Book Reviews From 2011
Reviews From 2011
February 2011 Newsletter
- AShipShapeSailboat™ – Maintenance Management Software for Sailboats from the AssetCare Division of Intelligent Maintenance™ LLC
- Doctor On Board: A Guide to Dealing with Medical Emergencies, by Jurgen Hauert
- True Spirit: The True Story of a 16-Year-Old Australian Who Sailed Solo, Nonstop, and Unassisted Around the World, by Jessica Watson
- Gentleman Captain, by J.D. Davies
- Saving Sailing: The Story of Choices, Families, Time Commitments and How We Can Create a Better Future, by Nicholas D. Hayes
- The Fyddeye Guide to America’s Maritime History, by Joe Follansbee, ed.
April 2011 Newsletter
- Passage To Nirvana: A Survivor’s Zen Voyage — Reflections on Loss, Discovery, Healing & Hope,
by Lee Carlson
- Bull Canyon: A Boatbuilder, A Writer and Other Wildlife, by Lin Pardey
- Women On Board Cruising, Edited by Lisa Targal Favors
- Fundamentals of Model Boat Building, by John Into and Nancy Price
June 2011 Newsletter
- Bucking the Tide: Making Do and Discovering the Wild New England and Fundy Coasts in a $400 Yacht, by David Buckman
- Catboat Tales, by William Winslow
- Larke, El Capitan And The Theory Of Everything, by Hugh MacMullan
- Optimizing The Trailerable Sailboat, by Paul Esterle
- Circumnavigating Low Key: Where a small boat and a smaller budget lead to a big adventure, by Captain Woody Henderson
- The Ultimate Book Of Decorative Knots, by Lindsey Philpott
August 2011 Newsletter
- Rescue Warriors, by David Helvarg
- A Ditty Bag Book: A Guide for Sailors, by Frank Rosenow
- Sail Tales, by Robert Engel
- The Pirate’s Bastard, by Laura S. Wharton
- Living Without Reservations: A Journey by Land & Sea in Search of Happiness, by Barbara Singer
October 2011 Newsletter
- The Power and the Glory, by William Hammond
- Life Down Here, CD by Derrick Hampton
- Voyages in Desperate Times, by Jule Miller
- A Pirate’s Christmas Wish, CD by The Bilge Pumps
- Dolphins Under My Bed and Something of the Turtle, by Sandra Clayton
- SEAsoned: A CHef’s Journey With Her Captain, by Gloria Allman
December 2011 Newsletter
- The Best Sailing Stories Ever Told, edited by Stephen Brennan
- Winter in Fireland —A Patagonian Sailing Adventure,
by Nicholas Coghlan
- Shipwrecks of the Northeast, a wall map by National Geographic
- Stone Boat Odyssey, by Ralph and Phyllis Nansen
Maintenance Management Software for Sailboats from the AssetCare Division of Intelligent Maintenance™ LLC (<www.intelligentmaintenance.com/sailboat/>), $59.95 + $5.95 shipping and handling).
Review by Durkee Richards
AShipShapeSailboat™ is a feature-rich software program (Mac & Windows). These features include very detailed maintenance plans as well as a records center that includes “Equipment Log” and “What’s Aboard” modules where a skipper can keep track of all essential items installed or stowed aboard their vessel. In effect, this program can become the go-to point for essentially all data about your boat.
Most of us keep a maintenance log that includes a modest list of key events — routine engine maintenance (oil, filter, raw-water impeller replacement), fuel filter changes, replacement or service of major electronic components, etc. A brief scan of the more than two dozen maintenance modules in this program quickly reveals how much more we could be doing to enhance our maintenance program and further reduce the likelihood of unpleasant surprises while out cruising. These maintenance modules range from “Cleats and fairleads” through “Engine,” “Exhaust system,” and “Fuel system” to “Winches and windlass” and “Woodwork.”
Realizing the full power of this program comes at a price — a significant front-end investment of time spent entering data about your vessel and its recent maintenance history. But, in return, a skipper can enjoy several benefits including alerts on overdue maintenance items, a comprehensive and well-organized maintenance record, and detailed checklists for pre-season, mid-season and winterization. These checklists would be valuable even if a skipper chose to set up and use only a few of the maintenance modules.
Bottom line — this program can be an important tool in a well-structured maintenance program, as well as the comprehensive data center for the boat. After living with this program for several weeks, I think that few recreational sailors would choose to utilize its full capabilities, but almost all skippers would appreciate seeing the maintenance checklists and receiving the maintenance alerts for the modules they do choose to use.
Doctor On Board: A Guide to Dealing with Medical Emergencies
by Jurgen Hauert (Sheridan House, 2010; 96 pages; $19.95 paperback)
Review by Brian Koger
Severna Park, Maryland
First published in German in 2008 as Medizinischer Ratgeber an Bord (translation: Medical Advice on Board), this handy guide covers medical issues that require more than the standard first aid taught by the Red Cross, Scouts, etc. Although there is also advice on treating minor issues so they don’t turn into major medical situations (e.g., hyperventilation, sunburn, etc.), the book deals mainly with serious emergencies such as heart attacks and amputations. Topics are presented in quick-to-read snippets with very easily understood step-by-step instructions, complete with illustrations in the form of color drawings or photographs. The illustrations are not of the “gross-out” variety and aim to rapidly clarify what to do rather than simply show just how bad an injury can look in real life.
The book has been “Americanized” so temperatures are given in Fahrenheit as well as Centigrade and references are made to US-based resources (e.g., the advice on accidental poisoning refers the reader to the American Association of Poison Control Centers rather than some place in Europe). While many of the spellings are in British English (diarrhoea, anaemia, etc.), they are nevertheless easily understood.
Most of the situations covered apply not only to sailors far out to sea, but also to those near shore or in an inland body of water where professional help could still be quite far away (either in time or distance). Although the book covers how to request professional help, it focuses on what to do before that help arrives — invaluable in the case of a true emergency. While doctors or other medical professionals may second-guess some of the specific advice, the text repeatedly advises the on-scene caregiver to get on the radio and ask for help and request instructions from medical professionals. Additionally, it covers something people might not think about until faced with an emergency situation: how to get the victim off the boat without causing further injury to the person or damage to the boat and/or rescue craft.
One caveat about the book is that it assumes the boat has a full-blown medical kit on board that includes such devices as wound staplers and hypodermic needles. I know my boat doesn’t have a kit like that and I start feeling out of my league when faced with anything more complicated than a regular-sized adhesive bandage, but this book offers a recommended list of what to have on board and — perhaps more importantly — gives the reader the confidence to take those crucial first steps to stabilize patients and provide them the help they need until they can get professional help.
I would highly recommend this book to sailors anywhere. I consider it cheap insurance that could help to prevent a medical emergency from turning into a disaster.
True Spirit: The True Story of a 16-Year-Old Australian
Who Sailed Solo, Nonstop, and Unassisted Around the World
by Jessica Watson (Atria Books, 2010; 368 pages; $16.00)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minnesota
The subtitle pretty well sums up the “plot” of this nonfiction story except to say that the Australian teenager who sailed back into Sydney Harbour on May 15, 2010, was a girl. A young woman. A very young woman with a dream who started planning her trip some five years prior to her departure. A young woman who joined the ranks of Jesse Martin, Tania Aebi, Zac Sunderland, Mike Perham, and David Dicks. The night before she set sail (for the second time, but that’s another story), she said to her parents, “Tomorrow I’m going to wake up and sail around the world.” And that’s what she did.
Jessica tells her story in a perfectly teenage way, though with surprising maturity. The young woman rounding Cape Horn was a long way from washing dishes to pay for sailing experience!
The book is divided into three sections: The Starting Point, The Voyage and Home. The first section is told in a conversational manner, introducing those who would become her shore team and sponsors, detailing her plan and how she made it come true, and telling how her parents coped with both the idea and the fallout from public opinion.
The second section of the book, the journey itself, is a combination of blog entries she made while underway, along with additional background and detail that draw the reader into her adventure. This reader began to question if she was sailing with Pollyanna until the author ‘fessed up that at the beginning of the voyage she kept her lower moods to herself in order not to worry her parents. Then there are lists. What she missed most about land/home. What she would miss most when the journey was over. Maintenance lists.
The third section tells of her return to port, sailing the 33’ Ella’s Pink Lady into the harbor to a pink carpet welcome by a huge crowd of Australians, including the prime minister.
A number of nifty extras make the book a winner. There are 16 full pages of photos, Jessica’s health chart from before and after the voyage, several of her favorite recipes and three appendices. The appendices include: A Guide to Ella’s Pink Lady, which labels the parts of the boat; Internal Guide, which does the same thing for the interior, and a glossary. An icon appears periodically throughout the book to alert readers to video on Jessica’s YouTube channel that was taken live at the time they are reading about. Definitely a unique twist, and a good one! This book is worth the experience.
by J.D. Davies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2010; 320 pages; $25.00)
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, IL
Most of the stories about adventure on the high seas — be they Hornblower, Aubrey, Amanda Garrett, or Richard Sharpe* — have several items in common: a young, smart, daring hero; an older subordinate who provides mature wisdom; a fast ship; intrigue and daring-do on great waters and, depending on when it was written, a certain amount of sex . . . Gentleman Captain has all of these elements. The difference is that, although those other stories are usually set in the late 18th or early 19th century, this story takes place in 1661, immediately after the English Civil War when Charles II sits uneasily on the newly restored throne of England. Thomas Quinton is a 21-year-old scion of a warrior family who somehow has been given command of one of His Majesty’s ships even though he has no nautical experience and only wants a commission in the Guards. Through ignorance and bad advice, he loses his ship. There are more ships than captains, though, and he is given the Jupiter, a single-decker whose captain has just died (or was he murdered?) and sent off to look into weapons smuggling in darkest Scotland.
This story grabs the reader less by the action than by the characters Davies surrounds Captain Quinton with. There is Kit Farrell, a skilled sailor who teaches his captain the ropes — literally; Captain Judge, a foppish sycophant who wears elaborate wigs and Egyptian robes on his quarterdeck; James Vyvyan, nephew of the former captain of the Jupiter, determined to find the people responsible for his uncle’s death; LeBlanc, the French sailmaker; Colin Campbell of Rannoch, the Highland chieftain; and Cornelius van der Eide, a captain in the Dutch navy and, interestingly, Quinton’s brother-in-law.
All of these characters have secrets, and practically no one is who he appears to be. This keeps young Captain Quinton guessing, right up to the climactic battle in the narrow waters off Glenrannoch, where Quinton acquits himself.
Davies’ prose is a bit turgid in places (“her eyes flashing like the broadside of a sixty-gunner”) but once he finds his groove the story moves right along. We can look forward to Captain Quinton learning seamanship and command skills in succeeding books.
*I know, Sharpe is set mostly on land, and Garrett is 21st century, but you get my drift.
Saving Sailing: The Story of Choices, Families, Time Commitments
and How We Can Create a Better Future
by Nicholas D. Hayes (Crickhollow Books, 2009; 240 pages; $22.00)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minnesota
Nick Hayes, a market researcher, interviewed over 1,000 sailors and would-be sailors between 2003 and 2009 to gather material for this book. According to his figures, fewer than 1% of Americans are self-described sailors today. In the late 1980s, almost 10 million middle-class Americans called themselves active sailors.
Hayes’ concerns? Why isn’t sailing, the activity that has given his family so much pleasure amid the glorious aesthetics of the sea, the most irresistible pastime in the world? Why the decline not only in sailing, but in other active pastimes of American families? Hayes takes on not only the ebbing interest in sailing, but the dwindling of family togetherness as a whole. Wide-ranging as that objective is, his intentions in writing the book seem genuine.
His premise? In the introduction, Hayes sounds like a litigator. He says right out that he will present a case that the way we use our free time has enormous consequences for us, the people around us and potentially for the generations that follow. “I will show…I will distinguish . . . I will propose . . .We will consider . . . We will use . . . We will focus . . .” In the third chapter he is still telling us what he is going to tell us.
His approach? Hayes intersperses his findings and his opinions with vignettes consisting of composite characters patched together from the people he interviewed. In so doing, Hayes fails to project sufficient authority and, therefore, sufficient confidence on the part of the reader. Unfortunately, the characters feel like characters, not real sailors.
His answer? The choices people make in how to spend their “real available time” — about 55% of Americans say they simply do not have enough time to sail.
His solution? Mentoring. Rather a simplistic wrap to the entire family togetherness quandary, but would that it works. Saving Sailing ends with an action plan — “Specific ideas on how to rescue the Life Pastime.” Potential readers might like to scan this conclusion prior to purchasing the book.
The gist of it all? Saving Sailing could be subtitled “A Lite Look at Life Pastimes.” Nevertheless, it is an easy read and the author is enthusiastic about change in a direction that we all, undoubtedly, support. More present and future sailors? That’s good. More family together time? That’s good. Anyone who supports those goals. Again, good.
The Fyddeye Guide to America’s Maritime History
by Joe Follansbee, ed. (Fyddeye Media, 2010; 394 pages; $24.95)
Review by James Williams
Daytona Beach, Florida
Joe Follansbee’s Fyddeye Guide to America’s Maritime History is advertised as the “most comprehensive guide to historic ships, scenic lighthouses and maritime museums.” It contains over 2,000 listings of ships, lighthouses, museums, maritime research centers and organizations and has some nice black and white photographs and three or four short but somewhat inconsequential essays. Overall, it left me foundering, as though navigating the stacks of the Library of Congress without a well-thought-out catalogue.
Unfortunately, the book is not very well organized. Following a preface and brief introduction, 12 chapters, varying from two to 86 pages, contain listings of maritime history topics, each listed in slightly different ways. Chapter one, “Ships,” lists over 600 ships, ferries, tugboats, warships, steamers, and others and is organized by the type of vessel listed. Want to just look for ships in your state or region? You’ll have to plow through all the listings to do it. Want to look for sites by city? Go to the main index, but you will not find sites indexed by states, subjects, national parks, state parks or any other imaginable way, which is a shame.
Subsequent chapters offer other organizational approaches. The “Museums,” chapter is organized into two large groups — maritime museums and other museums — and within each the listings are by state. This is considerably more useful than the type-of-ship organization in chapter one, but here, again, the Guide’s main index is of little help. Chapters on “Lighthouses and Lightships” and “Life Saving Stations,” are listed by region. Also, three maps are added to the lighthouse listings, but they are not well tied to the listings, a problem that suggests another listing methodology might have been employed: a numerical identification for each listing with an alphabetical prefix or suffix for each chapter (e.g., S120 for Ships, listing 120; M31, for Museums, listing 31). Added to the main index, this would be an extremely useful way of quickly finding listings.
Additional chapters include one covering maritime heritage districts, such as Merrill’s Wharf Historic District in New Bedford, Massachusetts; markers and monuments, such as the National Rivers Hall of Fame in Dubuque, Iowa; and stand-alone “structures and sites,” such as the Municipal Ferry Terminal in San Pedro, California. Another chapter lists maritime organizations, from the National Park Service’s Maritime Heritage Program to the Dorchester Skipjack Committee in Cambridge Maryland, and two chapters, which could have been combined, list education programs and research libraries.
Although it might not be fair to point out omissions, I cannot help but mention a couple. The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), authorized in 1919 by the U.S. Congress and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, is a linear historical site most worthy of listing, along with some of its component parts, such as the Dismal Swamp Canal, opened in 1805 and still the oldest continually operating canal in the U.S. Also, perhaps because Follansbee includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in his compilation of sites, I was surprised not to find listings from the Bahamas, much closer to the eastern seaboard and a regular destination for many American sailors. How could one leave out the Elbow Key Lighthouse in Hope Town, Abaco? It is one of the last operating kerosene-fueled, first-order-Fresnel-lens lights in the world, and the Bahamas Lighthouse Preservation Society which is responsible for its preservation and continued operation is a very active organization, closely linked to the United States Lighthouse Society (which is listed).
And, I don’t want to be picayunish, but more careful copyediting might have caught the error in presenting latitudes and longitudes given for many of the Guide’s listings. Unfortunately, they are given, for example, as “Latitude 38.7037 Latitude -76.3386.” I suppose those of us who are close to the sea will recognize the error, but it’s a shame it wasn’t caught before press time. Moreover, it may make readers wonder how many other errors there are in the Guide.
My observations aside, I am greatly impressed by Joe Follansbee’s effort to assemble this guide. It was no small task and the fact that he lists all the resources in the Guide on his website, <www.fyddeye.com>, and is updating, adding overlooked sites and resources, and offers a keyword search capability makes the project all the more worthwhile. But wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a fully searchable CD-ROM with active links to resources with, or in addition to, the printed version?
Passage To Nirvana: A Survivor’s Zen Voyage —
Reflections on Loss, Discovery, Healing & Hope
BY LEE CARLSON (HENRY CHAPIN & SONS, 2010; 342 PAGES; $17.95 PAPERBACK; $9.99 KINDLE)
REVIEW BY BRIAN KOGER
SEVERNA PARK, MD
Just as no one should read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance expecting to get step-by-step instructions on swapping out the piston rings on his Harley, this is not a book to teach how-to information about sailing. There are passages about sailing and boats; passages about the interesting people one meets on distant islands; passages about the liveaboard life and the bonds that form in the boating community; passages about . . . well, passages made on sailboats — but far and away, this book is about Zen Buddhism, particularly as it relates to the author’s personal spiritual journey. If you approach it with that understanding and if that’s what you want to read about, you will not be disappointed. The author discusses his Buddhist beliefs at length, but does not spend nearly as much time on the subject of boats or sailing, although he is a liveaboard sailor.
Lee Carlson was an accomplished writer and editor until he was accidentally run down by a car and suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI — a term that now appears frequently in the media since it is often associated with injuries to military personnel). The story of Carlson’s injury and the slow recovery process (including a nasty divorce and horrible experiences with the legal and insurance systems) make up the majority of the book. Some of it is interesting reading, but the author tends to repeat himself and belabor points that were made earlier in the book (which the reader almost feels guilty for noticing — that’s the nature of his injury, after all).
Carlson also discusses his mother’s tragic experience with a TBI (from a fall down a flight of stairs from which she never recovered) and also offers some interesting insight into the series of concussions suffered by Ernest Hemingway that eventually led to that author’s inability to write, his severe depression, and ultimate suicide. TBI is clearly a subject that means a lot to Carlson and he wants to get the word out about the nature of such injuries and their effects on people.
The book is a very quick read, mostly because the author’s injury keeps him from concentrating too long on a given topic, so the writing is broken up into short chapters. They are usually prefaced by a short poem he calls a “Po” (abbreviated form of “poem”) that provides the theme for the chapter. The chapters themselves may be a few sentences or several pages in length; no long slogs of reading are involved, although some of the Zen stuff is rather esoteric. Throughout the book, Carlson repeatedly returns to the subject of Zen Buddhism and his personal spirituality. That’s neither good nor bad, unless you were expecting to read a sailing book.
BULL CANYON: A BOATBUILDER, A WRITER AND OTHER WILDLIFE
BY LIN PARDEY
(Available for presale at http://www.paracay.com/nautical/index.php?dispatch=products.view&product_id=6646; Full release in May; $22.00 until book is released.)
REVIEW BY KAREN LARSON
With her newest book, Bull Canyon, a Boatbuilder, a Writer and other Wildlife, Lin Pardey makes it clear why she has such a following among her sailing readers: she’s a great observer of human nature and a natural storyteller. In this case, she writes about the four years she and Larry spent living in the California hills while they were building Taleisin.
The focus in this book is primarily on the Pardeys’ developing relationship, the cast of colorful characters living nearby, family politics, the march of civilization into the California countryside, and the evolution of Lin’s career as a writer. Although many years have passed since their time in Bull Canyon, Lin remembers events in excellent detail and recreates each scene with humor and honesty.
Any storyteller must have stories to tell and Lin is able to find them by the bushel wherever she and Larry wander, whether on land or sea. These two have consistently chosen the road less taken, which just happens to be where the best stories occur. They wind up in out-of-the-mainstream places where other strong-minded individualists (characters in every sense of the word) tend to congregate. Bull Canyon in the late 1970s and early 1980s was one such place.
The Pardeys’ very special characteristics, emphasized in this book, are their can-do spirit and positive attitude. Their good-natured acceptance of complications and their ability to get things done with their own hands makes anything possible. As a result, these two have accomplished much in life.
They are not confounded when the house they’ll be living in leaks profusely and is overrun by rats. The road washes out and firestorms threaten. They dig in, fix up, make do, and enjoy almost every moment. When the going gets particularly tough, the Pardeys seem to gather people around and celebrate. As a result, Lin and Larry have been having a wonderful life together, one well worth telling about . . . and Lin tells it well.
This book, while of great interest to the Pardeys’ sailing fans, will also be read and enjoyed by non-sailors. With it, Lin the storyteller has bridged the divide between sailors and landsmen and will touch readers of every inclination.
WOMEN ON BOARD CRUISING
EDITED BY LISA TARGAL FAVORS (FAVORS VENTURES, LLC, 2010; 251 PAGES; $24.95)
REVIEW BY CAROLYN CORBETT
LAKE SHORE, MINNESOTA
Stop right there, guys! Let’s not be blowing off this book as Girl Stuff Only. The fact is that three-fourths of the folks who pre-ordered the book were men. A number of gents are buying the newly released book as a gift to wives or partners, to share with them the joys and realities of living aboard a cruising boat.
The 25 women contributors to the newly released book candidly share their fears and adventures with vulnerability, enthusiasm, practicality and humor. It’s the kind of book I wish I’d had before I took off on my first seven-month cruise through the Bahamas. It’s a book from which couples can learn the fundamentals of cruising in the areas they will be traveling, which may not necessarily include Fiji or Christmas Island.
Some of editor and long-distance cruiser Lisa Targal Favors’ salty women have circumnavigated the “Loop” – the Eastern United States from the heartland rivers to the North Atlantic seaboard to the Great Lakes. Others have sailed around the world. Favors herself has 20,000 miles of cruising experience, including two 6,000-miles loops aboard her boat, Kismet.
A number of the Women on Board Cruising selections offered bulleted lists of tips, “need-to-knows,” and lessons learned, which help break up the tiny-sized font in which the soft-cover book is printed. For example, Darcy Searl’s selection, entitled “This is an adventure, not a vacation” offers the following suggestions:
- Ask a lot of questions.
- Purchase or borrow the cruise guides, as well as the charts, of all the areas you will be traveling.
- Keep a road atlas on your boat.
- Purchase a pair of communication headsets (marriage savers).
- Become a member of America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association if you plan to do the Great Loop.
Each vignette carries a “been-there-felt-that” mood, and pictures of each author make a nice visual addition. Bernadette Bernon of Cruising World magazine says, “It’s like sitting down with a cup of tea and a support group of experienced fellow cruisers who can’t wait to show you the ropes . . .” It brings to this reader’s mind a similar excellent book for women sailors, Diana Jessie’s The Cruising Women’s Advisor, the second edition of which was released three years ago. Anchored in experience, both books address questions common to those considering sailing off into the sunset.
FUNDAMENTALS OF MODEL BOAT BUILDING
BY JOHN INTO AND NANCY PRICE (SCHIFFER PUBLISHING, LTD., 2010; 160 PAGES; $34.99)
REVIEW BY SANDY WELLS
My love of sailing guided me into building detailed ship models, and much of what I’ve learned along the way came by trial and error. My learning curve would have been much less steep if Fundamentals of Model Boat Building had been available.
John Into and Nancy Price have produced a very detailed, step-by-step guide that takes the reader from “Learning to Think Like a Model Maker” to the final product. The book centers on making a model of the Annie Buck, a Chesapeake Bay Deadrise workboat. Along the way, they discuss the research and planning that is required to produce an accurate model. They introduce the materials, methods, and techniques used to produce the model form and its intricate details. They describe the choices available for finishing the model, and they end the book with a nice photo gallery showing several examples of completed models. I looked at this book from the perspective of a fellow model boat builder and found the explanations and terminology easy to follow. With that in mind, I asked my husband, who is a sailor but not a model builder, to look it over and he told me it’s a fascinating read.
John and Nancy’s skill and their love of their art both come through in this book. Others who build models or might be interested in doing so would do well to add Fundamentals of Model Boat Building to their reference library.
Bucking the Tide: Making Do and Discovering
the Wild New England and Fundy Coasts in a $400 Yacht
by David Buckman (Eastworks Publications, 2010; 212 Pages; $19.00 +$4.00 S&H)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minnesota
Leight’s captain and owner describes his vessel as a wreck that leaks “like a White House aide.” She is a $400 18-foot homemade cruiser in tough shape. The crewmembers are “as green as grass.” As David Buckman and his two-person crew explore the wild New England and Fundy coasts, the “half-pint vessel” encounters “miles of dramatic coast . . . breathtaking vistas . . . and dungeons of fog.”
When writing tools were handed out, David was apparently issued a lifetime supply of run-on sentences and overused adjectives but a dearth of periods. Bucking the Tide is a self-published book in need of a copy editor at its helm. Harsh? Um, note the subtitle.
Sentences running 60 to 70 words are common. Chapter 6 is 91 pages in length — nearly half the book. The sheer quantity of words lashed together, along with an onslaught of adjectives, creates a barrage of verbiage. A crisper telling would have been a blessing.
That said, you can’t help but like the guy. You can’t help but cheer him on. You can’t help but wish that you were David Buckman, at least for a while. He is an enthusiastic, optimistic, admittedly low-experience sailor, at least as presented in this book about his early sailing adventures (since those days as a newbie, he’s spent another 69 years sailing). And sincere. He’s sincere. The cover of his book describes a story that “touches on the blessings of economy, simplicity, resourcefulness, doing a lot with a little” and how the $400 investment in a dilapidated sloop (a Lightning he shortened from 19 to 18 feet by lopping off a foot of rotten wood at the stern and adding a new transom) led to the adventure of David’s lifetime.
His observations are keen and his descriptions of local folk and scenes are a pleasure to visualize from the comfort of couch or cockpit. David maintains, from experience, that if people know where to look, the raw materials of extraordinary experiences can be found close at hand. “We’d bucked the tide of convention in a modest way, had gone to great lengths, close to home for next to nothing, and found our native sea, soil, and life possessed of heroic proportions.”
The book contains a selection of photographs from the trip along the New England and Fundy coasts along with a number of well-done illustrations. Several chapters end with an inspiring quote from Thoreau or other Wise Ones. Readers who can get past the grammatical issues are likely to enjoy the story.
by William Winslow (Blurb Publications <www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1772983>; 2010; 70 pages; $51.95).
Review by Michael Maxfield
“You wake up to a beautiful sailing day with fleecy clouds scudding across a blue sky on gentle zephyrs of wind. Pack the lunch. Apply the sunblock. Let’s go sailing.” And so begins one of the 32 short essays in Catboat Tales.
Though not in chronological order, these little 1- to 2-page tales written by William Winslow are a collection chronicling the creation of the author’s backyard-built 18-foot catboat and sailing it around his home waters at the north end of Long Island, New York.
Each essay is a whole story in itself so the lack of order does not detract from the book, which covers a period of 13 years from the boat’s launch in 1995 to its sale in 2008. Many of the essays were previously published in the Catboat Association Bulletin.
For the most part, I found the stories to be enjoyable and lightly humorous, such as the alcohol stove that caught fire and had to be doused, then buried at sea or the overweight old gent whose attempts to climb back on board after a skinny-dipping excursion provided a sea of laughter for the other two crewmembers. These were usually combined with some sort of hard-earned and practical lesson, such as don’t put the fire extinguisher behind the stove and rigid ladders are better than rope ladders.
Though the reader can readily glean little tidbits about the specific sailing characteristics of catboats, this is not a book about sailing catboats. It’s about sailing in a backyard-built wooden sailboat that just happens to be a catboat.
At only 7 by 7 inches, this book is relatively small. It is also hardbound and too big to put into anything smaller than a large coat pocket or purse. Other than that, Catboat Tales might be great to carry around for those times when you have two or three minutes to spend while waiting for a child or spouse.
My only wish was for the book to be longer. It has large print and, with 32 photos and illustrations taking up page space, at only 70 pages, it is quite short. A fast reader could easily read the whole thing in less than 30 minutes. I did find a couple of the photos to be striking and, if enlarged, would probably make great wall prints.
Larke, El Capitan And The Theory Of Everything
by Hugh MacMullan (Xlibris Corporation, 2010; 157 pages; $19.99)
Review by Brian Koger
Severna Park, MD
At the opening of the book, Hugh MacMillan (who has been a past contributor to Good Old Boat magazine) has just gotten a reprieve from a potentially terminal cancer diagnosis, and while he relishes the fact that he now has a longer lifespan ahead of him, he also realizes that life is finite and he needs to act on that fact while he can. He then embarks on a short cruise from the Philadelphia area to Maryland’s upper Chesapeake along with his younger brother (the “El Capitan” from the book’s title).
The author is a gifted storyteller. His remembrances of growing up in the 1950s, life-changing events, such as his learning experiences as a young officer in the pre-Vietnam Marine Corps, and — most importantly to this book — the tale of his southward voyage from his home to his brother’s home on an 18-foot sailboat named LARKE make quick and entertaining reading. His tendency to use bizarre plot devices (for example, a genie in a bottle and a sea monster) are explained later in the book as his usual way of embellishing stories to make them more entertaining to the youngsters in his family. Unfortunately, some adult readers may find such contrivances a bit clunky or off-putting (for example, I couldn’t get the “I Dream of Jeannie” theme out of my head while reading the passages featuring the female genie). Similarly, if the reader does not share the author’s fascination with hook-and-line fishing, there are parts of the book that may prove a bit tedious.
Completely dismissing the book on that basis would be a shame, as the author has much to say and it is worth paying attention to. His philosophy, which is best summed up as “Life — and particularly life within a family — is a gift to be enjoyed and treasured to the fullest,” is not a bad way to approach things, and summarizing life metaphorically in a short sailing cruise is a classic way to present the subject. If the reader can ignore (or, if he or she so chooses — embrace) the insertion of genies, etc., there is much that can be learned.
MacMullan hints that he has subsequently made more cruises on LARKE. It will be interesting to learn what he gathered from those voyages as well.
Optimizing The Trailerable Sailboat
by Paul Esterle, Capt’n Pauley Productions <www.captnpauley.com>; 336 pages; $27.95 (print), $13.50 (download)
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, Illinois
Those of you who have read Paul “Capt’n Pauley” Esterle’s articles in Good Old Boat and his column in Small Craft Advisor are already familiar with the kinds of things that he has developed to make good boats better for daysailing and weekend cruising. Here is an entire book of them.
This book (there is also a video) contains almost 100 quick fixes, devices and gadgets that the good Captain has installed on his boat, Ternabout. The book is divided into 11 chapters: The Boat; Cabin, including gear holders and improving ventilation; Galley (including recipes!); Electrical; Cockpit; Deck/Cabin top, with instructions on repairing dings and replacing windows and pulpits; Hull; Engine; Sails and Rigging; Electronics (VHF and GPS, hand-held and fixed-mount); and Trailer. Every chapter has several suggestions and ideas to make one’s boat a more pleasant place. Capt’n Pauley describes the problem, lays out several possible solutions, then explains what he did in his easy to understand style. His article on mast raising systems, for example, goes into several different rigs and includes cautions about dealing with the hazards of handling the ungainly weight aloft.
Another great thing about his ideas is that they are inexpensive and use materials easily available, such as his waste bin/cutting board and perfectly serviceable curtains from kmart!
The book is spiral bound with plastic laminate covers—an advantage, since it will lie open on a workbench for easy reference. There are plenty of photos and drawings to explain the devices being proposed.
This book is a flipper—one does not read it cover to cover so much as flip through it, checking out Pauley’s ideas and getting inspiration for one’s own boat projects. I already have plans to adopt at least half a dozen of the Captain’s improvements to my own new/old boat.
Circumnavigating Low Key: Where a small boat
and a smaller budget lead to a big adventure
by Captain Woody Henderson (Sheridan House, Inc., 2010; 208 pages; $23.95)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minnesota
Wondering why the author’s name sounds familiar? He is the very Captain Woody whose column has graced the pages of Latitudes & Attitudes magazine each issue for 11 years now. Here he is in his own book, telling the story of his circumnavigation aboard Low Key, a 33′ sloop. Captain Woody tells his story with the same humorous, down-to-earth (sea?), irreverent tone with which faithful readers of his articles are well familiar.
Woody’s account of his circumnavigation couldn’t be much different than Jessica Watson’s in her book True Spirit (reviewed in the February 2011 newsletter). Jessica’s story is about sailing around the world. Woody’s is about sailing around the world. His sketches and sagas, told in his distinctive style, of adventures ashore bring the book to life. Hey, the sailing parts are great, too, but Woody and crew stopped to smell the hibiscus. And quaff a few ales.
The chapter titles give potential readers a taste of what is to come:
- We’re sinking
- Tiki bars
- And then there was one (when his girlfriend left)
- In trouble with The Man
- How do porcupines mate?
- Man (Person?) overboard
Packed with lively repartee and droll humor, Woody’s tale may remind readers of Jimmy Buffett himself. It’s a comfortable book. It draws you in, then makes you want to read “just one more chapter” before setting it down. It makes you want to be aboard the next time Woody sails out of the harbor. And it makes you drool over the eight pages of color photos that supplement the word pictures.
Woody says, “I got clear of cars and rent and bills and the rest of the mania that we all participate in when we are home in the States. Life slowed down and quality increased. The world opened up and revealed a thousand great experiences. I was back in the land of showering off the swim step, hiking waterfalls, getting to know the locals and enjoying three-stop shopping: bakery, fruit stand, vegetable market.”
Buy the book. Read the book. Enjoy the book. It’s time well spent.
The Ultimate Book Of Decorative Knots
by Lindsey Philpott, (Skyhorse, 2010; 627 pages; $29.95)
Review by Richard Skaff
Los Angeles, California
The art of tying knots is many centuries old. From sailors to mountaineers, from riggers to rescue workers, knots have been intimate companions for many professions.What better way to edify this old art than to have it condensed in one volume that illustrates every aspect of the art of making knots.
Lindsey Philpott, a rigger and teacher of contemporary marlinespike seamanship as well as a forensic expert of knot analyses in criminal cases, has written a marvelous book that captures the art of tying. The volume is beautifully designed and makes a fabulous piece of art that deserves to occupy any coffee table.
The book consists of a wonderful cornucopia of rare and exotic decorative knots. It contains 1,600 colored illustrations of every existing knot, starting with flat knots and ending with yacht wheel marker knots.
Philpott’s book begins with a brief history of tying that dates back to at least 380,000 years. In addition, it covers every knot that ever existed from all over the world, making it a distinct treasure chest saturated with useful information for anyone who harbors interest in this artisanship. From jewelry, macramé and holiday decorations to covering knots, knob knots, ornamental knots, and flat knots, the volume makes the most daedal patterns look easy and fun to make.
This volume is comprehensive, yet clear and precise. It is intense, yet fun and entertaining. From braids to plaits to sinnets, this book will take the reader on a panoramic journey to the land of knots through step-by-step instructions for tying hundred of types of knots both useful and artistic. It will also furnish the reader with directions to find the correct tools, materials, and the specialty shops that carry them. The chapters flow smoothly and deliver a significant amount of information that covers the whole gamut of knot land. It also contains a terrific glossary and a clear index that will help you find the knot of your choice.
The book is a terrific and thorough reference on knots, and will make a great read for sailors, mountaineers, rock climbers, firefighters, rescue workers, linesmen, riggers, campers, and anyone who has an interest in tying knots. It will even arouse interest in the knot indifferent.
by David Helvarg (St. Martin’s Press, May 2009; 384 pages; $25.95)
Lake Shore, Minnesota
The United States Coast Guard has rescued more than a million people since its founding over 200 years ago. Most folks know about the Coast Guard rescue services. Boaters generally also know that the Coasties provide boating safety courses, license mariners, and inspect recreational, commercial, and fishing vessels. Not to mention flying around in those orange helicopters, making their presence generally known.
David Helvarg, author of Rescue Warriors: The U.S. Coast Guard, America’s Forgotten Heroes, introduces additional Coast Guard roles in safety, security, and stewardship that may be unknown to many readers. For example, their duties are not blue water only. It is the “Inland Coast Guard” that responds when there is flooding or tornadoes in the Midwest, or a highway bridge collapses. They are also responsible for icebreaking operations on the Great Lakes. They cover a huge area. The U.S. Coast Guard’s largest district, the Eighth District, serves the heartland, protecting 1,200 miles of coastline and 10,300 miles of inland navigable waterways. Covering 26 states, the Eighth District ranges from the Appalachian Mountains and Chattahoochee River in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west, and from the U.S. – Mexico border and the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border in North Dakota.
As a multifaceted branch of our military, the Coast Guard:
- maintains buoys, lighthouses and other aids to navigation
- investigates maritime and bridge accidents
- enforces fishing and mammal protection laws
- inspects offshore energy production facilities
- seizes illegal drugs and migrants at sea
- conducts waterfront security patrols and directs port traffic
- responds to environmental concerns, including oil spills and water pollution
- works with foreign coast guards
- fights in foreign wars
- supports scientific research at sea
Of particular interest is the training of the helicopter pilots; the mechanics who maintain the choppers, run the hoists, and direct the pilots during a rescue; and the rescue swimmers. The Coast Guard’s standardized training is now so advanced that crews can be mixed and matched as needed. A pilot based in Florida and a swimmer stationed in Texas can operate as smoothly as a crew that has been flying rescues together for years.
Helvarg has amassed a great deal of information, from the establishment of the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790 to the present-day challenges the Coast Guard faces in the wake of 9/11. The flow of the book, however, is hindered due to a preponderance of lengthy sentences overflowing with punctuation. In addition, it is somewhat disconcerting in a nonfiction book written in the third person to have Helvarg periodically insert himself onto the pages. It is particularly jarring when that commentary consists of frequently unflattering opinions about government agencies, prominent officials, and the other branches of the military. His digression to tell the reader of the “whore bar” he frequented in Belize probably wasn’t necessary either.
Nevertheless, this book offers some great information. Ignore the opinions and enjoy this tribute to the men and women who respond to more than 125 distress calls every day.
The Ditty Bag Book: A Guide for Sailors
by Frank Rosenow (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011; 127 pages; $14.95)
Review by James Williams
St. Petersburg, Florida
This is a magnificent little book for anybody who wants to do his own sail repair or fancy canvas work. First published in 1976 by Sail Books, Frank Rosenow’s The Ditty Bag Book was reissued again in 1982. Now, thanks to the author’s son and Skyhorse Publishing, it is available in paperback.
Rosenow (1944-1993) learned his nautical skills growing up in Marstrand, Sweden, raced and sailed cruising boats, and later apprenticed himself to master sailmaker Gunnar Andersson. In the 1970s, while continuing to cruise, he became a columnist for Sail magazine, where he is remembered for his award-winning pencil and watercolor illustrations. He also wrote Seagoing Knots (1980), Sailing Craft (1983) and Canvas and Rope Craft for the Practical Boat Owner (1988), all of which are still available through online book dealers.
Rosenow divides The Ditty Bag Book into two parts, tools and processes, and begins with the absolute basics. He describes the sailmaker’s bench and how to use it, what sort of clasp knife one should use, how to sharpen it and take care of the sharpening stone, what needles to use and how to care for them, how to choose and use a sewing palm, using beeswax to prepare the twine, and the sorts of twine to use. He takes you through the use of the sailmaker’s hook, types and uses of prickers, and spikes and fids, all the while making recommendations along the way as though he is your personal mentor. He clearly explains the craft of worming, parceling, and serving rope or wire rigging to protect against dampness and chafe as well as heaving tools and wire locks. Finally, he shows you how to sew in rings and grommets and goes over traditional and wire rope, tape and canvas. All of this is beautifully illustrated by his drawings on the use of the tools.
Now you are ready, in part two — processes, to employ all you’ve learned. Rosenow takes you first through the step-by-step process of making a ditty bag, from the seams you’ll sew, cutting the material to size and then sewing it, running and roping seams, adding decorative touches, making the lanyard and a turk’s head slider. Truly a guidebook, you’ll learn by making your own ditty bag, just as apprentice sailmakers did in the past, and then you can get more practice by following Rosenow’s directions for repairing and patching damaged sails, palm-and-needle whipping, making chafing gear, creating a rope fender and, finally, splicing.
Ben Fuller, curator of the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine, says: “Reading this little volume and practicing the skills therein is like being an apprentice to a master sailmaker, showing you everything from tool selection to the details of how to hold a needle.” I couldn’t agree more, and despite a couple of minor production errors (for example, the cover illustration is not the one described in the cover note written by Rosenow), I give it my highest recommendation.
by Robert Engel (Xlibris Corp, 2009; 224 pages; $19.99)
Review by Michael Maxfield
According to author Robert Engel, “Sail Tales is about the adventures a humble sailboat owner had over the years.” Spanning 43 years of sailing — and still going strong — he’s had plenty enough adventures to select 56 to tell us about: good, bad, and in-between.
Captain Bob’s book contains many hard-earned tidbits of nautical wisdom, such as the simple fact that the timing of a sailboat trip cannot be predicted. He says, “If you need to get to a certain place at a certain time, take a bus, not a sailboat.”
I believe any sailor will find the two pages of sailboat “rules” Bob includes to be both funny and heartbreakingly true, including:
- Nothing on a boat is level or square.
- A rule of physics: on a boat there is no such thing as an easy, quick job.
- If two sailboats are in sight of one another, it’s a race.
The book is organized into seven sections, mostly in chronological order. The first four sections are organized according to the progressively larger boats owned and sailed at the time, with a short history of each boat.
Bob’s first tale is how, as a former powerboat owner, he had unknowingly joined the ranks of the insane — “those special people who own and sail sailboats.” A large number of his sail tales take place along the eastern shore of Long Island, New York, and between the two arms of the north end. The rest take place in Virginia Beach and south into Florida. Bob repeatedly attempts to describe the Long Island area, but any reader not intimately familiar with the north end of Long Island will soon wish he had included a map illustration in the book.
For the most part, the stories are interesting and often humorous. Some, like “Upgrading Evening Star,” were a little tedious, but even that tale had a nugget of gold at the end.
I felt that a few of the stories were not very well composed, even amateurish, though the underlying story was good.
Words such as “horsepower” were split into two and the articles have unusual comma usage. The lack of an editor became rather annoying and seems strange, considering the author is a retired English teacher.
The stories are all short — most are only three or four pages. With 56 tales in 217 pages, it’s a nice little book to keep handy for when you have a few minutes to fill (though it’s not a “pocket book”).
After all, who among us doesn’t enjoy a nice sail tale?
The Pirate’s Bastard
by Laura S. Wharton (Cut Above Books, Second Wind Publishing, 2010; 168 pages; soft cover; $11.95.)
Reviewed by Wayne Gagnon
Laura S. Wharton’s debut novel The Pirate’s Bastard, is set in colonial America in the first half of the 18th Century. This was an exciting place, especially for a young, ambitious man like Edward Marshall who epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit that made America a haven for him and those of his ilk. With dreams of becoming a shipbuilder, merchant, and businessman, he is well on his way to establishing a reputation as an honest, hardworking individual, learning and earning as he absorbs all he can to make his dream come true.
We first meet Edward as a young boy whose father had left his wife and their prosperous sugar plantation in Barbados years earlier to live a life of adventure as a pirate. He eventually ended up on the gallows in Charleston, but not before fathering Edward by his French mistress, who died in childbirth, giving Edward the moniker “The Pirate’s Bastard” around Bridgetown. To Edward’s good fortune, as a young child he was befriended by the Reverend Jonathan Eubanks, the local Anglican minister in Bridgetown, who became the father that Edward never had. Edward resented his lineage and the trouble it caused him, so when Reverend Eubanks invited the nine-year-old to join him in his new assignment in Brunswick, in colonial Carolina, Edward jumped at the chance. The story picks up fifteen years later when we see Edward in early adulthood making a name for himself as an aspiring entrepreneur in his adopted town, where he still seeks the advice of the aging Reverend Eubanks, whose friendship Edward still cherishes.
The Pirate’s Bastard is an OK read, but there were a few things that I felt were incomplete. Some of the characters develop quite nicely in the heart of the novel, but they seem to disappear when they could have been a larger feature and made a heftier contribution to the story, thereby adding to the intrigue. Similarly, the plot seems to lose some of its pizzazz about three-quarters of the way through and the story seems to fizzle, which is unfortunate because there are two features that lend a certain amount of credibility to the story: 1) Wharton has done her research and we get a fairly good idea of what life must have been like in the colonies; and 2) She also has a firm grasp on the nautical world in that era, which makes that part of the story come alive. In spite of this, however, The Pirate’s Bastard’s shortcomings could leave the reader wondering if, or perhaps more accurately, why the author ran out of steam toward the end of the project, which, in the beginning, showed such potential.
Living Without Reservations:
A Journey by Land & Sea in Search of Happiness
by Barbara Singer (Hear Me Roar Press, 2010; $18.95; 436 pages)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minnesota
When 44-year-old Barbara Singer walked away from a life that had become increasingly difficult, she did not walk directly aboard a boat. She took a road trip from Pennsylvania to Alaska and back before signing on as paid crew on a sailboat in the Caribbean. It was an excellent time for a midlife reinvention. Her only kid had gone off to college, she had divorced, and she’d fallen in love with a man who had suddenly died.
Singer’s journey became what she calls an “Eat, Pray, Love” experience. As she listened to tapes by Neale Donald Walsh and Deepak Chopra, and read books by Brian Weiss and Shakti Gawain, she began awakening. “Not waking up like I am sleeping, but wake up my soul like it was asleep . . . knowing what I want is the only thing I have to do and then let the universe handle the rest.” She made 3×5 cards to read each morning and night. Affirmations. Judgment keeps us from joy. Life is always a result of our thoughts. Expectation makes us unhappy. She assures readers that anyone can have an “Eat, Pray, Love” experience, can re-engineer their own lives.
The first two weeks of island hopping aboard the sailboat led her to learnings, a bit of re-engineering of thoughts about sailing. Not quite what Neale & Deepak teach, but legitimate learnings nevertheless . . .
- You must really love a dog to have it on a boat.
- Weather forecasters lie.
- We don’t sail, we motor.
- We don’t go fast. I can run faster than the boat.
Singer is selling the “You can do this too” line prevalent in those who have recently sailed off into the sunset, perhaps a bit more directly than most. Her second book is already available to teach you how to follow in her wake. Readers need to confront themselves, she says.
- Would you rather have a plane ticket or a mortgage?
- Would you rather have freedom or a paycheck?
- Would you rather have a backpack or a walk-in closet?
- Would you rather live your dream or watch it on reality TV?
She offers a series of tips on how folks can free themselves from life ashore: Liquidate your home. Sell your car. Get healthy. Forget about security and responsibilities. Then, Happy Happiness Search!
The Power & The Glory
by William Hammond (U.S. Naval Institute Press, October 2011; 256 pages; $29.95)
Review by Karen Larson
I have been following the adventures of Richard Cutler since 2007 when the first of a projected seven-book series of novels was published. A Matter of Honor and For Love of Country, the first two novels in the series, were marvelously written and brought history alive in a most cogent and entertaining fashion. Book three in the series, The Power and the Glory, picks up where Book two leaves off. It does not disappoint.
A Matter of Honor takes place during the Revolutionary War. For Love of Country is set during the first decade after the war, when the infant republic and the Cutler family are forced to confront the attacks of Barbary pirates off the coast of North Africa and the outbreak of the French Revolution.
In the third novel in the series, Richard Cutler’s generation has married, watched their children grow older, gained business and political experience, and is playing an ever expanding role in the political and social events of the day. It is the late 1790s. War breaks out between the United States and France. It is a war fought without Congressional approval and entirely at sea in the West Indies. The newly minted U.S. Navy takes center stage with two of her first and finest “super frigates” seeing action against the French Navy at sea and against an island refuge for French privateers.
In The Power & The Glory, Richard Cutler serves as a lieutenant on the USS Constellation during her epic sea battles against French frigates L’Insurgente (depicted in the book’s jacket) and Le Volontaire. He also serves a brief stint on the USS Constitution, rubbing elbows there and elsewhere with such real-life naval heroes as Thomas Truxtun, Silas Talbot, Andrew Sterrett, Isaac Hull, and John Dent.
Bill Hammond’s characters, both fiction and non-fiction, are all three-dimensional and based on exhaustive research. His depictions of life at sea are compelling to lubber and mariner alike. But he does not stop there. At the core of all his novels is the great love affair between Richard Cutler and his English-born wife Katherine, a love nurtured by the children and family and friends they foster together.
Before I finished the first book, the central characters had become people near and dear to my heart. They are my friends and neighbors. They are people I care deeply about.
I highly recommend this historical fiction series. It’s as good as the novels of Patrick O’Brian. Start with the first book and read all three — then wait, as I must, with great anticipation for the release of Book four and other novels in the series. Bill Hammond is a master writer of nautical fiction whose literary gifts are yours to enjoy.
Life Down Here
(CD); Derrick Hampton, performer/songwriter; RocDoc Publishing <http://www.amazon.com/Life-Down-Here/dp/B0040T1IS0>; $8.99.
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, IL
Derrick Hampton seems to want to be another Jimmy Buffet but that’s okay. The world needs more talented singers writing about sailing, and the sun is always over the spreaders somewhere . . .
Most of the ten songs on this professionally produced CD are about getting to, sailing around, or relaxing in the islands, which is an idea rather than a fixed geographic location. The images invoked by “A Sail and a Song,” “Shades of Blue,” “Humidity Stupidity,” and “Open Waters” are of sun, sand, and warm oceans: “I’ve been thinkin’ it’s time for an adventure / Headin’ out into the open sea / I’m tired of this long dark cold cold winter / I need some warm relief and some company.”
A different tack is taken by the song “Between the Devil and the Sea” about the HMS Victory sinking in the 1840s, and “Honor among Thieves.”
This is a CD you’ll want to have on as you admire the sunset off Antigua with a cool one in hand and a warm lady nearby; or, alternately, while snowbound in the Midwest to keep up your sailing spirits.
Voyages in Desperate Times
by Jule Miller (CreateSpace, 2011; $11.95 ($6.95 Kindle)
Review by Don Launer
Forked River, New Jersey
In the early 1940s, madmen were taking on the civilized world — and winning. The Nazis controlled most of Europe and were preparing to conquer the British Isles. The Japanese had decimated the U.S. Pacific fleet, and the United States and its allies were losing the war.
Off the East Coast of the United States, German U-boats operated freely, with little opposition, sinking our cargo ships and tankers. As the title of Jule Miller’s latest book — Voyages in Desperate Times — indicates, those were desperate times requiring desperate measures. One of these measures was the commandeering of personal yachts, mostly sailboats, to conduct rescue operations along the East Coast for the thousands of sailors whose ships were sent to the bottom by the German submarines and to patrol the coastal waters and report by radio, in coded messages, the presence of any U-boats. The sailors of this unlikely line of defense were termed the “Hooligan Navy,” a term that was first applied as denigration but soon adopted by those sailors as a badge of honor.
Jule tells about those times as a story-within-a-story. Although fiction, it is based on very real historical events and is true to the mores and feelings of that time — I know, because I was in the service during those years.
One of the two amalgamated stories, told in the first person, is about a young lady who is driving her grandfather from his home in Milford, Connecticut, to the funeral of an old friend in Vermont. She had always wondered about his World War II experiences in the Hooligan Navy and asks him about them.
His experiences, in the second story-within-a-story, are described in the third person and cover a period from just prior to WWII in the mid 1930s until his time aboard the 54-foot Alden schooner, Tiger Lily, during the desperate years.
The juxtaposition of the past and the present in the two stories works perfectly. It is said that you just can’t put some books down. I found that to be very true in this case. Not only does Voyages in Desperate Times capture the spirit and the differences of these two time periods, it also offers vivid insight into a moment of history that is all but forgotten. This is enhanced by Jule’s extensive knowledge of the sea and sailing, as well as the history of those years.
A Pirate’s Christmas Wish
(CD) by The Bilge Pumps (http://thebilgepumps.com/treasure.cgi?cat=music&pid=CD-APCW), $15.00
Review by Amy Flannery
If you like drinking rum, saying “Aargh,” and you’re looking for a Christmas CD with a pirate twist, you’ll love the Bilge Pumps’ A Pirate’s Christmas Wish. It’s bound to please anyone with a streak of irreverence and a propensity for piracy. The Bilge Pumps take traditional Christmas songs and replace the lyrics with pirate fare.
“Silver Bells” becomes “Pirate Yells.”
Pirate yells, (yaaar) pirate yells, (yaarr)
It’s Christmas time on the high seas.
Plundering, killing things, soon it will be Christmas Day.
“White Christmas” becomes “Blue Christmas.”
I’m dreaming of a blue Christmas
with every lover that I slew.
May your days be filled with gold and brew,
and may all your Christmas’s be blue.
One of the most delightfully bizarre songs on the CD is “Kwanzaa Pants” sung to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree.”
Oh Kwanzaa pants, oh Kwanzaa pants,
how festive are your colors.
Your brilliant hues, your dulcet tones,
have scrambled all my rods and cones.
The Bilge Pumps hailing port is Dallas/Fort Worth, which is pretty darn far from the sea for pirates. In addition to their CDs, they have a busy schedule of live shows. Their performances combine sea songs, shanties, and Celtic music with a large dose of silly comedy. The group consists of five men who look fabulous in pirate regalia and play a variety of instruments including steel drums, kazoos, hand drums, and guitar.
Craig Lutke, who’s pirate name is Maroon, is the band’s producer and distributor. His company’s name is Ibidis Mortem Productions <http://www.ibidismortem.com>. In addition to Bilge Pumps CDs, Ibidis Mortem offers an eclectic collection of assorted esoteric stuff such as a lady-on-stilts performer, wild west and medieval stunt shows, and hand-crafted steel drum mallets.
Though not a song, one of my favorite pieces on the Christmas CD is “A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas.”
‘Twas the night before Christmas and far out to sea,
the pirates was sleeping as snug as could be.
’Cept me (the lookout), I’m walking the deck.
I knew if I didn’t, they’d sure stretch me neck.
So now you can imagine, it was quite a surprise,
when a light in the distance come into me eyes.
I peered through the spy glass, then let out a hoot,
for out on the billows I spied some old coot.
There was nary a reindeer and neither a sleigh,
but eight silver dolphins was pulling a red dinghy my way.
So if you’re tired of the same old Christmas tunes and looking for something salty, check out the Bilge Pumps’ A Pirate’s Christmas Wish. It’s the closest you may ever come to spending Christmas at sea on a pirate ship. For a good laugh and to learn more about the Bilge Pumps, visit their website: <http://www.thebilgepumps.com>.
Dolphins Under My Bed and Something of the Turtle
by Sandra Clayton, (Wheatmark, 2008; 277 pages; $21.95 and 2009; 216 pages; $18.95)
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury
Port Ludlow, Washington
“But what is happiness? . . . If I have learned anything at all by this
stage in life, it is that happiness comes from within not from without.”
– Sandra Clayton, Dolphins Under My Bed
Readers of Sandra Clayton’s two autobiographies, Dolphins Under My Bed and Something of the Turtle, will experience her passage firsthand and in living color.
Clayton’s writing style is honest and from the heart. When her worst nightmare is realized — her husband decides they should retire early and sail away for health reasons, she is terrified. Although she enjoys everything associated with sailing, she does not like sailing itself. But one day she sees a Sea Cat and notices how it handles as other sailboats thrash around.
She tells her husband that she will sail — if they get a catamaran.
And so the story begins. Dolphins Under My Bed is ultimately the story of finding oneself and the journey getting there.
In Spain, the Claytons find Voyager, a 40-foot Solaris Sunstream, and they spend two weeks sailing her home to England with the help of a skipper. Once home, the planning begins, which in itself turns out to be part of the journey. Then they set sail, their original goal, to spend a year in the warm waters of the Mediterranean and then to cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
As they voyage from England to the Channel Islands, to France, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, the Mediterranean, and finally, to the Balearic Islands, the author describes each port, the weather conditions, the sky, and the sea as if they are indeed characters in the story (which they become). This technique truly captures the readers’ attention, as does her depiction of the people they meet along the way, and how they survive the storms, turbulence and boat repairs.
“I think that in the right circumstances it must be possible to get drunk on stars. Certainly, after a dark and stressful night, I am pleasantly tipsy on these.”
– Sandra Clayton, Something of the Turtle
The saga continues in Something of the Turtle. Clayton and her husband David decide to sell their home and keep only the worldly posessions they absolutely need. This ends up being more difficult than once thought — what to keep and what to get rid of? And even worse than that are all the obstacles and delays they encounter when selling their home.
At last they are free, and the stress is gone.
Their journey begins again where they left off, in the Balearic Islands. From there they continue to Sardinia, back to the Balearic Islands, to Spain, Gibraltar, the Atlantic, and finally, the Madeira Islands.
The author’s superb storytelling style and perceptive descriptions of everything — from lost appetites and sleep deprivation to tiny droplets of moisture-illuminating spiderwebs and sea turtles swimming by — again hook readers as these determined sailors follow a path to becoming true bluewater cruisers.
Both books are well worth reading, for sailors and armchair adventurers as well.
SEAsoned: A Chef’s Journey with Her Captain
by Victoria Allman (NorLightsPress, 2011, 204 pages; $15.95.)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
When I first looked at SEAsoned I didn’t know what to expect. The front cover has a picture of one of those mega-yachts we see from time to time that make us wonder if the helipad is on the bow or stern. At the risk of sounding like an elitist, it’s definitely a boat for the rest of “them” rather than the rest of “us,” so my first thought was “Is this something Good Old Boat readers would enjoy?” Well, as it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised. SEAsoned: A Chef’s Journey with Her Captain is just that: the story of Victoria Allman, a world-class chef, and her husband Patrick, a licensed captain, and their adventures while serving “them” as charter crew members on 100-plus foot yachts in the Bahamas and Mediterranean over the course of about one year.
As I read along I began to realize that the author is, in fact, one of “us” in that she, her husband, and the crew members they acquire along the way, are simply working stiffs who enjoy life on boats as much as we do, only they’ve found a way to do it on someone else’s nickel. But as glamorous as that sounds, it’s definitely not a 9 to 5 job. There were many days that began well before sunrise and ended well after dark. True, some of those days were spent playing with the latest high-tech water toys in exotic surroundings, but it’s still work, and when someone is paying the kind of money it takes to charter a mega-yacht for a week or more, everything had better be perfect.
Allman has an earlier book, Sea Fare: A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean, which could very well be the companion piece to SEAsoned. Both books contain about 30 recipes that she uses regularly, so you could say that you’re actually getting a cookbook (complete with a culinary glossary in SEAsoned) with stories. Or perhaps a storybook with recipes. However you want to look at it, SEAsoned is a relatively easy read that can be covered in a few evenings when you’re looking for something light, funny, and not a little self-deprecating. WARNING: just as conventional wisdom warns us not to go grocery shopping when we’re hungry, before you read SEAsoned make sure you’ve already had dinner or that you at least have something to snack on. It could go bad for you when you start reading through some of those recipes.
The Best Sailing Stories Ever Told
edited by Stephen Brennan (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2011, 566 pages; $12.95)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
As the old saying goes, variety is the spice of life. That’s why I try to listen to different types of music and eat different types of foods. But I definitely have my favorites: listening to classic rock while sipping a cold beer with a good pizza, or a nice lean steak smothered in onions in the company of good friends is hard to beat. When I read I like to have some Beethoven or Mozart playing softly in the background. I also try to vary my reading material, but I have my favorites there too. I read some biography and other non-fiction, some light sci-fi, but I tend to gravitate toward historical fiction and nonfiction and action/adventure with a nautical theme. I’ve read several works by James A. Michener, Herman Wouk, and William Manchester and I’m currently working my way through Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. Years ago I read the Horatio Hornblower saga and revisit it from time to time.
With that in mind it didn’t take me long to get into Stephen Brennan’s The Best Sailing Stories Ever Told. Brennan has done a wonderful service to those of us who enjoy reading stories by the masters, including Jack London, Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, and many more. He has compiled 44 stories, including a 13-page sailor’s glossary to help when you come across some unfamiliar terms used in some selections.
Many of the selections are short stories that stand alone, while others are excerpts from longer works that I recognize from Moby Dick, Two Years Before the Mast, and more.
I’ve been an avid reader for many years. Consequently, I have acquired several anthologies of short stories and many of them have an introductory paragraph to each selection and/or a brief statement about the author. The Best Sailing Stories Ever Told doesn’t do this, which is a shame because a little background information on the author or the work would make it more interesting. But if that’s the only complaint, it’s a minor one. I truly believe that most readers of Good Old Boat will find The Best Sailing Stories Ever Told a welcome addition to their library.
Winter in Fireland —A Patagonian Sailing Adventure
by Nicholas Coghlan (University of Alberta Press, 2011; 496 pages, 4 maps, 48 photographs; $34.95)
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, Illinois
In 1978, newly graduated Nicholas Coghlan and his girlfriend Jenny moved to Buenos Aires to take a job at a private English school. While there, they traveled extensively on the continent, including an extended trip south to Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego.
Fast-forward 25 years (that’s the first sentence of Chapter 2). Now Canadian Consul General in Cape Town, Nicholas and wife Jenny decide to return to the South by sailing there in a 27-foot Vancouver named Bosun Bird.
In September 2005, Bosun Bird departed Port Owen, South Africa (shades of John Vigor), and sailed to Rio de Janeiro, via St. Helena and Trindade. Then they headed south to Puerto Deseado, around Cabo San Diego, and into the Beagle Channel. After wintering over at Puerto Williams on Navarino Island, Chile, Bosun Bird continued west through Cockburn Channel and into the Strait of Magellan, then north through the Patagonian Islands and the Corcovado Gulf to Puerto Montt, sailing through terrible weather in some of the most isolated waters on the planet.
Winds were strong and contrary; charts were poor — “sailing in the white” meant going into blank areas where the chart hadn’t been filled in yet. Where protected harbors were found, standard mooring procedure called for two anchors, plus lines made fast to trees on shore—when there were trees. At one point Nicholas and Jenny were trapped in a rock-walled basin for nine days while gales blew down the channel just outside. Other days, progress was only a few miles.
Few people live in this cold, wildly beautiful part of the world. Not surprisingly, they are remarkable, like the fishermen from Chiloe Island, and the villagers eking out a thin existence along the shores. Coghlan writes about these hardy folk, and also of the previous explorers: Magellan, of course, and Slocum, but also Thomas Cavendish in 1586. One of his crew, a Welshman, named the thousands of swimming birds he saw “White Heads” or, in his native language, “pen gwin.” The Beagle spent two years in Patagonian waters, and Charles Darwin wrote extensively of the land, animals, and native people. More modern yachtsmen include Gerry Clarke, who circumnavigated Antarctica solo while in his 50s.
At one point, Nicholas and Jenny sail past four small islands in Beagle Channel, named Despard, Bertha, Lucas and Willie. They were named after the children of Thomas Bridges, a missionary who realized the futility of thrusting Christianity down the throats of the native people, and set to helping them instead. His wife, Mary, arrived at his outpost on the 42-ton Allen Gardiner, named after a man who led a group of missionaries to this area. After unloading their equipment, they discovered that they’d left all their ammunition on board the now departed ship.
Winter in Fireland is full of yarns like these. Coghlan will describe the day’s sail, mentioning the landmarks, telling what happened to previous explorers, then talk about the interesting people who make their living on these forbidding waters at the bottom of the world.
Nicholas and Jenny are now living aboard Bosun Bird “somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.” I’m hoping for another book from them about this journey.
Mariner’s Guide to Nautical Information
by Priscilla Travis (Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2011; 544 pages; $35.00)
Review by Ted Brewer
Agassiz, British Columbia
After going through this book, almost page by page, I have decided that a much better name for it would have been the “Mariner’s Encyclopedia.” Its 544 well-illustrated pages are, truly, that complete and contain so much more than just a simple guide. It will prove an invaluable reference and a great source of information on all aspects of cruising for the newcomer to sailing as well as for the experienced coastal cruiser who is considering venturing offshore and dreaming of blue water and distant ports.
The author, Priscilla Travis, is the holder of a USCG 100 Ton Master’s License and a sailor with over 35 years experience. During those years she has logged over 85,000 nm at sea, with over 4,000 nm of those as solo skipper of 33- and 42-foot sailboats. Priscilla and I have kept in contact since 1988 when I began work on the design of her 42-foot cutter, Nomad. Since Nomad’s launching in the early ’90s Priscilla has sailedfrom her home in New Jersey to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Labrador several times, crossed the Atlantic at high latitudes to Scotland, circumnavigated England, Scotland and Ireland, crossed the North Sea and made three trips above the Arctic Circle. And, although she does not mention it, there is a photo of Nomad on page 332 for the curious.
With that wealth of experience behind her, Priscilla created this guide with all the subjects arranged alphabetically from “Abbreviations” to “Z” (zulu time) and everything in between. For example, “heave to, heaving to, hove to (adj.) –stopping the boat at sea under sail with the JIB ABACK so that most forward progress is halted.” This section then goes on to explain how to heave to, adjust the helm, and position the sails to get the boat to lie quietly. It then, wisely, suggests practicing in both light winds and rough conditions before you need to heave to in order to ride out a severe storm.
The book concludes with an extremely thorough 50-page bibliography containing information on books, equipment, websites, organizations, weather, etc., and finishes with a 30-page index of the topics covered, so you can look up what to do if you have a runaway diesel!
Of course, nothing is perfect and the photo of a cleat on page 96 shows a proper cleat hitch, fine for securing the vessel to a dock. However, my old friend and mentor, Bill Luders, would never allow us to use a cleat hitch on a jib or mainsheet as it could jam and be difficult to undo in an emergency or in the dark. Also, I have to chide Priscilla for using the term “cutter ketch” to describe the lovely old yacht on page 228. A cutter has one mast and a ketch has two, so the old-timer is simply a ketch, although many would use the more descriptive term, “double headsail ketch.”
But, enough nitpicking. This is a wonderfully complete book on sailing and cruising that will educate and entertain the neophyte and the old hand, as well as serving as a great reference work both aboard your yacht and in your home library.
Shipwrecks of the Northeast
a wall map by National Geographic; $14.99
Review by Karen Larson
We recently received a large (28 x 36-inch) wall map featuring the shipwrecks off the coast of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Suffice it to say that over the years there have been a great many of them! Just off the coasts of these four New England states, the wrecks shown on the map number in the thousands. The big-picture perspective is frankly more than a little overwhelming.
The map displays ocean depths and coastal details and includes inset maps for the busier areas — where there have been many more wrecks — such as Nantucket Sound, Cape Cod Bay, Martha’s Vineyard, Narragansett Bay, and Boston Harbor Islands. Each wreck site is symbolized to define the class and type of vessel. The vessel’s name is given, along with the date of sinking.
Historical events from the mid-1600s to the 20th-century are noted. A note about the first fully authenticated pirate ship, Whydah, is highlighted in the pirates of New England section. The wreck of the Andrea Doria, in July 1956, is explained in some detail. This tragedy has been mentioned in Good Old Boat several times over the past few years.
While it’s not comfortable to spend a lot of time reading a wall map covered with small type, it makes fascinating reading, particularly if you’re from the area or familiar with some of the events that sent these ships to the bottom. As a sailor, however, I’m not sure I want this sort of reminder hanging on my wall. I’d prefer to be enthralled by the detail captured here and then to store the evidence somewhere out of sight.
A similar map of the Delmarva Peninsula has also been published by National Geographic and is available in basic paper or laminated formats. These maps are available from <www.NationalGeographic.com>. Search for “shipwreck maps.”
Stone Boat Odyssey
by Ralph and Phyllis Nansen, 2011; 320 pages; available from Amazon; $19.99
Review by John Butte
Lopez Island, Washington
Stone Boat Odyssey by Ralph and Phyllis Nansen is a follow-your-dream story many sailors will relate to. In the mid-1960s, Ralph and Phyllis were a successful Pacific Northwest couple in their 30s who shared a dream of sailing the world’s oceans and visiting its exotic ports on their own boat. A Boeing engineer, Ralph was a program manager in NASA’s moon-landing effort. Phyllis was a working professional opera singer. They had three young children. Neither Ralph nor Phyllis knew how to sail.
Working within these constraints, the Nasens nurtured their dream . . . overcoming false starts, setbacks, and near tragedy along the way. Sweethearts since childhood, they worked together over the next three decades, choosing first boats to learn on, learning to sail, and ultimately building their 55-foot ferrocement passage-making yacht. They persisted through multiple moves back and forth between Seattle and Louisiana, following Ralph’s NASA moon shot and later space shuttle responsibilities. Once they sold their final house, they became liveaboards. This made it possible to spend weekends and holidays and to take many mid-week overnight sails, further increasing their experience and knowledge as cruisers.
Uncommonly (and often hilariously) candid about their “learning experiences” and near misses, the Nansens bring us along on their shared journey from the muddy bayous of Louisiana through the world-class cruising waters of Washington State’s San Juan Islands and British Columbia, to the palm-graced atolls of the South Pacific. Ralph learned all the boat’s systems, becoming Mr. Fix-it to fellow cruisers. Phyllis learned celestial navigation (before GPS was available) and ham radio operation. They both mastered sailing and boathandling.
Less like exotic and daring adventurers, and more like capable professionals, Ralph and Phyllis Nansen have shared in the writing of a book that shows us how it can be done, how they did it, and the rewards they enjoyed as a result.