Book Reviews From 2007
Reviews From 2007
February 2007 Newsletter
- Twenty Affordable Sailboats to Take You Anywhere, by Gregg Nestor
- Life was a Cabaret: A Tale of Two Fools, a Boat, and a Big-A** Ocean, by Becky Coffield
- The Figurehead, by Paul Dean Coker
- So Long, Foxtrot Charlie, by John Vigor, audiobook
- Capt’n Pauley’s Boat Repairs and Upgrades, by Paul Esterle
- Bookends, by Good Old Boat magazine, audiobook
April 2007 Newsletter
- Sailing Alone Around the World, by Joshua Slocum, audiobook
- Sailing Away from Winter, by Silver Donald Cameron
- Sally Steals an Elephant, by John Vigor, audiobook
- Marine Diesel Engines: Maintenance and Repair Manual, by Jean-Luc Pallas
- Cruising: The Basics, by Zora and David Aiken
- A Ship’s Tale, by N. Jay Young
- Practical Sailor – Guide to Sailing Gear, edited by Dan Dickison
- Mudlark’s Ghosts and the Restoration of a Herreshoff Meadow Lark, by Ian Scott
June 2007 Newsletter
- A Berth to Bermuda – 100 Years of the World’s Classic Ocean Race, by John Rousmaniere
- Dictionary of Nautical Acronyms and Abbreviations, by Donald Launer
- Outboard Motors: Maintenance and Repair Manual, by Jean-Luc Pallas
- Blue Water Odyssey, DVD produced by Robert G. Driscoll
- The Working Guide to Traditional Small-boat Sails: A How-to Handbook for Builders and Owners, by David L. Nichols
- Trekka Round the World, by John Guzzwell, audiobook narrated by the author
- Travels With Yeti, by Hiram Connell
- Joseph Conrad, Master Mariner, by Peter Villiers
- Dancing With the Wind: A Musical Meditation on the Romance of Sail, by Ed Verner (DVD & CD)
- Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World, by Joan Druett
August 2007 Newsletter
- Small Boats on Green Waters, edited by Brian Anderson
- An Affair of Honor, by Robert N. Macomber
- Personal Best: Chasing the Wind Above and Below the Equator, by Edward Muesch
- The Black Swan, by Christina Moore
October 2007 Newsletter
- Lessons from My Good Old Boat, by Don Launer
- A Step by Step Guide to the Basics of Sailing with Penny Whiting, by Bennett Marine Video
- World Voyagers, the True Story of a Veterinarian, a Renaissance man, and Stewart the Cat, by Amy P. Wood, Philip J. Shelton and Stewart P. Wood
- Hard Aground…Again: Inspiration for the Navigationally Challenged and Spiritually Stuck, by Eddie Jones
December 2007 Newsletter
- A Year In Flagrante – A log of nautical near-missives, by Martin Cartwright
- The Why Book of Sailing: The Curious Sailor’s Guide to the Science of Sailing and Seamanship, by Scott Welty
- The Mariner’s Book of Days – 2008 calendar, by Peter H. Spectre
- A Matter of Honor, by William C. Hammond
Twenty Affordable Sailboats to Take You Anywhere
by Gregg Nestor (Paradise Cay Publications, 2006; 210 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
If you’re shopping for an affordable sailboat that you can own for years to come, Gregg Nestor has just done you a big favor. He has written the book you’re looking for: Twenty Affordable Sailboats to Take You Anywhere. Sound familiar? It might because this book follows John Vigor’s very popular book: Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere. Both books have been published by Paradise Cay Publications.
Gregg, who writes many of the boat reviews for Good Old Boat magazine, was a natural author for this book. On behalf of the magazine, he has a great deal of experience crawling in and out of cubbyholes on many sailboats. He is as unbiased as any sailor can be about something as opinion-provoking as a cruising sailboat. His selection of 20 boats is as good as it gets. There are many more great boats, to be sure. Perhaps those will be the subject of the next book. I can see it now: Twenty More Affordable Sailboats to Take You Anywhere. If this book flies off the shelf, who knows what might follow? If your personal favorites were overlooked in the first 20, get your vote in early!
As he does with his reviews for Good Old Boat, Gregg researches the boat designer and the manufacturer and gives his readers not only the highlights of the boat but also the highlights of its birth back in the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s. This is, by the way, how one finds an affordable boat: one reaches back into a previous era and finds a gem that has already stood the test of time. Call it a classic fiberglass yacht. Call it a good old boat. Whatever you call it, this boat is part of the affordable dream. Want to go sailing? Gregg Nestor will help you find the boat to make your dream come true.
The information Gregg provides on a boat’s historical background is always fascinating for those of us who were not following the life and times of our boats’ designers and manufacturers as they unfolded the first time. Now, as lovers of our own sailboats, we want to know more about their parentage and what factors influenced their design. Gregg gives us this important background.
Naturally, the majority of effort for each boat is spent on a review of its design and sailing characteristics. But Gregg goes beyond all that with insightful comments by an owner or two, a note about what you might expect to pay for a boat of this kind today, specific weaknesses to check out if you’ve already fallen in love with a particular boat, specifications for the boat, sailplan and accommodation plan drawings, owners’ groups that will help you find others who sail and love boats like this, and the important comparative calculations that matter.
Speaking of these comparative calculations, Gregg takes a page to explain each. This is a question that comes up time and time again in the world of boat reviews. And he offers a spreadsheet comparing the 20 boats he’s selected: specifications and calculations. There’s a helpful bibliography also.
Gregg has created a useful, thorough, and helpful book if you’re in the market for an affordable sailboat capable of taking you coastal hopping or well beyond your home waters. You’ll find this book to be interesting reading even if you’re not currently prowling the dockyards and marinas for your next boat.
Life was a Cabaret: A Tale of Two Fools, a Boat, and a Big-A** Ocean
by Becky Coffield (Moonlight Mesa Associates, distributed by Seaworthy Publications, 2006; 148 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Either Becky Coffield has a very good memory or she took excellent notes back in the 1970s when she and her husband, Tom, spent six years cruising north and south, from Oregon to Alaska and on down to Mexico, then east and west across to the South Pacific and home once more. As they went along, they learned much about themselves, their relationship, their boat, cruising, and life in general. In retrospect, they say they were fortunate enough “to stay afloat during 25,000 miles of adventure and fun.”
Retrospect is the key here. Because she did not write the book until decades later, Becky is able to look at these events with a perspective not usually available to the writer who makes the trip, writes the book, and moves on to other matters. By then, I would worry that the details would be missing, but Becky has forgotten little. In fact, the stories may even have grown in the retelling over the years. Old stories have a way of doing that. Occasionally it takes the addition of several decades to see the humor in a situation. Certainly Becky’s memory has a penchant for comedy.
Becky tells her readers that she and Tom first dreamed of this voyage over a pitcher of margaritas while on their honeymoon. After practicing a short time, they thought they’d become fairly skilled with a Lido 14 and began thinking big. They heard of a man who, disenchanted with sailing, had stepped off the boat and sold his Ericson 32 for $6,000 to the first taker. As a young couple, Becky and Tom became hopeful that they could find a similar disenchanted sailor. Why not?
It didn’t happen exactly that way, of course. The boat that became Cabaret, their cruising sailboat, was a 34-foot Cal 2-34. She won their hearts and most of their paychecks for several years until they quit their teaching jobs in Oregon and headed north. The book describes their search for jobs in Alaska, living aboard through two winters while completing their boat payments, and then taking off for the South Pacific, via the Baja. As they think back, Alaska wins as their favorite cruising ground.
Much of the book describes their voyage in terms of places they went, people they met, and their personal growth as the years went by and they gained experience and confidence. Many sailors who are considering an extended cruise would benefit from the insights they gained. Many sailors who have been out there cruising would enjoy the enthusiasm with which this couple attacked life and the humor with which they learned its lessons. Becky has won several awards for Life was a Cabaret. You can find it in your local bookstore. Take a look inside and see if this cruising account is right for you.
by Paul Dean Coker (Coastwise Communications, 2006; 476 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
With The Figurehead, released in September 2006, Paul “Dean” Coker has created the first of a series he calls the Carter Phillips Sailing Adventures.
With this introduction to his sailor and architect protagonist, Dean creates a cast of characters who Carter meets when he settles in Marblehead, Mass., to commission his sailboat. Before long, Carter is helping with the construction of a wooden schooner and involved on the fringes of a group of Irish Americans who are working to support the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Before his boat is launched, Carter has formed some lasting friendships, been practically adopted by a family, and fallen in love…all of which make it difficult to leave Marblehead as the spring ripens into summer.
Because the Northern Ireland situation is hotly contested by several groups, there is mystery and intrigue along with a couple of surprises for the unsuspecting reader. And there is an interesting look at the tsunami of 2004 as it affected the Maldive Islands off the southern tip of India. (To find out how that was worked into the plot of a novel set in Massachusetts, you have to read the book.) There are spies and counterspies, all monitored by the U.S. Coast Guard and other government agencies.
Because this is a Carter Phillips Sailing Adventure, there is also some excitement at sea when things go from bad to worse during some rough weather. As I was expecting a sailing adventure, I would have liked for Carter to spend more time at sea and less time trying to understand the locals.
Dean Coker has an active imagination and a good writing style. At times he’s positively inspired. But this book suffers from the lack of concise editing and spends too much time setting the scene before the action heats up halfway into the book.
The Irish/Massachusetts dialect is well represented in this book, but it becomes a distraction when, in order to follow the story, the reader must translate pages of dialogue between characters with strong brogues back into English.
Nevertheless, The Figurehead introduces a likeable character in Carter Phillips and is a reasonable attempt for a first novel.
So Long, Foxtrot Charlie
by John Vigor, audiobook narrated by Theresa Meis (produced by Good Old Boat, 2006; 2 hours; $15.00/download, $19.95/MP3 CD/$24.00/audio CD)
Reviewed by Morgan Doyle, age 12, St. Paul, Minn.
Be sure to fully charge your portable CD player before you start listening to So Long, Foxtrot Charlie. I wanted to keep listening to this audio CD, but my iPod battery ran out. I had to wait for my dad to charge it before I could get back to this story!
So Long, Foxtrot Charlie was written by John Vigor and narrated by Theresa Meis. This audio CD has an introduction spoken by John Vigor himself! So Long, Foxtrot Charlie is one of the stories John Vigor wrote for children. Sally Steals an Elephant and Danger, Dolphins, and Ginger Beer are two other stories for kids by this talented author.
In So Long, Foxtrot Charlie, Foxtrot Charlie faces many dangers and gets into a lot of trouble with his constant question, “How does it work?” This is an adventurous tale of three very normal kids who face starvation and come out on top. Foxtrot Charlie gets stuck in a dishwasher, makes a cannon, and shreds the sports section of the newspaper. He also finally makes friends with Sara, who had disliked him from the start, when they get stranded on an island with Owl and Sara’s dad, who has a broken leg that needs medical attention.
This audio CD is perfect for most elementary and middle school students. Since there are both boy and girl characters, this is great for boys and girls. If any of your kids read Swallows and Amazons, this CD is in the same genre. I can’t wait for my dad to charge the iPod so I can listen to Sally Steals an Elephant.
Capt’n Pauley’s Boat Repairs and Upgrades
by Paul Esterle (Capt’n Pauley Productions, 2006; 261 pages; $28.95 USD)
Reviewed by Dave Aultfather, Sarasota, Fla.
Capt’n Pauley’s Boat Repairs and Upgrades is a collection of 78 short how-to articles written by Paul Esterle that were first published in Nor’easter Magazine. Most articles are about three pages in length, including drawings and photos. They are clearly written and the excellent illustrations and photos make them easy to understand. This makes Capt’n Pauley’s Boat Repairs and Upgrades an ideal coffee table book for casual reading and daydreaming because one can pick it up and read an interesting article from start to finish in just a few minutes. However, because the articles are well indexed and contain valuable information for anyone contemplating a project or repair, it can serve equally well as a reference.
This delightful book is the product of Paul Esterle’s considerable experience and his special ability to share that experience with the reader. He states in his introduction that he has done most of the projects and processes he describes in the book. His personal experience is quite evident in his detailed explanations and sage advice. Despite his extensive knowledge and firsthand experience, he does not come off as a know-it-all. His conversational tone is easy to read and, after you have read a few of the articles, you will appreciate the way he can explain complicated ideas in simple terms we can all understand, without sacrificing clarity and accuracy.
Because the book is a collection of articles, it is quite different from most other books about boat repairs and improvements. For example, Don Casey’s book, This Old Boat, chronicles a complete restoration of a single boat from start to finish while Dan Spurr and Bruce Bingham’s classic, Spurr’s Guide to Upgrading the Cruising Sailboat, shows examples of improvements for offshore sailing. By contrast, Capt’n Pauley’s Boat Repairs and Upgrades covers a wider, more eclectic, variety of boating-related topics and projects than most others and it appears that it was written for two types of readers. The first is the boatowner who wants to read about many kinds of repairs and upgrades for the sake of increasing general understanding or to consider projects that he or she may someday want to do. The second is the boatowner who wants a reference book that can provide a concise overview of what is involved in making a specific repair or upgrade. Readers in this second group may use the book as a starting point and then may seek additional detailed information from other sources. Readers from both groups will find the book worthwhile and enjoyable.
by Good Old Boat magazine, audiobook narrated by Karen Larson (produced by Good Old Boat, 2006; 5.9 hours; $20.00/download, $24.95/MP3 CD/$32.00/audio CD)
Reviewed by Gordon Thompson, Aloha, Ore.
Bookends is a collection of stories from two editorial columns, “The View From Here” and “The Last Tack,” which appear in Good Old Boat magazine. I usually pay little attention to editorial columns, preferring to go right to the meat of why I buy the magazine in the first place. I’ve been missing a lot, as these columns make good listening entertainment. The columns are narrated by Karen Larson who, along with her husband, Jerry Powlas, and an occasional guest writer, alternates writing them. Karen is easy to listen to; she speaks well and in terms you can understand
Many books about sailing have you thrashing around some cape in gale-force winds, and they often spend too much time on the misery that can be encountered when sailing offshore. In Bookends, you are most likely to be doing what all of us really do: swinging on the hook, surveying your surroundings, or doing the mundane tasks that keep our craft afloat.
While I found most of the articles very entertaining, a couple of the articles rambled on and lost my interest. Some of the articles are humorous, like the wildlife sightings and the comparison of docking the boat with driving the tow vehicle. Thankfully, only one column was politically oriented. The articles are short, so if you don’t like what you are listening to, just wait.
My only suggestion is that the index include the subject. As it is now, if I want to re-visit an article, I need to remember what date it appeared in the magazine, rather than simply looking for the subject.
One of my favorite columns is a guest editorial done by Don Casey. Don, while philosophizing about what makes a good old boat, advises buying a boat you can afford, lavishing her with the best in essential equipment, and casting off your lines.
To that I say, “Amen!”
Sailing Alone Around the World
by Joshua Slocum, audiobook narrated by Jerry Stearns with an introduction by John Vigor (produced by Good Old Boat; 6.8 hours; $15.00/download, $19.95/MP3 CD, $24.00/audio CD)
Reviewed by Mark and Diana Doyle (authors of Managing the Waterway), St. Paul, Minn.
Mark: I finally made it and I’m glad I did! I’ve tried to read this book a couple of times before and never got through it. For some reason it just never caught and I’d end up putting it aside. I believe everyone should read—or listen to— Slocum’s account of circumnavigating the world. Not only was it the first singlehanded circumnavigation, but he did it at a time when it was believed to be impossible. There was no Panama or Suez Canal and sailboats simply weren’t sailed with a crew of one back in 1895.
Diana: I’m not an audiobook person: I like to read the written word. But that being said, I have to admit I’ve never taken the time to read Slocum’s classic book. So if you’ve never experienced Sailing Alone Around the World, you should, so get the audiobook instead of procrastinating any longer!
Mark: Slocum is an excellent storyteller, with simple factual writing and a modest tone. And with Slocum’s lean and compelling prose, it’s a perfect book for audio. Jerry Stearns’ clean and straightforward reading is a natural complement to Slocum’s literary tone.
Diana: Any cruiser can easily relate to Slocum’s story, even if you have no intention of circumnavigating. So many of his experiences are part of the culture of contemporary coastal cruising: the hospitality of new acquaintances, the camaraderie among other sailors out on the water, the logistics of provisions and boat repairs, and the lifelike affection for one’s vessel. It was fascinating to hear his perspective on these emotions and events of life on Spray.
Mark: It’s also easy to relate to (and admire) this modest character. Here’s a man who lived his life as a sea captain but has his “heart in his mouth” the first time he brings Spray into port alone. All the old fishermen run down to the wharf hoping for the thrill of a calamity, but Slocum docks her so lightly “she would not have broken an egg.” You cheer for his success while he admits that if he says a word he’ll betray his shaking voice and nervous shortness of breath!
Diana: The quiet seafaring captain from Nova Scotia was prescient in many ways. I chuckled when he said the local ladies were so curious about the technical aspects of solo circumnavigating that he predicted there would be “sailing mistresses.” It took 80 years, but in 1979 Naomi James became the first woman to solo-circumnavigate via Cape Horn.
Mark: Slocum was also right on the money (pun intended) about the endless trap of new navigation gadgets! He laments about the “newfangled notions of navigation” — that a mariner must have a chronometer. “Fifteen dollars!” he says. Nothing has changed in the world of navigation: instead of chronometers, now it’s that large-screen color chartplotter!
Mark and Diana: In all, two earbuds up!
Sailing Away from Winter
by Silver Donald Cameron (Douglas Gibson books, 2006; 376 pages; $25.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
It’s great fun to go cruising with Silver Donald Cameron. Through his books we’ve traveled with him several times, and each time has been a pleasure. Don’s tales of his voyages introduce his readers to people he meets, places he visits, and events along the way. He tells us about their background and, through these historical glimpses, what they’ve become today. Don makes strangers and strange places meaningful to us. With the latest book, Sailing Away from Winter, readers will also develop a fondness for Don; his wife, Marjorie; and Leo, their aging wonder whippet and boat dog, also known as the BFD (brave and faithful dog).
This trio buys a motorsailer specifically for a 1,500-mile trip from Nova Scotia to the Bahamas, sailing away from a Canadian winter season via the Intracoastal Waterway. They are richly rewarded with an entire range of cruising experiences along the way. Pack your sea bag and enter their world; your own horizons will be broadened as a result.
Don acquired the “Silver” moniker in Nova Scotia, where the name Cameron is common enough for the need to distinguish between several Donald Camerons. Don, the author and sailor, is the one with the white hair. In this book he could have been called “Dandelion Don,” because he had a terrible time finding a barber along the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., and that thatch of white hair became a halo before a hairdresser was finally located.
I have always admired Don as a master with words, and he’s done it again. His description of an evening in Halifax is a good example. “Catherine MacKinnon picked up her fiddle and began another haunting slow air, plangent and sweet and melancholy. It felt like an ethereal exhalation from the most ancient parts of the soul. And the past was all around us — the Acadians, the forts, the salty old seaport, the historic ships both above the water and below it. Sitting on the deck of a schooner, surrounded by my country’s past and bathed in its music, poised to sail into an unknown future, I suddenly realized that I knew exactly who I was, and exactly where I was. And I liked it.”
Don is honest about their trip down the Intracoastal Waterway. Equipment failed, the weather was sometimes unpleasant, clearing U.S. customs was a hassle, and grocery shopping and laundry became major events. Because they were making a late-season delivery, they pushed too hard and moved too fast. Sometimes lonely, at other times they had more social interaction than needed. But they had a good time, learned much about themselves and others, and found that they were fitter and younger-feeling than when they left. Once in the Bahamas, the pace slowed, and the madcap race to arrive was forgotten.
Reading this book will whet your appetite for more by Silver Donald Cameron. I can wholeheartedly recommend that path. You won’t regret any of the journeys you make with this man whose words are silver. Perhaps that’s a better reason for the additional name he has worn so well for so long.
Sally Steals an Elephant
by John Vigor, audiobook narrated by Theresa Meis (produced by Good Old Boat, 2006; 2 hours; $15.00/download, $19.95/MP3 CD, $24.00/audio CD)
Reviewed by Morgan Doyle, age 12, St. Paul, Minn.
Sally Steals an Elephant is by John Vigor, who also wrote So Long, Foxtrot Charlie and Danger, Dolphins, and Ginger Beer. Sally Steals an Elephant is the sequel to Danger, Dolphins, and Ginger Beer. All three audio CDs are narrated by Theresa Meis. She reads clearly and changes the tone of her voice to match the characters. The book comes to life as if the characters are actually speaking. The PDF map, included with this audio CD, helped me understand and visualize the adventure.
The main characters are Sally and her two younger brothers, Peter and Andy Grant. They are sailing around the world with their father on a diesel-powered monohull. The story begins with the Grant children in the jungles of South Africa. They notice a tethered elephant outside the town and go to look at it. They discover a zookeeper is mistreating the elephant so the Grant children decide to rescue the elephant at night. But the frightened elephant runs off into the jungle; now the Grants have to find the elephant before the evil zookeeper does.
This audio CD is best for ages 8 to 12. You don’t have to be a boating kid to enjoy this story, but it was fun to listen to the kids’ explorations by dinghy. I had a great time listening to Sally Steals an Elephant.
Marine Diesel Engines: Maintenance and Repair Manual
by Jean-Luc Pallas (Sheridan House, Inc., 2006; 208 pages; $29.95)
Reviewed by Will Sibley, Shady Side, Md.
In this lavishly illustrated volume, Jean-Luc Pallas, professor of Recreational Marine Mechanics at La Rochelle Technical College in France, has produced what I would regard as a “must-read” reference for owners whose boats have diesel auxiliary propulsion systems. I say this from the perspective of one who has owned sailboats for 70 years and who now (after an academic career) runs a small-scale solo business repairing sailboats on Chesapeake Bay.
Replete with diagrams, drawings, and photographs, this volume is suitable for owners who do serious maintenance work themselves and also for those who farm out this work but who need to be well informed.
The volume begins with a section on theory: diesel operation, fuel and air supplies, lubrication, cooling, propulsion, and electrical systems and includes many explanatory diagrams, graphs, and explanations of how things work.
Theoretical matter is followed with a thorough section on maintenance, including schedules, tools needed, and a listing of multiple tasks within the ability of any reasonably adept diesel owner. Information is included on batteries, stuffing boxes, and shaft seals in addition to maintenance guidance for the engine itself. This section, too, is profusely and usefully illustrated. Though the pictures may not be of a particular owner’s engine, the basic operations are clearly shown. The wise diesel owner will also invest in manuals for her/his specific engine model to supplement this general guide. Generally, factory repair manuals can be purchased to supplement the basic, but often minimal, information provided with engines installed by boatbuilders.
For the more skilled and/or adventurous do-it-yourself owners, there follows an excellent repair section, with pictures of typical operations ranging from valve adjustment to engine rebuilding and replacement. Much of this may be beyond the ken of most owners — but being well informed can avoid misunderstanding and unnecessary expense when dealing with mechanics and boatyards.
A section on breakdowns includes an extensive table of symptoms and solutions and is followed with an excellent essay on winterizing, then restarting a diesel engine after winter storage.
There is much meat here. The price seems quite reasonable for such a useful compendium of information.
Cruising: The Basics
by Zora and David Aiken (The Lyons Press, 2006; 209 Pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Joseph Orefice, Baltimore, Md.
When you see a book title like Cruising: The Basics, you would normally assume that it would cover ground about the cruising lifestyle: sailing from port to port, provisioning, and the sort of tips and tricks sailors generally pick up while adventuring out from the dock for weekends, weeks, or months. Such books have been written, but this book isn’t one of them.
More suitable is this book’s original title, Cruising: The Illustrated Essentials. This title gives you a better impression of what you will find inside. It condenses the likes of the Annapolis Book of Seamanship and Chapman’s Piloting, Seamanship & Small Boat Handling into the bare minimum of what you need to know when sailing or motoring.
The book organization is well executed and, overall, authors Zora and David Aiken succeed in getting the information across by breaking it down into various bite-sized topics. The navigation section covers the basics such as lights, buoys, sound signals, and plotting a course. The chapter on rules of the road is a nice refresher.
Section two is the largest of the three sections and covers the most ground. This is where the book really shines. It covers bridges, locks, towlines, anchoring, and riding waves. In addition, each section talks about how to handle encounters with commercial traffic. The third and final section covers weather, laws, insurance, and etiquette for boaters.
Considering it’s small size, Cruising: The Basics covers a lot of ground. Those of us who cruise will find it to be a good refresher or quick-reference book. It’s not a replacement for the larger books dedicated to the fine points of seamanship, but it doesn’t require much muscle to lift, either. It does have tips for cruising scattered throughout. The only noticeable shortcoming is that a chapter on sailing is absent; sailing isn’t even touched except during the “Rules of the Road” chapter.
Cruising: The Basics will shine as an introduction for friends who have never set foot on a boat. If you give them a good introduction to recreational boating and allow them to participate more, they’ll enjoy their time aboard and you’ll enjoy having them as guests.
A Ship’s Tale
by N. Jay Young (Boston Books, 2006; 358 pages, $19.95)
Reviewed by Jim Shroeger, Traverse City, Mich.
High seas adventure, piracy, kidnapping, political intrigue, an Irish Sea gale, and even a bit of romance…all this and more awaits the readers of A Ship’s Tale.
Jay Young tells a story about a group of tall-ship sailors who had more years at sea than a lapstrake dory has copper rivets. These stalwarts were led by Captain Bowman and aided in their adventure by two Royal Navy sailors just released from service after WW II. Add an enticing barmaid and an entire orphanage of teen-aged boys and you have the cast of characters for A Ship’s Tale.
The story revolves around Captain Bowman and his crew, who were determined to save the Bonnie Clyde, a true good old boat! The Clyde was a 300-foot, three-masted bark that the local politicians determined was a relic of the past and needed to be scuttled in order to clean up the waterfront. What the politicians did not know was that Captain Bowman and his band were planning to abscond with the Clyde and sail her to the boatyard in Scotland where she was built. She was to be rebuilt there and preserved as a museum ship.
The rescue involved a 1,000-mile voyage in waters that were notorious for bad weather. The Clyde was crewed by young, inexperienced boys sailing a ship that had been provisioned by felonious acquisitions of ship’s stores from the area Royal Navy yard and the local circus. Along the way they were caught in a powerful gale, offered aid to the U.S. Navy and, in return, were aided by a U.S. submarine. An entire network of ham-radio operators also came to the Clyde’s assistance.
Was the Clyde safely delivered to her home port or was the entire crew arrested for piracy? The answer to those and many other questions awaits the readers of A Ship’s Tale. Jay Young has created a wonderful sea adventure that is exciting, believable, and a real page-turner.
Practical Sailor — Guide to Sailing Gear
edited by Dan Dickison (Lyons Press, 2006; 296 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Al Horner, Victoria, B.C.
A practical test of whistles? Yup. It’s right there on page 184 in “Safety and Survival.” If you own a good old boat, you need this book.
This book was created from articles published in Practical Sailor magazine over a number of years. It’s not just a reprint of articles; a lot of the testing details have been condensed to provide the most useful information in the fewest pages. Yet the editors haven’t skimped on details; in every section they provide background. For example, in the section on high-tech line, there’s an explanation of the variety of modern line components, then the testing of various lines. A similar approach is taken with almost all of the gear tests and comparisons. Depending on how you use your boat, coastal versus off-shore, it’s possible to narrow the choices to the best gear for your boat and your type of sailing.
The book is well laid out and while you may not be interested in all of the sections, it’s a good cover-to-cover read. The best use after the initial reading is to put it on your reference shelf, where it’s available the next time you need to replace things, maintain things, or just putter — it’s reassuring to confirm you’ve been using the right caulking, boat cleaners, and waxes, for example.
Topics are grouped logically and range from deck hardware to plumbing, electrical systems, safety and survival, creature comforts, and more. Other excellent features are the numerous sidebars, tables, and photos that give summaries of information.
One caveat: the editors admit that prices are not current. This can be a bit disconcerting at first but, as they point out, the given prices will provide a relative comparison that is useful when you go to your favorite chandler. The eight pages of websites and contact information may even help you pick the right source of the gear you need. You can do a lot of homework with the help of these resources.
This is an excellent book for anyone who owns a sailboat, new or old. It packs a lot of information into its pages. I wish I’d had this book when I refitted Water Rat II.
Mudlark’s Ghosts and the Restoration of a Herreshoff Meadow Lark
by Ian Scott (Sheridan House, 2006, 172 pages, $19.95)
Reviewed by Janet Perkins, Stone Mountain, Ga.
A man who owns 11 boats, six on one side of the Atlantic and five on the other, is either eccentric…or truly loves boats. Ian Scott, the author of Mudlark’s Ghosts, is the latter.
His story of 12 years spent restoring Mudlark, a 1953 custom modification of L. Francis Herreshoff’s Meadow Lark sharpie design, leaves no doubt of his affection for the wooden boats he considers a valued heritage, but his devotion was sorely tried by the restoration of this one.
For a boat professionally designed and built, Mudlark suffered a surprising number of design and construction shortcomings, including a sailplan and lee board positioning that caused lee helm and significant problems with the hull. Therein lies the “ghosts” part of the book’s title. No haunts, just the author’s doing what probably every restorer of an older boat would love to do: ask questions of the designer/builder. Since Mudlark’s are deceased, Ian imagines the conversations…a feat he carries off convincingly.
There are several interwoven stories. One deals with choosing Mudlark in spite of her problems, another with the author’s appreciation of wooden boats. Then there is the aforementioned effort to understand the decisions made by those who shaped and built the boat, and the restorations that eventually meant taking the boat apart and rebuilding — a project the author undertook to do himself after retiring.
Devastatingly honest about his initial lack of skill or knowledge, Ian has a gift for putting into words the experiences of boatkeeping and boat restoration to which anyone who has done either can relate. “I learned that there were limits to my time-tested belief that by promising the ridiculous I could achieve the impossible,” and “With age and experience I had learned the best can sometimes be the enemy of the good and that the good was often good enough” may sound familiar. He is justifiably proud of what he accomplished and says he wrote the book “to demonstrate that anybody can take on projects like this if they really want to…and (truly) that if I can do it anybody can do it.”
Ian Scott is a fine writer — articulate, passionate, organized, and possessed of that self-deprecating English humor that enlivens. Having finished Mudlark with the observation that “there will always be something to improve,” he and his wife sailed off to spend 2007 exploring shallow waters. We can hope the “ghosts” approve and another chapter in the old boat’s life will appear.
A Berth to Bermuda – 100 Years of the World’s Classic Ocean Race
by John Rousmaniere (Mystic Seaport and The Cruising Club of America, 2006; 206 pages; $50.00)
Reviewed by George Zimmerman, Olympia, Wash.
In order to encourage the design, building, and sailing of small seaworthy yachts, to make popular cruising upon deep water, to develop in the amateur sailor a love of true seamanship, and to give opportunity to become proficient in the art of navigation, an ocean race has been planned…
(Preamble to the notice of the Bermuda Race in 1926 and years thereafter)
In 1906 Thomas Fleming Day organized a race that began in Brooklyn, New York, and headed east-southeast over 700 miles of blue water, crossed the Gulf Stream, and finished in Bermuda. The revolutionary thinking behind the Bermuda Race was his idea that ocean racing was not just for professional sailors in large vessels sponsored by wealthy tycoons, but rather “the ocean is a playground where amateur sailors cannot only sail small boats, but race them offshore.”
Thomas Day felt that “small vessels are safer than large, provided they are properly designed, stoutly built, thoroughly equipped, and skillfully manned.” His idea was met with skepticism, ridicule, and fear. Those fears were heard. Of the five crews supposed to compete in the first race, only three started. Rumors had it these boats had funeral wreaths delivered to them so the sailors could have a proper burial at sea. All three sailboats finished the race and all crewmembers survived. A tradition had been started and the race to Bermuda continues to present day.
A Berth to Bermuda chronicles each race (usually every two years) that has been held over the last 100 years. It also describes how the races taught yacht designers and builders, sailors, and navigators about sailing small boats on the open ocean. With his thoughtful analysis and commentary, author John Rousmaniere shows how the lessons learned from each race promoted changes in every aspect of sailing: yacht design and construction, sail making, racing tactics, seamanship, safety requirements, and navigation. The many photographs highlight these changes. They also show, from a historical perspective, how during the 100-year history of this race, sailing has changed from a sport reserved only for the rich to a sport of the common man. By the end of the book, it is readily apparent that one man’s idea and an ocean race played a significant role in creating the modern sport of sailing.
John Rousmaniere, author of 22 books, has sailed more than 35,000 miles, including seven Newport to Bermuda races. He is a member of the Cruising Club of America. His knowledge of boats and seamanship are put to good use in the organization and writing of this well-written book. The many photographs and detailed historical accounts of each race bring to life the sailors, racing tactics, and sailboats that participated in this challenging race. The reader is transported through time into the cockpit of ocean-going yachts racing through the Gulf Stream, while being informed of how the sport of sailing reinvented itself. It is an important book for the serious sailor as well as the curious sailor who wonders about the “why” and the “how” of the sport that occupies so much of his life.
Dictionary of Nautical Acronyms and Abbreviations
by Donald Launer (Sheridan House, 2006; 145 pages; $13.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
SYWNTB. After paging through Dictionary of Nautical Acronyms and Abbreviations, by Donald Launer, that’s my new acronym for Someday You Will Need This Book. Count on it.
This book, published by Sheridan House, may keep you and your boat out of trouble if you don’t recognize an unusual notation on a nautical chart. Or it may end an argument regarding the true meaning of a familiar and overused acronym. If nothing else, it will expand your nautical gray matter with useful and trivial tidbits.
Donald Launer compiled all the relevant nautical acronyms and abbreviations because he wanted a reference of this type for his own use. And he was kind enough to share it with the rest of us.
Don says, “Today, abbreviations, acronyms, and truncations are being used with increasing frequency. This is partly due to the widespread use of more sophisticated equipment on board, along with their associated complexities, and partly due to the sometimes mistaken belief that these abbreviations simplify explanations and identifications.
“For those new to boating,” he continues, “this problem is especially daunting, since it seems as if they are listening to or reading a foreign language. While many nautical terms, in themselves, can be confusing, some of the acronyms and abbreviations can be bewildering, and the many new abbreviations dealing with modern electronics can be mystifying, even for old salts.”
This book is organized in two parts. The first is an alphabetical listing of acronyms and abbreviations, as you would expect. It includes NOAA chart notations (in a much more convenient organization than the one offered by NOAA, which requires you to search for a notation such as dk or bu section by section). The dk means dark, by the way, and bu means blue. Black had already taken bl. Don lists these notations in italic type, as shown here, according to NOAA chart protocol., The second part of this book is an annotated version of Chart No. 1, in case you really do prefer to search for dk section by section.
This book provides helpful illustrations as well for abbreviations such as CB for center of buoyancy of a boat or Dec for declination of a celestial body. What do the words really mean? The illustrations will come in very handy. In fact, this entire book will come in very handy when you need it. What did I say? SYWNTB. Someday You Will Need This Book.
Outboard Motors: Maintenance and Repair Manual
by Jean-Luc Pallas (Sheridan House, 2006; 112 pages; $23.50)
Reviewed by Will Sibley, Shady Side, Md.
In this volume, which includes a profusion of diagrams and photographs, Jean-Luc Pallas, professor of Recreational Mechanics at La Rochelle Technical College in France, provides a most valuable resource for all outboard engine users, ranging from those who allocate all maintenance and repair to others to dedicated do-it-yourselfers willing to tackle serious maintenance and repair tasks themselves. My comments are from the perspective of a long-time sailboat owner who now operates a small-scale solo sailboat repair business on Chesapeake Bay.
Though individual engines may vary, general principles governing the care and feeding of the numerous brands of both 2-cycle and 4-cycle outboards are much the same. Wise outboard owners will, in addition to owning useful volumes such as the one reviewed here, purchase engine-specific repair manuals to supplement the meager information supplied when most engines are purchased. The more information one has, the less likely one is to be taken in or cheated by less-than-straightforward mechanics or repair facilities.
This book begins with information on the theory and operation of 2- and 4-cycle outboards. Their anatomy, operation, and terminology are explored thoroughly, supplemented with numerous diagrams, photos, and drawings. Essays on fuel, ignition, cooling, drive systems and lubrication are included among the topics covered.
Following the theory and operation section is an extensive review of maintenance issues, including instrumentation, noise analysis, cooling and fuel systems. Then comes a section on scheduled maintenance, along with an extensive list of hands-on tasks, ranging from checking and changing sparkplugs to carburetor adjustments to battery maintenance.
A chapter on breakdowns follows. Such events always seem to occur at the most inconvenient times, making this portion of the book among its most useful. The breakdown tables provide a list of problems, along with listings of probable causes for each problem area. The repair solutions suggested provide a good troubleshooting guide to getting oneself out of difficulty.
The volume ends with an extensive, illustrated essay on laying up and storing the outboard at the end of a season. A conversion table for commonly used units of measurement (lengths, liquids, capacities, weights, etc.) provides an endpiece for this useful book, along with a useful index.
This reasonably priced volume would be a worthy addition to any outboard owner’s bookshelf!
Blue Water Odyssey
DVD produced by Robert G. Driscoll (CustomFlix, 2006; 90 minutes; $19.95)
Reviewed by Sylvia Horvath, Vancouver, B.C.
Blue Water Odyssey is a top-notch “home movie,” in which the viewer is invited to share the adventure of a family’s five-year sailing voyage around the world. A wooden gaff-rigged Sea Witch ketch, 36 feet on deck with a 13 foot beam, certainly qualifies as a good old boat. She carried this family of five from San Diego, California, across the Pacific to Hawaii, touching some islands off the beaten track in the South Pacific, then down to Australia. They passed to the Indian Ocean via the Torres Strait, then to South Africa and around the Cape of Good Hope. They crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean, stopping at St. Helena, some islands near Brazil, then through the Panama Canal and home.
From their mention of the Gilbert Islands’ becoming independent, the voyage must have taken place some time in the 1970s. Therefore, as a travelogue, it may well be outdated. However, the portrayal of exotic native ceremonies and practices is interesting and informative.
There are some beautiful scenes and fun family times at sea and at anchor, well photographed but poorly edited. The music, which is original, seems to dictate the length of the scenes, rather than being used as background to enhance the mood. Consequently, most scenes run on too long and this viewer’s interest soon waned. Compounding this is the uninspired narration. Since it has apparently been transcribed from the original film to a digital format, there are some technical film glitches and the quality of the color is inconsistent.
Compared to most home movies, however, this one has some excellent amateur cinematography and interesting scenes that — with some judicious editing, improved narration, and background music — could be of interest to cruising clubs or armchair cruisers. As it stands, it is sure to be a treasured record of this family’s unique adventure for generations to come.
The Working Guide to Traditional Small-boat Sails: A How-to Handbook for Builders and Owners
by David L. Nichols (Breakaway Books, 2006; 96 pages; $21.95)
Reviewed by Glenn Kaufmann, Bloomington, Ind.
As a result of class and regatta handicapping requirements, the Marconi rig has more or less evolved into the default modern-day sail plan. But for many boatbuilders and sailors, a triangular jib paired with a larger triangular mainsail may not be the best choice, either aesthetically or for reasons of efficiency.
In this new volume from Breakaway Books, veteran boatbuilder David L. Nichols counsels that the best way to move your boat forward may be to look backward, to the sailing rigs of the past. As a boatbuilder and sailmaker with more than 15 years of experience, Nichols has put together a nuts and bolts guide to traditional sailing rigs that thoroughly explores the sails, spars, and rigging of numerous traditional sail plans.
Beginning with a basic treatise on sail anatomy and aerodynamics, the author establishes a fundamental understanding of the working properties of sails, before launching into any serious design discussion. This introductory section is followed up with an equally well-founded chapter on the importance of sound marlinespike skills. Nichols explains that from whipping a line to seizing an eye, good marlinespike skills may not only save you money, but could save your bacon when rigging fails., The book’s greatest asset is its detailed discussion of how to replace a modern sail plan with a traditional rig. In particular, the author includes the measurements and calculations needed to figure the Center of Effort for both modern and traditional sail. He then explains why this information is important, and how to use these figures to efficiently design your rig.
Specific sailing rigs covered in the book include the sliding gunter, sprit sail, a variety of lug sails, gaff sails, and a section on variants of traditional designs. In discussing each of the designs, the author stresses that they all represent a compromise and offer a unique set of tradeoffs. While he does discuss the advantages of different rigs and how they were originally used, Mr. Nichols is careful not to definitively discuss which sails work best on particular boats. He leaves it for the reader to decide which rig will fit his or her own vessel.
In the end, though the book has quite a few typos and small editorial glitches, it is packed with lots of clear photos, detailed instructions, and is a good first reference book for anyone wanting to study traditional sail plans. Mr. Nichols does an excellent job of explaining the fundamentals in terms that are useful to old salts looking to tweak their rigs, builders trying to figure out what’s next, and admirers of traditional design.
Trekka Round the World
by John Guzzwell, audiobook narrated by the author (Produced by Good Old Boat, 2007; 9.7 hours; 2007; $25.00)
Reviewed by Durkee Richards Sequim, Wash.
This audiobook should come with a warning: may be life altering! It is inspiring to “look over the shoulder” of a recent immigrant lad as he proceeds quietly and surely to make his dreams a reality. The adventures he relates and the word pictures he paints of places and people encountered during his voyages may awaken an urge in the readers to pursue their own dreams.
I was immediately engrossed in this tale. However, being constitutionally unable to sit for 9+ hours by the computer, and being among the last of my generation to navigate life without an iPod/MP3 player, I burned a set of the expanded files to CDs (nine of them) that I could listen to while driving. I soon found myself driving to distant chandleries, and making frequent trips to the marina for small boat projects (“life altering” comes in many forms).
John Guzzwell arrived in Victoria, Calif., a young man in his early 20s, with a small satchel of clothes and a box of woodworking tools, a love of the sea inherited from his father, and a dream to make a long voyage in a boat of his own. He quickly found work using his skills as a ‘joiner.’ With a profound but quiet sense of self-confidence, he set about his dream of a small voyaging boat. John corresponded with J. Laurent Giles, who agreed to design a suitable vessel. Next, John found a space for rent where he could begin construction of Trekka — a storeroom behind a fish and chips shop. He purchased wood with savings from his various day jobs and made surprisingly quick work of Trekka’s construction, completing her hull and deck in nine months.
John launched Trekka into the inner harbor of Victoria in August 1954. Her masts and rigging were in place the next spring so that John and Trekka could learn one another’s ways. On September 10, 1955, well down on her lines from the stores aboard, they headed out the Strait of Juan de Fuca en route to Hawaii. A diversion to San Francisco for minor repairs proved fortuitous. There, he met Miles and Beryl Smeeton and their daughter Clio, who were cruising aboard their wooden ketch, Tzu Hang. A strong friendship quickly developed. They agreed to sail in company to Hawaii, and then on to New Zealand, arriving in May 1956.
In New Zealand, a new plan developed. John had Trekka laid up so that he could sail with the Smeetons on the square-rigger route around Cape Horn. On February 14, 1957, while running before an awesome sea, about 1000 miles west of Chile, Tzu Hang pitchpoled. John quietly recounts their combined efforts to make Tzu Hang watertight again and construct a jury rig with sufficient sail to make landfall in Caronel, Chile.
Once reunited with Trekka back in New Zealand, John felt confident in proceeding on around the world. He and Trekka crossed their wake in the Hawaii Islands on July 27, 1959. His was the first circumnavigation by a Canadian, and for a while,Trekka was the smallest boat to circumnavigate.
This book is an acknowledged classic that has already inspired other cruisers who are now well-known for their own accomplishments. Hearing the tale told by the author makes this book an especially welcome addition to any library. John concludes with a final caution of sorts: “The sea has an enchantment that may captivate you and make you a bit of a misfit on land.”
Travels With Yeti
by Hiram Connell (Back Channel Press, 2006; 200 pages; $24.95)
Reviewed by Donald Chambers, Lawrence, Kan.
Here is the story of an enthusiastic sailing couple and their five-year wander down the Atlantic Coast and through the Caribbean to Venezuela and back. You get the complete story, starting from their very first dinghy sail to the final, sale of Yeti, the sailboat that entwined their lives over so many years. It would be a character-building read for those who have been tempted to do something similar; your heart will warm toward an author who spares us no details about the mistakes he makes along the way to becoming a seasoned cruiser. And there are some exciting descriptions of sailing in rough weather, including what it is like to have your mainsail split by high winds while in the middle of the ocean.
There are odd characters met on the beach, odd goings-on in strange boats in the middle of the night, the great (and miserable) food, and the frustrating encounters with local Caribbean police and customs officers. There are brief descriptions of islands and anchorages and lots of judgments about good ports-of-call plus some details about those a person might want to avoid. And while there was probably too much on dealing with engine problems, it was comforting to learn that other people also had these things happen to them at the worst possible time.
While the book is worthwhile, it sometimes can’t seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be a cruising guide or a memoir of a wonderful cruise of a lifetime. An author probably can’t do both in the same book, so it’s sometimes a bit short on both counts. The details about anchoring and navigation aren’t sufficient and there often is not enough about the people and their stories. One missing detail: while Hiram Connell’s wife, Helen, was an integral part of this adventure, I feel like I know almost nothing about her. Of course, he gives her heartfelt acknowledgments along the way but I wish he’d also given her a voice.
Other things could have been left out — perhaps half of the pictures and almost all of the editorial asides on the politics, the poverty and the graft in third-world countries. I suspect most readers know those facts already.
But there were some nice stories in the book: the spontaneous operatic concert in the Puerto Rico restaurant, the 25th wedding anniversary on some isolated island, the evening with Earl and the poetry and the waltzing. Yes, yes, author, give us more!
Joseph Conrad, Master Mariner
by Peter Villiers (Published in the UK by Seafarer Books; published in the USA by Sheridan House, 2006; 129 pages; $19.95)
Reviewed by Stephen Blair, Córdoba Province, Argentina
Joseph Conrad, the 19th-century novelist, was a master mariner whose life at sea was nearly as eventful as his novels. That is the premise of this exquisitely written biography of Conrad, which breaks new ground because it was based on a hitherto unpublished study by the expert sailor, Alan Villiers, whose work was completed after his death by his son, Peter Villiers. Although the book mentions points of contact between Conrad’s life at sea and his novels, the focus is firmly on Conrad as sailor, rather than as a writer. One need not like Conrad’s novels to enjoy the biography.
Despite the book’s wealth of detail about 19th-century sailing, it’s very accessible. The book includes a glossary of sailing terms and is illustrated by color reproductions of paintings of ships on which Conrad sailed. As a scholarly book with color reproductions, it would be equally at home on a coffee table, on the shelf of a yacht or in the office of a Conrad scholar. The book, however, contains no charts, so paragraphs on navigational routes will require some readers to consult a globe.
Conrad, after commanding a deep-water ship, took on a very different navigational task. In 1890 he steered a boat on Africa’s hot, dangerous Congo River, with which he had no familiarity. Conrad was appalled at the Belgians’ exploitation of Africans and this experience led Conrad to write the pessimistic, nightmarish novella Heart of Darkness. Any sailor with a genuine interest in the realities — economic, navigational, and experiential, of 19th-century merchant sailing will enjoy this book.
Dancing With the Wind: A Musical Meditation on the Romance of Sail
by Ed Verner (a Wind Ketcher production, 2007; 28 minutes plus extra footage and an original music sound track CD; $19.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Dancing With the Wind. I can’t decide about this new video produced as a DVD…is it the romantic sunset scene or the easy galloping motion of a vessel described through music? Perhaps it’s capturing the pleasure of leaving the dock in the morning or the pelican’s startled response to the oncoming sailboat. Maybe it’s the afternoon thunderstorm or the impromptu man-overboard drill. I’m a big fan of dawn and sunset moments. Perhaps that’s it! Or maybe it’s the poetic aerial shots of the easy motion of a sailboat as it meets each wave.
These scenes and all the rest are set to original music that effectively captures the spirit of sailing and draws the viewer in. There’s no need for talk and patronizing descriptions. Any-one can see the sailors on Wind Ketcher are having a good time. Any sailor will see this video and long to be aboard this or his own sailboat. Any non-sailor will ask, “Where can I sign up? How can I do this?” Ed says this video is not so much about how to sail; it’s about the why of sailing.
Come sailing with Ed and Amanda Verner and their sailing partner, Gil Gott. With Ed’s beautiful soundtrack emphasizing the rhythm of the sea, these three make sailing look easy and enjoyable. Ed is an accomplished musician, sailor, and movie director. He has assembled his love of sailing, of his classic sailboat, of his new wife, and of music into something that simply hasn’t been done before. He created a new kind of sailing video, and with it may very well have piloted a new genre of sailing DVD.
As I watched I couldn’t help but wonder whether Ed wrote the music to go with the footage or created the footage to go with the music. The two are perfectly matched. The answer lies in the behind-the-scenes description of the production. He created 28 minutes of music and crafted the scenes to match the mood of the melodies. My hat’s off to Ed Verner for this incredible performance. Bravo! Encore!
Ed will share the proceeds of the sale of this DVD — which has been packaged with an audio CD of the original music soundtrack — with three charities. Get your copy at http://www.dancingwiththewind.net, Ed’s equally professional website. Ed Verner is a published author in Good Old Boat and a good old boater in every respect. We’re proud to count him as one of “the rest of us.”
Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World
by Joan Druett (Algonquin Books, 2007; 284 pages; $24.95)
Reviewed by Victor Schreffler, Walnut Creek, Calif.
Island of the Lost is the well-written account of the fate of two sets of castaways on the Auckland Islands in 1864 through 1865. Remarkably, neither knew of the other’s existence as both groups struggled for survival through the many months, including a sub-antarctic winter. Though fewer in original number than the 19 initial survivors of the Invercauld, the Grafton’s crew faired much better due, in large part, to the courageous decision of one man to choose hope. His determination to recognize a greater providence, a commitment to egalitarian society, and his consistently upbeat leadership were essential to the survival of the five-man crew.
For those who need an excuse to enjoy a good book, the leadership principles throughout the work are very insightful. For others, the ongoing ingenuity and survival tactics recounted will prove informative. The construction of a sturdy lodge by the Grafton crew, the sod house on Rabbit Island by the ever-dwindling members of the Invercauld, and the eventual creation of a functional metal forge (using copper sheathing and charcoal) were interesting and inspiring solutions. If I’m ever shipwrecked…
Joan Druett has done a superb job of weaving together excellent research into a highly readable and fascinating account of survival and the sea. She writes with a thorough knowledge of the period and even her narrative interpolations reflect a stylistic consistency with the period. It is a fun read of an absorbing tale which, though a work of nonfiction, moves along at the pace of a good novel.
Small Boats on Green Waters
edited by Brian Anderson (Breakaway Books, 2007; 340 pages; $15.00)
Reviewed by Sylvia Horvath, Richmond, B.C.
Subtitled “A Treasury of Good Reading on Coastal and Inland Cruising,” this collection of excerpts from well-known to as-yet- unpublished authors is enjoyable cover to cover. Although they are excerpts from larger works, they have been chosen so well that they stand alone. Nevertheless, you may find yourself making notes of titles and authors that pique your interest for more.
As fellow “boat nuts,” we may enjoy in this collection everything from the whimsical adventures of Mole and Rat to historical naval battles. We are taken through the experiences and imaginations of a wide variety of people who have loved “messing about in small boats.” We can share the appreciation of fine craftsmanship in descriptions of small-boat building, the hardships of explorers, and the childhood discovery of the pleasures of boating.
One of the editor’s goals was to choose from the works of good writers, many of whom may be quite familiar to the average reader. However, he shows himself to be a good writer, also, in his informative and apropos introductions to each story. In his own readable style, he sheds light on the authors and the circumstances surrounding the stories, so that even familiar tales may be read with fresh enjoyment.
Small Boats on Green Waters would make a treasured addition to anyone’s library, especially on board where a short story at the end of a long day is just the thing to relax the mind. There is a danger, however, for you may even begin to long for the simpler life of sailing a small boat in shallow waters as you read of the pleasures to be found in less ambitious and less costly journeys. On the other hand, if you, like the editor in his boyhood, are “boatless, reading everything you can on the subject, and waiting for the day when you can lay your hands on something that will float,” perhaps you will be inspired to start out in a small boat and on the greenest water you can find near home.
An Affair of Honor
by Robert N. Macomber (Pineapple Press, 2006; 366 pages; $21.95)
Reviewed by Elizabeth Bloch, Naples, Fla.
This is the fifth novel in Robert Macomber’s series of historical naval fiction, which begins around the time of the Civil War with At the Edge of Honor. I have loved these books for the evolution of writing talent, the engaging stories and captivating characters. The content of the stories stimulates my sense of adventure and gives me the sense that I’m a member of the crew, a rare pleasure for a 21st century sailor who can now experience our Civil War era Navy only through great storytelling.
We continue to follow the life and career of U.S. Naval Officer Lieutenant Peter Wake as both he and the Navy navigate through some tricky politically charged waters. In the last book in the “Honor” series, A Dishonorable Few, Wake put himself on the line to protect U.S. interests and to salvage the tender political possibilities in the Caribbean. In this sequel Peter Wake receives the type of appreciation only a politically driven governmental agency can so disappointingly dole out. He is assigned to a sleepy West Indies patrol with the expectation he will be “punished” for a long enough time that the ruffled feathers in Washington will have time to recover. However, Wake’s propensity for being at the right place at the right time to save his country leaves him under suspicion of being an anti-British spy and causes him to be reassigned to a staff position in Europe where politics entangle him like a spider’s web.
Of course, our hero knows how to handle difficult situations and make them “interesting,” so his personal life and career move at a rapid pace. He has more adventures per ounce in this sequel than a reader has the right to hope for.
Amidst dangerous political maneuverings of Old World Europe, Wake must disentangle himself, and by proxy, the United States, from a multi-faceted smorgasbord of problems between the nations of Germany, France, Italy and Britain, all trying to gain position in the European continent or salvage what they can politically.
This story is intense, beautifully written, and the experience is worthy of a very slowly savored reading.
Personal Best: Chasing the Wind Above and Below the Equator
by Edward Muesch (Virtualbookworm.com Publishing, 2006; 286 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Ed and Helen Muesch have left a wide wake on the sea of experience. They have lived as farm workers in a commune, raising crops and animals. Later they joined the rat race of corporate America. Then, chasing a retirement dream, they sold their home and most of their belongings and went cruising.
While on that cruise they happened to be in Thailand on the beach when the tsunami of December 2004 struck the area. Clinging together, they were swept across the island and out to sea. With that resumé, perhaps it’s time for them to settle down. But that’s not a likely next chapter.
Personal Best: Chasing the Wind Above and Below the Equator is Ed Muesch’s book about their world cruising adventures and the tragedy and trauma of the tsunami. The book chronicles their discovery of sailing and the events that led to their cruising lifestyle. They sold their home, bought a 1990 Hans Christian 43 ketch, named her Tahlequah, and set out to see the world on the West Marine 1500 Rally in November 2001.
Ed’s book may never have been published if he and Helen had not been halfway around the world in the wrong place at the wrong time three years later. The book is written simply, in journal fashion, chronicling the Mueschs’ adventures abroad for curious friends and family members.
Perhaps because it was self-published, it retains that journal style in which it was initially created and, unfortunately, ignores spelling and grammatical errors. Still, it communicates to all who are willing to overlook those faults. It tells of one couple’s voyage by sea and of the big life-changing event that shaped the lives of Ed and Helen and so many others.
The Black Swan
by Christina Moore (Storm Petrel Publications, 2007; 223 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Kristen Brochmann, New York, NY
The Black Swan is a stew of a novel — like the stews the narrator cooks up on the century-old stove in the galley of the Black Swan, a 90-foot steel schooner from the turn of the 20th century plying the tourist windjammer trade on the coast of Maine. No one flavor dominates; instead, we get spicy ingredients — a brutal mate, cowed crew, unseen captain and a mystery that could ruin the ship and her owners, as well as a comfort-food story of personal discovery and healing. Toss in a generous primer on the routines of a well-managed tour of the coast of Maine, and you have a hearty meal indeed.
And like a stew, the narrative is all tossed together. In the first chapter, headed by the word “tunc,” the narrator, Margaret Noonan, leaving behind a wrecked career and sinking marriage, joins the Black Swan, only to find herself isolated on an unhappy ship. In the next chapter, headed by the word “nunc,” the reader finds happy passengers, a gleaming galley smelling of fresh-baked bread, a new captain, and a happy, hard-working Margaret, captain of belowdecks. “Nunc” and “tunc” now and then alternate throughout the book; the “tunc” chapters telling the story of the mystery of the Black Swan and her strange crew, and the “nunc” chapters telling the happy aftermath.
Clearly, Christina Moore did not write a straight-ahead mystery novel. Even the murder at the climax of the book is foretold in many of its details in a story told in a shore-side bar. The heart of the story is Margaret’s journey from wounded middle-aged corporate survivor, working her way through isolation and loneliness to healing and integration, into the world of the Black Swan and its coastal homeport. The reader admires Margaret for her grit, her hard work, and the effort she makes on behalf of the paying passengers, who are sometimes as much victims as she is. In the end she does not find romantic love, but something almost better, a place where she is needed and respected, a place like home.
The Black Swan will not satisfy if the reader is looking for the direct action and struggle of a Sea Wolf, but it has some of the nitty-gritty of the seaboard life found in Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast. But the story is compelling as the resourceful and undaunted Margaret strives to deal with her personal demons, and faces the harshness of her mate and the smuggler’s mystery of Black Swan’s past as well as her present.
Lessons from My Good Old Boat
by Don Launer (Sheridan House 2007; 288 pages; $23.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
It is a true pleasure working with Don Launer as a member of the Good Old Boat team. His articles go back almost to our first issue, since it was very early in our formation that he discovered us. We recognized immediately the great value of Don’s contributions and made him a contributing editor without having met him in person.
Later, we did meet at a boat show, and some time after that we spent several days with Don when we decided to feature this very competent sailor and the boat he built from a bare hull. The story of Don and Delphinus appears in our January 2006 issue.
Within an hour spent aboard Delphinus, my husband and magazine co-founder, Jerry Powlas, fell deeply in love with Don’s Lazy Jack 32. This is a boat which sails as it should and is set up and outfitted as one should be for minimal effort and maximum sailing. From bow to stern, Delphinus is a clear testament to Don’s skills as a craftsman and sailor.
The great many articles he has prepared for Good Old Boat also speak volumes (if you’ll pardon the pun) about Don’s ability to communicate the knowledge he has gained over many decades spent sailing. And they say even more about the breadth and depth of this sailor. He is a master in every way, and we’re delighted to offer a regular forum for Don Launer and his nautical talents.
This collection of the articles he has written over the years, mostly but not solely for Good Old Boat, makes the scope of his experience evident. Upon thumbing through this book, you are likely to ask, “Is there any nautical theme Don hasn’t yet addressed?”
We hope the answer will be, “Yes,” although we have the same nagging doubts you do. If, after a lifetime of sailing and boatbuilding, he has left nothing out of this collection of his work, what remains for the next issue of Good Old Boat and the one after that? As you enjoy this book, think of this as one collection which will eventually need an update. Like all good old boats, it is a work in progress. We hope Delphinus has many more lessons in store for Captain Don Launer.
A Step by Step Guide to the Basics of Sailing with Penny Whiting
by Bennett Marine Video (newly available in the U.S. 2007; 80 minutes; $34.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
For those who have sailed a time or two and are committed to learning more about our favorite water-based activity, Bennett Marine Video has introduced a practical sail-training DVD that was first produced in New Zealand. Called A Step by Step Guide to the Basics of Sailing with Penny Whiting, this 80-minute movie features well-known New Zealand sailor and instructor, Penny Whiting.
A longtime sailing school owner, Penny has perfected her training course, starting with parts of the boat, knots, and fittings and moving on to bending on the sails, getting underway, and hoisting sail. She covers points of sail, tacking and jibing, reefing the main and hanking on jibs as well as using a furler, handling a man-overboard emergency, and much more.
Penny delivers all these concepts in a simple, matter-of-fact manner and demonstrates how easy it is to learn the skills by having three students aboard her training vessel. These students are learning as she demonstrates sailing skills for them as well as for the audience behind the video camera. This is a good tactic; most new sailors are likely to feel that if these students can learn to tie a bowline, bend on and hoist the main, or tack and jibe, so can they.
One of the nicest parts of Penny’s presentation is that lovely New Zealand accent but, at the same time, because she is from New Zealand her U.S. DVD students are put at a small disadvantage. This is only because her sailing terminology and even her methodology varies to a slight degree from ours. She ties a reef knot when we tie a square knot. Not a problem. But who knew that we’d run a figure-eight-style cleat hitch around a horn cleat differently than they do in New Zealand? Still, sailing is sailing the world over, and Penny is out to increase the number of sailors no matter what country they call home. We’re in favor of that!
I wouldn’t recommend this DVD for someone who is totally unfamiliar with sailing. It’s not a true introductory video; there’s too much detail presented in 80 minutes for the true novice. But I would highly recommend this DVD for someone who has been exposed to sailing and wants to learn more.
World Voyagers, the True Story of a Veterinarian, a Renaissance man, and Stewart the Cat
by Amy P. Wood, Philip J. Shelton and Stewart P. Wood (Book Orchard Press, Inc., 2007; 432 pages; $29.95)
Reviewed by Susan Lynn Kingsbury, Moreno Valley, Calif.
Author Amy Wood stated that she wanted to write a book that told the true story — not one with fluff — and she indeed accomplishes this feat with World Voyagers, an all-encompassing detailed account of a three-year circumnavigation aboard Iwalani.
Although this book is lengthy, it reads like a daily log or blog (which is where Amy and Phil originally posted the details of their trip online), and it allows the reader to ultimately become part of the crew, sailing right along with Phil, Amy and Stewart. It’s easy to forget you’re just “reading” about being places like the Bahamas, Jamaica, Panama, the Marquesas, Australia and South Africa (just to name a few), as Amy unequivocally “takes you there.”
She shares all the joys, pitfalls, sights, smells, experiences, and enough of herself with us to make us feel like we really are encountering the adventure firsthand. You’ll feel the seasickness she hides from her husband Phil, find yourself waking up every four hours to do your watch, and even crying along with them when they lose their beloved pet at sea.
But you’ll also feel the warm sun on your skin as you sail naked in the tropics, see waters in multiple amazing shades of blue, meet interesting people from all corners of the world, and get up close and personal with lions and many other furred, feathered, and finned wildlife. Then, once in home port again, you’ll feel a true sense of accomplishment.
Well, actually, it’s Amy and Phil who succeed in doing something they had a burning desire in their hearts to do. “It was a goal we could not abandon,” Amy writes.
They see it through — and you are right there with them. And despite all the obstacles, from an ex-wife and family who need them at home, to health issues and uncooperative winds, weather, and currents, Amy and Phil not only chase the wind to fulfill their dream, but succeed in catching it and telling the tale.
Don’t expect a lot of flowery language and poetic descriptions of this three-year trek. What you will get, though, is a 100-percent, hands-on, authentic account of bluewater sailing.
Whether you are a coastal cruiser, bluewater cruiser, sailing novice, or just enjoy reading about a great adventure, you are guaranteed to enjoy sharing Amy, Phil, and Stewart’s journey across the deep blue sea.
Hard Aground…Again: Inspiration for the Navigationally Challenged and Spiritually Stuck
by Eddie Jones. (Winoca Press, 2006; 148 pages; $14.95)
Reviewed by Kristen Brochmann, New York, N.Y.
In Hard Aground . . . Again, Eddie Jones sends dispatches from the creeks, mudflats and sounds of the Carolina coast. The chapters are gathered from his magazine columns and can be read as separate stories. Fans of Dave Barry will understand the southern comic voice that Eddie uses very well. He is part good ol’ boy and part tent-revival preacher, telling stories about hapless navigation, cranky outboards, and other cruising foibles and drawing life lessons from them. He tells these stories in an easy conversational tone, as if the reader were sitting next to him on the rusted Wal-Mart lawn chairs that he uses for deck seats while watching the sun go down over the swamp grass and hummocks.
In the prologue he calls himself a “recovering boataholic” who wishes “boating wasn’t my passion.” His dreams of blue water and distant islands are grounded by a large family and a small bank account. But he lives the dream as much as he can in whatever boat he can borrow from friends or “borrow” from the bank. He makes the best of tough situations that occur frequently, mostly because of his lackluster navigation.
When the bank takes back a boat, he makes do with a friend’s Sunfish. That his anchorage is a mud flat or that he seems to hit every sandbar and crab pot in the Neuse River leaves him undaunted. He is the cheapest guy in the marina, known well by the gas dock owner and waitress at the local diner. These setbacks inspire him to see the larger picture as reflected in his Christian faith. He reminds himself that Saint Paul, in his cruise around the Mediterranean, had to swim to shore more than once after a shipwreck. The point is that “running aground is nothing to be ashamed of, but staying stuck is.”
He applies lessons to each story. Talking about his experiences with VHF and NOAA weather reports, he says, “intercessory prayer can be a little like the VHF radio,” and he offers a list of tips on radio use, many of which “can be applied to your prayer life as well.”
The invocations to prayer and Christian life lessons are not for everyone. Some do not go to the nautical bookshelf for Christian meditation and prayer focus. But if readers want their humor straight, they can skip the last few paragraphs and still get a good yarn with a Carolina flavor. And besides, a little prayer and Scripture can’t hurt. You never know from where inspiration might come.
A Year In Flagrante — A log of Nautical Near-Missives
by Martin Cartwright, Illustrations by Don Seed (Glover’s Yard Publishing, Great Britain, 2007; 85 pages; $18.04)
Reviewed by Susan Lynn Kingsbury, Moreno Valley, Calif.
A Year in Flagrante is a collection of illustrated satirical correspondence sent to Captain Glover over a year’s worth of time. You’ll read responses from the powers that be — whether marine insurance chairmen, yacht club certification officers, marine supply salespersons or magazine editors — to Glover’s wild escapades and letters of complaint. Be prepared: the letters are blunt and scathing. Still, the imaginary Captain Glover remains an outrageous, shameless, extreme violator of all the rules — and he never apologizes or admits to being in the wrong. Instead, he is increasingly indignant.
Author Cartwright apparently is appealing to the maverick hidden inside some of us, the ones who say, “It’s not my fault!” or can’t figure out why bad things always happen to them.
Both the letters and illustrations are presented in a rebellious way, perhaps to remind us that these letters are simply parodies. Cartwright uses puns — plays on words — to draw the readers’ attention to the total nonsensicalness of the correspondence. Addresses like “Blackball Creek,” “Damforeigner Straat,” “Little Jobsworth” and authorities with names such as “Joy Forall,” Hugh Stickler,” and “Jack Blower” are used throughout the text. Likewise, the cartoon-like illustrations are further exaggerations of the brazen theme.
If you are looking for a light read this is a good “boat book” for you. But it’s not for everyone. Some may not find the “Benny Hill” slapstick-type humor tickles their funny bone.
The Why Book of Sailing: The Curious Sailor’s Guide to the Science of Sailing and Seamanship
by Scott Welty (Burford Books, 2007; 179 pages; $16.95)
Reviewed by Donald Launer, Forked River, NJ
In The Why Book of Sailing, author Scott Welty tackles the challenge of explaining the science of physics, as related to sailing — without the heavy concentration on mathematics that usually goes along with that subject. He translates this science into layman terms in an enjoyable manner that doesn’t make the non-scientific reader feel intimidated. Although I was educated in classical physics — along with the subject’s associated mathematics —I found this book to be a breath of fresh air, and the explanations accurate and entertaining.
Sailors know that the forces of nature — the forces of physics – affect their boats in many ways. On the water, wind, tide, current, gravity, and many other natural phenomena exist in a world of dynamic and constant change; and in this world the author presents Archimedes’ principals of flotation, moving through wind and water, forces and torque, navigation and piloting, on-board electricity, optics, and environmental concerns. Scott Welty looks at the sailboat through the eyes of a popular scientist and explains the scientific reasons why the boat behaves as it does, all done with clarity and ample explanatory illustrations that will help all sailors be more in tune with their boats and the water around them.
Time-starved readers can open the book at random and, in a few minutes, read a short and concise explanation of something they have always wondered about, without worrying about continuity reading — or they can use the index to access a specific question or topic. Author Welty also supplies a listing of websites in the back of the book for additional information.
Not surprisingly, Scott Welty is a recently retired teacher of physics who now is a full-time sailor and liveaboard. While cruising his 30-foot Enee Marie, he also finds time to write for Sailing and Ocean Navigator. When ashore, which is infrequent, he makes his home in Chicago, Illinois.
If you are at all curious about things nautical, The Why Book of Sailing guarantees to answer your questions in an enjoyable and accurate fashion.
The Mariner’s Book of Days — 2008 calendar
by Peter H. Spectre (Sheridan House, 2007; 112 pages; $13.95)
Reviewed by Kristen Brochmann, New York, NY
Bookstores’shelves start filling up with calendars and daybooks this time of year. For sailors, there are many to choose from, including ones featuring gorgeous photos of vintage ships or exotic shores and waters. But Peter H. Spectre offers the sailor something different in his The Mariner’s Book of Days — sheer entertainment and diversion. The right-hand page has the days of the week with a nautical event noted for each day. The left page has old engravings, sea shanty verses, log entries or whatever Peter has come up with. Sometimes the week has a theme. May 8 notes that on that date in 1701 William Kidd was put on trial for piracy. The left-hand page has an engraving of a fearsome pirate with two pistols and a mean eye, a shanty about Kidd, laws from a pirate ship, a quote from Mark Twain about pirates and, just for the heck of it, a log entry from Joshua Slocum’s circumnavigation.
Each week offers something new. The reader can browse and see what naval disaster happened on any day or view glossaries of terms. The week of September 29 has a seaman’s list of a week’s worth of meals aboard a 19th century clipper ship. There follows a glossary for terms like duff, scouse, mush, Cape Cod turkey, and other mysteries of the seaman’s table. (My favorite: “Spithead pheasant (aka, one-eyed steak) kipper.”)
The first week of December has the lyrics to the U.S. Maritime Service along with a quote from Emerson, “The wonder is always new that any sane man can be a sailor.” Conrad is quoted for a week devoted to anchors and rodes. “From first to last, the seaman’s thoughts are very much concerned with his anchors.”
Each week usually includes a passage from a ship’s log or a sailor’s account. One week, a barely literate ship’s butcher notes the cook being flogged twice on the same day “for being saucy.” Another week offers a sailor recounting how a first mate was laughed at when he mistook “the thin spout of the ‘Killer’ for the bush dense vapour emitted by Sperm-Whale!”
The beautiful archaic language from poets and plain sailors is one of the joys of the book. There are familiar writers such as Kipling, Whitman, Crane, and Shakespeare, but many of the authors are unknown. Peter has mined deep in nautical libraries and brought back some strange and wonderful gems for the reader’s delight.
A Matter of Honor
by William C. Hammond (Cumberland House, 2007; 416 pages; $26.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Richard Cutler is everybody’s hero. Women readers will love him. Men will respect his strong character and code of ethics. It’s almost a shame that he’s a figment of our imaginations and that of first-time novelist William Hammond. Bill’s book, A Matter of Honor, the first of a series, introduces Richard Cutler as a young man from Massachusetts during the early years of the American Revolutionary War.
As a yet untested young man, Richard is recruited for the Continental Navy by John Paul Jones and offers us a well-researched look at this historical figure and several others in the events that unfold. Although he is a fictional character, Richard is a participant in or witness to several famous naval battles and other historical events.
Perhaps because he is a fictional character, it is easier to construe plausible reasons for having Richard in the room when Benjamin Franklin is negotiating with the French, and at the Battle of Yorktown fighting at the side of Alexander Hamilton. Perhaps no real sailor of the 1770s got around as easily as Richard Cutler. But then Richard Cutler had “connections” that make him a very interesting individual indeed. We are fortunate that the U.S. actually won the Revolutionary War without Richard’s participation.
Author Bill Hammond takes a good long look at the international events swirling around this nascent country’s fight for independence. He makes it clear that it is practically a miracle that the leaders of the U.S. won our independence, dealing as they were with a frightful lack of money, unity, military training, and equipment, not to mention a severe lack of food, medical care, and clothing for our soldiers and sailors. This book reminds us that it is a wonder that we are able to fly the Stars and Stripes today. This achievement was earned in spite of the odds against all the true Richard Cutlers of the 1770s.
With an improved appreciation of the events surrounding the Revolutionary War, and a strong personal interest in the future of Richard Cutler, I look forward to further books in the series by Bill. A Matter of Honor is not all war and history. There is romance, sex and relationships, complicated family responsibilities, and ties involving a family that spans both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and both sides of the war. There’s wind of the impending revolution in France and the unrest in the Caribbean, where the real financial interests of the time were located.
This is a story well told on many fronts. Sailors and historians will appreciate the naval scenes and battles. Every reader will appreciate the background and fresh insight on the events of the American Revolutionary War told from several points of view. Fans of historical fiction will want to begin following the adventures of Richard Cutler now and as this series unfolds.