Book Reviews From 2005


Reviews From 2005

February 2005 Newsletter

April 2005 Newsletter

June 2005 Newsletter

August 2005 Newsletter

October 2005 Newsletter

December 2005 Newsletter

Honorable Mention

by Robert N. Macomber (Pineapple Press, 2004; 327 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Elizabeth Bloch, Naples, Fla.

Would you like to go back in time and experience being on a naval ship during the Civil War? Robert Macomber’s Honorable Mention, third in the 11-novel “Honor series” of naval fiction, is an exciting and historically accurate adventure tale. Captain Peter Wake is a young naval officer who has begun to make a name for himself as a successful interceptor of blockade runners and a talented negotiator in some very tricky situations.

The first two books in the series, At the Edge of Honor and Point of Honor, have Captain Wake commanding small sailing gunboats in the waters of Florida, Cuba, the Bahamas, and Mexico. Guided by a lofty honor code, he gains the trust of senior naval officers quickly as he overcomes challenging and dangerous obstacles. His men admire him as they discover their captain has a unique talent for winning dramatic captures of elusive blockade-runners, bringing them fame and financial reward. Adding warmth to his character, he falls for a beautiful damsel from the other side of the political tracks. Her father is a well-known Confederate supporter, and this creates quite a stir amongst the naval chain of command. Nevertheless, Captain Wake’s results earn him ever increasingly challenging assignments, all of which affect the outcome of the Navy’s contribution to the Civil War.

Honorable Mention is Book Three. Capt. Wake ‘s crew is given an assignment feared by most other captains and crews. They’ve just barely survived yellow fever, which has wiped out much of the naval fleet, and are now tasked to rescue an infected vessel and its crew on the Atlantic coast of Florida. The dedication of the captain to his crew and their trust in him are completely tested in this mission.

Assigned to command an armed steam tug, the USS Hunt, Wake is sent on a mission to Cuba at the end of the war to avert an international escalation of what has been up to now a civil war. He and his crew travel around Florida, to Cuba and Puerto Rico as they participate in some assignments that take all the courage, loyalty, and cunning a naval officer can muster. His natural instinct for survival plays a prominent role in this continuing adventure that follows Capt. Wake through his naval career, which will end in 1907 with the 11th novel.

I’ve read the three books in order and loved each of them. The quality of the characters and style of writing have made each increasingly hard to put down. We have had the pleasure in our area of having Robert Macomber speak to our sailing club about his experiences while researching these novels. This year, while researching and writing the novel due out in October of 2005, A Dishonorable Few, the freighter he was aboard came under attack by some real-life pirates. We’ll find them woven into that novel, he promises. Since they are written by a naval historian, these novels are all well-spun yarns with historically correct information accompanied by life experiences.

Back To Top

Plot your Course to Adventure, How to Be a Successful Cruiser

by Roger Olson (Author House, 2004; 645 pages; $29.50)
Reviewed by Jim Daniels, Port Townsend, Wash.

“Voyaging belongs to seamen and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in,” says Sterling Hayden in Wanderer. Roger Olson quotes him in Plot your Course to Adventure. He says, “For those just beginning to enter this adventure, I will continue to use the term cruiser. As we become more acquainted with the lifestyle, hopefully many will become wanderers.”

So maybe it’s fitting that Olson wanders through this book. Readers may find encountering “more on this later” and “as I stated in a previous chapter” frustrating.

Meant for readers who know how to sail and are deciding whether to cruise the oceans, the book may try to cover too much. As previous owner of the Sam L. Morse Company, Roger learned a lot about fiberglass boat construction. However hull construction techniques or the formula for calculating displacement may not be especially useful to most readers. Some good info on finishes will be. Don’t sit on Treadmaster non-skid in your birthday suit while the boat is rolling.

There are good tips throughout the book from Roger’s years at sea. Non-skid on plates and glasses: a simple touch that can save a dinner. Recipes for octopus that tastes good and is even tender may change your cruising diet.

Anecdotes bring home a point or lighten things up. “Never leave on a Friday.” The keel was laid on a Friday for the HMS Friday. She was launched on Friday and left on her maiden voyage on a Friday, to prove it’s safe. “She was never seen again.”

Sailing stories and adventures included are mostly Roger’s personal experiences in the South Pacific. Enlightening, entertaining, and sometimes really funny, these dramatize his points about such important topics as anchoring techniques, safety issues, and having fun.

Other books are referenced throughout, but there’s no reference section. If you’re thinking about world cruising, this is another book to read when you have a lot of free time on your hands. Reading clear through is best, as it ‘s not organized for looking up something specific. You may want to take it aboard long enough to follow the illustrations and practice anchoring methods. If you want expert advice and in-depth knowledge, take Roger Olson’s advice: get such books as Lin and Larry Pardey’s Storm Tactics Handbook. Then wander on.

Back To Top

Living A Dream

by Suzanne Gieseman (Aventine Press, 2004; 277 pages; $16.95)
Reviewed by Bob Wood, Hinsdale, N.Y.

This is a refreshing, at times bluntly candid, perspective of a couple entering the world of cruising. It’s an in-your-face reality check for everyone’s dreams of casting off convention and embracing the carefree life. Eminently qualified technically, the author and her husband are both Navy retirees holding Coast Guard licenses. Yet their backgrounds only reinforce the fact that all cruisers encounter surprises. The delivery is strong and the message clear; cruising is essentially an ever-unfolding discovery of your world and especially yourself.

Suzanne Giesemann describes the thrills and throes of leaving a demanding, fulfilling career for the idyllic lifestyle of increased pleasure and lowered stress. They find that and more. Much more. Set against the rich backdrop of New England and the Canadian Maritime Provinces, their physical adventure will hold reader interest and the personal impacts on the couple provide food for thought. Action, consequence, and perspective are intertwined and described wonderfully.

It’s an objective and honest glimpse at the imperfect world that we love, not a glossy soft-focus look at a romanticized boating world. The author quite accurately describes the gritty details that many accounts overlook: the strained encounters with inconsiderate boaters, physical discomfort, culture clashes, medical self-reliance, and destination shortfalls. And, of course, the rich fabric of traveling afloat that balances the is-it-worth-it equation: friendships forged from hardships shared, unforeseen bonuses from apparently mundane decisions, and the awe of discovery when least expected. Underscoring the balance is their appreciation for the majesty and beauty of nature.

This is as much about a journey inward-bound as it is outward. The greatest rewards of cruising are peeling away layers of facade and living an elemental lifestyle of endeavor and reward. Elemental and satisfying. Core values and relationships become paramount. Artificial banalities shrink in importance.

Still, it’s a jolt for the couple to find themselves in a world defined by a few slow-moving square feet after careers crisscrossing the world at hyper speeds. Their new world is often challenging at a gut level and sometimes hazardous with comfort envelopes stretched. They are honest in their self-appraisals, their evolving relationship, and growth. They seem like old friends I’ve sailed with forever.

Living a Dream is the most refreshing treatment on beginning the cruising lifestyle that I’ve read recently. For those who’ve fantasized or even begun planning this leap of faith, it is highly recommended. It holds forth a central theme for all who choose to see: that the potential of cruising is endless and the access or limitations are found within ourselves. An enthusiastic thumbs up for this forthright and centered couple. May all of our wakes cross theirs, and may Suzanne’s inspiration continue in future books.

Back To Top

Tahoe in Black & White: Classic Photographs

by Jim Hildinger (Tahoe Pots & Prints, 2004; 127 pages; $24.95 from
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.

As I write this, I am aware that Lake Tahoe, perched in the mountains of California and Nevada, is reported to have received three feet of snow at the lake level and five feet of snow in the higher elevations earlier this week. Some of the views there (once people are able to get out of their homes and driveways, that is, or even from their picture windows) must be incredible.

Jim Hildinger has nurtured a lifelong love affair with this stunning area and recorded the changing views — winter and summer — in stirring black and white photographs which will evoke thoughts of Ansel Adams in anyone who browses through Jim’s new book, Tahoe in Black & White. This is an affordable coffee-table-style book, the sort you are pleased to leaf through in quiet moments. Each time through you will surely see something you didn’t notice before.

Jim is a sailor on Lake Tahoe and, luckily for us, a Good Old Boat subscriber. He doesn’t overwhelm his readers with sailing scenes, although the lake plays a key role in this book. But, probably in consideration of a larger audience, Jim shows the beauty of the wider area: the mountains, rocks, trees, waterfalls, snow, farms, and homes.

His lenses are wide, showing beautiful vistas, and close, showing one gnarled tree or individual pine cone in exquisite detail. His seasons are spring, summer, fall, and the lovely ice and snow of winter. His text is sparse. He tells why a scene drew him in, and he shares how a photographer in black and white views the world through camera and darkroom.

If Tahoe, the place, calls to you, this book will allow you to bring a bit of it home . . . no matter where you are located and no matter what the weather.

Back To Top

Sail South Till the Butter Melts: Atlantic Adventures in an Open Boat

by Geoff Stewart (The Continuity Company, 2004; 171 pages; $29.95 order from
Reviewed by Ted Brewer, Gabriola Island, British Columbia

This is a book that will be heartily enjoyed by any true sailor and will provide real thrills, along with useful information, for the few who yearn for adventure in small open boats. My copy arrived in the mail from Geoff at noon on Friday, and I couldn’t put it down until I had devoured every page, sometime near midnight the same day. I was particularly interested in his story, as I owned a sister to Geoff’s Drascombe Longboat back in the early ’70s and did a bit of open-boat cruising in it, but nothing like the voyage Geoff describes. I’m not that much of a masochist!

Geoff tells of his early life leading up to his purchase of Donna Elvira in England and then begins his often humorous story of the sail across to France, his adventures in the canals on the trip down to the Med, and his voyage along the coast of France and Spain to Gibraltar. He tells of the people he met, the places he saw and the things he did along the way, such as a summer archeological course, spelunking, and exploring antique ruins. Geoff even gives the names of a number of the people he ran across, in case you ever meet them in your travel…names like Dave, Tony, Michael, Scott, Bitsy, Christine, John, Baldy, Murf, Lyn, and many others. If you do encounter them,

Geoff would like to hear about it!

The book becomes serious when Geoff heads out to the Canaries on his first long ocean hop and tells about encounters with fog and freighters. And it becomes even more serious when he leaves the islands for his epic voyage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, battling storms, sharks, and boredom along the way.

Sail South Till the Butter Melts is simply a top-notch read: interesting, informative, humorous at times, and well written. I’ve read many good cruising books over the years but none that I’ve enjoyed more. Indeed, after writing this review, I think I’ll start it all over again.

Back To Top

Sailing Small, Inspiration and Instruction for the Pocket Cruiser

edited by Stan Grayson (Devereux Books, 2004; 197 pages; $16.95)
Reviewed by Ted Duke, Fairfield, Va.

Sailing Small is an anthology of tales of several sailors’ attempts to find a sailboat that would meet their need to get away from everyday life. Most are stories of finding a boat “on the cheap” and adapting their needs to fit its accommodations. The stories related also confirm what many have suspected: that sailors learn to tolerate their boats’ flaws and even learn to love them in spite of their limitations. Each story is revealing and stands alone, making the book easy to read.

The first chapter is by the editor explaining his premise and detailing some boats to demonstrate his points. The last chapter is by a boat designer sharing his thoughts as to boat design, which should be helpful to anyone having a boat built or buying a boat. There is a section of color pictures of the different boats described in these stories.

Each author tells how and why they chose the boat they did, how the boat came to be used, and how the owner adapted the boat to his or her needs. In many cases they also tell how they adapted their needs to fit the size and construction of the boat. Authors are from several countries, have varying backgrounds, and have different outlooks on life. The thing that ties these stories together is how they all learn to use their small sailboats to best advantage. Some are tales of weekend cruises close to home, and some of more extended cruising. This is not an “around the world in three years” collection, although some of the authors did have lengthy adventures. Nor is it a cookbook or a how-to book about cruising. It would be better described as a “what I came to discover closer to home collection.”

I think the editor described this collection best when he sub-titled it, “Inspiration and Instruction for the Pocket Cruiser.” Small sailboats of affordable costs for ordinary folks of reasonable means are the subject of these writings. Small Sailing could best be described as a lot of ideas presented as part of different stories.

This book will push you toward buying a boat you can afford instead of dreaming of something you cannot make happen. Those who already own a boat will glean ideas they can use…or even better ideas they can use as a starting point to develop their own procedures or modifications which will make their sailboat better fit their needs. It’s definitely worth reading!

Back To Top

Cruising Japan to New Zealand: The Voyage of the Sea Quest

by Tere Batham (Sheridan House, 2004; 275 pages $29.95)
Reviewed by Theresa Fort, Lusby, Md.

I’ve just gotten back from an exciting cruising adventure from Japan to New Zealand, but I never left our cabin near the Chesapeake. I’ve just read Tere Batham’s new book, Cruising Japan to New Zealand, and followed along as she and her husband, Michael, with young novice Japanese crew, Miki, traveled from Japan’s Southern Archipelago to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. Along the way there are numerous and fascinating stops in Hong Kong and Macau, the Philippines, Micronesia, the Solomon’s Islands, and New Caledonia.

Miki and the Bathams get glimpses of the remaining vestiges of dying South Sea cultures and explore untouched coral atolls. They face heavy weather at sea as well as doldrums, and they visit places few yachts go in Micronesia.

Cruising Japan to New Zealand is a cruising story with a coming-of-age story nestled within. Young and beautiful Miki, arrives as crew just 24 hours before the Bathams ‘scheduled departure from Japan. Escaping from an arranged marriage and a culture that is un-accepting of women adventurers, she has the adventure of her life and learns how to cope through hardships and how to enjoy the beauty around her.

Full color photos and beautifully drawn charts add even more depth to the story.

Adventure, beauty, fruitfulness, and hardship fill this 14-month 10,000-mile voyage. Tere Batham weaves this great story with spirit, clarity, and color. Curl up on your settee and read Cruising Japan to New Zealand. It will have you dreaming of adventure.

Back To Top

100 Fast and Easy Boat Improvements

by Don Casey, (International Marine, 2004; 138 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Scott Simpson, Coventry, Conn.

Tucked away somewhere in a drawer or file cabinet are clippings from magazines and other sources. As owners of good old boats, we probably all have them. Those ideas that we saw somewhere and one day hope to incorporate as we make our boats our own. For every ” keeper” that we find, there must be hundreds more we haven’t found. We may wonder which idea is the best. Has someone else found a better way to do it? We can all relax and breathe a sigh of relief because Don Casey, the do-it-yourself boat guru, has done it for us.

Don gives us a fresh look at 100 of these little inspirations. For example, screened companionway doors. These let in fresh air on a warm summer night without also inviting the bugs that have been drawn to the warm glow of your cabin lights. Another is how to make custom handrails that match the old worn thin set and line up properly with the existing holes. Did you know you can operate two sets of lights separately on your mast from one pair of wires using diodes and a three-way switch? Here’s an idea of mounting a compass over your bunk. It lets you check if your boat has swung on its anchor in the middle of the night right from under the covers. If you are tired of your halyards clanging and tacky bungee cords, you can use spreader thumb cleats instead. Here’s one for sailors who refuse to give up their tillers. It’s a tiller comb that lets you lock the helm in various positions freeing the helmsman temporarily. I could go on.

I found myself being entertained by Don’s comfortable style of writing as well as his simple way of explaining things. He does an excellent job at describing the benefits to each improvement. For the most part, I could follow his instructions easily enough. There were a few times when I had to scratch my head in confusion while trying to follow the text and illus­trations. Sometimes I felt the details were left to the reader’s imagination and mine wasn’t stretching quite far enough.

Though Don admits this book of 100 is not exhaustive, I can assure you it’s an extra 100 ideas in my file. For those who are always looking for a better way of doing things or need just the right idea, this book is a must-read.

If you recognize the title, it’s because this book is one of a series being re-published by International Marine.

Back To Top

Through the Land of Fire: Fifty-Six South

by Ben Pester (Sheridan House, 2004; 286 pages; $23.95)
Reviewed by C.H. “Chas ” Hague, Des Plaines, Ill.

Ben Pester and his friends, Jeremy Burnett and Fraser Currie (aggregate age: 193 years) had an objective. They wanted to explore the waterways off Tierra del Fuego and celebrate the turn of the Millennium off Cape Horn in Ben’s 36-foot teak boat, Marelle. How they accomplished this is the story of Through the Land of Fire.

Sailing from Falmouth, England, across the Atlantic, and down the east coast of South America, they entered the Magellan Strait, continued due south at Point Hope, went through the Cockburn Channel, probed the Beagle Channel, sailed past Wollaston Island, and traveled around the Horn, west to east.

The book has less than the usual complement of sea stories. Instead, Pester gives some of the amazing history of this desolate place. He has done a wonderful job of research; when the Marelle passes a point of interest, he tells, in great and fascinating detail, which explorer named it, the story of who it was named after, and what interesting historic events happened at that site. For example, Tierra del Fuego is no longer the Land of Fire; the explorers and missionaries exterminated the native people who set the fires that Magellan saw and for which it was named.

The crewmembers of Marelle do have their problems dealing with bureaucracies in a hostile (both climatic and military) environment and combating some of the unrelentingly worst weather on the planet. A “Richas” is a fierce wind that drops off the Andes down into a bay, sometimes reaching speeds of 100 knots which can blow for two or three days.

The first chapter discusses setting up a small, simply equipped boat for such a journey, and four appendices deal with subjects from baking bread to survival at sea. Four good-quality color maps are included. Turn to these early; otherwise, keeping track of the many locales that are mentioned, especially in the Beagle Channel, will be difficult.

The writing is a bit overwrought, at times. This is less apparent in the historical anecdotes. For a sailor looking to the ultimate challenge of a Horn passage, this book would be a useful guide to the remarkable history of this desolate place.

Back To Top

Herreshoff Sailboats

by Gregory Jones (MBI Publishing Co., 2004; 138 pages; $40.00)
Reviewed by Eric Nelson, Celina, Ohio

Breathes there a sailor with soul so dead, That he has not at one time said, “Gosh, I’d like to own a Herreshoff.”, (With apologies to The Man Without a Country.)

Ask any knowledgeable sailor, “Who were the top sailboat designers of all time?” Odds are Nathanael Herreshoff and L. Francis Herreshoff will be near the top of the list. The Herres­hoffs created some of the most beautiful sailboats of all time. Nathanael also designed and built the first practical racing catamarans (quickly eliminated from competition by the rule writers), redesigned steam engines, and built fast steam yachts and naval patrol vessels.

Numerous books have covered the Herreshoffs and Herres­hoff Manufacturing Company (HMC), but few authors have so effectively examined the extended careers of the Herreshoff dynasty as Greg Jones has with his beautiful coffee-table book. Combining lucid text and historic and contemporary photographs, Greg squeezes 200 years of history into 160 pages. He begins with Karl Herreschoff in 1763 (the “c” was dropped when Karl emigrated to America) and goes up to the present Herreshoff Marine Museum which rose on the old factory site.

Nathanael Herreshoff and his brother, J.B., started HMC in 1878 to manufacture steam yachts and torpedo boats. They built sailboats for their own pleasure. Their fast and beautiful yachts came to the attention J.P. Morgan and the racing crowd at the New York Yacht Club. Greg details a gilded era of unlimited spending and ostentatious living, with the Herreshoffs serving as boatbuilders to the stars.

In the last 25 years of the 19th century and the first 25 years of the 20th, the Herreshoffs built some of America’s most historic yachts: Gloriana, Vigilant (the Herreshoff’s first America’s Cup defender), Defender, Columbia, and Resolution. At the same time HMC was building Cup boats, Nathanael designed and built a string of smaller sailing craft, culminating in what is arguably the most beautiful sailboat ever built: Alerion. Alerion was never eclipsed, but L. Francis Herreshoff equaled her with his famous Rozinante. The two stand at the pinnacle of sailboat design.

The photos in Herreshoff Sailboats are outstanding both in selection and reproduction. The 19th- and early 20th-century black-and-white photographs are especially good. Only minor quibbles can be made with the book. Early America’s Cup defenders are covered in excruciating detail. However, the Herreshoffs’smaller boats, which had a greater effect on the developing science of sailboat design than the towering J-boats, are mentioned only in passing. Also, pictures are often separated from their text, leading to a good deal of page flipping in a search for details.

Setting aside these minor flaws, Herreshoff Sailboats will find a place of honor on many a coffee table. It is a book you’ll pick up on a cold winter’s evening along with a cup of your favorite hot beverage. As you turn the pages it will take you back to a time when craftsmanship was everything and when beauty of line and function ruled supreme.

Back To Top

Four Guys in a Boat

by Pat McManus (Sheridan House, 2005; 106 pages; $10.95)
Reviewed by Eric Nelson, Celina, Ohio

The subtitle of this book could be, Larry, Moe and Curly go sailing with a friend, except there is precious little sailing in this book and very little to interest the readers of Good Old Boat.

Four Guys in a Boat describes how a group of college professors and administrators, “the guys” (membership in the group changes with time), overcame cold winters and their own midlife crises by chartering a series of boats in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. Accounts of the suffering they endured as college profs reinforce the words of my first department chairman,”College teaching is hell, but it beats working for a living.”

The chapters tend to be repetitive accounts in which the protagonists fly to a location, get in a sailboat, and go to someplace in which they can drink exotic drinks (mostly based on rum), eat (mostly greasy hamburgers and cookies), ogle women (scantily clad or not clad at all), and entertain each other with sophomoric humor. Space is given to the guys’ discomfort while putting suntan lotion on the backs of their fellow guys . . . apparently due to concern about what unknown spectators might think of them.

Virtually nothing is included about the places visited, the people of the islands (except for bartenders, waitresses, and one boat groupie they turn down when she approaches them about a ride). The rest of that chapter is devoted to fantasizing about what would have happened if they had said yes to the groupie and their wives found out. Sailing is described briefly. The charter boats are a dreary listing of mid-size monohulls and catamarans. The catamarans astound the book’s author by their inability to sail close to the wind, a characteristic that 15 minutes in a Hobie Cat would have made clear. There isn’t a good old boat in the lot.

Sailing narratives are restricted to a brief description of the adventures of setting a spinnaker, followed by a briefer account of dousing said spinnaker. The boats are described with the same emotion as if one were describing a 1989 Chevy. Considerably more time is spent on misadventures with the dinghy than with the big boat.

One chapter is devoted to a vacation in which no boat is involved, plus a delivery trip on the Erie Canal and down to Chesapeake Bay. This chapter benefits the book in only one way: by increasing the word count.

After nine years of the same trip in different locations, the profs take a tenth anniversary fling by chartering a catamaran in the Bahamas. They drink rum, eat cookies, and ogle girls . . . all of which could have been done in Denver, Milwaukee, or any other town. When I finished the book, my principle emotion was relief.

Am I being unfair to the author? Is there perhaps some profound point I missed in my reading? Lin and Larry Pardey these guys ain’t. On further thought, perhaps the book should have been titled, A Guys’ Guide to Spring Break in the Caribbean or Junior College Kicks and Beyond. When it comes to sailing, these “guys” are definitely in need of an education.

Back To Top

Fast Track To Cruising: How to Go from Novice to Cruise-Ready in
Seven Days

by Steve and Doris Colgate (International Marine/ McGraw-Hill Publishing, 2005; 246 pages; $33.95)
Reviewed by Frank Salomonsen, Rochester, Minn.

The most important thing in life is to know what is important. Likewise, the most important thing in reading an instruction book on sailing is to know what is important to understand. The first hurdle for the beginning sailor is the volume of new language and terms with multiple meanings. Does this book cut it? You bet! Fast Track To Cruising gets you from A to Z with ease. It’s a must-have book to take aboard and also for year-round review and fine tuning.

Fast Track to Cruising is well organized and continuously informative with outstanding illustrations and photos to assist the novice. The clearly drawn diagrams and many of the photos have bold print comments in the margin. For example, in Chapter 3, where cycling through the points of sail is explained, bold print comments review the multiple meanings of the word “tack.”

Tack (noun)
1. Forward lower corner of a sail
2 A boat’s heading in relation to the wind, on a starboard tack
3. A course, when the boat is underway, it’s on a tack

Tack (verb)
1. To change direction from one side of wind to the other while sailing toward the wind

Comments such as this are helpful for the beginner trying to pick up on the sailing lingo.

Knowing what to do in a variety of conditions is helpful, but it is of greater value to the new sailor to understand why. The chapter on wind and sails is very helpful in understanding how the wind moves the boat. The illustrations clearly convey these concepts. The “test yourself” section at the end of each chapter reassures you that you are understanding what is important.

The authors include a discussion of when things do not go as planned, such as the accidental jibe, as well as when tacks don’t go as planned. Throughout the book are tips for understanding what some novices consider difficult subject matter, such as navigation. The author starts in Chapter 8 giving tips for using parallel rules and picks up the subject again later with navigation basics. Great illustrations help explain this subject on the first exposure.

Knot tying is scattered throughout the text as the knots are being used. A separate section on knot tying would have been more helpful, easier to find, when going back to practice.

All in all, it’s a great book featuring excellent instruction and practical advice. It is a thorough basic training manual and a complete source of reference for the more experienced sailor. After finishing this book, the novice will have the knowledge to get on a boat and fill the sails. With additional experience on the water he or she will be cruise-ready.

Back To Top

The Solitude of the Open Sea

by Greg Smith (Seaworthy Publications, 2004; 264 pages; $15.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.

Greg Smith set out in his sailboat to see the world. Those who choose to go along as readers of his book, The Solitude of the Open Sea, gain a fresh perspective of circumnavigating through the eyes of this realist.

Sailing around the world is not about anchoring in one tropical paradise after another. It is not a series of pristine dive sites with exotic fishes. Traveling by sailboat is more frequently about visiting the waterfront communities of countless third-world countries, about customs and public transportation, and about provisioning and boat maintenance. In this book, Greg offers honest observations of the people, the surroundings, and the activities of daily life for a sailor and those he encounters ashore.

He ponders about these cultural exchanges, wonders about how to really get to know the locals in various countries, and despairs on occasion over the language barriers and economic disparities which make mutual understanding almost futile.

Here is a sailor who does not descend upon a community as part of a merry band of cruisers. Instead he arrives thoughtfully and respectfully, making a serious attempt to understand the culture and lifestyle he finds.

In making his observations, Greg shares his philosophy of life and innermost feelings with his readers. It is as if we happened by his boat and asked, “So how was your voyage?” then sat down with him in the cockpit to listen to the answer. He makes no effort to impress fellow sailors. Greg is comfortable with who he is and what he has accomplished. He has learned much along the way; his passages have been both physical and psychological.

Even before completing the manuscript, I had already begun recommending this book to others. Greg went to sea with his eyes wide open. He left the rose-colored glasses at home and brought back a clear view of the world that opened to one who came, not as a tourist, but as a world traveler. He is just the sort of sailor with whom to see — really see — the world . . . the kind of sailor most of us would like to accompany on a circumnavigation. Because Greg took the time to write the book, here’s your chance to sign on as “armchair crew.” Hop aboard and enjoy the journey.

Back To Top

Sailing with Vancouver

by Sam McKinney (TouchWood Editions, 2004; 224 pages; $12.95)
Reviewed by Betty Brewer, Gabriola Island, British Columbia

Sail back into the mists of time with Captain Vancouver as he explores the Pacific Northwest aboard the HMS Discovery. In Sailing with Vancouver, Sam McKinney — in his 25-foot sailboat, Kea — uses Vancouver’s original 1792 log and charts to follow the route of Vancouver’s exploration of Washington and British Columbia’s inland seas.

These now very popular cruising destinations are made more interesting with snippets of history, giving insight into the story behind Vancouver’s exploration, in particular why islands, inlets, channels, and headlands were named.

Sailing with Vancouver gives the reader a sense of what it must have been like to explore these waters for the very first time, lacking charts or any knowledge of the landmarks and having natives of questionable friendliness as their only contacts.

This book would be wonderful to read while armchair cruising with modern charts or planning future voyages. It certainly adds a very special historical flavor aboard while cruising the intricate waterways of the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Back To Top

All Hands on Deck: Become Part of a Caribbean Sailing Adventure

by Gregg Nestor (AuthorHouse, 2005; 66 pages; $29.00)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.

As a contributing editor with Good Old Boat, Gregg Nestor continues to impress us with the breadth of his sailing skills and the depth of his knowledge. Now he has shown us another impressive quality: an amazing creativity.

A couple of years ago, while on a cruise in the Caribbean, Gregg had an idea that has evolved into a young person’s sailing adventure like no other. It’s one part picture book, one part game, and one part educational tool. Called All Hands on Deck: Become Part of a Caribbean Sailing Adventure, this interactive book should be capable of captivating older children, teenagers, and adults alike.

Did I mention that Gregg’s a very good photographer too? The full-color photos on every page in this book are vivid and compelling. They draw readers in, and the interactive nature of the book keeps them there.

Start on one page which brings you to a decision point. One choice takes you to Page 12. Another takes you to Page 7. Seamanship points are awarded for good decisions and deducted for bad choices (even if the weather turns against you and it’s not your fault). That is the way it goes when sailing, isn’t it?

And so you work your way randomly through a book with brilliant images of the Caribbean collecting and losing points (if you’re competitive or enjoy the challenge) or simply navigating through the changing story as your choices dictate and enjoying the cruise with its pleasures and mishaps (if collecting points is not your thing).

There are moments aboard any cruising sailboat when the parents are feeling the most serene, but a kid’s attention will wander. As I recall, “boring!” is the phrase that accompanies this lack of ongoing stimulation. The next time you hear that exclamation, pull out All Hands on Deck and see what happens next. I’m willing to bet that serenity will be restored by a small book that can be enjoyed by one or a group. No age limitation. No previous experience necessary. No batteries required. It doesn’t beep, or ding, or play tinny recorded voices., What new talent will Gregg Nestor reveal next? Your guess is as good as mine. Please turn the page…

Back To Top

The T.W. Lawson: The Fate of the World’s Only Seven-Masted Schooner

by Thomas Hall (Orchid Hill Publishing, 2003; 113 pages; $49.95)
Reviewed by Glenn Kaufmann, Bloomington, Ind.

Twenty-five days into what should have been a two-week run, the T.W. Lawson approached the southwestern coast of England. Savaged by three gales, the ship had lost 19 of its 25 sails and all of its lifeboats during her crossing, only to find when the fog lifted and the snow cleared that she lay perilously close to the Western Rocks in the Isles of Scilly — a wind battered patch of mostly deserted rocks that had claimed nearly two shipwrecks for every island in the chain.

Yet it was the decisions made by Captain George Dow that would seal the ship’s fate, and cost the lives of 18 men. It is these decisions and their effect on the sailors and the locals who attempted to help which beat at the heart of Thomas Hall’s charming new book about this truly unique sailing vessel.

When the T.W. Lawson was rigged and launched in July 1902, despite her size and formidable canvas, she was already hopelessly out-classed and hard-pressed to prove her worth as a commercial vessel. It was the 20th century, and steam power ruled the roost.

It seems that one bad decision (to build the boat in the first place) led to money problems, which precipitated a far more catastrophic choice (the decision to send an unstable boat loaded with new cargo and a rookie crew on its first transatlantic run).

Tom Hall scrupulously examines every aspect of the T.W. Lawson, from the financial history of the ship’s backers, to the genealogy of the lifeboat crews who braved angry seas to warn Captain Dow and put one of their own pilots aboard to assist in moving the ship. Pieced together from historical accounts, interviews with the descendants of those involved, discussions with naval historians, and seasoned from numerous dives on the ship’s remains, Tom has constructed what must surely be the most complete telling of this tale.

While much of the factual information relating to the ship’s profitability, and the financiers’ lifestyles seems somewhat dry, the book is laid out much like an adult picture book, with large banners on each page with titles such as, “From the America Side”, “The Other Side of the Atlantic “, The Wreck” and “Making Sense of the Story.” This keeps the story from being too dry.

Though this may not be the zippiest read on the shelves, the book is thorough and organized, and it does a good job of presenting the compelling facts of an astounding, and avoidable, tragedy at sea.

Back To Top

Radar for Mariners

by David Burch (International Marine, 2005; 243 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Chuck Fort, Solomons, Md.

What do you want to know about radar? How it works? How to work it? How to pick the right one for your boat? Where to install it? How to use it for position-fixing, close-quarters maneuvering, or avoiding a squall? The answers to these and hundreds of other radar questions are in the pages of this book.

Radar for Mariners is actually two books and then some. Part One gives the reader a working knowledge of radar, which, by itself, might be enough for some people. But David Burch knows how to wring every last bit of useful data from radar and explains it in Part Two — navigating, piloting, and maneuvering by radar, performance, limitations, and even a comprehensive look at radar as it relates to the Navigation Rules.

The “then some” is an interactive CD (Windows only) with a trial version of a radar simulator, sample radar manuals, printable plotting aids, and even a complete PDF copy of the Navigation Rules. The book is well illustrated with charts, drawings, and photos of actual radar screens (some of which are a bit fuzzy). It’s hard to imagine a more complete treatment of the subject for sailors

David Burch, director of the Starpath School of Navigation, is no stranger to teaching mariners about stars, weather, and navigation. With a Ph.D. in physics, he obviously knows what he’s talking about. However, getting complex ideas across in print is not always easy.

David accomplishes this with clear, understandable language that allows his enthusiasm for the subject to come across. His goal is to make you an expert small-craft radar operator. With this book and some practice at the screen, you’ll feel that you’re finally getting your money’s worth out of that mysterious dome.

Radar is an electronic tool the operation of which takes much more interpretation than any other — too little knowledge can be just as dangerous as none. Radar for Mariners will help you understand how radar works, explain its limitations, and show you how to get the full use of your radar’s functions. This book should show up on the radar screen of anyone with radar or contemplating getting one. I can’t wait to go to my boat and stop playing with my radar and start using it.

Back To Top

Illustrated Navigation

by Ivar Dedekam (Fernhurst Books, 2004; 84 pages; $22.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.

The first book ever sold by Good Old Boat magazine — call it the beginning of our Good Old Bookshelf — was the first edition of Illustrated Sail & Rig Tuning by Ivar Dedekam. Ivar, a Norwegian, needed a North American importer and distributor for his book, and we served in that capacity until his book got so popular that he was able to work with larger distributors.

We took on his book in those days (approximately 1999) as a “special project” because Good Old Boat co-founder Jerry Powlas was so impressed with Ivar’s explanations and illustrations on the subject of sail and rig tuning. We weren’t exactly in the business of selling books, but Ivar had something special, and we wanted to help.

Fast forward to 2005. Ivar has a new book out, another hit as it turns out, and we learned about it almost by chance. Our bookshelf has grown beyond our wildest imaginings. And Ivar’s book publishing business has blossomed even beyond that.

As with his previous book, the new one, Illustrated Navigation, is heavy with computer graphics and light on text. But it is amazingly concise and useful. It gives the reader a huge volume of useful information in a small package.

Illustrated Navigation is divided between traditional navigation practices, electronic equipment and methods, and a useful overview of celestial navigation theory. Traditional navigation includes all the areas covered in a many-hour navigation class: charts, lat and lon, position, variation and deviation, compass, speed logs and depth sounders, plotting instruments, leeway, dead reckoning and bearings, the buoyage system, tides and currents, and navigation lights.

The electronic section takes a look at the GPS system and receivers, chartplotters, waypoints and routes, equipment displays and receivers, radar theory and operation, and collision avoidance.

Celestial navigation gets a turn also. This section includes the principles of celestial navigation, the sun’s geographic position, and an astronomical model. It looks at hour angles, noon sights, measuring the sun’s altitude, time zones, working a sight, sight reduction tables, plotting position lines, corrections, stars including Polaris, and using a celestial nav calculator.

One caveat for those of us in North America: Ivar’s books are translated into English by a British speaker, so when he recommends having a torch aboard, for example, he’s not playing with fire. Bring your flashlight instead.

A more major issue is with his description of the IALA A buoyage system. In North and South America and the Philippines, we use the IALA B system. So red and green markers are reversed in this book. But Ivar does make this point clear, if the reader is paying attention. If you cruise far and wide, you have to “speak both buoyage languages” anyway. Here’s an introduction for you.

A good book? You bet. Ivar Dedekam”s done it again.

Back To Top

Fair Wind and Plenty of It

by Rigel Crockett (Rodale, 2005; 392 pages; $23.95)
Reviewed by Jim Daniels, Port Townsend, Wash.

“This is the pleasure of life at sea — fine weather, day after day without interruption — fair wind and plenty of it — and homeward bound.” So begins this story, A Modern-Day Tall Ship Adventure. The quote is from Two Years Before the Mast, written in 1840 by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. The significance of that book, A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea, is explained by Henry Dana in a preface: so many stories (such as J. Fenimore Cooper’s) were told by naval officers or passengers. A common sailor has “a very different view of the whole matter.” Rigel Crockett gives us that view in our own time, the “light and the dark together.”

A year and a half at sea, completing a square-rigged barque while maintaining and repairing her on her maiden voyage is like no cruise you’ll ever take aboard your boat. The author and other seasoned professionals are joined by fare-paying crew who work the ship day and night themselves — only one of the many points of dissension to come. They go through 13 ship’s cooks on the way. From broken steering to mutiny, there are plenty of hardships. Ten crewmembers wanting refunds (when jumping ship) threaten the whole project. And yet, through it all, this is more than a romantic adventure; it’s a love story.

The details, whether of furling a square mizzen topmast stays’l or how the fire in the galley is fought, make this trip a visual and physical experience. The personal insight into the lives and personalities entwined before the mast and on the quarterdeck make it real. As for the “claustrophobia brought on by this incestuous community,” well, “it just goes to show that sometimes misery can permeate the adventure of a lifetime.” Can logging 232 nautical miles under sail in one day make up for the misery? Does day after day, week after week, and month upon month of one tropical paradise after another count for more than the drudgery of painting over rust on wet steel? Yes.

The Barque Picton Castle, the spectacle of flying fish hitting sail and the allure of swimming with sharks are not the only elements of romance. “To Ariel” is the dedication, and it’s the beginning of many a letter written between exotic ports of call. And to Ariel this able-bodied seaman returns, while six others of the crew become three married couples at the end of their voyage — “and homeward bound.”

Back To Top

Stikky Night Skies

no author listed, (Lawrence Holt Books, 2003; 234 pages; $12)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.

Heavenly. That’s the way I would describe night sailing. Since seeing the book, Stikky Night Skies, now I know why. (“Stikky” is the name of a growing series of books because each book offers “Essential stuff that stikks in your head.”) Night sailing is about being able to see the stars as never before. Night sailing is about getting away from the city skies and the marina lights. Night sailing is about being up in the middle of the night when it’s dark outside. On a clear night on the water the stars are diamonds on a velvet cloth.

But which ones are which? I’ve always wanted to know. So when we received a copy of Stikky Night Skies, I gave it a whirl and was extremely impressed . . . so much so that I have been carrying this book around for two months (to the East Coast and back while traveling, even) in an effort to find a sky dark enough to practice what I have learned.

This book will get any kid or adult beginner star-seeker instantly involved. With the help of this book I’ve learned to identify six constellations: Orion, Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, Taurus, Cygnus, and Pleiades. I can find these four stars: Betelgeuse, Polaris, Vega, and Sirius. I know where to look in the night sky for the planets and the Milky Way. I know how to find north using Polaris. It’s a heck of a start for a beginner and (as I write this in early summer) I can’t wait to go night sailing where the stars are at their best!

This book is a series of practice pages with stars depicted and useful and fun information every so often. The sky rotates on you (just as the real sky will do) so you don’t get complacent, and the scale is changed from time to time to include more or fewer of the heavenly bodies. This last part is a bit disorienting (I don’t expect the real sky to do that to me), but I was able to catch on.

The Stikky folks are right: they have a way of presenting this information so that it stikks in the reader’s head. Since I’ve always wanted to know more, I’m grateful for the opportunity. They impart this wisdom to their readers, and it’s worth sharing here: “You would not have gotten far in ancient times without knowing your way around the night sky. Indeed, it may be the only thing your distant ancestors would recognize today.”

Back To Top

A Mariner’s Miscellany

by Peter H. Spectre (Sheridan House, Seafarer Books, 2005, 289 pages, $19.95)
Reviewed by George Zimmerman, Olympia, Wash.

The romance of the sea is a strange thing. It manages to cling to some extent to every thing that floats. – C. Fox Smith

On a rainy spring night, I received a package from Good Old Boat. I figured it was the book I had promised to review. Opening the package, I saw on the book cover an illustration of a three-masted sailing ship, making her ways in a heavy sea. I smiled, ready to spend time on a ship, with salty characters, and an intricate plot . . . the perfect way to spend a rainy night.

Instead, I was greeted with chapter after chapter of boating and marine-related trivia, facts, quotes, poems, and chronologies. Where was my engaging novel? Surprised and intrigued, I sat down and read the first few chapters. Here, I realized, was the answer to all those questions you have as you learn about sailing. Questions like: Where in the world did the term “starboard” come from? Or, if a wind is blowing from the north toward the south, do you call it a north wind or a south wind?

A Mariner’s Miscellany is a compilation of all things nautical. Do you want to know the how and the why of signal salutes during the age of sail or what L. Francis Herreshoff thought were the four most important qualifications needed to undertake long-distance voyaging? Do you know the difference between natural fiber and modern synthetic rope? This book will tell you. You can even find a recipe for making grog. These and thousands of other facts — practical, informative, or just interesting — can be found in this book.

Author Peter Spectre is well-qualified to undertake such a massive undertaking. He’s editor of Maine Boats & Harbors magazine and former editor of WoodenBoat magazine. The Mariner’s Book of Days, A Passage in Time, A Goodly Ship, and several other marine-related books are among his literary credits.

This is not a book you sit down and read in one setting. Rather, it is a resource you consult when you want to find the why or where an expression came from or to find out what other sailors thought when they encountered a similar problem or situation. A Mariner’s Miscellany will also prove useful for writers; it is an excellent source of facts, quotes, and their historical origins

I have a tough time reading poems so the abundance of poetic passages caused tough sledding for me at times. The absence of a detailed index was another surprise. With an index I would be able to look up the subject being argued, cite the reference, and end those crazy arguments that sailors so often have when they get together. In the hands of those of us with sea lawyers as friends, this compendium of knowledge could be the lawyers’ undoing.

A Mariner’s Miscellany is a delightful and interesting book for those who value the intellectual side of boating. It deserves a spot on the dedicated mariner’s bookshelf.

Back To Top

The Affordable Yacht: How to Buy a Sailboat on a Budget /
Sailing on a Shoestring: How to Enjoy Your Yacht More for Less Money

by Susan Peterson Gateley (no publisher needed, you’ll see why, 2005, 30 pages each; $3.00 each)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.

Susan Peterson Gateley, a frequent contributor to Good Old Boat magazine, is amazing in her ability to make money in and around and through her love of sailing. She has supported her sailing habit since 1981 through writing and since 1997 with charters. She’s also an expert at not spending much of the money she earns. Her newest and very novel approach, which combines both skills, is the sale of eBooks. These $3 books are printed pages, rather than official bound books, but they offer a lot of information and the price is right.

The first, The Affordable Yacht: How to Buy a Sailboat on a Budget, is about 30 pages focused on helping dreamers and doers get afloat and go now. This booklet helps readers find an inexpensive boat and evaluate her condition and value. Sections include information you’ll need before you buy, the purchase itself, and getting started sailing on a budget

The second eBook is Sailing on a Shoestring: How to Enjoy Your Yacht More for Less Money. This is a guide for people with large dreams and modest incomes. As Susan tells us, there’s a boat out there for every budget, and this 30-page booklet gives you the Cliff Notes overview of many years ‘ worth of Susan’s experience and expertise. She’s completely qualified to tell us what she knows.

Susan has more than 30 years of experience as a budget boater sailing on a 19-foot Lightning for 10 years, a 23-foot wooden sloop for 17 years, and currently on a 32-foot Chris-Craft sloop. She and her husband just bought a fourth boat, a fixer-upper, on eBay. There will be a book or a booklet on that subject in the future, guaranteed!

These booklets can be downloaded as pdf files or sent as Microsoft Word attachments in an email message. To get the pdf file, go to To get a Word document, go to Susan’s website at

Back To Top

The Last Voyage of the Lucette

by Douglas Robertson (Seafarer Books; Sheridan House, 2005; 372 pages; $23.95)
Reviewed by Wayne Gagnon, Antigo, Wis.

Back in the late 1970s, when I first felt the need to sail, I read everything our local library had on sailing and the adventure of the sea. One book I remember particularly well was Survive the Savage Sea, the story of Dougal Robertson and his family’s 38 days afloat in the South Pacific after their yacht, Lucette, had been sunk by a pod of killer whales. Now Dougal’s son Douglas, who survived the ordeal at the age of 18, has compiled a larger edition entitled The Last Voyage of the Lucette. While the original gives an account of how the family survived after they were sunk, this larger version, which includes the full text of Survive the Savage Sea, explores the challenges the family faced in the months and years leading up to their sinking.

The Last Voyage of the Lucette begins with Dougal’s autobiographical account of his experiences during World War II as a young officer aboard a freighter that was sunk by the Japanese, killing his wife and son. After the war he remarried and eventually gave up a life at sea for that of a dairy farmer in England with his new family. We learn about their hardships while trying to survive on the meager profits that life on the farm afforded them, their decision to sail around the world, and their cruise up to the time they were sunk off the Galapagos Islands. In addition to the full text of Survive the Savage Sea, there is some follow-up information on where the family is today, as well as 16 color photographs, several line drawings, and maps of their route.

Pop psychology says that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Many of the struggles the Robertsons faced are common to any family, but they play a more crucial role on a small boat in a hostile environment where there is little, if any, room for error or privacy. When one realizes the difficulties they faced on the farm and in the early days of their cruise, one can see how the family bonds were created and how each individual acquired the deep reserves of personal strength that carried him or her through their ordeal. Sir Robin Knox-Johnson writes in the foreward that both books “should be compulsory reading for anyone planning a world cruise.” While it is true that both books contain a lot of useful information, we can learn more from them than survival skills for the open sea.

Back To Top

Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual: How to Maintain,
Repair, and Improve Your Boat’s Essential Systems, Third Edition

by Nigel Calder (International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 2005; 818 pages; $49.95)
Reviewed by Jerry Powlas, Minneapolis, Minn.

This is the one book that should be aboard every cruising sailboat. When the first edition came out, I read it cover-to-cover. When the second edition came out, a flip through the pages showed some updates, but basically it was very much the same book. When I had a need, I could find what I was looking for in either one (or in some cases neither one).

This third edition parts company with the first two editions. The basic organization is still there, but the material is very different, reflecting the latest developments in equipment and changes in regulations. There seems to be a lot more material in the third edition, probably because sailboats and the equipment have gotten a lot more complicated.

If you have the first or second edition do you need to pay the big bucks for the third edition? In most cases, yes. If you have an older boat that you have kept very simple and do not plan to make any upgrades, you might get by. Otherwise you will be glad to have the third edition on your boat’s bookshelf. I’ll probably have to have two: one for the office and one for the boat.

Back To Top

Sir Peter Blake: An Amazing Life

by Alan Sefton (Sheridan House, 2004; 444 pages; $24.95)
Reviewed by Jerry Richter, Reading, Pa.

If you want to learn about Sir Peter Blake, who he was, what he was like, why people followed him, or anything else about what made this driven man tick, this is not the book for you. If you want to learn about New Zealand’s rise to prominence in the world of competitive bluewater sailing, how a sailing syndicate is formed and works, and other “inside information” about the international racing world, this is the book for you.

Alan Sefton, a journalist and long-time associate and business partner of Peter Blake, provides a detailed history of Peter’s sailing career, and with it the rise of New Zealand to international yacht racing leadership. He describes in intimate detail — sometimes almost hour by hour — just about every race in which Peter took part, from the 1974 Cape Town-Rio de Janeiro race in which he served as a young watch leader to his final competitive sailing venture as syndicate head of Team New Zealand in the 2000 successful defense of the America’s Cup. The details include how crew is selected, funds are raised, designers are chosen, and syndicates are formed. However, Peter Blake never really comes alive in this book. He is always there on the boat, in the syndicate boardroom, at the designer’s office, but as a cardboard cutout, not a rounded person. The closest that Alan comes to digging below the surface is in the epilogue where he touches on Peter as a person through the reminiscences of those who knew him at various stages of his life. These occur as interviews following Peter’s tragic death at the hands of bandits in the Amazon.

While this book does not, in my opinion, succeed as a biography, it is excellent as a history of the rise to prominence of New Zealand as a powerhouse in the international sailing world. If you are looking for rich descriptions of ocean racing, and/or insights into the world of the sailing “business” at its highest levels, this book succeeds admirably.

Back To Top

Ghost Ships: Tales of Abandoned, Doomed, and Haunted Vessels

by Angus Konstam (Lyons Press, 2005; 144 pages; $24.95)
Review by Dennis J. Figley, Ashland, Ohio

“The notion of the ghost ship has long caught the imagination of the public . . . this popularity reflects our abiding interest in two linked phenomenon; mysteries of the sea and inexplicable, apparently supernatural events.”

This observation by the author rings true for me. While on summer vacation on Manitoulin Island, I had the opportunity to pick up this book and read it. A couple days of rainy weather made a perfect setting for the subject as the fog and mist rolled across the tiny lake. And what could be more perfect as Halloween is on our minds this month?

For this book, Angus Konstam has gathered stories of ghost ships, haunted ships, ships with bad luck, and even ships that were considered lucky ships but still met tragic ends. Some of the events are well known, such as the discovery of the Mary Celeste adrift and apparently abandoned in 1872 some 600 miles west of the coast of Spain. This mystery still goes unsolved. And, of course, the Flying Dutchman legend is the mother of all ghost ship stories. One event that I vividly remember was the loss of the U.S. Navy’s new nuclear submarine, USS Thresher, in April 1963.

Other stories and events were new to me. I had heard of the SS Queen Mary, but I didn’t know she was thought to be haunted. I’d never heard of the haunted ships HMS Asp, SS Great Eastern and SS St Paul. The book covers some of the tragedies that have given the Bermuda Triangle its notoriety. Also, there are several stories of submarines that are still “on patrol” as they never returned from their final missions and left no clues as to their fate.

The author states, “I freely admit that I am highly skeptical of any suggestion of supernatural forces at work.” Likewise, I am skeptical of attributing these mysteries to supernatural causes and find it refreshing that he is not quick to go down that path. But he also freely admits that the evidence in some of these stories defies logic even though much of it is presented by very credible witnesses.

Angus Konstam was born and reared in the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland. He has been curator of several museums in the U.S. and Europe including the Tower Museum in London and Mel Fisher’s Museum in Key West. He has more than 60 books to his credit, mostly dealing with military and nautical history. The list of his titles has whetted my appetite to read more of his works.

I really appreciate that Angus put his museum curator experience to work and incorporated many fine old engravings, paintings, and photographs in this book.

I did find several errors, typos, and contradictions in the book. There were several dates listed for the disappearance of the crew of the Mary Celeste. He stated the length of the USS Maine, destroyed in an explosion in Havana in 1898, as 919 feet when she was only 319 feet long according the U.S. Navy historical website. The map that goes with the text of Donald Crowhurst’s hoax states he spent his time in the South Pacific when, according to Crowhurst’s own logs, he spent eight months sailing around in the south Atlantic while his competitors were busy singlehanding their boats in the Golden Globe Around the World Race. These are merely production errors, I’m sure.

If you have, as I do, an abiding interest in the mysteries of the sea, I recommend this book. You won’t be disappointed.

Back To Top

Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Sailing

by John Vigor (Sheridan House, 2005; 208 pages; $17.95)
Review by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.

With his newest book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Sailing, John Vigor alternates between being a wise old salt, a nautical curmudgeon, a patient teacher offering safety tips to a new sailor, and the next sailor on the dock who cheerfully spouts his own take on controversial sailing subjects.

The problem is that there is no lack of sailing information out there; the docks are awash in opinionated sailors. As John says, “It can be very frustrating trying to get the information you need because the advice you receive from one sailor often conflicts with the advice from another. Unfortunately, what works for one sailor on one boat might not work for another on another boat.” How true. For instance, John explains that your keel shape should dictate your storm tactics. You’ll find it hard to locate that oh-so-true advice anywhere else. For my money, John is one of the best of the breed, so sailors would do well to pay attention to the opinions expressed in this book . . . even the curmudgeonly ones.

Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Sailing is organized alphabetically by topic with a tip at the end of each entry. For example, John explains about fear and anxiety as normal and important emotions and winds up with the following tip: “Apprehension before a voyage often disappears the moment you get under way and always diminishes with experience.” Or take binoculars. John advises the sailor to “be content with a modest magnification” because anything more powerful than 7 x 50 is a waste of money. He concludes with this tip: “Good binoculars are expensive. Guard yours carefully and buy a second, cheap pair for visitors who keep changing your settings and dropping your glasses.”

There now. That was an example of John when he’s both wise and curmudgeonly. You want controversial? John will explain why you don’t need battens in your mainsail. That is sure to start an argument on the dock. And he tells his readers that gasoline engines have many advantages over diesel. He’s right, of course, but you’ll never read those words in any of today’s sailing magazines, which have apparently agreed — in some behind-the-scenes meeting — that gasoline inboards are the number one danger to sailors.

The teacher providing safety tips is there in John’s thoughtful advice about climbing the mast and about the dangers of dinghies. When it comes to climbing the mast, he points out that the height is enough that a fall could kill you, so don’t hand over the responsibility for your safety when you go up the mast. “It’s your life and your responsibility,” John says and then tells you what precautions to take. There’s good advice from a seasoned seaman on the subject of dinghies also. John notes that hard dinghies can capsize and that inflatables can be blown out to sea. He says, “Make up a small safety pack for your dinghy (besides oars and lifejackets): flashlight, compass, bailer, and a spare drain plug. A hand-held VHF radio could be a lifesaver.”

This book is easy to read. It imparts some very valuable information in a fun package (particularly with the marvelous and zany illustrations by Tom Payne). Get it for the newbies in your family or on the dock. Hand it to friends who plan to come sailing with you. As John says, “If this book has a goal, it is to encourage beginners of all ages to start sailing with confidence and to dispel some of those persistent myths prevalent among many experienced sailors.”

At the end John adds an appendix with the most useful tables and formulas compiled from many of his other best-selling books. This, he says, is the information “I wish I’d known about.” And he adds a list of the books he wishes someone had told him to read. Following this advice would do us all good. Buy the book and pass this sort of wisdom along.

Back To Top

The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat – The Definitive Guide for Liveaboards

by Mark Nicholas (Paradise Cay Publications, 2005; 284 pages; $17.95)
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury, Moreno Valley, Calif.

Mark Nicholas is an expert. He’s lived the life and learned many lessons the hard way. His goal in writing The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat is to share with readers all it takes to live aboard wisely and enjoy it. How? By being prepared. He believes there are essentials to living on a boat, so why not know what those basics are before embarking on the life?

You’ll find guidelines for choosing the right boat, purchasing it, and moving onboard. Whether or not you are a seasoned boater, you may find the pages covering general boating terminology a helpful way to make sure you know your boat. Next, examine the section on choosing a marina.

I found “Estimating Costs,” to be one of the most useful chapters in the book. Why make any kind of move without knowing what the financial outcome will be? Numerous easy-to-read comparison charts are accompanied by text explaining itemized costs. For example: The monthly cost comparison table is a real eye-opener. Want-to-be liveaboards are presented with the possible costs (for varying types and sizes of boats) that come along with the lifestyle — everything from your boat payment, insurance, slip fees, utilities, storage, parking, and more.

Read on to find out how to prepare to live aboard, and things to look at when families, children, and pets live aboard. This really makes one think. For instance, how do you keep cat litter contained?

In his chapter titled “Government Oversight,” Mark reminds us that government regulations require our homes (boats, in this case), be open for inspection. While many may consider the liveaboard lifestyle a way to get away from society, the effects of terrorism, and the state of the world in general, does impact life, whether we are land or sea dwellers. This section is a must-read for all. Some of the topics covered are:
• General boating requirements when on the water
• Safety laws
• Alcohol and drug use
• Search and seizure
• Forfeiture
• International law
Whether you are planning to move aboard, spend extended long vacations aboard, or already are a liveaboard, The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat is a great addition to any boat book library. Nicholas does a great job preparing us to enjoy living aboard — wisely.

Back To Top

Ships’ Figure Heads in Australia

by Gordon Marshall (Tangee Publishing, 2003; 126 pages; $30)
Reviewed by Vic Chambers, Junction City, Ore.

One can’t read Ships’ Figure Heads in Australia without falling in love again with the great era of sailing that laid the foundation of many civilizations over the past 4,000 years. Author Gordon Marshall has brought us a book that inspires and educates at the same time. When you start reading, you’ll be engrossed by the pull of the past and perhaps find yourself hoping that the grand ships of the world will someday again be adorned by figureheads.

According to the author, more than 500 figureheads were made in Australia from the earliest recorded one, built in 1832, until the last one, built in 1903. Of such an art and dedicated craft only 14 are known to survive. Of the aboriginal figureheads, the only Australian type to survive is one from the Boomerang of 1889. It is now housed in the Polly Woodside Museum in Victoria. Until the modern revival, the last figurehead made in Australia was for the ketch, Alma, in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1903. Gordon records that, of the figureheads made in New South Wales, the last one was of a dog fitted to the 56-foot schooner, Talbot, in 1896.

A registry of ships built in Australia and the figureheads on them shows a small number of ships were fitted with figureheads and very few of these have survived. Billetheads (ornamental carvings) were fitted to many ships as alternatives to figureheads from as early as the mid-1700s, some for economic reasons and others because some believed figureheads to be idolatrous. Figureheads were much more than ornamental, they embodied the eyes and served as the protectors of their ships.

Wherever they went, “Neptune’s wooden angels,” as the author calls them, attracted attention and built romantic ideas. If they could talk, oh the tales they’d tell! Instead, Gordon Marshall tells us their stories.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of ships’ figureheads and the call and romance of the sea. Gordon has compiled a large volume of information into a very readable format, both for the serious researcher of ships’ figureheads and for the armchair sailor. As for the layout of the book, however, I found not having the photos and text together a little disquieting since the reader has to stop reading and turn a page or two to see a photo before returning to the text. I’m sure if it had been possible, the author and publisher would have put text and photos on facing pages.

With that noted exception, I can truly say that Gordon Marshall has done a valuable service for the sailing family. He has brought us in touch with our past. Well done, Gordon, well done. This book is available directly from Tangee Publishing. Contact them by email,, or call +61 8 9293-1915.

Back To Top

Fiberglass Repair: Polyester or Epoxy

by David and Zora Aiken (Cornell Maritime Press, 2005; 120 pages; $10.50)
Review by Bill Sandifer, Diamondhead, Miss.

Fiberglass Repair: Polyester or Epoxy is a useful book for anyone who is considering fiberglass repair, whether novice or old pro. It’s full of valid techniques that will yield a professional job if the directions are followed exactly. There are chapters on materials, tools, cautions (safety), methods, touch-ups, holes, cores, blisters, stiffeners, and many other applications. There is a glossary, a problem-solving section, and an index. The book is very complete, and I recommend it.

However, I have a few minor suggestions that should not diminish the overall value of the book as a resource. There are a few things that might confuse the novice, for example. The authors start out discussing “woven fabric” and promptly begin to substitute the term “cloth.” I’m not sure the novice would make that transition in terminology. I would also like to see the statement that fiberglass is comprised of fiberglass and resin more clearly defined. Without a catalyst, this is going to be a very sticky mess. While they’re at it, the authors discuss the need for a catalyst briefly but do not point out that more is not better and that more may react too fast for usefulness, burst into flame, or not harden at all. Epoxy resin, if mixed with too little catalyst, will eventually harden; polyester resin with too little catalyst may never harden.

There is a good chapter on cautions that contains safety information which could perhaps even be further emphasized. The authors do not describe what happens when you over-catalyze a pot of resin or simply leave it in the mixing can in the sun too long (it will burst into flame and give off noxious gases). The book discusses smoking catalyst but does not say it will burn. Polyester resin is an oil-based product; when it flames, it is equivalent to napalm in the boat.

The book treats polyester resin in depth but does not go into as much detail about epoxy resin. For good old boaters, epoxy resin and catalyst is the preferred — although more expensive — product to use for repairs. Epoxy will adhere to most surfaces for as long as desired. Polyester has a harder time adhering to the old fiberglass you’ll face in any repair situation.

Those minor quibbles aside, this book belongs in every toolbox for the fiberglass repairer. Buy it and keep it handy.

Back To Top

Managing the Waterway

by Mark and Diana Doyle (semi-local publications LLC, 2005; 172 pages; $24.95)
Review by Greg Mansfield, Washington, N.C.

When I received this waterway guide, I wondered how it could be different from the others I’ve seen and used. Well, believe me, it is different. Managing the Waterway contains all the information (except the charts) that you would like to have to travel the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Norfolk to Biscayne Bay. In addition to the usual anchorage, marina, and piloting things you need to know, the authors included things you want to know from many sources. The authors call their publication “an enriched guide.”

And enriched it is, especially in the organization of information. Mark and Diana Doyle have used layout to help organize and present the ICW information in a style that makes this guide exceptionally easy to use. Like most ICW guides, the information is presented in the order of travel, in this case north to south, state by state. Each state section begins with a state big picture and a state introduction.

The big picture contains the navigational information — a map of the coastal part of the state showing the ICW track, the charts required for this section, and a bridge summary. Another enrichment is the inclusion on the map of the names of cities, counties, NOAA towers, and other geographical features used in NOAA weather broadcasts. These help with interpreting NOAA weather broadcasts.

The state introduction gives us reference and advice for that section of the ICW. Included are regional characteristics and navigational concerns for the upcoming section of travel.

At the top of each navigation page is a rolling header that includes USCG and towboat VHF channels and telephone numbers, upcoming bridges, and NOAA weather stations. The side margins detail bridges, anchorages, and marinas, complete with GPS coordinates and tidal ranges. The page body contains local lore and color — an enrichment of 266 interpretive vignettes and 200 pictures and illustrations.

The end of each section has tables that list marine facilities and retail chandleries within easy reach of marinas. Of particular note are the pages with waterway business cards that you can photocopy and take ashore with you.

My wife and I have only traveled the ICW between Norfolk and Morehead City, so I checked the information for this part against our experience. The transit, anchorage, and marina information matched what we have found along the way. The guide is spiral-bound to lie flat and has a UV-coated cover. If you are in the market for an ICW guide, this is the one to get. Publisher Mark Doyle has even made a special offer for the readers of Good Old Boat. Save $5 off the cover price by logging on to this page:

Back To Top

After Captiva

by Charles House (Pub This Press, 2005; 294 pages; $16.99)
Review by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.

Charles House has been widely praised for his biographical book, The Outrageous Life of Henry Faulkner. His second book, a novel, will appeal to a more limited audience. His main characters are sailors who spend a portion of their time aboard, an activity which narrows the audience, since sailors — as a segment of the population — are few and far between.

The sailing takes place off Florida’s West Coast. Other settings include the Kentucky hills, with their captivating charm, and Cincinnati, Ohio, at its wintertime dreariest. Charles has a way with words and can paint a beautiful scene, whether it is the mountains’ morning mist or the sea. He’s a graphic artist whose eye for imagery is very well developed. And he does another thing delightfully well: he takes his reader inside the head of an art professor who visualizes the scenes that unfold before him as they might be painted by artists he has studied. A very interesting perspective.

Charles made me laugh out loud with his description of a jibe with a sailor at the helm assisted by a brand-new recruit:
He sucked up his nerve and pushed the tiller all the way to the left, making the bow turn to the right. With the side of the main now exposed to the wind Bolero heeled so far that the water was up to the starboard ports. Shiloh had both arms wrapped around the mast. His feet were in the water.
“Hang on,” Homer yelled.
“Good idea!”
As the boat continued its turn to the right, the wind, now behind them, caught the main from the other side. It slammed the boom so hard to the left that it jerked the mainsheet out of Homer’s hand. The boom caught up at the end of the mainsheet and stopped so abruptly the boat shuddered from stem to stern. Now the boat was thrown on its left side. Shiloh, arms still wrapped around the mast, swung like a rag doll to that side, again soaking his pants to the knees in the water that was swirling down the port sidedeck.
The boat righted itself without help from Homer. He stood white-faced in the cockpit while Shiloh pulled himself back to the cabintop.
“What did you say that was?” he said, his color almost as white as Homer’s.
“A jibe.”
Shiloh pondered that for a moment. He sat still on the cabintop as Homer reined in some of the mainsheet and let the wind blow them up the channel on a run. The crashing and banging had been replaced by a slippery, wallowing movement that was much easier on the nerves.
“How often do you reckon you have to do that jibe?” Shiloh asked.
“Never again, I hope. Not like that anyway.”
“You know,” Shiloh said after a pause. “I thought this sailing business was for mild-mannered fellers. Looks to me like a feller could get hisself killed out here.”

Unfortunately, Charles’ characters are too dysfunctional for my taste. They’re not as interested in what’s going on around them as they are in what’s going on inside them. They spend too much time in bars and have too many hangovers and too many infidelities. Nonetheless, some sailors will enjoy the sailing in this book, and artists will enjoy the visual and literary descriptions.

Charles is breaking ground in print-on-demand publishing. You can order his book at or ask any bookstore to order it for you.

Back To Top

Sailing Dreams: Volume One

(Beowulf Press –, 2005; 1.5 hour DVD; $12.95)
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury, Moreno Valley, Calif.

Do you dream of sailing? Maybe you’re a seasoned sailor . . . or a novice who simply loves the water and the very thought of sailing. The only prerequisite you’ll need to enjoy this DVD is a desire to experience the sights and sounds of sailing the open sea.

“If you’re stuck behind the desk but yearn for the sights and sounds of the open ocean, this DVD was designed for you,” Linda Dashew states. Linda and her husband, Steve, filmed the scenes for Sailing Dreams while cruising over 200,000 miles.

Meant to “soothe, invigorate, and inspire,” sections include Beowulf, Australs, Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Marquesas to San Diego. If you want to relax, it’s recommended that you set Sailing Dreams to Beowulf and Fiji to enjoy the rustling of the sails and rush of water as you cut through the sea on your sailing vessel. The colorful spinnaker against the white sails and blue sky is a sight to see. And if you look forward to more exciting footage, the Australs or Tonga sections fit the bill, with rougher seas and salt spray you’ll swear you can feel on your face.

This “sailing movie” (sailing scenes sans plot) is perfect as background, playing on a big screen TV at parties, or for watching before falling into a peaceful slumber at night. You’ll be treated to a multitude of views encompassing incredible scenery, from every imaginable angle. Just when you least expect it, a sunset fills the screen with awesome oranges and pinks. You might want to hit the freeze frame so you can enjoy the sight just a few seconds longer.

What’s lacking? I wanted to feel the wind as it blew — strong gusts or small puffs. I wished to feel the hot penetrating sun of Tahiti or the rain the thunderheads promised to deliver on my skin. To imagine the swaying of the vessel as she gracefully flew over miles of ocean just wasn’t enough. I wanted to be there — adjusting the mainsail or rolling out the jib.

Perhaps the Dashews’ objective was to entice the observer to want more. If that’s the case, they definitely accomplish their goal with this DVD.

Back To Top

Get Ready to Cruise
Get Ready to Cross Oceans

2 DVDs by Lin and Larry Pardey (L&L Pardey, 2005; 90 minutes each; $29.95 each)
Review by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.

If you enjoy time with Lin and Larry Pardey (and who doesn’t?), you’ll want to view their two new DVDs, Get Ready to Cruise and Get Ready to Cross Oceans. These professionally produced disks are the next best thing to a visit aboard Taleisin and the Pardeys’ second boat, Thelma, a 110-year-old racing yacht which they are restoring.

This dynamic sailing couple, veritable Energizer Bunnies of the cruising set, just keep cruising, learning, and passing along what wisdom they have acquired. With more than 65,000 miles of voyaging on Taleisin alone, that wisdom is remarkable.

When it comes to teaching others what they’ve discovered, Lin and Larry can’t help themselves, and we’re all grateful that their “as long as it’s fun” condition on their own cruising has not yet expired. They, in turn, make it fun for those who dream of following in their wake, as well as those who have a cruising vision of a completely different hue.

Whatever your sailing goals may be, Lin and Larry take you aboard and show you what they’ve found that works for them. They don’t claim that you must do it exactly their way. You need not build your own boat first or head out without an engine. They don’t preach, and they don’t condescend. They tell it like it is for them, with the full awareness that your boat may be built of fiberglass, have a different keel configuration, and offer a suite of electronic navigation devices. You’ll find much in common with these fellow sailors, just the same, and you’ll enjoy the virtual time you share together. I guarantee it.

These DVDs offer fresh information and an introduction to the Pardeys’ new love, Thelma, while delivering some of the highlights of previously filmed material from their video collection: Cruising with Lin and Larry Pardey, The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew, Voyaging Hints for Upgrading Your Cruising Boat, and Cruising Coral Seas.

These disks are high on my list as potential gifts for sailing friends as the holiday season approaches. I have a hunch you’ll agree. Or treat yourself. That’s allowed also.

Back To Top

A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea

by David Vann (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005; 236 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by John Smolens, Marquette, Mich.

David Vann’s memoir, A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea, is a book devoted to the Dream. Everyone who sails — as well as many who have never hoisted a halyard — have at some point concocted their own variation of the Dream: with the right sailboat, one could make a fine living at sea.

David’s version is bold. After studying writing and literature at Stanford he sets out to create a ” university on water,” an educational charter business. “It was an American Dream,” he writes, “founded on another more recent dream, of continuing education, and my guests could feel satisfaction from participation in both.” He convinces a number of people to lend him hundreds of thousands of dollars so he can build a 90-foot sailboat to operate in the Caribbean for charter cruises with at-sea literature and writing courses for university credit.

A splendid idea, perhaps, but in 1999 David contracts to have the vessel built in Turkey, and within the first few pages of the book it’s clear that this is a boat that should never get wet. He is determined to see the construction through and, after much haggling and negotiation with a builder named Seref, The Wife of Bath is launched. At first this steel-hulled wonder makes a pleasant and uneventful voyage across the Mediterranean and David, accompanied by a crew that includes his fiancée Nancy, seems destined to achieve his dream.

However, after passing through the Strait of Gibraltar, The Wife of Bath’s rudder malfunctions in heavy seas off the coast of Morocco. What follows is a scene as gripping as anything in The Perfect Storm. For hours David attempts to line up with a freighter that has offered to tow the disabled sailboat ashore. It soon becomes apparent that the only thing more dangerous than the stormy Atlantic is a sea captain whose thoughts have turned to salvage. Rather than aiding a ship in distress, the German captain makes it impossible to tow the floundering boat and finally convinces David and his crew to abandon ship.

If the difficulties David encounters at sea are harrowing, his experiences on land are heartbreaking. Modern-day pirates appear in the forms of slick lawyers, devious government officials, and insurance executives. The travails David encounters once his damaged boat has been returned to the harbor beneath the Rock of Gibraltar seem more treacherous and dispiriting than the worst sea tragedy. There is a certain dignity to sinking; there is no honor to getting fleeced slowly while rotting in the harbor.

David is a young man with limitless energy. As he chronicles an astounding succession of financial disasters (which lead to bankruptcy and a spate of lawsuits), the book becomes not just a sea tale but a memoir full of hard-won truth. He is haunted by his father, a commercial fisherman who had inexplicably committed suicide when David was 13. ” Abiding in each of us who loved him is the impossibility of knowing or living the life we would have had without his suicide. Would I have thrown away my academic career — and, for a time, my writing — for boats and the sea if my father had not killed himself? Have I built boats out of love or obedience?”

This question is central to the book. Ultimately, David refurbishes The Wife of Bath and, with Nancy at his side, sails south into the Caribbean. The ultimate fate of his sailboat is no secret — on the cover below the title there is a photograph of the bow pointed skyward in its last moment before slipping a mile into the sea. But David ‘s fate also derives from the sea his loves. He and his new marriage survive and are perhaps strengthened by the challenges that come with such loss. “A life can be like a work of art, constantly melted away and reshaped,” he concludes. So keep the Dream, but before selling the farm for that boat, read David Vann’s One Mile Down, an eloquent cautionary tale from a sailor wise beyond his years.

Back To Top

Making Waves

a music CD by Andy Vine ($20.00 from Andy Vine, 971 East 26th Ave, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5V 2J3)
Reviewed by Larry Carpenter, Minneapolis, Minn.

Andy Vine has been playing, singing, and writing since the 1960s. He started in the folk clubs in the U.K., continued as he emigrated to Canada, and currently performs in his adopted Vancouver, British Columbia.

Making Waves is a self-produced collection of songs Andy has collected over the years and still loves to sing. Recorded in his home studio, it is a mixture of original pieces, traditional folk, and popular standards. Andy expresses his love for the sea in his opening song, “Listen to the Ocean,” which he learned as a kid in the U.K. It is a catchy reflection on the lure of the ocean.

He ends the album with his lovely, haunting musical setting of John Masefield’s famous poem, “Sea Fever” (“…and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…”). I was humming along the first time I heard it, then turned to Google to find the poem. On the second pass I was figuring out the chords and melody.

The nautical theme continues with “Woman of Labrador,” which he wrote in St. Johns, Newfoundland. It tells the age-old story of the woman left to tend the home and family while waiting (and hoping) for her man to return from the sea.

When the “Ballad of Lord Franklin” started, my first reaction was, “Hey, I know that song, but I play it differently!” I like Andy’s appropriately mournful version with a simple flute accompaniment. There are many versions of this traditional classic based upon the lost expedition led by Lord Franklin in search of the elusive Northwest Passage. This version measures up well.

The rest of the album departs from things nautical with mixed results. Andy turns inland with “Dragonfly,” a song about friendship and fiddling in the Yukon. It is nicely done with pleasant fiddle accompaniment. I really like the refrain: “But he played like a fool coming out of a slumber. He played like a dragonfly drying his wings.”

The songs on this CD are uneven, as can be expected on a first effort self-produced album. But it is obvious that Andy is enjoying himself and he has delivered a very listenable album. For me the highlight must be Andy’s musical setting for “Sea Fever.” This, in itself, is worth the price of the album.

I doubt that you will be able to find the CD at your favorite music source. But you can surf to for song lyrics and information on ordering.

Back To Top

Roar’s Circle

by Henrik Juel, translated from Danish by Rae Duxbury, (The Lutterworth Press, 2005; 160 pages; $30.00 US)
Reviewed by Richard Smeriglio, Moose Pass, Alaska

Assemble a band of motivated landlubbers, give them broadaxes and Danish oak, and pay them to build a replica of an 11th century Viking cargo ship heaved up from the bottom of a fjord. The resulting narrative might focus more interestingly on people rather than on building technique. Author Henrik Juel does exactly that and his personal account will repay readers more interested in modern Danish society than in ancient sailboats.

The Danish National Museum had a 950-year-old vessel found scuttled off Skuldelev Strand of Roskilde Fjord. A group of mostly non-boatbuilders replicated it as closely as possible, using primitive tools and techniques. Given modern realities of egalitarian life, the men and women who built the replica democratized, discussed, and dithered as much as they created, crafted, and carved. That they built the vessel of green wood should give pause to traditional builders of wooden boats. That they created a shapely double-ender and sailed her for years should give humanists cause to rejoice.

We moderns may never know the harsh details of how hardscrabble northern people of old spared the labor and materiel to construct a 45-foot, single-masted, square-rigged, open-decked coastal cruiser with auxiliary oar power. That they could do it at all should impress us. That their descendants might actually do it, too, should interest us.

Roar Ege takes its name from Roar (Hrothgar) of the Beowulf saga and Ege meaning oak ship. To build an oaken ship, one must first fell oak trees, with an ax. To make boards without saws, one must split logs lengthwise and hew them smooth with an ax. The techniques may have descended from legendary Scandinavian boatbuilder Thorberg Skawhewer. To “skawhew” means to notch gunwales to appropriate depths and then whack them smooth with a bold stroke of an ax to achieve a beautiful sheer. The original and its replica used lapstrake construction clinched with hand-forged iron nails. They used a lot of wool in the iron-age northland and Roar Ege has wool caulking and a wool sail, homespun by the builders, of course.

The Roar Ege folk did it the hard way. They learned as they built and learned to sail a square-rigger as they rowed her. They continue to voyage along the North Sea coast. One suspects that should they wreck on a forested shore, a few hardy ax wielders could have Roar Ege back under way in short order.

Back To Top

Band of Brothers

by Alexander Kent (Random House; 2005; 130 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Joseph Ditler, Coronado, Calif

The three greatest sailors who never lived are, arguably, Horatio Hornblower, Jack Aubrey, and Richard Bolitho. Their combined exploits at sea have entertained readers since the 1930s and inspired an armada of imitators. The world of maritime fiction is literally framed and planked upwards from their keel. Of these magnificent storytellers, Bolitho’s creator, author Alexander Kent, is the only one still living. (Forester began his series in 1937 and died in 1966; O’Brian, who died in 2000, started his series in 1970.)

Alexander Kent, whose real name is Douglas Reeman, has been producing novels regularly since 1968 and has sold more than 22 million books in 16 languages. His newest book, Band of Brothers, is a long-overdue novel dealing with Bolitho’s early career as a midshipman.

Kent’s series documents the fictional adventures and battles (and loves) of Richard Bolitho and his young nephew, Adam, at sea during the Napoleonic-era aboard England’s great fleet of wooden ships. The series has thrived and now, 27 books and 35 years later, Alexander Kent has finally answered the question, “What happened to Midshipman Martyn Dancer?”

The prolific author skipped a chapter way back in 1972. He probably didn’t think much of it at the time. But his readers were relentless. They have nagged him for 30 years to solve the mystery of Martyn Dancer ‘s disappearance from the series. In Band of Brothers A lexander Kent mollifies his readers on two accounts. He answers the question of Dancer’s fate, but, more importantly, he clearly demonstrates to readers that he is still alive, in fine writing form, and continues to document the fictional lives of the sailing Bolithos.

New readers to Alexander Kent can find hard-to-locate earlier novels from this series, as well as new Kent titles, at McBooks-Press in New York. Contact them at or call 1-888-BOOKS11 (1-888-266-5711). For more about Alexander Kent visit the author’s official website at

Back To Top

Moitessier, A Sailing Legend

by Jean-Michel Barrault, translated from French by Janine Simon (Sheridan House, 2005; 234 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Rick Smeriglio, Moose Pass, Alaska

Bernard Moitessier, the sailor who might have won the first around-the-world-solo race but abandoned the attempt while leading, also abandoned his wife and children for idleness in the South Pacific, then entered the sailing imagination as a hero. Such a striking character and his extraordinary life provide rich material for the legend of the title. A split portrait emerges. We learn of Bernard Moitessier, the irresponsible wastrel, careless rookie sailor, and squanderer of great potential (he sank two boats because he fell asleep). We learn of Moitessier, the phenomenal solo sailor, mystic, and poet of the ocean, an achiever by any reckoning. He rounded Cape Horn twice.

Bernard Moitessier (1925-1994) wrote five books that established his reputation as a bluewater voyager and somewhat naïve philosopher. He believed in minimal equipment and accepting risk. Many others have written about him, particularly in French. Author, longtime friend, and literary pro, Jean-Michel Barrault, uses Moitessier’s books and quotes from years of correspondence to flesh out this short biography. The author has the advantage of an intimate’s insights and succeeds in bringing at least chronological order to a very messy life.

Poseidon smiled on Bernard Moitessier. Born the child of privilege in French Indochina, his birth date precluded service in WWII. He first went to sea and made lucky voyages in ill-found wooden vessels. When they sank, kind strangers gave him other boats and gear. As a vagabond who fetched up boatless on exotic island shores, people gave him the means to build life and boat anew. Strangers designed and built, for free, his most famous boat, the 40-foot steel ketch, Joshua, named after Slocum. Three months after its destruction by hurricane while at anchor, friends had raised funds and built him a new steel cutter. Women loved him freely, even after he abandoned them, a modus operandi for Bernard Moitessier.

What do we make of this remarkable sailor, this sensitive and tormented soul? His personal life sets an example best avoided. He outfitted boats by scrounging in boatyard dumpsters. He certainly had his sea time and must have learned from it. His Polynesian name and the name of his final boat, Tamata, means to try. He sailed the southern ocean in the manner of Vito Dumas, running wild and free before the roar of the storms. He sailed among the reefs of life, if occasionally onto them. We can speculate that he found peace at sea and some respite from his inner demons. Perhaps kind strangers sensed this and repeatedly gave him the means to become part of the sea.

Back To Top

Sail Trim Theory and Practice

by Peter Hahne (Sheridan House, 2005; 120 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Erich Drescher, Ottawa Lake, Mich.

Knowing how to properly trim your boat’s sails is not only important in racing but has a place in cruising, too. As Peter Hahne says, proper sail trim “might even mean reaching the harbor in the evening rather than late at night.” A recent episode during my local Wednesday night race also demonstrated just how important proper sail trim is during heavy weather. In that race you could identify the captains who understood how their boats functioned and the physics impacting their vessels.

Peter does an admirable job explaining the physics behind an array of sail plans, hull profiles, and their interactions with currents and weather. If you enjoy discussions of laminar flow, hydrodynamic side force, and vortex formations, this book will be very enjoyable. Thoughtful discussions on everything from keel shape to profiles of spinnakers are contained in this compact book. He backs the discussions up with considerable mathematical and scientific evidence (as opposed to the all-too-often-cited anecdotal stories).

The less-seasoned sailor will take away a better understanding of the forces at work on a vessel and the impact of each. The book includes sections on trimming the head sail, yawing, tuning the masthead rig, and velocity prediction. The impact of different types of sailcloth is also discussed briefly.

I don’t think this book would be useful on a boat during a race, but sections of it would be extremely handy when observing a race. Sail Trim would be especially useful to sailors in the mid-levels of the U.S. Sailing keelboat series; it complements some of the existing class materials very well. The airflow and force diagrams alone deserve honorable mention.

As a newbie in the sailing world I found myself wanting to laminate the quick reference guide at the end of the book. This guide is divided by weather and wave action and gives pointers on what adjustments may be needed in your rig or sail trim depending on your course with respect to the wind.

All in all, Sail Trim Theory and Practice deserves to be in a well-stocked sailing library. The only negative I saw was the omission of a bibliography. I appreciate the ability to check an author’s scientific and historical sources and to come to my own conclusions based upon the same evidence.

Back To Top

Patrick O’Brian, The Making of a Novelist 1914-1949

by Nikolai Tolstoy (W.W. Norton & Company, 2004; 500 pages; $29.95)
Reviewed by Patty Facius, Minneapolis, Minn.

A person who attains celebrity status arouses curiosity and inquiry about his or her past. It’s the price of fame. Patrick O’Brian, best known for his Aubrey-Maturin historical novel series, is no exception. But O’Brian’s private life was what he wanted to keep out of the public eye, which led to speculation, rumor, and distortion about his life, much of it perpetuated by O’Brian himself. Talk to an avid O’Brian fan and it will be evident that the mystery continues to swirl around the life of this author. O’Brian’s sailing experience, his name change, the “abandonment” of his wife and children, and his activities for the British Intelligence during World War II become fodder for debate.

Nikolai Tolstoy, O’Brian’s stepson and biographer, addresses these controversial topics. He recognizes that O’Brian is considered by many to be Britain’s greatest 20th century author and he aims to set the record straight. If you’re a literary historian, he’s probably succeeded. If not, you may be a bit overwhelmed by the thoroughness of the biographer’s research.

Tolstoy refutes and challenges an earlier biography, Dean King’s Patrick O’Brian: A Life Revealed (Hodder & Stoughton, 2000). To build and support his case that O’Brian has been misunderstood, if not vilified by King and others, Tolstoy plays part sleuth and part psychoanalyst. He traces O’Brian’s development as a writer from his troubled and dysfunctional childhood and adolescence, through his first marriage and World War II experiences, his affair with and eventual marriage to Tolstoy’s mother, and his ongoing struggle to succeed as a writer. His extensive sources include interviews with siblings and acquaintances, family correspondence, memoirs, government and court records, personal journals and O’Brian’s early works of semi-autobiographical fiction.

If you’re looking for a chapter devoted solely to the development of the Aubrey/Maturin series, you’ll be disappointed. However, the patient reader will find that throughout the text and footnotes Tolstoy scatters references to people, places and events in O’Brian’s life that offered inspiration for, or can be traced to, the series. For example, we learn that from early childhood, O’Brian was a natural history buff, and that the character of Jack Aubrey was modeled after three men O’Brian knew and admired, one of whom was an older brother who died flying a bombing mission over Germany during World War II.

So for all those O’Brian fanatics out there, get the book, read it, and pass it on to your Aubrey/Maturin reading friends. It will surely ignite some interesting discussion in the cockpit.

Back To Top

Join Our Sailing Community. Subscribe Now!

Complimentary monthly supplement

  • featured articles
  • news from the helm
  • mail buoy
  • book reviews
  • sailor photos
  • and much more

Good Old Boat News Flash!

Our website is getting some long overdue improvements! has merged with

Thanks for your patience while our website is under construction.
Menu Title