Book Reviews From 2014

Reviews From 2014

February 2014 Newsletter

April 2014 Newsletter

June 2014 Newsletter

August 2014 Newsletter

October 2014 Newsletter

December 2014 Newsletter

As Long As It’s Fun: The Epic Voyages and
Extraordinary Times of Lin and Larry Pardey

by Herb McCormick (Paradise Cay Publications, 2014, 280 pages; $18.95)
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Check out the Good Old Boat newsletter podcast for February 2014 at for an interview with Herb McCormick.

When told by Herb McCormick, the lives of Lin and Larry Pardey have the makings of a good nautical soap opera. Herb is a storyteller of the first magnitude and Lin and Larry, who have led very dramatic lives, allowed him to tell their story as long as he gave readers the full tale . . . warts and all.

I was particularly delighted to see a photo by Stark Jett V on the cover of the book, showing Larry wearing a denim shirt embroidered with the Good Old Boat logo. How lucky is that?

Take two very self-reliant and self-assured people who, when joined as a couple, become a very extraordinary sailing phenomenon. To build character, shake well throughout their lives . . . mostly at sea but also on land. Add a touch of irreverence, some irrelevance too, along with some humility countered by a good dose of independence. Throw in a strong work ethic, an incredible business sense with a Midas touch, and overtones of moxie.

What you get is a couple of cruising icons, sometimes even called sailing royalty. They didn’t start out to chase the acclaim they received, but they knew how to use it to their advantage once they’d arrived at the summit. They repeatedly said they’d continue cruising as long as it was fun and, luckily for those who followed in their wake, the fun has continued to last. Where would all those cruisers they inspired be if — like so many cruising icons — Lin and Larry had moved ashore after a few years spent circumnavigating, exploring, and having fun?

With his wonderful conversational, casual, and cheeky writing style, Herb relates each of the Pardeys’ financial ups and downs and a few of the more dramatic marital explosions. He makes it clear that these two always lived simple lives (usually without adequate funds, comfortable shelter, or the usual household conveniences) while building their boats, clearing their New Zealand property, and working for others. By choice they also lived very simply aboard their boats that clearly would be called Spartan by today’s standards. There was no engine, no head, and no electronic device, remember. And yet luxury surrounded them. They worked very, very hard every day. Yet in spite of that, they made their lives look to their fans as if they were on an extended holiday.

The first time they came by to visit the editors of the new magazine called Good Old Boat (about 12 years ago), I remember worrying mightily about these creatures of the sea who sailed around for months on end at just a few knots. How could they possibly be safe on our fast and increasingly complicated Interstate system? But they arrived safely and announced to us that they were grateful we had started this magazine so they wouldn’t have to. Apparently the kernel of a similar idea had taken root in their minds too.

They slept together on that first visit on a single bed in my office (formerly a spare bedroom). I had inflated an additional mattress to accommodate one of them, but they pointed out that they never had much room in their bunk on Taleisin anyway, so one small bed would do. And, to my amazement, it did. Later, as our business grew, even that little bed had to go. We did not have it bronzed.

They returned to Minnesota two more times. They came back once to present a workshop to the sailors here. The second time they were invited to fly here as our guests by members of the Good Old Boat crew. Their arrival and attendance at our 10th anniversary celebration was a complete surprise for Jerry and me. We all laughed to think of these two as a rather extraordinary anniversary gift.

Their special status as the superstars of cruising sailors impresses us to this day and we are not alone. Herb McCormick’s profile of Lin and Larry Pardey makes wonderful reading. If you are a fan (perhaps even if you are not), I highly recommend it. Besides, did I mention that Larry’s wearing our denim shirt on the cover?

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Mudfish Creek

by Vern Hobbs, (, 2013, 353 pages; $9 paperback, $4.95 Kindle edition.
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Vern Hobbs has done it again. In June 2010 we reported that Good Old Boat author Vern Hobbs had published his first book. While it was not exactly a sailing book, it was worth mentioning just the same:

That must have sent a message to Vern. He went back to the computer and returned with a sailing book this time. Well, at least it’s about the sailors who congregate around a marina. Come to think of it, these folks didn’t really go sailing much either, although in the happily ever after part of the book we’re pretty sure they all went cruising or scratched whatever boating itch each one had developed over years of liveaboard life in a funky Florida East Coast marina.

While Vern’s first book was full of characters and a bit of detective-style intrigue, his second could be said to be full of caricatures of the liveaboard community and while they are not confronted with a mystery, the reader is. A sailing buddy of theirs has gone off to circumnavigate the globe. Before achieving that goal, however, he dies of cancer in the San Blas Islands. His last request is that a dozen of his marina friends gather to celebrate his life on the autumnal equinox and stay the following day for a reading of his will.

Before the book has progressed very far it becomes clear to the reader that Cal, the sailor who has died, was a very wealthy man. Cal had never let on to his fellow sailors that he was wealthy, however, because he wanted to be accepted at face value. As the story progresses, the reader realizes that something special is coming, although Vern drags out the suspense until the very end. The unsuspecting marina friends invited to Cal’s last dock party have no clue what his will might offer them in terms of money, insight, or special requests. At the risk of spoiling the plot, I’ll just say that he offers each a bit of all of the above, changing their lives and their relationships with each other and their cruising dreams in profound ways.

Once again Vern has developed a charming cast of characters. Just as he is good at developing characters, Vern is good at character development in the fictional people he creates. As the story proceeds, the individual liveaboards of Mudfish Creek evolve first through acts of their own and later through encouragement and some thoughtful nudging by their friend Cal.

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by Charles Manion (iUniverse, 2012, 229 pages, $15.95.)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
Antigo, Wisconsin

"August 12th, 1983, was a day that Stewart Vogel had looked forward to with apprehensive anxiety." So begins Paroled, by Charles Manion, the story of Vogel’s release after finishing a 25-year sentence at Eddyville Prison in Kentucky for a crime he didn’t commit; he was wrongly identified as an accomplice. The story unfolds over a period of the first few months immediately following his release, and has the potential for some interesting reading.

As an avid reader of fiction, I like stories that can take me to places I’ve never been and probably never will be. I’ve heard it said that good science fiction is based on good science, so it only makes sense that good fiction, unless it’s complete fantasy like the Harry Potter series, should be based on some semblance of reality. In other words, the story has to be somewhat plausible. However, for some reason Manion has stretched the truth beyond reasonable limits, giving Stu, as he is known in the text, more adventure and intrigue in the first few weeks following his release than the average person would experience in several years. For example, he takes a 36-foot sailboat on a solo cruise in the Gulf of Mexico for a few days, with the owner’s blessing. Really? I remember how nerve-wracking my first solo sail was, and I had several opportunities to sail on other boats and had been reading and observing for a few years prior. After being incarcerated for 25 years it would be difficult to drive a car, something else Stu does, let alone pilot a boat.

Also, being in prison for that length of time would certainly make one awkward and uncomfortable in society, but Stu’s adventures with women, crooks, politicians, gamblers, and many others are more than a little over the top, rendering the story way too unbelievable. Paroled is Manion’s debut novel, and he’s to be applauded for his efforts, but in the future he may want to reign in the storytelling and let a little more realism seep into the story line.

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The Dutch: Prelude To Their Golden Age

by Richard E. Schultz (Eternal Press, a division of Damnation Books, 2012, 177 pages, $33.99 US/CA, $9.95 ebook).
Review by Wayne Gagnon
Antigo, Wisconsin

One of my favorite genres is historical fiction. Over the years I’ve read James A. Michener, Herman Wouk, C.S. Forrester, and many others, so when given the opportunity to review a work on the history of Holland, I couldn’t say no. The Dutch: Prelude To Their Golden Age is Richard E. Schultz’s debut novel and he does a credible job of giving us some insight into the influence the Dutch have had on the development of our culture.

Although the vast majority of the story takes place in the latter half of the 16th Century, we’re presented with the main characters of that era and then given background information on their lineage dating back to 8 A.D. In spite of this seemingly confusing style, the story is coherently tied together. As is my habit, I did a cursory Google search to find out how much of the story is actual history and how much is fiction. I could find very little, but that’s OK; the story was interesting enough to keep me from feeling that I was being cheated.

However, there are some flaws, the most noticeable being the visual format of the book. The pages have narrower margins than normal, making each page seem crowded, as though the publisher was trying to save paper. There are also some issues with punctuation, spelling, and things an English teacher (like me) would notice that could have easily been remedied with more careful editing and proofreading. In addition, as is common with many works of historical fiction, this one could have used some maps to give a visual perspective of how battles, towns, rivers, etc., are laid out. But having said all that, this is still a book worth reading. It may not win a Pulitzer, but it’s an interesting journey into the possible "What ifs" that many of us like to ponder.

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A Storm Too Soon:
A True Story of Disaster, Survival, and an Incredible Rescue

by Michael J Touglas (Scribner, 2013, 224 pages; $24.00 hardcover; Kindle $10.38)
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, IL

The normal Atlantic hurricane season does not start until August, but "Climate is what we expect; weather is what we get." In May 2007, two low-pressure centers spun together off Cape Hatteras and formed a storm that imperiled four yachts.

One of the boats was the Sean Seamour I, owned and captained by Jean Pierre "JP" de Lutz. He was sailing from Jacksonville, Florida, to the Mediterranean with two newcomers to long-distance sailing: Rudy Snel, a Canadian who sailed on the Ottawa River, and Ben Tye, an English sailing instructor.

The Sean Seamour was a well-equipped vessel and the three were experienced, cautious sailors, but the weather and the Gulf Stream worked against them. Soon they were trying to survive in 70-foot seas and 80-knot winds, their life raft damaged, much of the survival gear lost, and their EBIRB not working.

They were certain that no one would be able to get to them in the conditions they were enduring. They were wrong.

Much of the book describes the teamwork of the United States Coast Guard personnel at the Search and Rescue Command Center at Portsmouth, Virginia, and Station Elizabeth City, South Carolina. With skill, determination, and no small measure of luck (the observer on the C-130 search plane got a half-second glimpse of their last working flare and without hesitation, yelled "Mark Location!" enabling the plane to turn back and find the ridiculously small life raft in the mountainous seas), the Coast Guard pulled off a rescue in incredible conditions. At one point the radar altimeter readout was changing by almost 80 feet. The helo was flying level — the waves passing underneath were changing the height-above-sea numbers.

There were three other vessels caught in this storm: Seeker, Illusion, and Flying Colours. The latter, a 54-foot Hinckley being delivered from the U.S. Virgin Islands to Annapolis by a crew of four, was lost without a trace. Brief accounts of the rescues of Seeker and Illusion are included, and biographies of the four sailors from Flying Colours are added to the book. It seems like Tonglas wanted to write a longer piece with more details about all the boats in distress, but that the information simply was not available.

Touglas writes in present tense, which is a tad annoying at first, but imparts immediacy to the events being described. DeLutz, Snel, and Tye had a well-found boat and did everything right, yet they still almost lost their lives to a vicious storm that developed at a time and place where it had no reason to be. That they were not lost is a tribute to the training and skill of the United States Coast Guard.

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by Onne van der Wal, introduction by Herb McCormick (Rizzoli International Publications, 2013, 304 pages, 200 color photographs, $100.00 US and Canada).
Review by James Williams
Charlotte Harbor, Florida

This is probably the most difficult book I’ve ever been asked to review — three hundred pages comprised of two hundred stunning photographs. What can one say, especially when I cannot show you any of the photographs in this review? Onne van der Wal, the Dutch-born, South African-raised award-winning nautical photographer has won wide-ranging and prestigious recognition for his work. He has travelled the sailing and yachting world for well over 30 years, and now works out of his studio in Newport, Rhode Island. His photographs are characterized by steady composition, whether shot — as so many are — from the masthead or the end of a spinnaker pole, from a precarious perch at the door of a helicopter or from a jostling, spray-laden chase boat.

Onne learned to sail in the coastal waters of South Africa, first on small hard-chined, Bermuda-rigged dinghies called Dabchicks, from which he graduated to keelboats and, ultimately, ocean racers. As seasoned sailor and nautical writer Herb McCormick says in his brief introduction to Sailing, Onne "sipped beers and swapped notes with fellow sailors" all across the world, from Rio de Janeiro to New Zealand, the North Sea to the Caribbean. Along the way, a bunkmate on an ocean crew introduced him to a single-reflex camera and he was mesmerized by it. Soon after, with photographic gear and film provided him by Olympus Cameras, he got his start in nautical photography as a member of the 1981-82 Dutch Whitbread Round the World Race team crew on their winning boat, Flyer. His work from this race around the world, now known as the Volvo Ocean Race, launched his career in photography. Now shooting with Canon 1-Ds digital cameras — almost all the images in this work are digital — Onne’s work is regularly seen in sailing magazines.

Sailing is a wonderful collection of photographs. Comprised primarily of action shots of racing yachts, it also has lovely photographs of pleasure sailboats and some remarkably beautiful shots of sunrises, sunsets, and nautical landscapes. I was especially drawn to photographs of the 12-meter yachts Freedom (US30) and Intrepid (US22) crossing tacks off Newport and of the 1907 gaff yawl Veronique at the Veteran Boat Rally in Sardinia. Aerial shots, such as that of the racing yacht Nimbus on her side, with the crew fighting to get her keel back under the boat, are quite remarkable. You can almost feel the elements as you digest the photos. But perhaps my favorite was the thumbnail index image of the Alerion-Class sloop Owl pounding upwind in the Nantucket, Massachusett’s Opera House Cup. The full two-page photo is wonderful in itself, but in the thumbnail, one can almost imagine looking directly at Winslow Homer’s magnificent painting of a little New England Catboat, Breezing Up.

Rizzoli International Publications gives us a truly wonderful book of photography in Onne van der Wal’s Sailing. It is divided into 10 chapters, moving from photographs taken on the New England Coast to Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, South Africa, Chili, the Pacific Coast, the Southeast U.S., Australia and New Zealand, and the South Pacific. It perhaps gathers the best of Onne’s work from an archive of more than a million images and contains both an informational thumbnail index of the two-hundred photos and an index of camera information for each photo. I found the seven completely blank pages scattered through the work a bit incongruous, and I wished that the description of each image had included the date it was taken. Nevertheless, these are minor quibbles. If you like classic images of sailboats, you might consider this a gift to yourself or your favorite sailing partner: birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah, or the anniversary of your first sailing adventure — it’s sure to please!

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Make Your Own Full Boat Enclosure

(3 DVDs, produced by Sailrite, 2013, more than 6 hours of video, $49.95 from
Review by Ed Zacko
Cruising on Entr’acte.

More years ago than I care to remember, Ellen and I set out to build our version of the cruising dream by doing it all ourselves. In those days there was no Internet, DVDs, or even videocassettes. Now, through the magic of DVD, Sailrite brings us their latest video offering, "Make Your Own Full Boat Enclosure."

This set of three DVDs covers every aspect of building a full cockpit enclosure, and we mean every! It begins with pattern making and walks you step-by-step through the complexities of measuring, sewing, zipper and screen attachment, and hardware installation. Having made two enclosures over the years, we understand the complexity and pitfalls of this project; the Sailrite crew has done a remarkable job of explaining every aspect.

Most how-to videos fly rapidly through the subject, leaving the viewer with more questions than answers, or they ramble on for hours providing a perfect solution for insomnia. Sometimes they try to entertain and teach at the same time, many times losing the point. Not so in this case. There is no attempt to be cute or entertaining, just the nuts and bolts of the job. They even manage to make it look easy and, perhaps with the help of this series, it may well be so. Three DVDs require a lot of viewing time, but this is a big project and not for the faint of heart.

As we built Entr’acte, we discovered that every endeavor has secrets to achieving professional results. Sometimes it’s a technique and other times it’s a tool. Many of the pro’s secrets are revealed here, such as the use of cheap pattern material to get that perfect fit and double-backed tape to keep things in place while sewing. Speaking of tools, there is the demonstration of their new Snaprite tool that attaches to a standard pop rivet tool, enabling the easy and precise placement and attachment of snaps. What a great idea! May King Neptune send the Sailrite team gentle winds forever.

The camera work is excellent. The video and audio are clear. Every demonstration is easy to see and every explanation is easy to hear and understand. They even know when not to speak so the video can do the talking. There are no wasted words.

I don’t know if I would recommend a cockpit enclosure as a first project, but if you have experience at operating a sewing machine, a machine that’s up to the task, and a little experience maintaining your boat’s cushions and canvas, there’s no reason why you could not achieve excellent results using these videos. I would recommend that you sit through the entire set several times before you commit to the job. The entire project is arranged in small, easy-to-absorb sub-projects. You can tackle one small job at a time and proceed chapter by chapter. All of the chapters and menus operated glitch-free — no small achievement.

These DVDs play equally well on a large-screen TV or computer. You can study each chapter several times before you begin, then take your computer to the boat and play it while you work. To study a demonstration, hit the space bar to freeze the action and study what you see (and there is much to see and study). Hit the space bar again to move on. A great idea would be to offer this in downloadable form (MP4) for viewing on a tablet, or perhaps offer a package that would include both formats.

As I finished the last DVD, I noticed these words on the packaging: "Learn more, spend less. Do it yourself." Works for me! But one question remains: Sailrite, where were you guys with this DVD when we made our cockpit enclosure?

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The Other Side of the Ice

by Sprague Theobald and Allen Kreda (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012; 240 pages; $24.95 hardcover, $7.99 Kindle, $11.95 Audible)
Review by John Butte
Lopez Island, Washington

Chronicling a small pleasure boat’s challenging journey through the Northwest Passage, The Other Side of the Ice is a read that begins slowly but concludes with plenty of excitement. But unlike most offshore small boat adventures, this one takes place on a powerboat, not on a sailboat. Still, Sprague Theobald is no stranger to sailboats. A professional filmmaker with a 1982 Emmy for a documentary on the America’s Cup, he estimates he has 40,000 miles of offshore sailing experience as a delivery skipper as well as a crewmember in two-man transatlantic races and on the foredeck of Intrepid in the America’s Cup race.

Having severely injured his spine during these many sailboat adventures, Sprague owns and was doing salvage-dive filmmaking from a Nordhavn 57 trawler in 2008 when the spirit moved him to attempt to take his boat though the Northwest Passage. He assembled a crew of seven and planned to complete the journey in the late summer of the following year.

The composition and interaction of the crewmembers constitute a significant portion of the book’s plot. Estranged from his children in a divorce 15 years earlier, it occurred to Sprague that sharing this challenging goal for months in the confines of a small boat might offer a chance for family reconciliation. He begins by inviting his 30-something daughter and her boyfriend, who already have years of commercial experience as cook/organizer and skipper/handyman, respectively, on crewed sailboat charters in the Atlantic. He adds a son of similar age and another son of college age. To document the cruise on film, he rounds out the crew by adding his long-time diving buddy and, finally, a videographer. (A fourth sibling joins them later). Despite his own offshore experience, Theobald designates the boyfriend as boat skipper and he, Sprague Theobald — boat owner, concept originator, and project financier — assumes the role of trip "producer."

He chronicles their adventure dividing it into three parts: before, during, and after "The Passage." Regrettably, he colors his recounting of Part One (Newport, Rhode Island, past Newfoundland and Greenland, and through the Baffin Sea) by detailing many verbal clashes among the crew that are seldom resolved and add little to the story.

By Part Two, The Passage itself, however, the tone of the narrative appears to get more focused. The boyfriend (skipper) and videographer, apparently responsible for most of the unrest, have been sent home and the "family" gets down to business. Here the limited window of opportunity to transit among the broken ice floes is a constant looming menace. With several lookouts posted, they pick their way through the ice. Fighting near-constant high winds, they hole up wherever they can, sometimes for days. They never stretch their legs ashore without posting an armed watch for polar bears, which they see on several occasions.

Many challenges and adventures later, they reach the Beaufort Sea and begin their final leg (Part Three). They have now only to cross the Bering Sea, round the horn of Alaska, transit the Gulf of Alaska, and complete the "inside passage" to Seattle. But by the time they reach this final leg it’s late September. "Rule of thumb around here is to be off The Chain by September 12," said the skipper of a "hundreds of feet long" fishing boat. "You’re too small. Hell, we’re too small for some of this weather." Nevertheless, they persevere and experience almost-disastrous events.

The Other Side of The Ice is a book that builds in interest and intensity throughout its length. I was pleased to have been able to share the experience with the "family." To me, it yielded unaccustomed insight into offshore passagemaking in a powerboat. I feel, however, that Sprague missed a unique opportunity. He made no references to the relative sea-handling characteristics of his trawler with those of the sailboats with which he was so familiar. His extensive experience in both hull types puts him in a rare company of sailors who could expand on this subject with authority.

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Beyond the West Horizon

(Documentary film by Eric and Susan Hiscock produced in 1963. Restored from 16mm print by TheSailingChannel TV. Length: 91 minutes. Rent it for $2.99 or buy it for $12.99 from Vimeo,
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Leave it to Tory Salvia and the folks at TheSailingChannel TV to unearth wonderful historical sailing films and restore them for use with today’s technology. Tory obtained, from a niece of Eric and Susan Hiscock, a 16mm print of a documentary they produced for the BBC. The film depicts their three-year circumnavigation, leaving England’s Isle of Wight and sailing west, passing through the Panama and Suez Canals in 1959 through 1962 on Wanderer III, their 30-footer.

This was their second circumnavigation. Before they set off, the BBC provided them with some camera training, a 16mm windup camera, and 4,000 feet of color film. I was often impressed with the camera’s point of view. How did they get that shot of Susan rowing ashore in their dinghy if they didn’t have a second dinghy as a photo platform for Eric? What about the shots of the two of them doing something together, such as walking up an ancient staircase or poking around in some historical ruins? Other shots had to be taken from a couple of angles, meaning that the action occurred twice. While those shots were clearly staged, nothing appeared overly staged. And the narration, entirely by Eric, is very good and sometimes droll with his British sense of humor.

Eric and Susan Hiscock were among the pioneers of cruising in the 1950s and their wonderful restored video takes us back to days when the 1950’s cars in port cities were not antiques at all and life aboard was much simpler, relying on muscle power and excellent navigational skills.

The copy I watched was available through Vimeo. Go to the Video Page at or to TheSailingChannel TV to see a trailer of this and other great sailing videos: <>.

While you’re there, scroll down on that page and be sure to catch a couple of 18- and 19-minute promos. The first is an interview with Lin and Larry Pardey about their long friendship with the Hiscocks and the second is an interview with Thies Matzen and Kicki Ericson, the current owners and caretakers Wanderer III. There is no charge to see these excellent interviews.

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Sailing Down the Mountain: A Costa Rican Adventure

by Ben Harrison (New Atlantian Library, 2014, 436 pages; $19.95 paper, Kindle $3.99)
Review by Bob Wood
Angola, New York

Prepare your nautical comfort zone for a jolt. In Sailing Down the Mountain, warm and fuzzy . . . and staid . . . conventional thoughts on sailing, construction and personal discovery are casually set aside. Casually, but firmly. Actually, unconventional is an understatement. Equal parts of Walter Mitty, MacGyver and the vibrant counterculture ethos of Haight-Ashbury in the ’70s define much of this story.

The book chronicles both a young couple’s growth as well as the birth of a sailing legend, the Cabo Rico 38. Ben and Helen Harrison’s singular focus on building their dream sailboat, as well as a deep belief in themselves, is the story’s glue. Their ultimate success, despite obstacles and human failings, makes it an epic.

In addition to the Grateful Dead and Steve Jobs, San Francisco can count among its credits the formative muscle behind the Harrisons. In the fall of 1974, Ben and Helen left the City by the Bay but not its sweet energy. Driving a tired but trusty station wagon to Central America, the saga began. In the Costa Rican hills they took a bare hull and, with little experience, built La Dulce Mujer Pintada, The Sweet Painted Lady.

Bending or breaking bureaucratic rules that stood in their way, they never forgot the beauty or the dignity of those around them. Their days and months swung back and forth from staggering to sparkling, side-steps to bold gains, as all real adventures do.

This story is not some predictable tale of heroics and overcoming impossible odds. It is, instead, refreshingly candid and authentic, at times graphic, and always insightful. A quirky, colorful, stuttering bounce of a narrative, I found myself progressing from "I couldn’t do that" to "Wow, I really could!" Admiration for their humanity, audacity, and sheer guts comes easily after reading Ben’s journal.

Sailing Down the Mountain accurately captures the joys of aiming high in life, of stretching exuberantly for the prize, and that rarest joy of all: seizing it. This book will provoke and inspire. I salute Ben and Helen for taking a right turn from our complacent world.

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Man & The Sea: Shipwrecks of Southwest Washington
and Northwest Oregon 1792 – 1949

by Wayne O’Neil (Midway Printery, 2013, 221 pages; $29.00 paper)
Review by Durkee Richards
Sequim, Washington

For anyone with an interest in the maritime history of the Northwest coast, this book will be a valuable addition to their library. The central focus is the mouth of the Columbia River. The Columbia River bar can rapidly develop a very dangerous sea state when wind-driven waves encounter an outgoing tide. Add in fog, storm, and continuously shifting sandbars and spits, and one begins to understand why so many vessels came to grief here.

Commercial shipping grew rapidly during the early 1800s and hazardous conditions at the mouth of the river took a heavy toll. Wayne O’Neil set an ambitious goal for himself — to chronicle all the vessels known to have been lost between 1792 and 1949. No vessels were actually lost in 1792; the first occurred in 1798. Rather, the author starts his history of the Columbia River with the first entrance into the river by a Western vessel. It was the Columbia Rediviva, under command of Robert Grey out of Boston. Later that year, the bar was crossed by British vessels.

This is a comprehensive accounting of the more than 200 vessels lost during this period. Their stories are well told, and often well illustrated with drawings and photographs. Personnel from the nearby Life Saving Stations frequently performed inspired feats of seamanship during attempts to rescue passengers and crewmembers. The histories of these local stations are also well documented in this fine book.

There is an interesting backstory to this book as well. Wayne O’Neil died in 1998 before he had completed the manuscript. His daughter, Peggy (O’Neil) Mathena, organized a group of friends and fellow journalists who had worked with her father to complete the work. A "collectors edition" of this book was printed on paper salvaged along the Long Beach Peninsula after it was washed off the deck of the freighter Hawaiian Planter during a stormy bar crossing.

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In the Hour of Victory:
The Royal Navy at War in the Age of Nelson

By Sam Willis (W.W. Norton & Co., 2014, 416 pages; $35.00 hardcover, $19.95 paper)
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, Illinois

In 2010, naval historian Sam Willis went to the British Library to do research for a book he was writing. One of the potential sources he wished to check had the innocuous catalog label "Add:23207." He expected a folder with a few letters in it; instead, the librarians brought out a huge volume, cased in silver, containing the original after-action reports from the seven most important naval battles of the Revolutionary/Napoleonic era: The Glorious First of June (1794), St. Vincent (1797), Camberdown (1797), the Nile (1798), Copenhagen (1801), San Domingo (1806), and Trafalgar (1805). Along with the hand-written reports of the admirals who had fought the battles, there were lists of the ships involved, the prizes taken, the damage to the ships, casualty lists, and required repairs — all originally written to be sent to the Secretary of the Admiralty. This treasure trove of history had been effectively lost in the British Library for almost 100 years.

History is context. Willis knew exactly what he had found. He could have merely scanned all the documents, added some stuffy afternotes, and left it at that. Instead, he wrote this wonderfully readable book. It is organized in chapters by battle, starting with a one-page summary of the action; brief biographies of the commanders; descriptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing fleets, the strategic situations, and the reasons the battles were fought (Copenhagen, it turns out, was fought for no reason at all; San Domingo, because most of the British sailors engaged had missed Trafalgar and wanted some glory for themselves, even if they were 3,000 miles off-station). The documents are reproduced, but not just as barely decipherable photocopies. Each letter is printed in a font that invokes 19th century handwriting while being legible to 21st century eyes.

Willis is a skilled historian, and an excellent writer — not always the same thing.
He not only relates what the letters say, he explains their meanings, including the subtleties that might escape someone simply reading the text alone. He includes fascinating anecdotes about the seamen, battles, and the race to get the information to the Admiralty. His introduction, which describes a combat-numbed commander trying to write a coherent report in the battle-shattered remains of his flag cabin, is a wonderfully evocative piece of writing, comparable to anything by Samuel Eliot Morison.

Accounts of the actual fighting are oddly brief, including only enough information to explain what the reports are describing. But so much has been written about these engagements already that this is no loss. The battle maps that are included are excellent. Cartographer Jamie Whyte uses a sketch of a mainmast with billowing sails and pennants flying to show the wind direction (vital in a sailing fleet action).

Readers who "don’t care about that history stuff" will find here the true stories of actual men who sailed His Majesty’s ships against the King’s enemies and who fought with daring and skill — then wrote about it. Even if you have never paced a quarterdeck with Aubrey, Hornblower, or Bolitho, you will find this book informative and a great read.

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Old Voice
music CD by Larry Carpenter, with Laura Moe

produced by Bill Travers; 2014, 46 minutes, $15.00, or contact him through Facebook:
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minnesota

The words of a song are spinning through my head as I write this. Songs often get stuck in there playing endlessly. When it’s a song I really enjoy, such as this one, it’s a lovely idiosyncrasy. "In the land of the silver birch, cry of the loon, there’s something about this country — it’s a part of me and you." (Woodsmoke and Oranges by Ian Tamblyn.)

These are the words in the refrain of the opening song on Larry Carpenter’s second CD, released in early 2014. Titled Old Voice, the CD takes its name not from the fact that Larry’s hair and beard have grown white but rather from an Ian Tamblyn song of that name that Larry hears talking about the agelessness of the glaciers and snowfields. Larry, an accomplished folk singer, presents 13 of his favorite folk tunes on Old Voice from artists such as Tamblyn, Buddy Mondlock, Kate Wolf, and Stan Rogers.

The songs he likes to sing and play revolve around maritime history, the beauty of the northern shore and the high latitudes, and love stories. In January, Good Old Boat sponsored Larry as a presenter at the Chicago Strictly Sail show. In his presentations he told of the beauty of Lake Superior, a drama on Great Slave Lake, and the loss of the fishery in the Canadian Maritimes, with scenic stills and videos taken during his cruises in most of these areas. In addition, Larry sang many of the songs on this new CD. The presentation helped listeners understand the background behind the lyrics penned by Stan Rogers and others.

Larry’s first CD, Across the Water, released in 2012, is just as good as this one. If you’re a sailor, wanderer, or folk singer, you’ll be impressed with his selection of songs, the accompaniment by Larry’s wife, Judy Taylor, on flute, and also by Bill Travers and John Wright on acoustic and bass guitar. This time Larry has increased the participation by Laura Moe, whose vocals are haunting and lovely. The two CDs make a great set.

I’m partial to the song of a woman who escaped death in a shipwreck on the Great Slave Lake (fortunately for her she had an angel on her shoulder), Not This Time by Amanda Rheaume; Waylon Jenning’s Freedom to Stay; and Stan Rogers’ Make and Break Harbor.

But if I’m really lucky the refrain from The Birds, the last song on the CD, and another one by Tamblyn, will stay with me for the rest of the day. The images evoked of a cliffside rookery and the flight of thousands of birds makes this a powerful piece. It is further enhanced by the wonderful voices of Larry Carpenter and Laura Moe.

Old Voice is now available at CD Baby as either a physical disk or by download: <>. Or you can get them directly from Larry.

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The Little Blue Book of Sailing Wisdom

edited by Stephen Brennan (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014, 214 pages, $16.95 hardcover; also available as an ebook)
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minnesota

If you need a conversation starter aboard your boat or perhaps a thoughtful tidbit to share in the cockpit while waiting for the green flash, Stephen Brennan has put together a little book of sailing quotations by the likes of William Shakespeare, Beowulf, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Nathanael Herreshoff, Homer (in the Odyssey) and many more. He intersperses these with good sailing photos and organizes the content into vague categories such as Ship, Storm and Calm, the Philosophic Sailor, and so forth.

It’s not really possible to review a collection of quotations. Some are melancholy. Some are frightening. Some you’ve heard before. Many are enlightening. Many will touch you. I offer a few that touched me.

A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble.
E.B. White

Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit.
Brooks Atkinson

Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made.
Robert N. Rose

Waves are not measured in feet or inches, they are measured in increments of fear.
Buzzy Trent

At sea, I learned how little a person needs — not how much.
Robin Lee Graham

Sailors, with their built-in sense of order, service, and discipline, should really be running the world.
Nicholas Monsarrat

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Sea Trials: A Lone Sailor’s Race Toward Home

by Peter Bourke (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, 240 pages, $24.00, hardcover; also available as an ebook)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minnesota

Peter Bourke’s book, Sea Trials, is a beguiling read. Short chapters detail each of the 40 days he spent sailing the 2009 OSTAR, the Original (or Oldest) Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race. Not only does he divulge the joys and demands of a solo race across the Atlantic, Bourke also reveals himself as a contemplative man, one with an outlook of peace and gratitude toward life, one who embraces the good fortune life and sailing have given him.

“As I sip my tea I consider how very lucky I am to have the freedom to be out here in this magnificent world of wind, waves, and wonder,” he writes.

Not only a nautical memoir, Bourke ruminates on the loss of his wife to an epileptic seizure, the challenges of single parenting, his experiences with ocean crossings as a young boy and again as a young man, and holding off on his dream of solo ocean sailing until his children reached maturity. As an armchair sailor, he read sagas of great sailors (Joshua Slocum, Bernard Moitessier, and many others) and “inhaled the spirituality of solo sailing.”

He writes, “Solo sailing is not better, or worse, than sailing with a crew. It is a singular experience in every sense. It is a total immersion in the life. It is the visit to a monastery, and it changes you.”

Bourke also notes, “There’s a lot of equipment to monitor and maintain on a boat, and I need to remind myself that I am on that list. I need to push myself or I won’t stay competitive, but I need to go the distance or I’ve lost completely. Striking that balance is one of the keys.”

Each chapter begins with a quotation applicable to the circumstances of that particular day at sea. The quotes are drawn from Freud, Henry Ford, Robert E. Lee, Louis Armstrong, Confucius, and a number of others. An epilogue answers questions that were addressed to him at the press conference in his mind. Rubicon’s layout and sail plan are included, as is information on each of the boats that took place in that year’s race.

Sea Trials: a Lone Sailor’s Race Toward Home is recommended as a good story that will draw its readers in.

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Life Boat: How a Century Old Boat and a New Dream
Inspired an Adventure of a Lifetime

by Mark Harwood (Lulu, 313 pages, 2014, $15.47 through Lulu; $2.99 as a Kindle ebook).
Review by David McDaniel
Redondo Beach, California

Life Boat is a wonderful account of a sailing adventure founded on do-it-yourself ingenuity and a shoestring budget. I mean, imagine finding a one-hundred-year-old traditional ocean-lifesaving vessel on the banks of the Thames River, originally designed to be rowed by a handful of trained rescuers. Then imagine, through passion and determination, driven by wanderlust, transforming her into a unique, junk-rigged sailboat — a magic carpet named Arab.

Mark recounts his adventure with his partner Karen as they set off for the warm climes of the Mediterranean Sea from Bristol, England, via the canals and river ways of France aboard Arab. With its junk rig, solid Lister inboard engine, and charming good looks, the ex-lifeboat carries them across the English Channel as the author and first mate gain their sea legs and experiment with sailing this ageless rig. Through mishaps and rewards that only travel by boat can afford, the couple arrive in France all the wiser. With the simplicity and economy of the junk rig, Mark handily lowers the mast on Arab converting her back to a motor vessel for navigating the oftentimes narrow and congested locks and waterways of the French interior. Throughout this segment of their journey, Mark and Karen motor their way through the beautiful countryside and experience France from a perspective no tourist could ever imagine, and at a pace that puts them squarely in the hearts of the people they meet along the way. Ultimately, after a stint living in and working on a French farmhouse owned by a friend, they make their way south to their ultimate goal — the warmth of the Mediterranean Sea and the Balearic Islands. This is where they start sailing in earnest, doing mostly what all self-respecting sailing dreamers would do — hopping from port to port in this beautiful island paradise enjoying the warmth of the water and people they meet along the way.

Mark is a fine writer, chronicling in the beginning the steps he took to get Arab into shape for making a long coastal journey while simultaneously providing glimpses into his own personal story to give the reader an idea of who he is and what is driving him towards his dream of sailing free. He is a humorist as well as a philosopher, and weaves his talents into the story to create a rich account of their journey. His passion for his ship and respect for her rich history is made obvious through his romantic writing style, which serves the reader well in bringing Arab to life and reminding us that we are actually following three characters on this journey. Moreover, his relationship with his first mate, Karen, is one to be admired by all skippers and crew the sailing world over. Filled with an ease that only humor can create, they work as a team to drive Arab, accomplish goals, and run down dreams, all while learning to sail. That’s right! This is both sailors’ maiden voyage. Life Boat is our ticket to ride. And for someone still dreaming of his own “magic carpet,” I’m glad they had me along.

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Cruising Life: The Best Stories from Caribbean Compass

compiled by Sally Erdie and Rona Beame (Compass Publishing, 2013, $8.95 Kindle Edition)
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury
Port Ludlow, Washington

From the Introduction of Cruising Life: “It’s a collection of stories by “cruisers” — those free spirits traveling independently under sail.”

Chosen from over 200 issues of Caribbean Compass magazine, the articles included in this collection are the shared adventures of those who are explorers of the Caribbean, not tourists.

Organized into six chapters, readers can choose to explore the best articles from Adventure, Humor, Travel, Poems, Book Reviews or Recipes — in the order they choose. The collection is diverse.

The Adventure chapter includes “Arriving Topless in Cartagena,”by Rosemarie Smart-Alecio. Rosemarie and Alfred did all their homework: they studied the area weather, checked for the best window of travel, found out the best areas of protection, and monitored all the forecasts. Still, their passage from Curaçao to Cartagena was more than they bargained for and the suspense just keeps building.

“The Great Banana Fiasco of 1993” by Thomas Warner is included in the Humor chapter. This is a story of bananas and politics. An 800-foot refrigerated ship full of bananas set out from Costa Rica. Because of engine trouble, they are towed for repair, but denied entry to port — and then the politics began. Two months later, the rotten bananas were still onboard and had turned into alcohol! Readers will never look at bananas the same again.

“Antigua’s Glorious Green Island” by Rosie Burr is found in the travel chapter and is a very descriptive piece on Antigua’s Green Island. Included is information on the public beaches, what to see and do, where to moor your boat, snorkeling spots, and enticing descriptions of the island and its wildlife.

The Poems chapter is a collection of Caribbean style prose and includes poems about Martinique, tourists, Anse La Roche, a Grenada morning, proper use of a VHF radio, a boat, Bequia, and Nicoya nights. Reading this section will leave readers feeling the warm moist breeze, smelling the tropical flowers, and hearing the Caribbean music in their heads.

The Book Reviews chapter is a collection of four detailed and well-written reviews.

The Recipes chapter is an added bonus to this already all-inclusive Caribbean article collection. Seven articles include stories and recipes for the local fare. From grilled fish steaks and Caribbean rub, to mango red pepper dip, roasted chickpeas, and Caribbean Salad Salsa, this chapter packs some real flavor.

These are the stories told onboard to fellow adventurers, stories of local people and food, celebrations, and traditions not shared in guidebooks. They are the tales that become legends.

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600 Days to Cocos Island, parts one and two

a feature film about a two-year voyage by Gene and Josie Evans; viewed on Vimeo through TheSailingChannel.TV, 155 minutes total: streaming rental, $2.99 each, $4.99 for the set; download-to-own, $12.99 each, $19.99 for the set.
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minnesota

In the 1970s Gene and Josie Evans cruised from San Diego to Costa Rica and beyond to Cocos Island and the Galapagos Islands and then home again. The cruise lasted two years as they stopped to smell the roses along the way down followed by a non-stop homeward passage north to San Diego. As a Hollywood-based cinematographer, Gene recorded their voyage on 16 mm film and sold the movie as 600 Days to Cocos Island.

The folks at TheSailingChannel.TV worked with the Evans’ son, Ronn Letterman (who sailed with the couple for part of the voyage) to restore and remaster a surviving 16 mm print to HD, giving it new life for the digital age. This wonderful film had been out of general circulation for some time, with only a few used VHS copies popping up on Amazon and EBay at outrageous prices.

This video offers today’s viewers an honest look at the much simpler lifestyle of the previous generation of cruisers, those who inspired so many of today’s sailors and dreamers. Gene was the cinematographer for many Hollywood movies including Roots, the first modern television mini-series. Using his professional talents, Gene shot excellent coverage of the voyage. In the editing process, he and Josie created a highly visual story with an intriguing narrative. You’ll feel like a crew member on the voyage.

600 Days is part of TheSailingChannel.TV’s growing Classic Cruising Collection. Other wonderful additions include Beyond the West Horizon with Eric and Susan Hiscock; Cruising Has No Limits with Lin and Larry Pardey; Transatlantic with Street with Don Street; Around the World with Jean-du-Sud with Yves Gelinas; and four videos that make up The Voyages of Entr’acte with Ed and Ellen Zacko. The Zackos are now Good Old Boat contributing editors and continue to sail Entr’acte, their Nor’Sea 27, many decades after they created their first video.

All of these classic videos are worth downloading and watching. With today’s Internet technology TheSailingChannel.TV is able to keep the price affordable — less than half the cost of a DVD — and convenient. You can watch online on any device including computer, smart phone, tablet, and smart TV. You can download a copy to take sailing with you.

Along with all the others, I recommend 600 Days to Cocos Island highly. The two-part production repeats perhaps too much material on the second part but then moves forward with the second half of the voyage. Step aboard with Gene and Josie Evans and embrace their simpler lifestyle. You’ll be made to feel right at home aboard.

About TheSailingChannel.TV
TSC distributes both classic and modern cruising films, plus how-to videos that teach sailing skills, boat maintenance, and construction. On the Web at <> and on Vimeo at <>.

TSC also produces sailing documentaries. Its latest production is Red Dot on the Ocean, the story of Matt Rutherford, a once-troubled youth who set two world records by circumnavigating the Americas, solo, nonstop on a 27-foot Albin Vega. Following its theatrical premier on October 24, 2014, at the historic Quad Cinema in New York City, Red Dot is scheduled for general distribution in 2015. See <>.

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Sail With Me: Two People, Two Boats, One Wild Adventure

by Rebecca Burg, CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2014, 234 Pages; $14.95 paperback, Kindle $5.99)
Review by Cyndi Perkins
Houghton, michigan

Inspiring self-reliance marks this debut memoir by sailor, artist, marine mechanic-electrician and singlehander Rebecca Burg, who in the 1990s swapped life ashore in West Bend, Wisconsin, for the Key West-based cruising life.

Her passion for sailing shines as brightly as the yellow hull of her beloved Angel, a 1978 cutter-rigged Bayfield 29. Introduced to boating during childhood, Burg learned to sail as a young adult, venturing out on Lake Michigan and nearby inland lakes as crew as well as acquiring her own 16-foot trimaran, Troika. Eventually she took her newfound skills south to pursue a life well-lived with no dreams delayed. Her platonic companion is the M&M-candy-loving Bill, a veteran Key West-based charter captain and fishing guide living aboard his 36-foot 1974 Morgan Out Island ketch, Defiance.

Rebecca and Bill, who met on the ‘net while she was boat shopping, retain their independence while enjoying the safety and companionship of traveling in company. Both work hard during tourism season in “Key Weird,” replenishing cruising kitties before buddy boating in their “antique” vessels to nearby cruising destinations in the Bahamas. In addition to selling her art and writing, Burg earned certifications through the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) that have enabled her to partner up on a mobile marine-repair service.

Burg airs strong opinions on everything from ground tackle to the financial status of cruisers on the mooring field in Boot Key Harbor. Her viewpoints will surely spark lively discussions wherever boaters gather. Chapters on dining underway, fishing techniques, and living aboard a small boat feature some unique and useful ideas for provisioning and outfitting.

Nitty-gritty details such as anchoring laws are outdated in this decades-old not-to-be-used-for-navigation recounting of the singlehanding duo’s forays in and around Florida and the Bahamas. But some topics are timeless: Mastering the intimidation factor of a Gulf Stream crossing, exploring the less-visited Marquesas, 30 miles off Key West, and successfully avoiding hurricanes. Angel and Defiance weathered the succession of storms that ripped through the Keys in summer-fall 2005 — Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma — by hiding in unspecified mangrove-lined waterways in Southwest Florida. Perhaps those hidey holes and other mysteries — including the murky portrayal of a male-female friendship complicated by ambiguous sexual proclivities — will be more clearly revealed in Rebecca’s next book. Curiosity also remains about the newbie sailor’s first long passage down the U.S. East Coast to Florida’s Gulf Coast.

At times the prose sings, especially when Rebecca discusses her Native American heritage and alignment with her boat’s spirit. But Sail With Me suffers from lack of editing and proofreading, leaving typographical speed bumps that jolt readers out of the story. Maps, photo captions, and illustrations featuring the author’s artwork would also help bring Rebecca’s instructive and entertaining sea tales more fully to life.

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on DVD, a feature film by Jillian Schlesinger produced by Wild Shot Films in association with Pilot;, 2013, 82 minutes, $24.95 discounted to $18.71.
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minnesota

In 2010 the sailing community was abuzz with the audacious and apparently wholly spontaneous competition of three young women vying for the world record as the youngest female circumnavigator. Australia’s 16-year-old Jessica Watson set sail from Sydney on 34-foot Ella’s Pink Lady on October 18, 2009, and returned on May 15, 2010. At 15, American-born Abby Sunderland left Del Ray, California, in January 2010 but abandoned her quest in the Indian Ocean.

The third and youngest of this group was Laura Dekker of the Netherlands, who announced her intention to join in this competition when she was 13. This led to a protracted child custody case in the Dutch courts that prevented her from leaving for nearly a year. Laura began her attempt on August 21, 2010, setting out from Gibraltar and captured the record as the youngest female sailor two years later when she crossed her track on January 21, 2012. She was 16. From the beginning, Laura made no effort for a non-stop circumnavigation, saying she preferred to see the sights and enjoy the voyage. Her boat was a 38-foot Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch named Guppy.

I am not a fan of sailing stunts, non-stop races, singlehanded circumnavigations, or world record attempts. I basically ignored the whole media circus and chose no side in the debates that surrounded these three girls’ attempts. So I might have been the wrong one to review Laura Dekker’s movie, Maidentrip, released earlier this year. Or perhaps not.

Through her movie, Laura Dekker won my complete admiration and respect for her achievement. She was and remains an accomplished sailor, who was fully up to the goal she set for herself. She proved it to the world first with her record and then again with this new movie that has been patched together primarily from scenes she shot while onboard.

In an hour and a half, viewers see a very capable 14-year-old girl mature into a competent and independent young woman of 16. We enjoy the pleasant cruising scenes. We witness some of the rough times aboard and experience her frustration. We watch as she pulls back from parental involvement as a typical 16-year-old might do while cutting the apron strings. What may be unique is that, when challenging authority, this 16-year-old had already lived independently for more than a year and in very challenging conditions as the master of her own vessel. In doing so, she had clearly grown her wings and earned the independence she believed she deserved.

There are subtitles in parts of the movie. Laura speaks Dutch some of the time and very credible English some of the time. I thought the subtitles might detract from my enjoyment of the movie, but they did not. I became fully immersed in the challenges experienced by this young sailor.

Laura should be very proud of her accomplishment. My only advice would be to set new and challenging goals but to forgo any further world records. She’s been there and done that and surely earned the T-shirt.

Her challenges now should center on developing the next steps toward new goals for what promises to be a very interesting life.

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Sextant: A Young Man’s Daring Sea Voyage
and the Men Who Mapped the World’s Oceans

by David Barrie (William Morrow, 2014, 240 pages, $25.99)

Review by James Williams
Charlotte Harbor, Florida

The place of humans in the world of nature is essential to David Barrie’s wonderfully descriptive story of the sextant. I always have been fascinated by the interdependent relationship of people and nature. I am convinced that technology mediates this relationship, and Barrie confirms my belief. The tale of the sextant is that of one of several tools in the history of maritime navigation technology — others include the astrolabe, back-staff, cross-staff, quadrant, compass and chronometer.& It was the principal navigation tool of mariners for the past three centuries, eclipsed only in the last forty years by GPS. It also was one of the basic surveying tools that made possible charting coastlines and oceans with some modicum of accuracy.

Barrie, an experienced life-long sailor, begins his story with his own reminiscences of his father’s love of astronomy and cartography and of his first transatlantic crossing at age nineteen with retired Royal Navy captain Colin McMullen on a thirty-five-foot sloop.  McMullen introduced the secrets of the sextant to Barrie, teaching him to take his first “mer alt” (the sun’s meridian altitude). His Atlantic crossing is woven through the rest of the book, which looks at the origins of the sextant and other navigation instruments and then, with the sextant foremost in the telling, to the stories of a dozen navigators and explorers who crisscrossed the oceans, discovering and charting islands and coastlines.

Most readers will probably be familiar with the adventures of the almost one-dozen mariners and explorers whose stories Barrie recounts, but when couched in the tale of the sextant itself, each one takes on new meaning.  We all know the story of Captain William Bligh, whose ship, the Bounty, was wrested from him by mutineers in the south Pacific. It was his remarkable skill with a sextant, however, that made it possible for him to take what was left of his crew in a small skiff a distance of 3,600 miles to the Dutch West Indies. Similarly, you may know the story of Captain James Cook, commander of the Endeavor, who carried scientists from Britain to Tahiti to observe the second “Transit of Venus” that occurred in the eighteenth century, as well as to explore the south Pacific. “In the course of his three great voyages of discovery, Cook, with sextant in hand, added more to European knowledge of the Pacific Ocean than any other single person.”

The adventures of other navigators, some well-known and some not-so-well known, include Louis-Antoine de Bougainville (best known today for the plant named after him), who explored the south Pacific for France in the late eighteenth century, and George Vancouver for whom Vancouver Island as well as a city in British Columbia and one in the state of Washington is named. Another French navigator, Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse, visited the coast of California and explored the Pacific Northwest and Alaska before heading for the south Pacific where his two ships with two hundred men disappeared while in search of the Solomon Islands. Only in recent years have the wreck sites of Pérouse’s two ships been identified near Vanikoro in the Santa Cruz group of islands southeast of the Solomons. Matthew Flinders, who sailed under William Bligh after the mutiny on the Bounty, explored routes along the northern coast of Australia and suffered enormous hardships plus captivity by the French. The voyages of the Beagle, famous for carrying Charles Darwin to the Galapagos Islands, sailed under more than one captain who possessed great skill with the sextant.

Sextant closes with the story of Joshua Slocum’s well-known singlehanded circumnavigation in Spray and with the gripping story of early-twentieth-century explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton on Endurance. Heading for Antarctica, in February 1915, Endurance became entrapped in closing ice some sixty miles from her planned destination. In October, Shackleton and his ship’s captain, Frank Worsley, decided to abandon ship and make camp on the snowpack. Five months later, in April 1916, Worsley with Shackleton and their crew of twenty-eight seamen reached Elephant Island, whence they and four of the crew members set sail in a 23-foot ship’s boat on a voyage of 800 nautical miles across the Southern Ocean to South Georgia. The sextant proved to be their most important navigational tool.

Toward the beginning of Sextant, Barrie devotes two chapters to the “longitude problem” and the chronometer which finely resolved it, but he’s much better with the sextant. So, the moment you put down this fascinating and engaging book, you’ll want to turn to someone who is as passionate about the “longitude problem” as Barrie is about the sextant. That should be Dava Sobel’s Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time (1995), the story of eighteenth-century English clockmaker John Harrison who, in a forty-year quest to beat the “longitude problem,” developed the chronometer, a clock that kept precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do before, even on land.

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by Daniel James Brown (Penguin Books, 2014, 416 pages, $17.00)
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, Illinois

In this age of College Sports = Football = Big Business, it is hard to believe that crew — races between boats with two, four, or eight rowers—was one of the most popular collegiate sports in the 1930s. Thousands came out to watch the races, railroads with waterside tracks put on special trains to pace the boats, and the sports pages of the big newspapers scrutinized every word uttered by the coaches for hidden meanings. The American universities rowed against each other every year, and every four years the best crew represented the USA at the Olympics.

The Boys in the Boat tells the story of the University of Washington crew. These young men were not the scions of the rich from Harvard or Yale — they were the sons of lumberjacks, farmers, and small-town businessmen. They held part-time jobs to pay for their educations and trained in their spare time. And despite all the obstacles, they went to Berlin in 1936.

The story primarily follows Joe Rantz, who came to the University of Washington in 1933 and turned out to possess the skill set that made a champion rower. Although he is the central character in the book (author Daniel Brown interviewed him extensively), he insisted that the book be "not just about me. It has to be about the boat."

The most marvelous part of the book is the description of how the coaches and rowers formed "the boat." A crew is not a "team" — nine men in a shell are more than a team. They function as one entity—three-quarters of a ton of muscle and power, balanced in a cedar-wood shell 60 feet long and 2 feet wide, generating as much energy in six minutes as a basketball player does in two games played back-to back.

Two other men were part of the boat: the coxswain, Bobby Moch, who had to juggle water conditions, weather, what the other boats were doing, and his own crew, and assemble it all into split-second tactical decisions to win the race; and George Yeoman Pocock, an unassuming Englishman who sculpted wood into the best racing shells ever made. (In the 1936 qualifying races at Poughkeepsie, 17 of the 18 competing boats were made by Pocock.) He was a philosopher of rowing and his thoughts on the sport begin every chapter. The advice he gives Joe Rantz is critical to the final creation of the boat.

The book is not limited to the Washington crew. Brown did a tremendous amount of research into the families and neighbors of the rowers and the times they lived in. The chapters describing Nazi Germany, cleaned up for the Olympics, will remind readers of In the Garden of the Beasts and Voyages in Desperate Times.

The races were not all the boys had to contend with. Their opponents threw roadblocks in their way, which they overcame with the love of their families (paying their way to Germany) and their personal courage.

The accounts of the individual races are page-turners. Brown describes the thoughts and actions of the rowers, the coxswain, the coaches, the reporters, and the friends listening on radios at home in Washington as the races take place, all without a sentence wasted.

Daniel James Brown did a wonderful job in telling the story of ordinary young men who, in the depth of the Depression, formed an extraordinary entity. I guarantee you will read the account of the climactic race for Olympic gold against the five best crews in the world, with Hitler himself watching, in one sitting.

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By Marcie Connelly-Lynn, (Nine of Cups Publications,
2013; eBook, $3.99, download at
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury
Port Ludlow, Washington

"Seventy percent of the earth’s surface is water; there’s no better way to see it than on a boat." Marcie Connelly-Lynn.

Marcie and David Lynn embarked upon a new life in 2000 when they moved onboard their sailboat, Nine of Cups*, and sailed off to live a dream. Fourteen years later, they still feel it’s the best decision they have ever made in their lives. And it’s still fun.

Journaling about their adventures gave Marcie an abundance to write about, leading to her articles being published in Caribbean Compass Magazine, and ultimately to this book, number one in a series chronicling their world travels.

Marcie’s first book, as the title indicates, focuses on sailing the Caribbean, and she covers a lot of territory. From Saba to St. Kitts to Guadeloupe to Tobago and the Eastern Out Islands of Venezuela — and more, this tome reads like an excellent travelogue. Readers will want to be sure to read/view this eBook on a computer or newer eBook reader to get the full effect of the numerous professional quality color photos, which help to bring the travels to life.

Nine of Cups: Caribbean Stories is not just a book about sailing from port to port, or anchorage to anchorage. Lynn describes what they encounter during their sightseeing excursions (including the history of the locales), the local people, the anchorage conditions, etc. The imagery the author puts on the pages using words gives readers a "taste" of the colors, sounds, and smells, causing one to feel as though they are along for the ride.

" . . . We could have easily stayed here for weeks without blinking an eye. The natural beauty and pristine remoteness of these islands is a magic of its own and time doesn’t matter . . . the next set of islands beckoned . . . we listened and moved on," wrote the author while in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Marcie and David sometimes meet up with fellow cruisers, but it is not their goal. They tend to anchor in places less traveled to meet the locals and experience the culture up close and personal — and sometimes just to enjoy the solitude. They also enjoy interacting with those indigenous to the areas they are exploring.

While having beers and burgers in Nevis, St. Kitts, they meet a Swiss couple and are invited to spend time at their nearby plantation. The visit ends up being a highlight of their adventure.

And, of course there is the story of Marvin the Magnificent, touring a rum factory, visits to numerous lighthouses, butterflies and dragonflies galore, donkeys, flamingos, iguanas and, well, each port brings a new adventure.

Sailors, cruisers and armchair voyagers alike, it is definitely worth reading.

*Note: The name "Nine of Cups" comes from a tarot card and signifies dreams come true.

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by Wayne Brown (Leeward Publications, 2014, 296 pages, $19.95)
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, Illinois

Edmund A. "Ed" Cutts was an exceptionally single-minded individual. As a very young child, he watched boats off Long Island. He took his first boat ride when he was 8½ years old. When he was nine, he told his father, "That’s what I want to do in life—build wooden boats." Practically everything he did for the rest of his life was focused on that one goal. He attended the New York Maritime High School to learn how to build wooden boats. He worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, then in the Navy as a machinist, because they needed precision workers more than wooden boat builders. (He wanted to build Admiral’s Gigs.)

After the war, he made the rounds of the boatyards on Long Island, working for one, then another, as long as they built wooden boats. In 1965, he moved his family to Oxford, Maryland, where he had purchased a boatyard of his own. From then until his death in 2008, Cutts designed, lofted, built, and repaired wooden boats, sail and power, ranging from 14 feet to 65 feet in length.

Through historic references, stories from friends and relatives, and many interviews with Mr. Cutts himself, the story of his remarkable boatbuilding career is told. Some of the yarns are pretty good — there is the story of his disagreement with Adolph Egli, Director of Applied Research for the Ford Motor Company, himself a yachtsman, over the displacement of the boat Ed built for him. And there is a description of the ingenious method used to test for crawl in the Kevlar-in-the-notch basis of the Cutts Method.

Although he despised fiber-reinforced plastic molded hulls, he wanted to improve the construction of small yachts. Running his own research and development program, he developed the "Cutts Method,"a technique of building a hull that sandwiched Kevlar embedded in epoxy between layers of wood. Using no frames or fasteners, the hulls are said to be lighter, stronger, and not subject to fastener corrosion.

The book goes into great detail on many aspects of Ed Cutts’ life, including his mentors, the places he worked before opening his own yard, and his boat designs — sometimes in too much detail. At the same time, the description of the Cutts Method of boat construction is only about two pages long and not very comprehensive. It is as if the writer thought the reader already knew how the boats were built and only needed to describe how the method came about. One good picture of the technique would have explained much.

This heavily anecdotal biography about Ed Cutts and his boats gives great insight into the work of the last custom boatbuilders working in the 1960s. Their creations that have survived are treasured Good Old Boats.

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