insomnia. His book, The Windvane Self-Steering Handbook, is an attempt to tell you the history, construction, installation, and use of the device. He starts off with some history and basic engineering of the windvane before getting to the part that will interest most cruisers. Chapter Four is where it really begins, as he discusses considerations for matching the boat to the vane gear. Chapter Five discusses vane gear specifications for production vanes. Chapter Six is what I feel is the payoff. Here Bill discusses locating and evaluating used windvanes. This is worth the price of the book alone. Another topic I find missing in some discussions and articles about windvanes is installation . . . which just happens to be Chapter Seven.
There is also a chapter dedicated to maintenance and repair. It covers everything from inspecting the vane to bent tubing and broken welds and a helpful section on oxidized aluminum. The following chapter talks about customizing the vane gear. For the backyard builder, there is a chapter on building a horizontal vane trim tab system. There are chapters on emergency rudders and an appendix filled with information for further reading.
The chapter on sailing with windvanes could have been more informative as it only covers the two rigs the author is familiar with. It’s a small gripe; it wouldn’t be hard to adapt the information given.
Overall the book takes a very technical subject and softens it up enough so the reader can understand the information provided and not fall asleep. For the experienced sailor, it may drag on at times, but it’s generally clear and concise. The layout and organization of the material make reading easier and allow the reader to obtain the information required in the shortest amount of time. The author set out to write a book to rival John Letcher’s book on windvanes, and he has done an admirable job. The Windvane Self-Steering Handbook, in my opinion may become one of the main references for those purchasing or maintaining windvane gear.
The Spirit of Sailing: A Celebration of Sea and Sail
by Michael Kahn (Courage Books, 2004, 128 pages; $19.98)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
The poetry of Michael Kahn’s photos takes your breath away. A latter-day Rosenfeld, Michael knows where the heart and passion of sailing are. He directs his lens there. And he captures a voluptuous image in sepia tones. The good old boats that delight his eye have wooden blocks, gaff rigs, square sails, capstans, ratlines . . . poetry whether in motion or at rest.
Perhaps that’s why Michael’s new coffee-table book, The Spirit of Sailing: A Celebration of Sea and Sail, combines sailing quotes, poetry, and images to grace any sailor’s living room or boat cabin. You’ve seen his calendars. Now you can have a printed work of art that lasts longer than a year. And, best of all, this is one coffee-table book that’s affordable . . . like a good old boat.
Navigator, Celestial Navigation Software
by Omar Reis (Celestaire.com; $59.95)
Reviewed by Durkee Richards, Sequim, Wash.
Celestial navigation is alive and well even in the age of affordable GPS chart plotters. With his recent release of version 4.2 of Navigator, Omar Reis has provided the celestial navigator with a user-friendly and feature-rich navigation tool. The Star Finder module would also be of interest to stargazers.
Omar emphasizes that successful navigators are disciplined and organized. This philosophy can be sensed throughout the compact, 67-page manual that comes with the software CD. The first chapter is a succinctly written primer on celestial navigation, which can serve as a useful review for experienced navigators.
The Celestial Navigation and Star Finder modules form the heart of the celestial navigation program. The Star Finder helps the navigator “prepare the sky” — in other words to decide which celestial objects to use and also to determine the expected azimuth and altitude for each sight so that the sextant can be preset.
The Star Finder module uses a built-in perpetual almanac which includes the sun and moon, the navigational planets (Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn), and the full set of navigational stars. This module also features a nice graphic display of the sky to help the user locate the objects of interest. This feature would delight any stargazer.
Sextant altitudes (and times) are reduced using the Celestial Navigation module. I found it quick and intuitive to use. For years, I have used the Nautical Almanac and a spreadsheet template to reduce celestial sights. So having all the ephemeris data built into the program was a luxury. It greatly sped up the sight reduction process while also decreasing the chance of error in data entry.
Navigator 4.2 does not include the additional pressure and temperature corrections to the atmospheric refraction that become significant for objects near the horizon. However the author wisely recommends that users select objects above 20 degrees, which generally allows for better seeing and for more accurate results.
The Celestial Navigation module also features two tools for reducing the noon sight (or more correctly the Meridian Passage). There is even a nice capability for reducing sights taken with an artificial horizon.
Navigator has one more major module — Chart Navigation — which will handle either raster or vector charts. There is an associated utility that allows the user to scan existing paper charts and import them as raster charts. Chart Navigation can also accept GPS input via industry standard NMEA GPS messages.
This is a well-designed tool for the celestial navigator. The Chart Navigation capability increases the utility of this software and should further broaden its appeal.
The One Pan Galley Gourmet
by Don Jacobson and John Roberts (International Marine, 2004: 184 pages; $15.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
We’re taking our sailing vacation early this year. By the time you’re reading this newsletter, Jerry and I will be heading out across cold, cold Lake Superior in search of loon chicks and leftover bergy bits. (We’re hoping for more baby loons and fewer reminders of the winter’s snow and ice.)
Because we sail by choice without refrigeration or cooler, we’ll take along a new cookbook that just arrived for sailors: The One Pan Galley Gourmet: Simple Cooking on Boats. The section about cooking with a pressure cooker got my attention, separating this book from the many cruising cookbooks out there.
This book has its origins in a backpack. One of the authors, Don Jacobson, created a book for hikers and campers, The One Pan Gourmet in 1993. Later he teamed up with sailor John Roberts to “civilize” his menus for boaters. After all, we aren’t constrained by what we can pack in and pack out on our backs.
On the other hand, cooking aboard is not like cooking in a full kitchen in suburbia either. The two authors remembered that sailboats have small galleys, a limited water supply, a limited fuel supply, and some may even be lacking an oven.
They did unfortunately for me, assume that most boats will have coolers or refrigeration. I have to agree that most sailors will choose to chase the elusive ice blocks to keep fresh food available. So they’ve created many recipes using fresh meat that won’t work on my boat starting on Day One and fruits and vegetables that won’t keep into the second week of vacation. Still, all the recipes will work for most sailors, even with the most rudimentary galleys, so long as they have an ice box and a few pots and pans.
This book, in fact, could make a vast improvement in the lives of those sailors who think they must eat only what comes out of boxes and cans while aboard. In fact, it simplifies some people’s worst pre-cruising nightmare: provisioning. If you don’t have time to plan for yourself, take this book to the grocery store and buy everything on the weeklong menu shopping list. Then take the book cruising and follow the daily menu put together for a week. It’s likely to surprise and delight you. One thing is certain: you won ‘t starve! You won’t consider going back to boxes and cans either.
If you’re wondering what Jerry and I will be eating sans cooler, it comes down to eggs, cheeses, canned meat (we can our own), sauces, pasta, rice, and various cans of fruits and vegetables (see article in the January 1999 issue for the details). I can get pretty creative with what’s available. We’ll be out there sailing and eating well. The pressure-cooker tips and recipes included in this book will add to the galley repertoire.
First Aid at Sea
by Douglas Justins and Colin Berry (Paradise Cay, 2004: 28 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
First Aid at Sea is a handy reference that’s small enough to keep nearby for any emergency that might occur aboard. It’s lightweight and extremely easy to use with sturdy tabbed pages, bulleted points, drawings, and charts. It doesn’t focus solely on typical first-aid procedures — such as wounds, broken bones, and CPR — but also provides guidance for illness, hypothermia, drowning, burns, and emergency communications.
“Guidance” has got to be the operative word here, because the entries are brief and to-the-point. This book is not going to give you everything you ever wanted to know about burns, for example, but were afraid to ask. It will, however, get you started in seconds on what to do. You can look up the rest of the story in one of those larger tomes later.
This book may just offer the most appropriate sort of instant-response assistance. If you’re flustered by an unexpected health crisis, this handy little book can help with easy-to-find and easy-to-use notes. For this reason, we’ve put it on our boat.
First Aid at Sea was first printed in England in 1991 and has a British flavor — particularly the part that outlines emergency communication procedures — but it’s mostly about human bodies and keeping them healthy . . . an activity that crosses all communications barriers. It’s a neat little handbook. Just right for taking aboard with you.
Small Boat to Freedom: A Journey of Conscience to a New Life in America
by John Vigor (The Lyons Press, 2004; 288 pages; $21.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Small Boat to Freedom: A Journey of Conscience to a New Life in America is John Vigor’s tale of a wrenching lifestyle change made in 1987 at age 50. The South African government was crumbling as the anti-apartheid ANC became increasingly violent. Blacks and whites, regardless of political persuasion, were being lumped into color-coded groups, and the Vigors — who had raised their three sons in Durban and enjoyed good jobs for many years — were trapped in an uncomfortable position between the white Afrikaners and the black tribes, primarily Xhosas and Zulus.
John unravels the complicated politics of an unhappily multi-cultural society as he explains the desperate decision he and his family (wife and youngest son) made when they chose to leave their home and much of their accumulated wealth in order to start over in a place they hoped would allow them to live without fear. John’s wife, June, is an American citizen, and their two oldest sons were already in the U.S. when the threesome decided to sail from South Africa to Florida and not look back.
In addition to providing insight into the South African political turmoil of the time and the striking geography of the area, John offers information about stops along their journey north and a personal view of his innermost fears while charged with the responsibility of delivering his family safely across the ocean in a 31-foot sailboat. He also compares the voyages made by other seafaring authors who traveled the same route. They include Bernard Moitessier, Eric and Susan Hiscock, Joshua Slocum, Jean Gau, and the Polynesian navigators of long ago.
I enjoyed this book thoroughly even though John has told me his story briefly (Good Old Boat profile March 2003) and I have read an abbreviated version he wrote for Cruising World (January and February 1992).
Typically John’s sailing books offer nautical facts and technical advice for mariners. This book, showcasing his British sense of humor and wry self-deprecating approach to life, makes the reader appreciate John Vigor, the sailing journalist and author, in a new light: as just another sailor down the dock. Indeed, that is exactly what John Vigor is to the sailors in Bellingham, Washington, where he keeps Sangoma his current boat, a Cape Dory 27. The name is Zulu for natural healer, which is exactly what a sailboat should be.
Freelance, the Angelo Lavranos-designed Performance 31, which delivered John, June, and son, Kevin, to the U.S., was sold once they arrived in Florida, much to John’s eternal regret. He was saddened to learn that she had not been well cared for. But since the printing of the book, John has discovered that one more chapter has been written for the boat that he bonded with on his voyage. She is in good hands once more . . . a good old boat which will receive the good care she deserves.
A Cruising Guide to New Jersey Waters
by Don Launer (Rutgers University Press, 2004; 256 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
This isn’t so much a review as an announcement and endorsement. After all, how does one review a cruising guide except by using it for extensive cruising. (Humm . . . that does sound like fun, though, doesn’t it?)
Due to the many changes in the waterways, shore-side facilities, navigation, electronics, pollution regulations, and Homeland Security regulations following 9/11, Don Launer has just revised his A Cruising Guide to New Jersey Waters, originally published in 1995. This book remains the only book dealing exclusively with the navigable waters of New Jersey.
Don, a Good Old Boat contributing editor, holds a USCG captain’s license and brings many years of experience as a skipper of small boats to his nautical and historical guide to his home waters. If these are your home waters, or if you’re on your way there, don’t sail without Don’s cruising guide. It might be almost as good as having Don there in the cockpit beside you.
Compass: A Story of Exploration and Innovation
by Alan Gurney (W.W. Norton & Company, 2004, 307 pages, $22.95)
Reviewed by Brian Koger, Newport News, Va.
Compass opens with a cautionary tale of a modern mega-yacht nearly coming to grief because of the builder’s (and the owner’s) over-reliance on state-of-the-art electronic navigation. When the electronics failed, there was no way to navigate — which very nearly cost the unlucky sailors both the boat and their lives. Although the owner of the yacht made it back (and immediately had a magnetic compass installed) Compass is filled with many stories of much less fortunate mariners and the long struggle to produce a reliable and affordable marine compass.
As with the search for longitude, there were many false starts and centuries of experimentation before people finally got it right. Alan Gurney chronicles the many trials, errors, missteps, and outright buffoonery that eventually led to the modern magnetic compass so many of us (including me, until I read this book) now take for granted. What today can be purchased for a few dollars and is considered little more than a child’s toy by many was so very precious during the great age of sail that anyone caught tampering with it would have his hand pinned to the mast with a dagger.
While reading the book, one can’t help but wonder how mariners in the Age of Discovery ever found anything at all. Some of the finest minds in European history — Sir Isaac Newton, Edmond Halley (the discoverer of the comet that bears his name), and even Captain James Cook worked for years — and with limited success — on the problems of magnetic variation (changes in the Earth ‘s magnetic field) and deviation (compass error caused by magnetic attraction to metals near the compass itself). Until reading the book, I had no idea just how lost most people were for so many years.
Compass is an excellent historical, adventure, and even technical book — and manages to cover all three areas well. Although the book has a heavy British emphasis (naturally enough, since Britannia “ruled the waves” for so long) and deals primarily with naval and merchant vessels, the stories are just as applicable to small boats regardless of nationality. It would be an excellent addition to the onboard library (to read during a passage or at night while at anchor) or to have at home to develop an appreciation for what it took to develop the compass we so often undervalue. I, for one, will never look at my compass the same way again.
Wind & Wave, a 2005 Calendar Celebrating Yachting
by John McVie (Wyman Publishing, 2004; $12.99 U.S., $16.99 Canada)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
John McVie, son of the internationally known photographer, Canadian Jim McVie, has just produced a calendar celebrating sailing and his father’s photography. Jim covered most major yacht races in the Pacific Northwest from the 1950s into the early 1990s. To see more of Jim’s work, have a look at John’s site http://www.mcvieyachtingphotography.com. The color photos John selected for the 2005 calendar are exquisite. He’s so inspired by this project he’s already working on 2006. The calendar is available in major bookstores and from Wyman Publishing in Ottawa, Ontario, http://www.wymanpublishing.com.
French for Cruisers
by Kathy Parsons (Adventuras Publishing and Seaworthy Publications, 2004; 352 pages; $29.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Jerry and I hope to transit the St. Lawrence within the decade ahead. When we do, he’ll be relying on my school-girl French to get us through Quebec. For my part, I’ll be relying on Kathy Parson’s French for Cruisers (along with another great little gem called Yachtsman’s Ten Language Dictionary, by Barbara Webb and Michael Manton) for the many words I’ve forgotten and for the hundreds more I never learned. How else will we shop for sandpaper, stove alcohol, and cotter pins? It seems like these words should have been covered at least by French 203. Perhaps they were taught the day I skipped class and went to the lake . . . Kathy started out by creating Spanish for Cruisers in 2000. That book was such a hit with sailors, the French version was an obvious encore. The French book is divided into handy sections such as customs and immigration, sails and upholstery, emergencies, navigation, weather, engines, boatyards, talking to mechanics, and so on, along with the standard phrases available for non-boating tourists (shopping, directions, time of day. . . ). In many cases, illustrations are also included for pointing out to locals when words fail (as they often do). It also includes an index/dictionary to help get you back to the section you seek when you see an unknown ingredient on a label, an unusual shop sign, or an unfamiliar item on a menu. To save you some thumbing through the book, well-used phrases are printed, conveniently, on the inside covers. Before you begin using the book, it is helpful to acquaint yourself with Kathy’s handy chapters on pronunciation and grammar tips. This book is useful to any cruiser, whether he has taken basic French or not, who heads off to French tropical paradise locations as well as Quebec or the canals of France. From what I have seen of this book, I would buy Kathy’s Spanish for Cruisers in a heartbeat if I were heading for Spanish-speaking areas (even though I don’t have any school-girl Spanish to back that up). It may, come to think of it, come in handy in some parts of the U.S.A. when we do some sailing adventures with our trailerable boat.
Seaworthiness: The Forgotten Factor
by C. A. Marchaj, (International Marine Publishing Company, 1988; 371 pages; out of print)
Reviewed by Will Clemens, Los Altos Hills, Calif.
What have boat designs lost in the quest for windward performance? Has a century of yacht racing corrupted our ability to design safe, all-around cruisers? How do you quantify a yacht’s comfort and safety characteristics? Do boat owners even understand why their boats have certain features?
While addressing these questions in Seaworthiness: The Forgotten Factor, C. A. Marchaj attacks modern yachts and promotes the benefits of full-keel, heavy-displacement designs. He relentlessly criticizes the fin keel and skeg rudder and identifies well-known boat designers as charlatans. Marchaj casts doubt upon the entire enterprise of organized keelboat racing, noting the craziness of human ballast hanging on the rail and the inefficiency of extremely heeled light displacement-boats. More troubling, according to the author, are racing design features which make their way into general-purpose boats, where the quest for windward speed at all costs is not a legitimate requirement. Nonetheless the casual boater does not have the option of, nor understand, alternatives that would improve comfort, safety, and cost., Marchaj supports his points with detailed math formulas, which may be incomprehensible to some skippers, but the accompanying graphs and pictures are telling and much more accessible. Be prepared for incredible detail, such as individual chapters on pitch, roll, and yaw. But with repetition and visualization, you may begin to literally feel as you read the complex motions of a boat underway. In particular, the drawings of a heavy displacement yacht leaning into waves, maintaining equilibrium, make imminent sense. The action pictures of modern designs will make racing seem needlessly dangerous, not exciting. Though most of the book analyzes hull design, Marchaj also has counterintuitive views above the waterline, such as his support of heavy masts and rigs to dampen roll.
Sailors typically think about wind, and it is easier to study rigs, deck hardware, and other visible features. The primary value of Seaworthiness is the intense focus on hull designs. Even weekend sailors will benefit from ideas from this book; they will understand characteristics that make their boats more comfortable in a storm and may start thinking much more about the hull under the waterline when they evaluate their next boat. Whether you agree with Marchaj or not, he offers a perspective on design that is not typically reflected at today’s boat shows.
Used copies of Seaworthiness can be found for $20 to $30. Contact BookMark at Good Old Boat for this or other out-of-print books: 763-420-8923.
Wet Pets and Other Watery Tales
edited by Hazel Hitson Weidman and Jacqueline Korona Teare (Trafford Publishing, 2003; 179 pages; $16.99)
Reviewed by George Zimmerman, Olympia, Wash.
Are you a sailor who routinely undergoes the substantial effort required to take to your dog or cat sailing with you? If you answered yes to this question, then Wet Pets and Other Watery Tales is a book for you. Animal lovers who enjoy the antics of our furry friends will also find enjoyment in this book. Wet Pets and Other Water Tales, edited by Hazel Hitson Weidman and Jacqueline Korona Teare, is a collection of 50 short stories about pets (mostly dogs, some cats, and one or two ducks) who “share water locations, waterborne adventures or have a special liking for water.” Proceeds from the sale of this book benefit the No-Kill Animal Shelter operated by the Camden-Rockport Animal Rescue League. Owners, who love animals and cherish the way they enrich their lives, write the 50 stories. “Owners” may be the legal status for people in the people-animal relationship, but these pets are actually full status members of the family. Pets are the stars of the book but, through the eyes and experiences of the writers, the reader gets a good idea of what day-to-day life is like in a rural town in Maine by the ocean. The visual scenes depicted by some of the better writers, the frustrations and joys of getting a pet used to sailing, and the far-ranging personalities of the pets make this book worth reading.
Having spent many hours with my beagle-pointer dog, Whidbey, in, around, and on the waters of the Puget Sound, I could easily identify with many scenes in the book. The activity described by one author had particular meaning: “My dog and I discovered magic places in our bay and nearby islands, with soft moss underfoot, the sweet smell of balsam, the crash of waves against the rocks and the cries of gulls, tern and osprey.” In the 14 1/2 years, my dog has been with me, we have likewise discovered many of our own magic spots. This book has special meaning to me as my dog is well into the twilight years of his life and our active life together has been replaced by time at home and providing him with comfort and care. Reading these stories brought me back to the days when a stick or tennis ball on the shores of Puget Sound meant hours of fun and companionship under a blue summer sky. Wet Pets is not a book you want to read in a two or three hour setting. Rather, it should be viewed as a plate of 50 hors d’ouvers, which you can sample until your hunger for furry companionship is satisfied. And when hungry again, return and sample some more. Nicely done and done for a good cause. Enjoy it!
How to Rename your Boat and 19 Other Useful Ceremonies,
Superstitions, Prayers, Rituals, and Curses
by John Vigor (Paradise Cay, 2004; 139 pages; $10.95)
Reviewed by Karla Houdek, Minneapolis, Minn.
With the book, How to Rename Your Boat, John Vigor has concocted useful ceremonies, prayers, rituals, and curses for any boating superstitions you may have. I didn’t realize there are so many precautions that should be taken to avoid any negative superstitions from haunting you and your boat. This book is full of prayers and rituals that encourage safe and enjoyable voyages.I was particularly entertained by the section on curses. Specifically, I enjoyed the curses designed for powerboaters leaving large wakes. John Vigor’s feelings about these boaters are fairly clear with this “curse:”
Woe to you, thou beslubbering speedhog!
May your filters choke and your injectors freeze.
May every ill befalling a boat bring you to your knees.
May you run out of whiskey and ice cubes, too.
May there be no more pleasure for you and your crew.
May all your bronze tarnish and your varnish all flake.
May your batteries die and your propellers shake.
May your anchors drag and your bilges overflow.
May you rot in a hell where they make you go slow.
Curse you! Curse you! My curse upon you wherever you go.
There are no laws stating that you cannot rename your boat. However, it is believed to bring bad luck to boaters who rename their boats without first completing the proper de-naming ceremony. Since you don’t want to take chances when it comes to bad luck, you should be willing to go through the proper steps or any type of ceremony when it comes to your boat. After all, it’s a big ocean out there.This book was written specifically to assist you with renaming your boat along with curing any other types of boating superstitions you may have. Even if you’re not a superstitious person now, you might become one once something bad happens to you in those unknown waters because you didn’t take the time to follow through with proper ceremonial procedures as discussed in John’s book. I recommend keeping a copy of this book aboard your boat. You never know when you’ll need to pray for wind, have a ceremony to bury a dead body at sea, cast a curse on an obnoxious powerboater, or simply need a good laugh.
The Last Great Adventure of Sir Peter Blake: Sir Peter Blake’s Logbooks
edited by Alan Sefton (Sheridan House, 2004; 240 pages; $39.95)
Reviewed by Lon Zimmerman, Anchorage, Alaska
“Why are we here? . . . We want to start people caring for the environment as it must be cared for . . . We want to make a difference.” – Sir Peter Blake
This large-format book documents the voyage of Sir Peter Blake and crew of Seamaster, from Auckland, New Zealand, across the Southern Ocean to the Antarctic Peninsula and then to South America and up the Amazon River. It is a beautiful book about an amazing man on an incredible voyage in a most unique sailboat. This is the ultimate coffee-table book. I tested it on unsuspecting friends. Not one could resist picking it up, and all were intrigued. The ensuing conversations inevitably turned on the voyage of Seamaster.
Seamaster is a fascinating boat, a vessel designed to safely bring her crew from the Antarctic to the Amazon and yet model how wastes can be managed in an environmentally sound manner. Sir Peter Blake received two Sportsman of the Year awards, four Yachtsman of the Year awards, and the Prix de L’Aventure Sportive. He was named Member of the British Empire (MBE) and Officer of the British Empire (OBE). Sir Peter was Special Envoy of the United Nations ‘ Environmental Programme (UNEP). He received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth in 1995, and was considered ” a good Kiwi Bloke” by his mates.
He sailed Sydney-Hobarts, Fastnets, the Doublehanded Round Britain Race, Trans-Tasmans, a trans-Atlantic race, and the two-handed Around Australia Race. He won the Whitbread, the Trophée Jules Verne, and the America’s Cup. With six trips around the world, Sir Peter logged more than 600,000 sea miles.
Sir Peter became aware of damage to the oceans while racing around the world. He noted a decline of the giant albatross from the 1980s. The seabirds become entangled in the enormous fishing nets deployed by commercial fisheries. He was concerned by the trend in commercial fishing that target and remove entire fish stocks. “Incidental catch,” such as an albatross, is discarded by an industry too focused on the bottom line.
When reading Sir Peter’s log book, it is easy to forget that he is gone. I enjoyed the daily progress of Seamaster and her crew. Each daily log has entries for: latitude, longitude, course, sea, air temp., sea temp., barometer, and location. This data is followed by Sir Peter’s narrative about events on board or comments on the history and geography of the region and notes on the wildlife observed. Sometimes the narrative comes from crewmembers discussing an area of special interest. Narrative is always accompanied by photographs, some spanning two pages to increase their dramatic effect.
Sir Peter’s comments bring to mind the ideas of Jacques Cousteau. That is not surprising. Sir Peter assumed leadership of the Cousteau Society in 1997 after Jacques’ death. He left the Cousteau Society to form his own organization, Blakexpeditions, to educate and motivate the young about ecological causes, especially the state of the world’s oceans.
When Seamaster turns to begin the journey back down the Amazon, I feel a sense of sadness, knowing the adventure must end with the murder of Sir Peter by river pirates.
Sir Peter did make a difference. The Last Great Adventure of Sir Peter Blake does make a difference. This is a great book. As a gift, it would surprise and delight a friend.
Ship to Shore: A Dictionary of Everyday Words and Phrases
Derived from the Sea
by Peter D. Jeans (International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 2004; 433 pages; $18.95)
Reviewed by Pat Morris St. Paul, Minn.
It seems fairly logical that words like “launch,” “moonlighting,” and even “nausea” (more about this one later) would have nautical origins. But what about “billboard,” “flimsy,” or “ringleader”? Those words and many other words and phrases that are regularly used by English-speaking sailors and landlubbers alike also originated on or near the sea. “Ringleader,” for example, came from the “round robin” concept, meaning a “petition or protest written in circular form so that no particular signature heads the list and therefore no one person can be singled out as a ringleader . . . originally used by sailors when urging a formal protest or claim on their superior officers.”
Ship to Shore’s author, Peter Jeans, is an English teacher and sailor who has an abiding interest in history, which is what makes this book far more than just a dictionary. It’s a fun read as well as a wonderful resource and would make a great gift for any sailor or even a non-sailor who is interested in nautical history, etymology, or trivia. The author is clearly passionate about words and all things nautical. It is easy to tell that he enjoyed doing the research and writing this book.
The entries for each word often give more information than is offered in an ordinary dictionary. You may already know that the word nausea came from the Greek nausia, seasickness. But where else are you going to learn that when “nausea is combined with a drunken headache, the resulting condition is nicely expressed by the word crapulous.”
The Lo-Tech Navigator
by Tony Crowley (Sheridan House, 2004; 148 pages; $17.95)
Reviewed by Durkee Richards, Sequim, Wash.
Tony Crowley has provided boaters with a enjoyable book that contains instructions for building a variety of useful navigation tools. It combines these with reminiscences, rules of thumb, and even a recipe for Spanish Armada omelet. Some of the navigation tools would make great projects when working with student mariners.
Tony has spent a great deal of time at sea, both as a former British merchant navy officer, and later as a sailor. This book shows that he clearly enjoyed the art of navigation and found satisfaction in revisiting and improving historical navigation tools and techniques. The largest portion of this book deals with astral navigation.
Topics range from a “sun compass” — a handy technique for using the early morning sun to find true east or the late-day sun for finding west — to a lengthy chapter entitled “Sun Navigation in a Nutshell.” This chapter starts with the basics of sextant sun sights and includes a poem to help guide the student through the steps of sight reduction. It then continues with construction projects for a mariner’s quadrant, a cross-staff, an improved back-staff, and an octant.
The final part of the sun navigation section is entitled “Dire Straits Navigation.” It features a clever way to construct a quadrant using only a sheet of paper, a small board, and a few pins. Then the author gives some rules of thumb to help calculate the sun’s declination and the time at which the sun will cross the Greenwich Meridian. He again uses a poem as a memory aid and attributes David Burch’s classic book, Emergency Navigation, as his inspiration.
Use of some of the navigation tool projects, such as quadrants and the cross-staff, require sighting directly toward the sun. And these instruments traditionally do not incorporate sun shades. Cautions about taking sufficient measures to protect your eyesight are a bit understated. Please take particular care, especially if working with young mariners.
Sailors who cruise in waters with significant tidal currents will especially enjoy the chapter called “The Magic of 6°,” which gives an easy rule of thumb for computing the course correction required to compensate for currents. Tony also includes a very nice discussion about how to visually detect currents that he calls “Reading the Sea.”
This is an appealing book that includes an eclectic range of topics. Some are interesting variations on known themes, others are included to amuse, and some provide unexpected insight into the art of navigation (such as using the motion of Kochab around Polaris to find longitude).
She’ll Cross an Ocean, If You Will
by Dan Smith (Kohinoor Press, 2004; 282 pages; $34.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Dan Smith became the de facto historian of the Allied Boat Company as the corresponding secretary of the Allied Seawind Owners’ Association. The cartons of documents which came with the job elevated his interest in the company which had gone out of business in 1984. Soon he was searching for more information about the company. The rest, as they say, truly is history . . . a history book for the owners and lovers of Allied Boats, the Seawind 30 in particular and other boats by Tom Gillmer.
She’ll Cross an Ocean If You Will is Dan’s summary of his research conducted over many years, the story of his own Seawind 30 which was damaged beyond repair in a hurricane, the stories of two famous Seawind sailors (Alan Eddy and Dan Jelsema), and background about the Seawind Owners’ Association.
Most importantly though, Dan’s book presents the history of the Allied Boat Company and a profile of designer Tom Gillmer. For Gillmer fans and those who are passionate about the Allied boats (most of which have something akin to cult status) this book will be invaluable. Due to Alan Eddy’s historic first circumnavigation between 1964 and 1969 in a fiberglass boat — the Allied Seawind 30 — this book is relevant to all those who now follow behind so willingly in fiberglass boats whether on bluewater passages or coastal cruising. We have the fiberglass pioneers to thank for our boats today.
The Allied Boat Company, designer Tom Gillmer, and Alan Eddy are our heroes, and we can thank Dan Smith for telling their stories in She’ll Cross an Ocean If You Will.
A Complete Cruising Guide to the Down East Circle Route
by Cheryl Barr (Yacht Pilot Publishing, 2004; 198 pages; $44.95)
Reviewed by Bill Sandifer, Diamondhead, Miss.
After reading two articles about the Down East Circle Route, I decided I needed to know more about this cruise and the book about it by Nova Scotian Captain Cheryl Barr. When I got the guide, I was hooked on the guide, which is almost as good as I think the cruise will be. Best of all, you can enjoy it in the comfort of your easy chair.
The book is well written and is not so much a cruising guide as a narrative of the things you can see and do on the cruise with navigational information included. It takes you from New York Harbor up the Hudson River to the Erie Canal, through the Erie Canal to Oswego to Kingston, Ontario, through the Thousand Islands, out the St. Lawrence around the Gaspé Peninsula, back through Nova Scotia, Maine, the Cape Cod Canal, and to your point of origin in New York. Each segment is illustrated with pictures, charts, and an excellent description of what you will encounter along the way. There are excellent recommendations for places of interest, methods of handling the tides, currents, and locks and small, detailed descriptions of why “bluenoses” are called “bluenoses.”
All in all, a most enjoyable cruising guide that is much more than just a guide but an excellent narrative, well written and entertaining in its own right.
Unfurling the Heart: Love’s Persuasion
by Susea McGearhart (Whitecaps Publishing, 2004; 316 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Theresa Fort Deale, Md.
Unfurling the Heart is the story of the making of a cruising couple through a four-month “seabatical” to the Bahamas told from the wife’s perspective. The author bares all and is candid about her fears and desires. She learns that cruising is not done for fun but for its liberating lifestyle. She learns how smiling and forced bravery can lead to a positive attitude when times get rough.
And, even though the time span of the cruise is only four months, the couple deals with many of the situations that some long-term cruisers experience: the work required in living aboard and cruising, concerns and health issues with a pet on board, the loss of a parent while cruising far from home, and the anxieties and realities of staying in touch with loved ones. Susea, by the way, already has one book under her belt. She is co-author of Red Sky in Mourning with Tami Oldham Ashcraft.
The cover and title worried me. I was suspicious that this would be a fluffy book about love and cruising. In fact, I was biased against it in the beginning. But even though there are a few too many metaphors connecting love to sailing and cruising, I was drawn into this couple’s story and found myself wondering what would happen next. Susea’s story was worth telling. This book has honest information about what women sailors experience and how they feel about life while cruising.
Some readers may find the detail a little monotonous because it is an almost daily account of Susea ‘s first cruise. But there is value in all that detail. I found it to be a good example of just what a first cruise is like for a couple with a pet dog exploring a new country. In actuality, cruising itself can be monotonous at times.
The great number of photos throughout the book help illustrate the couple’s experience. I enjoyed reading about and getting to see many of the places our family visited several years ago on our own cruise to the Bahamas. In fact, I found the book to have excellent and useful information about cruising in Bahamian waters; it would be fun to bring it along to read while sailing there.
Susea McGearheart covers the emotional aspects of cruising that pre-cruisers and beginning cruisers need to know before setting sail. Through the eyes of the wife, Unfurling the Heart is a warm and sometimes tumultuous sail through the initiation of a cruising couple.
Ham Radio For Dummies
by Ward Silver (Wiley, 2004; 380 pages; $21.99)
Reviewed by Jon Paulus, Parma, Ohio
So you’d like to venture out farther into the world of two-way communication? You say the FRS radios you bought to keep track of the kids and your marine VHF aren’t enough? You’d like to become a licensed amateur radio operator, but haven’t a clue where to start? Is that what’s troubling you, Bunky? Well, never fear, Ward Silver has written a book for you!
In his book, Ham Radio For Dummies, Ward clearly presents, with technical precision and a dash of humor, everything you need to know to gain licensure as a ham operator. Be aware that this book will not, by itself, prepare you to get your license. Instead, it will tell you how to prepare, what resources you need, and where to look for them. The book does not, for example, teach you Morse code. Instead it guides you through the process of finding the best way to learn it. For each step of the way, Ward discusses the options, tells you the best ways to get through that step, and offers sound reasoning as to why this is the best path to choose.
This book is very easy to read. The folksy, conversational style, common to other books in the Dummies series, is prevalent here. Sidebars explain concepts in depth while bullets highlight important details. Technical jargon is defined in common terms. Ward becomes your “Elmer,” the ham radio term for a trusted friend and mentor who tells you what you need to know to enter this world and make it yours.
If you’re interested in becoming a ham operator, buy this book. Read it, and the process of becoming a ham operator will move from daunting to doable.
Ralph Stanley: Tales of a Maine Boatbuilder
by Ralph Stanley and Craig Milner (Down East Books, 2004; 160 pages; $25.00)
Reviewed by Bill Hammond, Minneapolis, Minn.
When I was asked to review Ralph Stanley: Tales of a Maine Boatbuilder, I was already prone to like the book. First, I love wooden boats. Second, I have met Ralph Stanley — or, more precisely, seen him in action. My family has a place across Frenchman Bay from Mount Desert Island where for more than half a century Ralph Stanley has plied his trade. I have stood on hallowed ground in Southwest Harbor — the air rife with scents of freshly hewn timbers — and watched as he planed a garboard plank intended for a Maine lobster boat and inserted a “fashion piece” onto the stern of a nearly completed Friendship sloop. He and his associates went about their business that day as though on a mission. Nonetheless, they were more than hospitable to gawkers wandering in from the street and all but blushed with home-spun modesty whenever one of us commented on the beauty of the boats they were building.
So I had high expectations for this book and was not disappointed. The book, written in cooperation with journalist Craig Milner, is a gem. It matters naught whether or not the reader has an interest in how wooden boats are designed and built. There are several chapters devoted to these issues but, as with everything in this book, they are written in classic understatement.
The remaining 27 short chapters carry the reader through the life of this Renaissance man and the many influences that have fashioned his career. We meet his family. We meet summer people “from away” who take young Ralph under their wing. We even meet Hillary Clinton and other government dignitaries when Ralph is summoned to Washington to receive a highly coveted Master Artist award from the National Heritage Fellowship.
But it is when he is describing his boats that the essence of Ralph Stanley emerges. In the back of the book is a list of 60-some vessels that have come out of his shop, including the names of people for whom they were built, starting with a lapstrake dory in 1946 and ending with a Friendship sloop in 2004. It would be no different for a parent describing his children or an author or artist profiling her portfolio of creativity. All are labors of love.
In current world, where people seem obsessed with material possessions and a “me too” mentality, it is refreshing to meet a man of substance and genuine humility for whom shallow emotions are unfathomable. They simply aren’t part of who he is, never could be.
Ralph’s view of life is his work, his desire to make a design already appreciated into something perhaps a little bit more appreciated. His life is a testimony to the values of old-fashioned work ethics, genuine humility, and a constant striving for excellence. You can almost hear him add: “Ayuh, building wooden boats is what I do. What’s all the fuss about?”
The Biggest Boat I Could Afford: Sailing Up the U.S. Coast in a Dinghy
by Lee Hughes (Sheridan House, 2004; 304 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Wayne Gagnon, Antigo, Wis.
What do you get when you combine an undeniable fear of the ocean, a healthy dose of mid-life crisis, and a serious case of open-mouth-insert-footitis? Why, the makings of a cruising memoir, of course. Even though Lee Hughes grew up in New Zealand, where boating is a national pastime, he reached adulthood with a very real and unexplainable fear of big water. The other two ingredients can be attributed to the male ego and testosterone, which tend to reinforce each other.
Hughes has published two other books in New Zealand: Straight From the Horse’s Ass, in 1995, and Shooting From the Lip, in 1999, which, in his words, “dealt with my nine years in the New Zealand army and the disasters I inflicted on myself and my fellow officers.”
In this book he makes reference to a woman he had had a relationship with years before. Somehow, after almost suing him for slander, they end up in a romantic relationship in which Lee conversationally paints himself into a corner that leads to his minimalist’s sailing adventure from Key West to New York via the Intracoastal Waterway, in a 16-foot Wayfarer dinghy named Wanderer.
The first half of The Biggest Boat I Could Afford tells how Lee decides to make, or gets himself trapped, into making the voyage then details how he travels from New Zealand to Fort Lauderdale, via Wyoming and Canada, to pick up his boat, which he bought sight-unseen over the Internet from the owner who was in England. At this point you may wonder when, or even if, he is ever going to get down to sailing.
He does indeed in the second, more serious half of book. After outfitting Wanderer in Fort Lauderdale, he sails to Key West where his trip officially begins. He deals with his fear, the weather, tides, loneliness, and inexperience. He meets total strangers who come to his aid when he has equipment failures or simply needs directions.
Lee’s style is straightforward and humorous, and he’s more than willing to laugh at himself. If you’re in the market for a semi-serious treatise on one man’s struggle with mid-life crisis or would like to see how little equipment some people need, you would probably enjoy The Biggest Boat I Could Afford. It’s also a welcome reminder that, more often than not, a journey is much more than simply going from point A to point B.
Escape from Someday Isle
edited by Linda Ridihalgh (Living Aboard; 2004; 226 pages; $18.00)
Reviewed by Karen Larson Minneapolis, Minn.
Anyone who hopes to live aboard or cruise full time someday will want to talk to others who have already lived this dream. Lots of others . . .as many as possible . . . with all kinds of opinions. For the “someday dreamers,” the editors of Living Aboard magazine have organized a large gathering of liveaboards who have been there and done that and, in most cases, made it look easy.
And they’ve invited the dreamers among us to the party. Even better than a party that might not fit our time schedule or be held in location near home, this gathering of singles, couples, and families who made the transition to living aboard is available in the pages of a book, Escape from Someday Isle, a collection of the best articles printed over the years in Living Aboard magazine.
As attendees at this elite gathering, we can ” explore” the boats of liveaboards learning about their solutions to problems and gathering tips. We can delve into their minds asking how and why and why not. Unconstrained, we can ask about money issues, about lack of privacy, about personal issues. And we can do all of this at a pace that works for us. They’ll answer our questions (the ones they’ve heard a thousand times before), tell us what worked for them, reminisce about the good and the bad parts of making the transition and living it, and reassure the timid among us.
The pages of Living Aboard magazine are replete with the stories of making the move: before, during, and after. It’s told by many boaters with varying opinions. They sing the siren song with hundreds of voices. This book gathers the best of the advice and observations and makes it available to those who would do likewise. If you’re planning, hoping, or dreaming of a liveaboard lifestyle, this is one book you don’t want to miss. You don ‘t need a special occasion to add it to your bookshelf. You’ve been invited to a gathering. That’s special occasion enough. Don’t miss out.
A Voyage Toward Vengeance
by Jule Miller (Paradise Cay Publications, 2004; 336 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Jon Paulus, Parma, Ohio
Are you a fan of nautical fiction, particularly adventure or murder mystery stories with a nautical twist? You likely know that it’s been a while since Sam Llewellyn has cranked out one of his sailing thrillers. Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series is a limited set. What’s a sailor to read? Jule Miller, a retired engineer and sailor who lives in the Caribbean has stepped in to fill the void. His book, A Voyage Toward Vengeance, is filled with all of the elements that lovers of mysteries and nautical fiction enjoy. Detailed descriptions of sailboats, weather, landfalls, and the beautiful Caribbean locales will keep the winter armchair sailor satisfied. The story, complete with missing persons, murder, sunken vessels, unlikely comrades, and a couple of real sociopaths, will entertain the mystery/adventure lover.
The main character, Bill Stroud, is newly retired. He’s a fellow who also has recently suffered a number of losses. He is emotionally adrift and purposeless in New England. Even his beloved hobby of sailing has no meaning. He is on a downward spiral until he sees a picture postcard of a Caribbean marina which contains a boat that looks just like the one owned by his daughter and son-in-law. The problem is that they were lost at sea, presumed dead and their boat sunk.
He leaves New England in search of the vessel and the answers to questions about what really happened to the boat and crew. Along the way he teams up with a woman who has similarly lost her parents. Their pursuit of the truth and wrestling with ethical dilemmas along the way, drive the story. Slowly they uncover the truth, and slowly Bill rediscovers himself along the way.
This is the first non-fiction effort by Miller, and it’s a good one. He includes lots of nautical detail — enough to satisfy the sailor. The depth of this detail was daunting to a non-sailing reader with whom I shared the book. Miller knows what he’s talking about when it comes to sailing, and his descriptions of nautical scenes are excellent. As far his general writing is concerned, there were a couple of times when he telegraphed the story line a bit too broadly. This is a small fault, however, and the book is a most enjoyable read. The adventurous reader might find himself or herself drawn to sail the idyllic Caribbean. The reader with a vivid imagination might also find himself or herself imagining pirates lurking in every anchorage.
Your First Sailboat
by Daniel Spurr (International Marine/McGraw Hill 2004; 270 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Michael Gude, Ames, Iowa
There are many books on the market that can help you take your first steps on your sailing career. I personally have about three feet of shelf devoted to that subject. Dan Spurr’s Your First Sailboat differs because it not only tells you how to find the right boat for you, it tells you what to do with it afterward. Fiberglass or wood, size, hull design, how to assess a vessel’s quality, and more are all covered to some extent in these pages.
This book does an excellent job of alleviating some of the doubt a potential new sailor may feel while considering a plunge into the world of motorless boating. One of my favorite parts of the book was the “What if . . .” section that covers what to do in a variety of worst-case scenarios that novice sailors often worry about. Disasters such as dismasting to a full-blown sinking boat are discussed in a humorous way that puts them in perspective.
The information in this book is very general, covering the basics of what you would need to learn once you actually owned a sailboat. For example, the section “Handling Your First Sailboat” should not be looked to as a definitive guide to sailboat piloting. I am sure this is by design though, as this book seems intended as a sort of recruitment tool for potential sailors. I would view it as a guide to what you will need to know, not necessarily the detailed information itself.
While reading this book I often found myself thinking, “Why didn’t I think of that before I bought my boat!” For that reason I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who already owns a boat (unless they are in the market for another), but if you know anyone who has expressed the slightest interest in getting into sailing, but is reluctant to take the plunge — get them this book.
Return to the Sea
by Webb Chiles (Sheridan House Inc., 2004; 224 pages; $26.95)
Reviewed by George Allred Indialantic, Florida
“…I walked the bow back until, when the shrouds were even with the end of the side tie, I stepped aboard. Nothing held to the country in which I was born almost 60 years earlier. I did not know that I would ever see it again.
With that, Webb Chiles departs Boston to complete his fourth circumnavigation.
Return to the Sea is a personal narrative of the completion of Webb’s fourth circumnavigation. And it is a very good one. It has no aspirations of being a cruising guide. As you read, you go where Webb’s mind and boat go.
The first part of the book is a brief introduction to the man and his travels: his wives and boats. He describes sailing around Cape Horn single-handed as the first American to do this. He describes his boat sinking off eastern Florida and how he acquires his next boat, The Hawke of Tuonela, and his next wife, Carol.
The reader sees a little bit of Webb’s internal turmoil when Carol joins him during his journey and becomes a part-time cruiser.
Webb is engrossing as he describes his visits to various ports along the way back to Sydney: the Azores, Portugal, and Gibraltar. He includes vivid accounts of places off the beaten path: the goats in Dakar, Senegal; Christmas in Salvador, Brazil; the luxurious Blue Train that travels between Cape Town and Pretoria, South Africa.
As Webb crosses the North Atlantic to Portugal, the reader gets a glimpse of life aboard during ocean passages. Then he crosses the Southern Atlantic to Brazil and on to South Africa. Then there are five weeks traveling the last ocean from the Cape of Good Hope to Australia.
My one issue was that the end of his trip was lightly discussed. I would have preferred more. This book should be on the short reading list for every sailor who dreams of leaving. If leaving is not in you retirement plans, but living vicariously through others is, this book should be very entertaining. But be careful, the byproduct of reading this book could cause you to update that five-year plan to take off. I have.
Des Pawson’s Knot Craft
by Des Pawson (Paradise Cay Publications, Inc., 2003; 96 pages, $10.95)
Reviewed by Carolyn Corbett Brainerd, Minn.
Select your Swedish fid, your heaver, and your marlinespike; gather up your gunk, goos, and tar; consider your cordage. Then tie into one of the 28 ropework projects packed in this practical guide. From a simple key ring utilizing a single yard of line to an ocean mat requiring more than 82 feet of rope, there are step-by-step directions and detailed illustrations to keep you on course.
Des Pawson, a professional ropeworker for more than 25 years, describes this book as a “recipe book, ” rather than a “how-to-tie-knots” book. Knotwork is Des’ passion, and he has worked for years to compile the cuisine presented in this volume. Like any good chef, he encourages the reader/roper to order à la carte, to mix and match knots and techniques, to season the stew to one’s own specifications.
An impressive smorgasbord of projects is featured: fenders, binocular straps, tiller and boathook covers, belts, a whisk, and several types of deck mats, among others. It ‘s your choice: the blue plate special or haute cuisine. Each project is accompanied by an introductory section, a checklist of required materials, a rundown of knots used (with references to other pages in the book when necessary), and the method/directions, along with a selection of illustrations.
The book opens with a section covering tips of the trade: favored tools and knots, converting measurements to metric, and choosing the appropriate cordage. Appendices offer information on suppliers of cordage, the International Guild of Knot Tyers, and recommended reading on knotting. An index comes in handy, as well
This is well-written, well-illustrated book, peppered with vocabulary sure to broaden the linguistic horizons of the non-knotter. I honestly found both the book and the projects appealing. That said, honesty also requires me to admit something else.
After receiving the book and scanning the menu, I promptly decided that a “simple key ring” was just what my life was lacking. I flipped to the first project confident that I could master what was obviously the most appropriate undertaking for a beginner. I spent several hours and a goodly allotment of my patience pondering the pointers and poring over the illustrations. I flopped. My soufflé fell.
No simple key ring with single and double boatswain’s whistle lanyard knots for this reader. No forward progression to the pretty port and starboard earrings I could have made with heavy red and green thread using the same knots. Definitely no grommet for a game of deck quoits!
My final assessment? I cheerfully recommend this book to every not-knot-challenged reader with an interest in rope crafts!
The Sailor’s Hornbook or ABC; With a Vermiform Appendix on Racing Terminology
by David O’Neal (Global Publishing, 2004, 138 pages, $15.00)
Reviewed by Karen Larson Minneapolis, Minn.
David O’ Neal is a funny guy. He’s written a sailors’ lexicon that will make any sailor laugh. I imagine him sitting with friends over glasses of wine while dreaming up crazy meanings for sailing words and inventing nonsense words for sailing situations lacking a word of their own. It can’t be easy. I don’t think he could do this sort of thing in isolation. A few examples follow.
Mast – 1) A church service, where prayers are offered for those putting out to sea. Half-mast is a shorter service. Captain’s mast are special prayers for the captain. 2) A most excellent conductor of lightening. In this sense, half-mast is after the lightening has struck.
Dousing sails – Sails occasionally burst into flames by spontaneous combustion in equatorial climates. Therefore they must be doused with water now and then. If buckets or hoses are not available, turning turtle will suffice.
Reef – 1) A ridge at or near the surface of the water usually composed of dead coral, a few live creatures, and parts of boats. 2) To reduce the sail area in order to avoid being overpowered by the wind. Reefing is usually done with lines, rather than with knives or shears, so that the reefed sail, when shaken out, will be the same size as it was originally.
Causeway – A raised way of land connecting two islands. Under no circumstances is a causeway to be confused with a bridge.
BATERISTAAR – Abbreviation for Boat Aground, Tide Ebbing, Reef Increasing in Size, Tow Aground Also — Rats! — which succinctly describes this nasty situation.
Abaft – In a direction farther aft than a specified reference position, such as abaft the mast. Abaft the bowsprit is vague and rarely used.
Obviously Dave is not taking any of this, including himself, all too seriously. In his biography, he says, “Mr. O’Neal now resides on a houseboat in Florida . . . He lives with his wife, Velocity Swift, his salty dog, Wharf, and his parrot, Kidd. . . . A consummate liar, Mr. O’Neal has falsified his credentials and fabricated his sailing résumé. Currently he is operating as a delivery skipper under several assumed names.
I don’t believe any of this. I don’t think his dog is named Wharf or that Wharf makes a noise like that when he barks (although David might). Every sailor knows that wharf and woof are the horizontal and vertical threads in Dacron sails which begin life as bed sheets but are then dipped in vats of Dacron coating, making them impermeable to rain but fragile when exposed to sunlight. Therefore all sails should be kept covered all the time. Except at night.
Hey! This is easy, after all! Refill my wine glass; I’m just getting started!
Working Rope: Field Guides for Rigging: Basic Braided Splices
by Brion Toss and Margie McDonald (2004; 122 pages, $22.50)
Reviewed by Carolyn Corbett, Brainerd, Minn.
“It is the intent of this book,” the authors write, “to demystify and standardize braided rope splicing …We have done our best to avoid illustration shortcuts, so that every step is as clear as it can be; and the supporting text is meant to provide detail and advice where problems are typically encountered, yet stay out of the way when the illustrations can carry the load.”
Splicing is still a skill, they remind the reader, and mastery of this art requires patience, focus, and practice.
Brion Toss is not a newcomer to rigging. He’s written Knots for Boaters (Chapman Nautical Guide), The Complete Rigger’s Apprentice, and a selection of articles for sailing magazines, as well as producing The Master Rigger Video Series. This particular field guide on basic braided splices is one of a series of seven books in the Working Rope series he utilizes in his Brion Toss Yacht Riggers Apprenticeship program.
In this manual, as in the workshops he teaches, Brion combines the traditional art of the sailor with modern tools and technology available today. The spiral-bound handbook is user-friendly, offering a hands-off guide for hands-on tasks. Brion and co-author Margie McDonald provide a comprehensive list of splicing terms, recommend the use of a tool they manufacture called the “splicing wand,” and supply a measurement table indicating multiples of rope diameter.
The value of this manual unquestionably lies in the inclusion of tips, techniques, and shortcuts from professional riggers, along with information on the characteristics of each particular type of rope: durability, flexibility, elasticity, strength, ease of handling. An abundance of clear illustrations are large enough to refer to easily as one works. In the written text accompanying each set of sketches there are step-by-step instructions for splicing conventional ropes, like Dacron and nylon, as well as the new high-modulus lines like Spectra and Vectran.
This book, along with information on the other books in the Working Rope series, is available at http://www.briontoss.com. Hey, they’ll even autograph the book for you!
Chasing Dreamtime: A Sea-going Hitchhiker’s Journey through Memory and Myth
by Neva Sullaway (Brookview Press, 2004; 336 pages; $15.95)
Reviewed by Joe Ditler, Coronado, Calif.
Driven. Haven’t you experienced the feeling? At some time in our lives, we’ve all been driven to exceed, to aspire, to love, or even to forget. Neva Sullaway sits today in her quaint cottage not far from the beach in San Diego. She has no boat now, but she has added a loving husband and two terrific children to her life. She is, as the neighbors say, “. . . a sweet, quiet young woman who fits in so well.”
Once, however, Neva was driven — driven to discover, driven to run. The part of Neva the neighbors don’t know is that she was also driven to escape. She has just released a new book about her travels across the Pacific, Chasing Dreamtime: A Sea-going Hitchhiker’s Journey Through Memory and Myth
Neva lived the stories of Chasing Dreamtime well before her 25th birthday. Now, after 30 years, she lays out her wild adventures and personal journey for all to read. The introductory chapters create the backdrop for the story: an innocent voyage across the South Pacific. It’s the post-Vietnam era of the mid-’70s; a time well before cruising became the popular lifestyle it is today; a time before GPS and on-board electronics; a time when sea gypsies roamed the oceans.
Having failed in her attempt to become the first woman to sail solo around the world, Neva arrives in Tahiti, where she is soon placed in jail for a visa violation. From there, she embarks on another sea-going journey that takes her from one life-threatening adventure to another.
From sailing with island royalty, to meeting the legendary recluse and beachcomber, Tom Neale, who lived alone on Suvarov Atoll for nearly 20 years, Neva takes us back to the raw adventure and pristine beauty of the South Pacific. Even after being entangled in a drug-smuggling scheme and facing death several times while at sea, she continues her journey from New Zealand to Australia.
The story reaches a climax when Neva mistakenly gets a job on a prawn trawler in the far northern waters of Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria, the stark and forbidding Never-Never.
She is held captive at sea, unable to leave the boat, and must rely on her own wits to escape. It is there, on a desolate island in the remotest region of northern Australia that Neva reclaims her freedom and finds redemption in the Dreamtime journey.
Neva Sullaway is the former Australian Women’s Sailboarding Champion, a title she successfully defended for four consecutive years. She built a career as a writer and photojournalist, covering sailboarding events in Australia, Europe and the U.S. She wrote One with the Wind: A Guide to Sailboarding in Australia. During this time she also created a magazine for sailors, Freesail Australia, which became Australia’s top-selling sailboarding magazine.
Neva also wrote Sailing in San Diego: A Pictorial History for the 1992/1995 America’s Cup. She continues to write, edit and shoot pictures with a maritime theme.
GPSNavX navigation software for the Macintosh
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
If your computer (assuming you have one) is a Macintosh, you know how isolated we feel as magazine publishers using the last remaining Macs on the planet. Or so it seems. No software. No support groups. No viruses. (Wait! Maybe it’s not all that bad!)
When we decided to be Mac-based on our boat as well as in the office, we discovered that there aren’t too many Mac-friendly navigation programs to choose from. Then when we decided to change our cruising ground from Lake Superior to Lake Huron’s North Channel next summer, we realized that there were no charts available for our current navigation program. Time for an upgrade.
This sort of thing is a heartbreak usually. We hate learning to use new software. But Jerry found a program called GPS-NavX, which would run the new charts we’d have to buy for the new cruising ground. We tried the new program in October during our last two sailing weekends of the season.
Wow! Over the years we’ve used three navigation programs aboard Mystic. This is the best yet. The first system was an early version of Maptech running on a shipboard PC. (It was not easy to learn to operate, but once we had it figured out, we bonded. An unfortunate lightning bolt a few seasons ago took out the outdated PC, and nothing else would run the Maptech program.) Then we went Mac-based to a program called NavimaQ. (We never bonded. This system was cranky and clunky and crash-prone. It was difficult to learn to use.) So we were not looking forward to yet another version of so-so Mac software.
GPSNavX eliminated all fears. It’s intuitive, uncomplicated, sophisticated, excellent. We had to upgrade the operating system on our laptop to accommodate the new software. GPS-NavX works with OS X 10.3, Apple’s latest version of system 10. And we hate changing operating systems almost as much as we hate learning new software. But this time it was worth it. Soon after installation anyone who can operate a mouse and feels at home with a Macintosh can create waypoints, make a route, and leave a track showing where the boat has been. The operating instructions are short and easy to follow.
The software communicates well with a variety of GPS units and will even allow users who own Garmin and Magellan units (ours is a Raytheon unfortunately) to transfer routes to the GPS unit, avoiding the fussy stuff which happens when you try to type without a keyboard and do 250 functions with six to 10 buttons. If you’ve ever done this on a GPS, you know what I’m talking about.
I bonded with the GPSNavX software from the moment we had it connected to the GPS and was extremely enthusiastic by the time we’d arrived at the first waypoint. I can ‘t say enough good things about it except to add that the price is right — $50 — and the technical support has been prompt and helpful. We’re sold. I look forward to next spring and getting around in our new cruising ground with new software and charts with anticipation instead of dread.