Book Reviews From 2009

Reviews From 2009

February 2009 Newsletter

April 2009 Newsletter

June 2009 Newsletter

August 2009 Newsletter

October 2009 Newsletter

December 2009 Newsletter

Further Offshore, A Practical Guide for Sailors,

by Ed Mapes, (Sheridan House, 2008; 352 pages; $39.95)
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury
Moreno Valley, Calif.

Further Offshore is the textbook for those who are serious about sailing the open waters. All-inclusive, it is meant to be read and digested from cover to cover.

Delve in and you will find six sections to explore, each one covering a separate aspect of offshore sailing in intricate detail. Nothing is left out; when you finish reading Further Offshore, it is doubtful you will have any questions left unanswered.

    • “The Big Picture” is an introduction to what Mapes calls “the voyage.” He addresses everything from making the final decision to go on an extended voyage and finding the right boat, to equipping your boat, choosing your crew, cruising with children, meal and trip planning, and more.


    • “The Boat and Fitting Out” takes you right to the nitty-gritty details of finding the right sailboat for your adventure. The author discusses types, weights and configurations of hulls, boat size in relation to need, construction type and materials, steering, mast and rigging — the list is extensive.Information on gear and instrumentation is also included and covers Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon (EPIRB), self-steering systems, Global Positioning System (GPS), communications and safety equipment and measures, just to name a few.


    • “Planning for the Voyage” — It’s time to start planning. Most sailors who are able to finally embark upon bluewater sailing are not as young as they used to be. This means you’ll need to plan to take care of your health before sailing off into the sunset.Smart voyagers will prepare before leaving dry land by signing up for emergency first aid classes, putting together an onboard medical kit (complete lists of recommended contents are provided) and purchasing comprehensive health insurance coverage while at sea.
      Finding the best boat insurance, a guide to weather fundamentals, routing your voyage, preparing the crew, meal planning and provisioning, and final preparations are also covered. You may decide to read this section more than once, as it deals with so many important topics.


    • In “Boat Handling and Shipkeeping” the following are covered in detail: maneuvering under sail or power, docking, anchoring, going up the mast, safety tactics, protocols and procedures. This is a must-read section as sailing in extreme conditions is addressed as well, including tropical cyclones, hurricanes, waves, and navigating to safety as a crew.Tips on routine maintenance and upkeep of your vessel are also included. No details are left out — even insects and other pests are addressed.


    • “Underway,” one of the shorter sections of the book, contains thorough details on departure, watchkeeping, logkeeping, making landfall, and port clearance.


  • The Appendices include various usable checklists, lists, and plans to ensure you are ready to shove off, a general Power of Attorney form, COLREGS list, a section on medical emergency procedures, and helpful conversion tables.

Any questions? Read Further Offshore for all the answers!

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The American Pram

by Paul Austin Jr. (Published by the author, 4104 Block Drive 319, Irving, TX 75038,; 2008; 36 pages; $15.00)

Review by Bill Sandifer
Mandeville, La.

The Home Depot motto, “You can do it; we can help,” could be the name of this book. There are nine potential prams you can build just from this one slim volume. It is detailed enough that a person with the desire and basic skills will have no trouble building a useful and good-looking pram.

The author has selected a group of nine easy-to-build prams under 10 feet in length. Included are prams by Bolger (2), Atkin (1), Joel White (1), Sponberg (1), Jordan (1), Clark Mills (1), Holtrop (1) and Anderson (1). My favorite, the Nutshell pram, is Joel White’s contribution to this group. This group certainly does not include all the prams in this length range but is representative of the best of a group of designs.

The book lays out the basic parameters for building the prams and leads the reader step by step through the construction cycle for each pram. The book includes a good materials list as well as basic design layouts, saving loads of time. Lofting is not required but a good ladder jig, well reinforced, is definitely a must. The author gives simple directions for the construction, although he occasionally lapses into “boatbuilder speak,” which he thinks you understand but may not. This occurs where the author is discussing the Atkin pram and uses “cross-spall” in the ladder jig. There are numerous examples of this “boatbuilder speak” throughout the book, enough to be intimidating and annoying to a person not used to this language.

There are discussions of wood uses and weight as well as nifty ideas for fittings, oars, daggerboards, and leeboards. An index gives the source for plans for the nine prams, including costs. The pictures and illustrations are well selected and add considerably to the reader’s understanding of each pram. The brief discussion of the capabilities of each pram and its usefulness are definite pluses to the text.

If you are considering building a useful pram, consider buying this book. You’ll need to add a boatbuilder’s dictionary for some of the instructions but, in the end, it will all be worth the effort to have built your own pram from scratch. I’m very proud of the Nutshell pram I built over 20 years ago. She has served well and continues to serve. You can do it and this book is a good way to get your feet wet.

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Get Onboard With E-charting

by Mark and Diana Doyle (semi-local publications,; 2008; 232 pages; $34.95)
Review by Durkee Richards
Sequim, Wash.

This is a very data-rich book. It is a fine introduction to electronic charting and navigation for those new to the topic. More experienced users will find it useful as a reference book on the currently available applications, or to look up details on instrumentation, formats or data transfers between different devices.

The first part of this book addresses the question “What is E-Charting?” In the introduction section, the authors do a nice job of summarizing the history of “Global Position Finding,” the development of paper charts, and the evolution to digital chart formats.

Part two delves into the basic components of any E-charting systems — hardware, sensors, chart database and application software.  Once again, the authors begin with a clearly written introduction that covers the key issues. Then they go into considerable detail that is useful even to very experienced users.

If you are hesitant to give E-charting a try, then the third section of this book might be just what you need to see how E-charting could enhance your cruising and navigation experience. Chapter 10, “Putting It All Together,” features seven scenarios showing how various aspects of E-Charting can be used by boaters ranging from a kayaker to the captain of a large yacht. Part three also includes a lot of useful details on data transfer and how to deal with different data formats.

Part four,” Choosing an Application,” is the longest section of the book. It features a critical review of 16 applications — one chart viewer, one “Planner-Plus,” 12 full-featured applications for PCs and two more for Macs. Generous use of tables of attributes helps the reader compare and contrast the various options.

Mark and Diana subtitled their book “The Complete Reference Guide to Electronic Charting and PC-Based Marine Navigation.” This is a fair characterization. They write with the assured confidence of experienced users of all these applications.

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Boat Smart: Lake Michigan Devours Its Wounded

by Tom Rau, Senior Chief, USCG (retired) (Seaworthy Publications, 2006; 246 pages; $19.95)
Review by Chas Hague, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
Des Plaines, Ill.

Smart boaters who have taken a boating safety course, either through the Power Squadron or the Coast Guard Auxiliary, will have learned what they should and should not do on the water. Really smart boaters will read Chief Tom Rau’s excellent book. From it, they will not only learn the what, but the why — why people on the water should always wear a life jacket; how to properly make a radio distress call; the value of a float plan; the hazards of drinking and boating; how anyone using a boat for any purpose (fishing, hunting) can get into trouble; what not to do with your GPS; and did I mention life jackets?

Since 1986, Chief Rau has been writing the “Boat Smart” column for dozens of media outlets around Lake Michigan and in the Midwest. He knows what he’s talking about. Citing examples from his 27-year career as a Coast Guard rescue responder, he describes hundreds of stories of boats in trouble and the rescues that took place. Some of these stories have happy endings. Many do not. The lessons given in these stories are far more vivid than a dry classroom lecture.

Any book concerned with safety is liable to be dreary and preachy — Chief Rau’s writing style manages to avoid this pitfall. He describes the casualties — and the rescues — with the kind of detail that puts the reader out on the rescue boat or in the helicopter. Every story has a point, clearly illustrating the safe way to enjoy the water, and what can happen if the boater is ignorant, or just a little careless. There is also a little bit of humor, such as the story of the man who fell overboard naked and had to swim to a crowded and decidedly non-nudist beach…

I am an instructor in boating safety. Material from Chief Rau’s book is going to be used in our classes. Thanks, Chief!

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Boat Mechanical Systems Handbook:
How to Design, Install, and Recognize Proper Systems in Boats

by Dave Gerr (International Marine, 2009; 416 pages; $39.95)
Review by Jerry Powlas
Minneapolis, Minn.

It is a genuine pleasure to read just about anything Dave Gerr writes. His books range from popular broad-appeal works like The Nature of Boats to very specialized books like the Propeller Handbook and The Elements of Boat Strength. On this specialization scale, Boat Mechanical Systems falls somewhere in the middle.

In this book, the focus is on systems and the subtitle is accurate and descriptive: “How to design, Install, and Recognize Proper Systems in Boats.” For the surveyor and general reader, “recognize proper systems in boats” is the critical phrase.

Many will use this book as a reference. Often it will be consulted when there is already a problem with a particular system. Dave has anticipated this by including sections for analyzing common problems. Owners who are planning refits and upgrades to their basic systems will find the book to be an excellent starting point for planning purposes.

The book covers the fundamental mechanical systems that are common to all power and sailboats. It does not cover sailboat rigging, electrical systems, or electronics. The sail rig in not common to all boats and the electrical and electronic systems are not … well, mechanical.

Dave’s contention is that each of these groups of systems is sufficiently complex to deserve its own book. Engines are not covered, as such, but the book does cover their fuel and exhaust systems and their power trains. The systems are divided into sections: drivetrain, fuel, exhaust, rudders and steering, ventilation (including heating and air-conditioning), plumbing, and anchoring.

There are many formulas and calculations with examples so the reader can see whether components are properly sized and can properly choose new components in an upgrade or refit. Because the book is intended to be a reference book, it focuses on the mainstream systems seen in custom and production boats today. Even so, Dave can’t resist the temptation to take the reader into the dark corners where some interesting and unusual gear resides. In the section on drivetrains, we are shown the fundamentals of constructing a retracting dory propeller (I had always wondered how to do that). In chapter 13, the reader is treated to a lot of unusual ways to steer a boat, all of which have been tried and were to some degree successful. (You forgot the canoe J-stroke, Dave.) This collection of odd bits of trivia is typical Dave Gerr. He can’t help himself. While this stuff adds spice to the work, it fits nicely amid the mainstream methods and devices and, in some way, puts the ordinary stuff in perspective.

The book is illustrated with many photographs and line drawings. The line drawings are particularly nice; the book designer used them for decoration as well as illustration — a nice effect. There are many tables, calculations, and conversions in the appendices and a very strong bibliography.

Dave Gerr started as a naval architect with MacLear and Harris in 1979 and opened his own office in 1983 in New York City. He is currently the director of the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, which has produced more notable yacht designers than any other source; in fact, perhaps more than all other sources combined.

This book was written by the headmaster of the best school. It probably belongs in your library if you are curious about how good mechanical systems should be designed and built.

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Walking on Water; a Voyage Around Britain and Through Life

by Geoff Holt (Seafarer Books/Sheridan House, 2008; 360 pages; UK £9.95, $19.15 U.S.)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
Antigo, Wisc.

When Englishman Geoff Holt was a young man, he was living the dream — making three transatlantic voyages and one round trip from Great Britain to the Mediterranean and back. Then, while preparing for a fourth transatlantic crossing, this one from the Caribbean back to England, he broke his neck in a diving accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down and confined him to a wheelchair with only limited use of his arms and hands. That was in 1984. He was 18 years old. Since then, he’s gone on to do some pretty remarkable things that many of us with “normal” physical ability would be hard-pressed to match.

Walking on Water; a Voyage Around Britain and Through Life is Geoff’s personal account of his accident and what led to his eventual circumnavigation of Great Britain in Freethinker, a specially equipped 15-foot Challenger class trimaran. The book gives us a daily account of his incredible voyage and, through a series of flashbacks, his childhood, the accident, and the years that follow. In those years Geoff got married, started a family, earned a college degree, and became an avid sailor who helped develop the Sailability program in Great Britain, which provides physically challenged individuals a chance to experience the freedom of sail that many of us take for granted.

Geoff takes nothing for granted. Throughout the book he freely acknowledges that without the support of literally hundreds of individuals and groups, his trip would have been impossible. But in spite of all the help, Geoff was the one who conceived the idea, set the goal, and did everything in his power to bring it to fruition.

Sooner or later we all end up feeling sorry for ourselves. It may be the loss of a job or loved one, a divorce, whatever. We find ourselves wallowing in our own self-pity, wondering, “How could something like this happen to me?” But after a time we get through it, realizing that life goes on and you have to play the hand you’re dealt, as the old saying goes. Walking on Water gives us a glimpse into the indomitable human spirit we sometimes have to look for to keep going. And Geoff Holt has given us someone we can all look to as a role model, no matter where our lives seem to be. This is a very worthwhile read from the perspective of an extremely worthwhile individual.

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Land of Men

by Edward Muesch (iUniverse, 2008; 308 pages; $18.95).
Review by Richard Skaff
Los Angeles, California

Sailing is man’s unifying experience. It is the path toward his oneness with nature. The love of the sea is innate in every man’s soul, because it captivates him and entices him with its majesty, beauty, and measureless bounds, promising him unending bliss and tranquility.

Man has been spellbound by the sea from the dawn of time. The sense of infinity and mightiness it emanates draws man to it and immerses him in a temporary sense of eternity. It calls on him unconditionally to explore it, and always welcomes him into the warmth of its womb.

The love of the sea can blind a man’s perception of the world and of his own life. He can become compelled to leave everything behind in order to contemplate his soul and to consummate his union with nature. That is exactly what happened to Samuel Dover, a character in this novel.

In Land of Men, Ed Muesch explores the love of sailing and of the sea. The main character leaves his life to launch into a new one filled with excitement and adventure, hoping that he will rediscover his lost self in the deep waters of the ocean.

Samuel Dover separates from his wife of 27 years because of his stubborn compulsion to follow his dream of sailing around the world. He purchases an antique sailing ketch that appears to come directly from the past, restores the vessel to its original condition, and names it Dark Trader. His obsession with his dream does not scare him when he learns that the ship has a dark and troubled history: the boat was abandoned and the crew disappeared on two different occasions. He hires Mike, a former bar bouncer he found to be the perfect mate for his mission, and they set sail from Annapolis, Maryland, for the Marquesas, following the course of the original Dark Trader.

Upon landing in Nuka Hiva, the “Land of Men,” Captain Sam and Mike discover a land of the past; they’re in the 1800s where mysticism and warriors rule. Sam falls in love with the native Kaitu, who has haunted his dreams from his first moments on the schooner. He will do whatever it takes to be with her, but as they attempt to change their destinies, fate intervenes and eradicates their dreams.

I found this novel to be intriguing, captivating, romantic, and spiritual, though confusing at times, but definitely entertaining and well written. It is a mix of fantasy and reality that keeps the reader interested and yearning for more.

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The Trailer Sailer

by Gregg Nestor, (Paradise Cay Publications, 2008; 330 Pages; $17.95)
Review by Bill Sandifer
Mandeville, LA

If you can ask a question about trailersailers, this book can answer it. If you use the information provided in this simple volume you’ll be successful in acquiring, outfitting, and caring for your trailersailer.

To say this book is complete is an understatement. It is a guide, in a very generic way, to selecting, buying, outfitting, trailing, and maintaining a trailersailer. But it’s not a follow-the-dots route or a cruising guide. Rather, this book offers plain advice on everything a sailor needs to know about the boat itself. It covers owning a trailerable boat, related equipment, and the trailer but does not get into the sailing of the boat.

Author Gregg Nestor goes into detail on most subjects. His deep interest in chemical engineering is apparent, as the most extensive chapters of the book concern sealants, cleaners, and their uses. He is to be commended for including it as this invaluable information is hard to find and is applicable to any modern boat.

There are the usual chapters on outfitting, anchors, and so on, but this is all well-plowed ground. In this instance, there truly is nothing new under the sun and Gregg affirms this. While all of the knowledge is useful for the person new to trailersailing, there are texts on the market offering the same information.

The Trailer Sailer is rather uniquely organized. The chapter on engines is followed by one on the battery, electrical interference, sail management, the galley, sealants, and then back to engine lubricants and coolants. This presentation is somewhat disjointed and distracting to the reader. I would prefer to see all the engine information in one chapter or at least each subject followed by a related subject.

In summary, the book presents a lot of basic information valuable to trailersailors and fulfills its stated purpose of being an owners’ manual for trailersailing, but it does not tell the reader how much fun and adventure he can have with a trailersailer.

What I really missed are Gregg’s sea stories about his own experiences; they would have greatly enhanced the text. Maybe we’ll get them in his next book. But if you need no convincing because you already have dreams of sailing a small boat off into the sunset, The Trailer Sailer will be a very useful reference.

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Sailing There: Cruising Across Europe and the Mediterranean

by Patricia Vellinga (Peacock Hill Publishing, 2009, 312 pages, $16.95)
Review by Erich Drescher
Ottawa Lake, Mich.

A delightful read about a couple’s adventures while exploring European canals and sailing across the Mediterranean, Sailing There is populated with a host of eccentric characters including a bouillabaisse chef, gruff bargemen, disinterested port officials, mafia youth and, of course, other cruisers.

Pat and Ray’s one-year cruise is extended indefinitely as they become accustomed to a lifestyle full of suspiciously friendly people, culinary surprises, local wines, and emergency boat repairs. The learning curve, from the initial splashdown in Rotterdam to the far off Greek Isles, is quite steep, which leads to numerous near-disasters.

By the end of the first year, Pat and Ray are knowledgeable cruisers and don’t have to worry as much about the Mediterranean mooring system, foreign language weather reports, custom’s clearance procedures, or the “surprise” of the mistral winds. They actually have time to enjoy the history they are sailing through and many times find themselves in ports that existed 2,000 years ago.

Woven throughout the story is the running joke about how the factory-described “turnkey” yacht actually ended up being more of a “yacht kit” — some assembly required. Oh, you thought a ship’s wheel was needed? Don’t worry about those missing engine components — they’ll just break anyway. Oh yes, all the brass instruments are usually stolen prior to launch — it saves on weight. What ensues are multiple trips to the local nautical chandleries (sometimes not so local) spread across numerous countries. The scavenger hunt for parts, decent canvas makers, welders, and provisions will be familiar to anyone who owns or crews on a sailboat.

All in all, this book is a very entertaining read, and a great book to curl up with. Sailing There does a wonderful job of transporting the reader to the sunny Mediterranean and, while reading it, you can almost feel the sunshine on your back and the salt in the spray.

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This Old Boat, Second Edition

by Don Casey (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, 2009; 576 pages; $49.95)
Review by Beth A. Leonard
Syracuse, New York

Don Casey’s This Old Boat gave thousands of classic fiberglass boats a new lease on life while providing their owners with a tremendous sense of accomplishment and uncountable hours of sailing pleasure. Now, This Old Boat has had its own extensive refit — and not a moment too soon. At a time when the price of a new boat has increased to fractions of millions of dollars but many families’ savings have been cut in half, Don throws a lifeline to would-be boatowners, offering them a way to realize their sailing dream without busting their already-battered budgets.

The “generic service manual for old boats” leads would-be do-it-yourselfers through every step to bring a 20-, 30- or 40-year-old boat back to as-new condition. Early chapters detail how to put together a work list and develop a budget while addressing such critical issues as “differentiating between thrift and cheap” and “knowing when not to do it yourself.” Later chapters lead readers through the refit: restoring gelcoat, re-tabbing bulkheads, rebedding deck fittings, installing new hatches, refurbishing a mast, upgrading electrical and plumbing systems, installing refrigeration, and varnishing woodwork. Casey’s workmanlike approach, step-by-step instructions, and “learn-by-doing” projects ensure that even someone with little DIY experience can successfully install a leak-proof portlight or replace standing rigging. His folksy style makes what should be tedious material enjoyable and easy to read.

Even if you have the first edition of This Old Boat, you’ll want to buy the second edition. The book has grown by half and covers a variety of new topics, including a detailed chapter on refrigeration that tells the “cold truth.” Don has cut outdated information and rewritten 70 percent of the remaining material. Most of the first edition’s “bar-napkin drawings,” as Don refers to his own artistic efforts, have been replaced by high-quality Fritz Seeger illustrations. The new edition does have a few shortcomings. The headers shown in the Table of Contents do not match the headers in the chapters, making it frustrating to locate specific material. Don does not address some of the newer products that offer big advantages in refitting older boats, like LED lights and cored panels (instead of marine ply).

But the basics are all here, presented with humor and honesty, in a way that makes the reader want to roll up her sleeves and dive right in. The new edition comes at just the right moment to keep the sailing dream alive for a whole new generation of budget-conscious cruisers.

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Cap’n Fatty’s Cruising World Yarns

by Fatty Goodlander (CreateSpace, 2009; 220 pages; $19.95; also available in Kindle edition, $7.96)
Review by Durkee Richards
Sequim, Wash.

Fatty Goodlander is a sea gypsy. He was born into a family of sea gypsies and writes of this life with charm, humility and bountiful good humor. He was raised aboard an aged wooden John Alden-designed schooner, Elizabeth. Even through a cold winter hauled out in Chicago, his parents warmed Fatty’s heart with tales of the wonders that awaited the family in the tropical islands of the South Pacific.

In addition to self-confidence around boats and his love of the sea, Fatty’s father exposed him to the art of telling sea stories. He allowed Fatty to sit quietly in the cabin of Elizabeth and listen as waterfront characters told stories into the night. That ancient art form infuses Fatty’s writing, adding greatly to its appeal. Most readers of his columns in Cruising World magazine probably sense this intuitively. They may also recognize some of the “yarns” in this collection, but will surely enjoy their re-telling.

It is his professional life as a “salt-stained ink slinger” that supports his real life as a sea gypsy. Fatty readily admits that this keeps him and his lover/navigator/wife Carolyn on a very modest budget. But he emphasizes that sailing around the world on peanuts just requires “more effort, determination, and intelligence.”

Parkinson’s disease curtailed his father’s dreams of sailing to the Polynesian Islands but, decades later, Fatty completed the dream. He and Carolyn sailed into an anchorage off Fatu Hiva during their “big fat circle” aboard a boat they had salvaged off the bottom a decade earlier. The “yarns” in this book capture many of the high and low points in their circumnavigation — with a special focus on the people and cultures they encountered along the way.

This book can be read on many levels: as a “how to” guide for sea-gypsy wannabes, especially those of modest means; or as an armchair adventure filled with exotic people and places from around the world. For me, it is foremost a love story of a man, a woman, their boat and the sea (see page 29 for a powerfully moving description of what it means for a sea gypsy to lose a vessel that he brought into existence with his own hands).

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The Motion of the Ocean, 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers
and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife

by Janna Cawrse Esrey (Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2009; 313 pages; $15.00)
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury
Moreno Valley, Calif.

“…my fear of not having lived life is more powerful than my fear of living it.”

In The Motion of the Ocean, Janna Cawrse Esarey shares with readers the “tale” of an average newlywed couple who go on a two-year honeymoon cruise across the Pacific Ocean aboard their 1973 Hallberg-Rassy Rasmus 35-foot sailboat, Dragonfly.

But don’t be fooled. Janna and Graeme’s story is not just a cruising account. It’s also a love story, a comedy, and sometimes it will even bring tears to your eyes.

Divided into parts, readers first get an insight into Janna and Graeme’s early relationship, leading up to their decision to finally tie the knot, quit their jobs, and take a cruising honeymoon — and all the preparations required for this trek.

The author then takes us along on her two-year journey. The couple sails from Seattle south to Mexico, across the Pacific and, finally, to Hong Kong (with many stops at island destinations in between). Some sections are written in a log format, others in chapters, and the blend is an easy-to-understand account of this voyage, both in destinations and emotional growth.

The story is about two very different individuals who end up “stuck” on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean — alone — together. Janna and Graeme have completely different viewpoints when it comes to sailing (one more technical; the other more hands-on) and what’s important in their new lifestyle. As time goes on, they find out these are not the only things they disagree about.

Their once busy over-scheduled Seattle lives have changed drastically and the complete shock of it all soon has Janna feeling unloved, unneeded, worthless and confused. Over time, Janna comes to the tough realization that all she and Graeme have is each other and that has to be enough. Then she begins to find herself — and that is, in fact, what The Motion of the Ocean is truly about — a woman’s passage to finding and understanding herself.

Janna’s biggest fear is that Graeme will fall overboard during one of his middle-of-the-night watches — as he pees overboard — and be forever lost at sea as she sleeps. She has other fears as well, many of them seemingly small. But despite these very real fears she also realizes that: “…my dream of sailing into the sunset with him is, in the end, more powerful than my fear of it.”

The Motion of the Ocean is a book about relationships with a sailing backdrop. Janna writes from her heart, making her book valuable for any “sailing”couple. Additionally, it easily sails across the “boat book”genre line, making it a great read for non-sailors as well.

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Mary’s Voyage

by Mary Caldwell and Matthew M. Douglas (Sheridan House, 2008; 259 pages; $19.95)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minn.

Mary? Mary who? Remember Desperate Voyage, John Caldwell’s well-known book about his ill-fated solo voyage? When World War II ended, John left Panama headed for Australia and Mary, his wife. With zero sailing experience under his safety harness, John’s “landfall” came when his 29′ cutter smashed on a coral ridge near Fiji.

Undaunted, however, John and Mary Caldwell, with their toddler and infant sons, became the first family to attempt a circumnavigation aboard a 36′ John Hanna-designed sailboat. They had only a sextant and dead reckoning for navigation. Oh, and Mary was pregnant when they slipped the lines in 1952.

Most folks thought them lunatics. “So are we crazy?” Mary asked. “Of course we are!” John replied. “But look at is this way. The rest of the world is even crazier. It’s all about greed and screwing your neighbor and smiling while you do it.” John said he preferred dying at sea to being buried ashore after 30 years of mindless routine and a gold watch.

Mary’s Voyage, the sequel to John’s book, is extremely readable. In a down-to-earth way, it traces the course of a couple who balanced the challenges of sailing and the onboard parenting of three children under age 4, with the rhumb line that was their dream. Black-and-white photos throughout the book document ports of call and the little boys who grew to crew.

Their experiences evoked emotions across the spectrum. When Tropic Seas left Haka Hetau after five weeks, the butcher’s wife gifted them with a 6-week-old goat to be butchered at sea. (You can guess what the boys thought of that idea.) In Moorea, the Caldwells watched a group of sharks violently attack a horse that had wandered into shallow water. Then there was a 70′ whale and a Tuvuthan couple who wanted them to sing cowboy songs. And John’s palm tree plantings throughout the Grenadines brought him the nickname “Johnny Coconut.”

The book holds gentle lessons, perhaps unintended by the author, but clear to a reader with an open heart. Mary’s simple prose takes us from the sea to shore where the family buys land, to 81-year-old John’s last trip over the waves of the Caribbean as his grandson, Justin, flew his casket across the water. The ending captures the yearning of a land-bound soul who spent a lifetime smelling the ocean air and seeing brilliant stars unimpeded by the lights of land. Mary’s Voyage is well worth your literary dollar!

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Whiskey Gulf; A Charlie Noble Suspense Novel

by Clyde Ford (Vanguard Press, 2009, 264 pages; $24.95 U.S., $31.95, Canada.)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
Antigo, Wis.

Author, chiropractor, and therapist Clyde Ford has written ten books — five non-fiction and five fiction. Whiskey Gulf; A Charlie Noble Suspense Novel, is Ford’s fifth work of fiction, and the third in the Charlie Noble series. Noble, who narrates the story, is a former Coast Guard officer now working as a private investigator specializing in marine crimes in the Pacific Northwest while living aboard Noble Lady, a 36-ft. Willard Aft Pilothouse trawler. In Whiskey Gulf, Noble is hired by a local yacht club in Bellingham, Washington, to investigate the disappearance of a sailing couple after they strayed into a military test area, Whiskey Gulf, during heavy fog. Whiskey Gulf is in the Canadian Waters of the Strait of Georgia and, at the time of the disappearance, the area was active with a joint-training exercise involving Canadian and U.S. forces.

It’s obvious from the beginning that Ford knows and understands boats and the people who use them, either for professional or recreational purposes. One interesting passage concerns the yacht club that hires Noble. He states that “most yacht clubs are. . . a collection of ordinary men and women with an extraordinary love for boats and the camaraderie that love engenders . . . men and women who stay young at heart by boating whenever and wherever they can.” This sounds like the kind of yacht club many of “the rest of us” may belong to. Ford’s writing style is such that we can tell he knows boats and boaters, how they behave, and how they feel.

Being from the Midwest, I was curious, so a cursory Google search revealed that the islands, channels, and other geographical features in the story, including the Whiskey Gulf area, are real, which makes the story more interesting. The plot is entertaining and moves well, but there are times when the reader may wonder if the author didn’t almost over-do it. The book is about one-fourth the size of your typical Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan novel, but Ford crams in a lot of stuff. It’s a spy novel/detective story, with a love story subplot, and a healthy dose of Native American lore and post 9/11 intrigue thrown in. In fact, there are hints of a contemporary version of Erskine Childers’ classic, The Riddle of the Sands.

Having said all that, Whiskey Gulf is an easy read for anyone who likes stories that move fairly quickly, with articulate attention to detail that enhances the author’s credibility. If you’re looking for something to fill a few evenings or afternoons when the weather dictates that you stay tied to the dock, Whiskey Gulf fills the bill nicely.

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Escape from Hermit Island; Two Women Struggle
to Save Their Sunken Sailboat in Remote Papua New Guinea

by Joy Smith in collaboration with Leslie Brown (Seaworthy Publications, Inc., 2008; 272 pages; $19.95)
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury
Moreno Valley, Calif.

When Joy Smith and Leslie Brown’s 34-ft. sailboat hits a coral reef off the north coast of Papua New Guinea, they never, in their wildest imaginings, could have foreseen the challenges they would face. One minute they were motoring to their anchorage; the next minute, Banshee is crashing onto the reef, splitting her fiberglass hull. Joy is trapped below, behind a door that shuts on her finger, as the sailboat begins to sink ten feet down, less than a mile from the shore. Not a minute too soon, Joy is pulled up out of the sinking vessel by one of the locals.

But the story only begins there. After surviving the sinking, these two women are thrown into a world of chaos as they lose control of their home (Banshee), their belongings, and their lives. Forced to move to living quarters onshore, they are also expected to follow the religious customs of the devout Seventh Day Adventists who inhabit the island and live by the strict community rules of these Papua New Guinea villagers.

As Banshee slowly goes down, the village people make their way out to help remove all of the women’s belongings and gear — then dumping all the waterlogged items on the beach for later retrieval. But this is when the first of the many problems begin — when these communal people see things they like and start claiming them as their own. Later, when the shipwrecked women attempt to repair their boat, the items they need to do the work are gone — not to mention clothing and food items.

To make things worse, though these courageous women know how to repair Banshee, the men of the island refuse to allow them to do the work, as they believe it is “men’s work.” Frustrated beyond belief, Joy and Leslie are forced to work alongside or watch as the men attempt to do the repairs their way — then sneak onboard their own boat to work on it at night and on the Sabbath. Joy has to travel from the remote island to acquire some of the materials required for the reparation work – travel in a third world country is difficult and the people are not always friendly to visitors.

Joy tells this incredible story in two points of view: her own and Leslie’s. The two very personal insights give readers an extremely real and very personal perspective. Escape from Hermit Island is guaranteed to hook you. Once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it down — until you find out how these determined women, over two years, pulled Banshee off the reef, repaired her and all the required gear, survived living in a very different culture, got their lives back, and sailed away.

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Building Kettenburgs

by Mark Allen (Mystic Seaport Museum and the San Diego Maritime Museum, 2008; 224 Pages; $50)
Review by Joe Ditler
Coronado, Calif.

The legacy of Kettenburg Boat Works can be seen in the sheer number of wooden vessels still plying the Pacific Ocean. It’s a story of the last of the “amateur” yacht designers, builders, and racers to gain a following based on the quality of their work alone, rather than on an academic pedigree. They were sailors first, designers after.

The San Diego-based company started in 1919, at about as grass roots as one could get, lowering hand-made boats into the swampy waters off Shelter Island on roughly hewn wheels and ways. They had to wait for high tide to lift their larger creations out of the mud.

The San Diego Maritime Museum, in conjunction with Mystic Seaport Museum, has produced a vivid coffee-table book that captures the legacy of the Kettenburg family, their boats, and what made them so special.

“Initially, building the Kettenburg boats provided the basis for a family business,” said Raymond Ashley, director of the San Diego Maritime Museum. “Ultimately, it provided a kind of maritime immortality, a deepening patina of legend that has followed the boats themselves as they sail across the decades and generations.”

Ashley pointed out that the Kettenburg PC was the first popular class of ocean-sailing boat in Southern California that people of ordinary means could aspire to own. Today, there are dozens of them still afloat and racing. The PC Fleet is extremely active (and inexplicably competitive) on a weekly basis in San Diego.

The Kettenburgs created a name people could trust and a boat you knew would not fail you. They were known for their integrity and their appreciation of both the people building, and the people buying, their boats. A plaque hung in Paul Kettenburg’s office heralded two simple words: “People Matter.”

From high-speed vee-bottom rumrunners of the 1920s to the Pacific Class (PC) sailboats of the 1930s; from government fishing boats and plane-rearming contracts during World War II to the classic Pacific Cruising Class (PCC) after the war, the Kettenburg boats left their mark on the world of boating.

The book is 224 pages of well-researched information on the Kettenburgs and their product, carefully prepared by historian Mark Allen. Among the chapters inside are “Early Ideas and Designs,” “Rumrunners,” “Birth of the PC,” “Greyhounds of the Sea,” “Wartime Competition,” and “The Kettenburg People.”

Paul and George Kettenburg have passed on, but the Kettenburg family fully cooperated to bring this graphic and insightful book to completion, sharing photographs that had never been seen by the public.

The photographs alone are spectacular. Combine this with the well-researched history and lively anecdotes concerning the Kettenburgs and their boats and you have a book that you’ll be proud to set out for others to see. No dusty bookshelves for this quality volume.

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The Dangerous Book for Boaters,
a Humorous Waterfront Guide to the Ways & Wiles of Boaters

by Marlin Bree (Marlor Press; 2009; 96 pages; $9.95)
Review by the Editors

Marlin Bree, author of many wonderful sailing narratives, including Wake of the Green Storm and In the Teeth of the Northeaster, has recently published something a bit out of line for his usual work: a book of laughs. Called The Dangerous Book for Boaters, a Humorous Waterfront Guide to the Ways & Wiles of Boaters, it’s a 96-page collection of nautical jokes and the kind of sayings you might find on a coffee mug or T-shirt. Meant for sailors and powerboaters alike, it might be just the thing if you need a T-shirt or theme for the next rendezvous.

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25 Basic Knots

by Brion Toss (Western Media Products,, 2009; 80 minutes; $22.95)
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minn.

In 25 Basic Knots, his DVD companion to his Working Rope Series of books, Brion Toss simplifies knot-tying. He tells which knots he values and which classics (square knots and bowlines, for example) are overrated. Not to worry. If he lowers your estimation of one knot, he’ll replace it with another two that are just as easy to tie and far more secure. Master rigger Brion Toss is certainly a consummate knot guy.

One thing he does, to help those of us with two left hands, is to film the knot-tying process over his shoulder so we can see his hands oriented in the same way that we’re looking at our own paws with a couple of hunks of line in them. He even shows how to tie a left-handed version as well as a right-handed version of most knots and notes that the situation is not always set up as you’d find it in the classroom. So he shows alternative situations for each knot. And, smooth talker that he is, Brion soothes your stress while talking you out of your fear of knots. Besides, you can play and replay this DVD until you get it. No one will know how many times you’ve been through a section. Don’t ask me how I know.

The list includes the Figure 8, which he uses as an example to show how to think of tying a knot as a fluid action. Don’t even think about “this part through here and that part through there.” Just do it. Don’t pause to consider and it will come naturally. Others included in the DVD’s list of 25 knots are: loop knots such as the butterfly and bowline; bends such as Ashley’s knot, the double sheet bend, and the double becket bend; slipknots such as the slipped becket bend and the cavalry hitch; hitches including the buntline hitch, a round turn and two half hitches, several rolling hitches, the icicle hitch, the pilingspike hitch, and the carabiner hitch; binding knots (several variations on the constrictor knot), belays such as the capstan hitch, belaying pin hitch, and cleat hitch; and a few extras just to bring the total to 25: lashings, square knot, and good luck knot.

Good luck to you, too, if you can tie all these. But now you have a pocket Brion Toss on disc. You can refer to the master and his examples as often as you wish. No one can do it all at once. The gray in Brion’s hair attests to the fact that he wasn’t born with this knowledge either. He picked these knots up one at a time, tried them out, and is passing them along to the rest of us in a useful way. So during the off season, order the DVD, get out a couple of lengths of rope and a pole to tie practice knots around, and get busy . . . one knot at a time.

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Instant Storm Forecasting

by Alan Watts (Sheridan House, 2009; 64 paqes; $14.95)
Review by Michael Maxfield
Gatesville, Texas

Everyone on this planet is affected by weather. Some — like sailors and motorcyclists — maybe more than others, so anything that could help us understand and maybe even predict the weather is good.

Instant Storm Forecasting by meteorologist and sailor Alan Watts is the latest in his now three-book “Instant” series. (The other two are Instant Weather Forecasting and Instant Wind Forecasting.) The 17 short chapters in this book are well illustrated with drawings and stunning photos.

Written by a sailor with sailors in mind, this book is actually for anyone who desires an understanding of weather, as it also covers mountain storms, avalanches, floods, and other land weather. But sailors come ashore, so these topics affect them also.

As a total weather dunce, I approached this book with a high level of trepidation, and also with high hopes that it would help me to finally understand this rather confusing topic. I understood the “basics,” but all those “highs,” “lows,” “depressions,” “occlusions,” etc., from the TV weather forecasts kept me thoroughly confused. I simply accepted their final forecasts with no real comprehension of the why’s or how’s.

The first two chapters cover the weather systems of the world and what drives them, and concepts that help in forecasting storms. The remaining 15 chapters focus on weather phenomena (like gales, thunderstorms, snowstorms, and tornadoes and waterspouts), explaining how each is formed, what causes them, and precautions and preparations to take when these storms approach. Most chapters also contain helpful charts on such things as El Niño, weather winds of the world, mountain weather patterns, storm indicators, and many others.

This is not a book for light reading. I found the need to read and re-read passages a number of times to grasp some concepts that I felt could have been better explained. The lack of a dedicated appendix with definitions of all the different terms is also a real shortcoming. The terms and their sometimes-vague explanations were buried in the text and difficult to locate when I wanted to read them again.

Instant Storm Forecasting will not turn someone into an instant weather guru but, with diligent study, it could help you to better understand our planet’s weather and what causes it, and to, occasionally at least, foretell coming storms — something useful to any sailor. I now (mostly) understand the television weather charts. Obtaining the two companion volumes would probably benefit anyone desiring more weather understanding.

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Voices on the Wind

by Bonnie McGee (Skylark Publications, 2009; 120 pages; $44.95).
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minn.

“I grieve over the homogenization of people in the name of globalization, and hope that there will always be pockets of richness like jewels waiting for those who are willing to explore.” Bonnie McGee spent 4½ years circling the world aboard her 33’ boat, shooting photographs and writing down stories as she cruised. Exploring those “pockets of richness” was pivotal in her life. “Besides the incredible experience of nights at sea a thousand miles from shore, the sailing life teaches self reliance and opens your heart to the wondrous possibilities of living fully. Not much can compare with it.” Three friends were convinced; each bought a boat after hearing Bonnie’s stories.

Voices on the Wind, with its large 10 x 12” format and stunning photography, is more than a coffee table book. It is meant not only to be read, but experienced. Webb Chiles, in his introduction, describes Bonnie’s stories as the distillation of what a sensitive woman took away from the land and the sea.

Vignettes spotlight memories from the journey:
Jamaica: “Paint remover? No, Mon. We don’t carry it. Why would anyone want to remove it?”
New Guinea: “He glanced at the plump moon climbing high in the sky. Several times he wrinkled his brow and pursed his lips as if trying to phrase a question. Finally, he pointed to the moon and drew a deep breath. ‘I have heard,’ he began tentatively, ‘that a man from your country has walked on the moon.’”
Offshore: “Gary has arranged a troop of clothespins on the starboard lifeline and has begun issuing commands to them. Have we been at sea too long?”

Dynamic pictures bring the pilgrimage alive — wide pink smiles of toothless old men in straw hats; multicolored corals and creatures that live where land meets Mother Ocean, and below that ocean; native children playing in fields, paddling dugouts, grinning in the cockpit. From French Polynesia to Australia, New Guinea to Africa, across the Indian Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope, Bonnie photographed and Bonnie wrote.

The circumnavigation ended over 20 years ago. Today, Bonnie is a successful Colorado artist who still loves the wildness of untouched places. She could be speaking of her life on the water rather than her artwork when she talks of trying to capture the power of wild places.  Her description of “the smallness of man against the backdrop of vast mountain vistas” could easily read: “The smallness of woman against the backdrop of a vast ocean panorama.”

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Sea Survival Handbook: The Complete Guide to Survival at Sea

by Keith Colwell (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009; 156 pp; $16.95)
Review by Ted Brewer
Agazziz, B.C.

Sea Survival is the official handbook for the one-day Royal Yachting Association’s “Basic Sea Survival” course, and the two-day RYA/ISAF “Offshore Safety” course. It is extremely thorough in some respects but I feel it skims too lightly over many of the most vital aspects of safety and survival at sea.

For example, there are 11 pages on the subject of life jackets, including two pages on how to don the jacket, a full-page illustration showing an inflatable life jacket and all its various fittings, plus about 20 other illustrations. The subject of “Life rafts” is given 16 pages and “When to Abandon Ship” and “Abandoning Ship” are covered very thoroughly in 28 pages, replete with illustrations.

On the other hand, “Preparing for Heavy Weather” is on the frothy side with just five pages, and two of those are given over to full-page illustrations. Indeed, the whole of Chapter 4, ”Handling Heavy Weather,” is barely six pages long and half of those are on damage control and repair, with almost nothing on setting up a jury rig after losing the mast. The chapter does include two short paragraphs on sea anchors, with one rather pointless illustration, but nothing on sizing the sea anchor to the boat, making an emergency sea anchor, the length of warps, use of oil bags in extreme conditions, or other essentials.

In case of damage to rig or hull, one essential for survival at sea is a good toolkit and adequate spare parts, but the writer provides no comprehensive list of tools or spares. A first-aid kit is mentioned but, again, no list of essential instruments, equipment, or supplies.

Sea Survival has a lot of bones but not enough meat, too many fancy drawings but not enough text. In many ways it seems to be created for the neophyte and there it may serve well. Still, the book does provide valuable information for the offshore sailor — life rafts, survival kits, man-overboard recovery, searches, etc. If you buy the book I recommend that you study it thoroughly, perhaps making a small pad of notes, then read it again. When you are thoroughly familiar with some of the techniques, go out in calm water and practice the search, the MOB recovery, and righting the life raft. In any case, do not wait until someone’s life depends on it and then open the book; that will be far too late.

For those sailors who would like solid (and free) information on such subjects as heaving to in a gale, storm sails, sea anchors (and how to make one), securing the rudder, oil bags, etc., I recommend you go to the web and type in The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss. The whole text of the 1913 book is available. John C. Voss was a Canadian mariner of the early 1900s, the Captain of sealing schooners, the man who sailed a 26-foot Sea Bird yawl through a Japanese typhoon, and the man who sailed a 35-foot Haida Indian dugout canoe from the west coast of Canada to England via Australia and South Africa. Voss knew the sea in all its moods.

If you have the time, read the fascinating stories of Voss’s small-craft voyages but, first, go to the long and detailed Appendix for the Captain’s valuable advice on weathering storms at sea in small craft. And, for the more modern sailor, K. Adlard Coles’ Heavy Weather Sailing, which was recently updated, has long been the bible for surviving that extreme storm at sea. Combined with Sea Survival, these books could someday save your life.

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Yacht Design According to Perry: My Boats and What Shaped Them

by Robert H. Perry (International Marine, 2008; 280 pages; $39.95)
Review by Milo Feinberg
Cambridge, Massachusetts

A refreshingly blunt book, even the title hides nothing: Yacht Design According to Perry is, as the title suggests, a chronicle of designer Robert Perry’s opinions, memories, criticisms, and philosophies concerning the world of boats and his impact upon it.

While Robert Perry’s career has been a varied one, Yacht Design According to Perry is focused on Bob’s development of fast cruising yachts, starting with the famous Valiant 40 and continuing through his many double-enders and, later, his fast cruising sleds. Indeed, the book encompasses everything from the chunky little Baba 30 to Icon, a custom 65-foot cruising sled carrying almost 2,000 square feet of sail while displacing only 27,700 pounds on her 58 feet of waterline. In his designs, Bob always attempts to combine the romance of boats from the boards of masters like Atkin, Garden, and Neilson, with the speed-giving qualities he learned designing to the IOR rule under Dick Carter prior to starting his own design firm.

Bob structures the book with alternating chapters, the first chapters are a series of memoirs chronicling the design of a boat or a series of boats; the second look at a specific element of boat design. The memoir sections of the book provide a history or an outline of his career, describing boats he built and the people he met building them, and giving telling accounts of a series of boats he designed for a company, or custom boats designed for clients’ particular needs. These chapters do a superb job of modeling the design spiral, providing an extremely clear and specific outline of the design process for each boat and illuminating Bob’s overarching concerns and style. The world of boats is made up of a wide variety of people with a wide range of perspectives, and Bob’s experiences as a designer remind us of this.

In the portions of the book devoted to providing information, Bob relates his own prejudices and preferences for different details of design. The information presented starts quite broadly, with descriptions of basic ratios and measurements, but by the end the book presents in-depth looks at concentrated areas of design features like bow, rig, and keel design. It should be mentioned that this book is not designed to please everyone; one of its many good qualities is that Bob sets down his opinions in a candid manner; no ink is wasted on temporizing. The book is also full of illustrations and drawings. Photographs abound.

Whether you’re contemplating your next boat, considering upgrading your present one, or just curious why the hooker moored across the harbor from you is faster than yours, this book will make an enjoyable read.

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Seamanship Secrets

by John Jamieson (International Marine/McGraw Hill, 2009; 326 pages, soft cover; $18.95 USA / £14.99 UK.)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
Antigo, Wisc.

Most of us, I’m sure, have at least one edition of Chapman’s Piloting. I personally own two copies, a 51st edition and a 60th edition, both given to me as gifts when owning a boat was still a dream. They have proven to be excellent reference books, as I’m sure you realize, but there are a few drawbacks to Chapman’s: 1) If you try reading it from cover-to-cover it’s be a great cure for insomnia, but that’s not what it’s for. And 2) if you did try to read it at bedtime, it could cause minor injures because it’s so darned big. The information is useful to the point of being essential, but on Tortuga, my 26-foot Westerly Centaur, there isn’t much room to spare. Enter Seamanship Secrets by John Jamieson. Actually, the complete title is: Seamanship Secrets: 185 Tips & Techniques for Better Navigation, Cruise Planning, and Boat Handling Under Power or Sail.

At first I was a bit skeptical, wondering how John would fit all of that information into a paperback with only 326 pages, but he did. Simply put, the book could be considered a condensed version of Chapman’s, with 13 chapters on everything from how to read charts to diesel maintenance, reading tides and currents to understanding radar, basic marlinspike seamanship to . . . well, the list goes on. At the end of each chapter there’s a short “quiz,” if you will, entitled “Your Call, Skipper,” in which, “You’re the skipper or most knowledgeable crewmember on board. What actions would you take in the following situations?” You’re then presented with five scenarios relating to the chapter, followed by the best way to handle each situation from the author’s point of view. At the end of the book the author provides one appendix of “Useful Tables,” and another entitled “Additional Concepts and Formulas,” followed by a bibliography and an index, all pretty standard stuff for a book of this nature.

John freely acknowledges his gratitude to the people at Chapman’s, where he was on staff in their seamanship and chart navigation department. He also served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 23 years, so his credentials are quite impressive. Obviously the work isn’t as comprehensive as Chapman’s, but it isn’t meant to be and doesn’t profess to be, but you’ll definitely get a good bang for your buck. If you’re looking for a quick on-board reference guide or review, or if you want to brush up in the off-season, you would be hard-pressed to find something this comprehensive in such a small package.

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Navigation Through the Ages

by Donald Launer (Sheridan House, 2009; 192 pages; $23.95)
Review by Bob Wood
Angola, N.Y.

Navigation Through the Ages is a compendium of man’s quest to answer that most basic of journeying questions: “Where in the world am I?” Through six sections, Don traces advancements in techniques and tools from “Ancient Navigation” through the “Age of Discovery” to our contemporary “Electronics Age,” including separate sections on environmental factors affecting navigation and our current system of emergency signaling.

Due to the vast amount of improvements over the millennia, Don paints with a necessarily broad brush, allowing the reader the opportunity to research any particular interest further. Yet it’s amply illustrated with photographs and drawings.

Moreover, his treatment of navigation is universally appealing. Whether the reader gives it little thought beyond plotting GPS positions, is a student of romantic earlier navigation when charts carried the heart-stopping warning, “Here There Be Monsters,” or is simply put off by the “black magic” of celestial navigation and reams of sight tables, there is something for all.

The writing style is enjoyable, easy-to-digest, and practical. Content structure is well thought out and builds logically, step by step. As smoothly structured as an academic course, the book is natural enough to be enjoyed by a saloon’s swinging lamplight and shifting shadows. Offering a glimpse of our past, lesson and lore are cleverly intertwined.

Somehow an armload of dry technical and historical books has been reduced to a single volume. Skillfully, the author has kept the salient points, the human interest, and the ability to pique our curiosities. This voyaging-sized book is an excellent distillation, a catalyst for great discussions. That is the real magic held between its covers.

Try to fit this gem among your classics alongside Bowditch. It will earn its place with a rare combination of concise information and human interest, squarely answering one of passagemaking’s whispered concerns: “How do you know where we are?”

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Ready to Sail: A Captain’s Guide to Boat Inspection and Repairs — Preparations of Boat and Crew for Offshore Passagemaking

by Ed Mapes (Sheridan House, 2009, 224 pages; $29.95)
Review by Michael Maxfield
Gatesville, Texas

Are you planning — or even just dreaming — of an offshore passage and aren’t entirely sure where to start or what to do to prepare for this daunting adventure? Don’t fret: you’re not the first, you’re not alone, and there is help. My own first offshore passage is still in the distant future but I firmly believe that it’s never too early to start preparations, and it’s always best to go directly to the experts for advice.

Ed Mapes is a licensed USCG Master Mariner and delivery captain who has spent a dozen years conducting boat inspections and teaching offshore sailing. After so many years of seeing boats and crews that were unsafe and ill-prepared for offshore sailing, Ed compiled his experience and know-how into Ready to Sail.

In 12 chapters Ed covers nearly every aspect of boat and crew preparation for offshore sailing. Starting from that initial impression when first seeing the boat, he progresses to inspection, repair, and maintenance of the hull, fittings, standing rigging, gear, and other systems normally on a cruising boat. The last three chapters cover safety, crew preparation, and preparing the boat for sea. Reading this book taught me a number of things about boats, and the repair and maintenance of their systems that I didn’t know before.

Ed likens this pre-passage inspection process to the initial marine survey before purchase of a yacht, but he says, “You’re no longer trying to determine whether you should buy the boat; rather, you must discover its faults and weaknesses in a much higher-stakes game — that of ocean readiness.” He emphasizes that you need to “focus more on function than aesthetics” and consider how each item of gear or equipment “will function in a rough seaway.” And that’s just in the first chapter!

Photos, illustrations, and charts are spaced throughout and each chapter concludes with a useful list of spares pertinent to that chapter’s topic. In three appendixes, Ed provides 15 separate checklists for such things as gear, tools, spares, and boat inspections to aid in your passage planning. They are generic and may need to be tailored to individual needs. There is also a helpful index.

This book starts off the mark in full sail and never slows ’til it reaches the finish as it leads you step-by-step in preparing for your own offshore passage. I highly recommend Ready to Sail to anyone considering an offshore passage or who has primary responsibility for the care and maintenance of a sailboat. This book is a “keeper” that would make a positive addition to any sailor’s library.

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