Book Reviews From 2016
Reviews From 2016
February 2016 Newsletter
- A Genius at His Trade: C. Raymond Hunt and His Remarkable Boats, by Stan Grayson
- Bluewater Sailing on a Budget: How to Find and Buy a Cruising Sailboat for Under $50,000, by Captain Jim Elfers
- The Blue, by Lucy Clarke
- The Sailing Master: Book One: Coming of Age, by Lee Henschel Jr.
April 2016 Newsletter
- Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines (and Other Niche Mags) by Michael Robertson
- Boat Handling and Docking: Hands-on Exercises to Improve Your Helmsman Skills by Capt. Jim Stewart
- Gordon Bennett and the First Yacht Race Across the Atlantic by Sam Jefferson
- Slow Boat to the Bahamas by Linus Wilson
June 2016 Newsletter
- Penelope Down East: Cruising Adventures In An Engineless Catboat Along The World’s Most Beautiful Coast by W. R. Cheney
- Anchoring: A Ground Tackler’s Apprentice — Basics And Beyond by Rudy and Jill Sechez
- Simple Solutions by Alan Lucas
- The New Updated, Revised And Expanded Get Rid Of Boat Odors: A Boat Owner’s Guide To Marine Sanitation Systems And Other Sources Of Aggravation And Odor by Peggie Hall
August 2016 Newsletter
- Red Flags in Blue Water: Misadventures of a Freelance Sea Captain, by R. A. Bard
- Sailing Toward Sunrise: Cruising and Treasuring America’s Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, by Bob and Karen Jones
- The Inside Passage, by Carl Brookins
October 2016 Newsletter
- The Shores of Tripoli: Lieutenant Putnam and the Barbary Pirates, by James Haley
- In the Wake of Heroes: Sailing’s Greatest Stories, by Tom Cunliffe
- Buehler’s Backyard Boatbuilding For the 21st Century, by George Buehler
- Singlehanded Sailing: Thoughts, Tips, Techniques & Tactics, by Andrew Evans
December 2016 Newsletter
- Taleisin’s Tales: Sailing Towards the Southern Cross, by Lin and Larry Pardey
- L. Francis Herreshoff Yacht Designer, by Roger C. Taylor
- Bound for Distant Seas, by James Baldwin
- A History of Sailing in 100 Objects, by Barry Pickthall
A Genius at His Trade: C. Raymond Hunt and His Remarkable Boats
by Stan Grayson with a Foreword by Llewellyn Howland III (Tilbury House Publishers, 2015; 304 pages; $49.95)
Review by Rob Mazza
Although he died almost 40 years ago, Ray Hunt left an indelible legacy in yacht design. Hunt is now more known for the development of the Deep-Vee powerboat hull configuration, which remains today virtually unchanged from his original concept. You may also know him for the design and development of the original Boston Whaler cathedral hull form. However, author Stan Grayson does an excellent job in detailing Hunt’s extraordinary design and truly remarkable sailing career, starting as a youngster as the first winner of the Sears Cup in 1925, and detailing race win after race win in R-Boats, Q-Boats, 6 and 8 Metres in the 1920s and ’30s, and soon in boats he designed himself.
Despite a limited formal education, Hunt was a remarkable intuitive sailor, and his interest in sailing soon turned to yacht design. Working with Waldo Howland in the early days of Concordia Company, Hunt firmly established his yacht design career with the legendary Concordia Yawl in 1939. That success was soon followed by the innovative 110 and 210 plywood double-enders for a variety of other builders. The Concordia 41, designed in 1953, further enhanced his design credentials, especially when he and his family sailed their own Concordia 41, Harrier, to a six-race sweep of Cowes Week in England in 1955, against the best British yachts of the day. Although designed to the CCA Rule, Grayson neglects to mention that at Cowes, Harrier inevitably raced under the RORC rating rule, which further enhances her success at Cowes.
This book is a logical and welcome companion to Llewellyn Howland’s own recent book, No Ordinary Being, the biography of designer Starling Burgess, who also emerged from the Boston area. The paths of these two remarkable individuals overlapped not only tangentially in Hunt’s R- and Q-boat racing in Marblehead, but also more directly when Hunt was included in the afterguard of Chandler Hovey’s America’s Cup J-Boat campaign in the Frank Paine-designed Yankee in 1930 and 1934 against the Burgess-designed Enterprise and Rainbow. Paine and Hovey would play important roles in Hunt’s design career, with Hovey later underwriting the design and construction of Hunt’s own ill-fated America’s Cup contender, the 12 Metre Easterner in 1958. Ted Hood also played an early part in Hunt’s sailing career, and Grayson underscores the parallels between Hunt’s "Shoaler" designs and Hood’s later large centerboarder designs, both with high dead-rise angles and low centerlines.
While Grayson does not shy away from Hunt’s well-known alcoholism, he does not explore in any depth the impact that it may have had on his personal and professional life. Maybe I’m being overly critical of a book that, without question, adds greatly to the history of 20th century yacht design, but I was also puzzled by Sir Max Aiken commissioning Hunt to design the ocean racer Drumbeat, supposedly based on Harrier’s success at Cowes, but then have Hunt deliver not a development of Harrier, but a development of the shoal-draft centerboarder, Shoaler. Uh? Grayson also has trouble explaining the nature of Drumbeat’s twin centerboards, which are not shown on either the Shoaler or Drumbeat hull lines in the book.
This book also details Hunt’s remarkable success in the 5.5 Metre class, with three boats that Grayson tells us departed from the norm for the class, but then doesn’t really tell us how they diverged, and supplying only lines plans for one of the boats. I know – picky, picky, picky!
Like Howland in his book on Burgess, Grayson also goes out of his way in crediting Hunt’s design associates, starting with Bill Harris at Concordia and Fenwick Williams and Arthur Martin in the Hunt office, and then his partnership with John Deknatel in Hunt Associates, established in 1966, a firm that still thrives today under Deknatel’s leadership.
The invention of the Deep-Vee alone would have established Hunt as a genius in yacht design, but Grayson provides a very detailed account of one breakthrough after another, well illustrating Hunt’s intuitive approach not only to sailing, but also design. Hunt was a remarkable innovator, but relied on others to transform his often-quixotic ideas to reality and ultimate success. If the modern goal is to "think outside the box," Hunt’s whole design career embodied that from the day he first put pencil to paper. This book would be a welcome addition to any serious boater’s library. The cover photo alone – Hunt aboard Harrier, staring intently at the camera – is well worth the price.
Bluewater Sailing on a Budget:
How to Find and Buy a Cruising Sailboat
for Under $50,000
by Captain Jim Elfers (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, 2014; 176 pages; $20.00, paper/$9.99 Kindle)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
Let’s face it. "The rest of us" are on a budget and have to watch how much we spend on our boats, which is why we read this magazine. Many of us have also had the grand dream of sailing off for a few years to live like Jimmy Buffett or replicate Joshua Slocum’s voyage, but we wonder how much it will cost and if we’ll ever be able to live that dream. However, every once in a while, a resource comes along that somehow gives us a hint that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible. Capt. Jim Elfers’ book is such a resource.
The first 45 pages of Bluewater Sailing on a Budget are devoted to what to look for and what to beware of when choosing your boat. After that you get objective reviews of 21 different boats, from 20 different manufacturers, ranging in size from 35 to 42 feet. The prices range from $18,000 ñ $40,000 for an Islander 36, to $50,000 ñ $100,000 for a Hans Christian 38, but most models presented range from $30,000 ñ $50,000, some lower and some higher, depending on age and condition. Each review comes with a table of the usual stats on length, displacement, etc., but also gives the years the boat was in production and the number of hulls produced. Elfers also provides personal experiences he’s had with some models, information on contact he’s had with some of the designers and owners, and a section entitled "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," which speaks for itself. He closes with the story of how he became the proud owner of Dream Keeper, a Cartwright 40 he purchased for under $30,000, so he knows whereof he speaks.
There’s a lot more in this little book – fewer than 170 pages – than one would expect. The writing is clear, concise, and easy to understand, and if not riveting, at least interesting. Elfers himself is a marine surveyor with over 50,000 miles of sailing experience, and is the author of The Baja Bash II, a cruising guide to Baja, California. There are also lists of websites, books, and articles to aid in your search. If you’re in the market for a bluewater boat, or if you’d just like to see what’s available, Bluewater Sailing on a Budget would be well worth your while to look into.
by Lucy Clarke (Touchstone Books, 2015; 336 pages; $24.99 paper/$9.99 Kindle
Review by Chas. Hague,
Des Plaines, Illinois
Lana and her best friend, Kitty, both fleeing dysfunctional families, are young wanderers exploring the Far East. They discover the yacht The Blue and join its crew of similar free spirits, young people living off family money or scraping by making art. It seems like paradise–sailing beautiful seas, walking around interesting towns in exotic islands–but not all is well in paradise. Strained relations develop between crewmembers, a horrible accident (or was it?) takes place on passage, and Lana leaves the boat and settles in New Zealand. There, she learns that The Blue has sunk, the fate of the crew unknown.
The book toggles back and forth between "now," with Lana waiting for news with the families of her crewmates at the Search and Rescue Centre, and "then," the time on the yacht when trusts were betrayed and tensions both romantic and adversarial were building. Information about the crew and their feelings is revealed piece by piece in both sections, until we have a picture of a boat weighted down with trouble, and the reason Lana left her friends behind to return to shore. In the end, truths come out and issues are resolved among the survivors, with a surprising little twist at the end.
This book is exceptionally well written, with well-described scenes and good character development. This actually makes it a tough read: one knows that bad things are going to happen to people one has learned to care about. The descriptions of sailing a beautiful yacht, making passage on lovely (for the most part) seas, journeying to exotic ports, will make sailors want to bend on the sails and head out.
The Blue is a heartbreaking book. Young people, drifting through life on a beautiful boat, are heading toward disaster and loss. It will make the reader either envious or sad.
The Sailing Master: Book One: Coming of Age
by Lee Henschel Jr. (Rocket Science Press, 2014; 282 pages, paperback; $16.95)
Review by Paul Mernaugh
The year is 1798: a British frigate under Her Majesty’s flag sets sail from England bound for the Mediterranean. A young cabin boy with a gift for horses and mathematics is onboard, about to embark on an exotic adventure fraught with mystery and intrigue. So begins the saga of The Sailing Master, a powerful, vividly written seafaring novel by Lee Henschel Jr.
The Sailing Master takes place during Napoleon’s romp at the close of the 18th century. Henschel’s hard-charging story revolves around the narrator, a 12-year-old coming of age math wizard, Owen Harriet. Harriet becomes cabin boy to his uncle, Captain Cedric, the commander of the British frigate HMS Eleanor. Young Owen’s cool head and inquisitive mind gets the notice of the elders around him when they realize there is something unique about this illiterate cabin boy whose previous life and world experiences have been of poverty and horses.
The Eleanor is quickly placed into service, sailing to the Mediterranean on what is destined to become an undercover mission; on board, a mysterious Muslim diplomat passenger named Gottlieb. An exhilarating voyage across the open sea begins as the ship’s crew encounters all manner of episodic adventures. The Sailing Master has more twists, bends, bites, and crossovers than a trucker’s hitch, as the HMS Eleanor’s mission involves fierce sea battles, stealth operations, horses, an Onion, Spaniards, and the cryptic and foreboding "Sukiyama." The Sailing Master delivers like a Louis L’Amour serial, drawing the reader ever deeper into the tale. The compelling storyline makes it difficult to put the book down, as each turn of the page renders one shocking bombshell after another.
The Sailing Master is rife with late 18th century sailing expressions, jargon, and phrases that Henschel subtly explains at times. The reader will often need to refer to the glossary to understand some of the terms the author uses.
Just as the story thoroughly heats up, the adventure ends like a Saturday morning cartoon series and the viewer has to stay tuned for the next captivating chapter of the saga.
Henschel is utilizing Facebook, as well as other social media outlets, to supply teasers for the next segment of the narrative as he works to complete The Sailing Master–Book Two: The Long Passage.
Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines (and Other Niche Mags)
by Michael Robertson (Force Four Publications, 2015, 98 pages, www.forcefourpubs.com; $14.95)
Review by Karen Larson
Michael Robertson has written the book I’ve been waiting for. It’s the book telling freelancers (sailing writers in particular) how to get their articles published. It’s the book telling fellow sailors how to make the media connections that lead to getting paid for their experiences with sailboats, whether those experiences are their boat projects, their research into nautical subjects, or their sailing memories. It’s the book that will simplify my work as an editor.
All you need, Michael says, is to be an enthusiast in the field (sailing, in this case) and to be willing to work at writing what interests you and connecting with editors. He should know. In the past several years, Michael has been very successful at selling his articles to many sailing publications, including Good Old Boat. He figures that he spends 5 to 7 hours a week writing magazine articles and corresponding with editors.
Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines is a how-to book of a different sort. You won’t learn how to fix your engine but you will learn how to sell an article about fixing that engine. You’ll need to know magazine trade lingo. Michael includes that. You’ll need to know the process involved in making contacts. He includes that. You’ll need to know who’s who on the masthead. Ditto. You’ll need to know how to pitch an idea. Yep, that’s in there too. You’ll need to submit a good manuscript and a complete package, including photos and captions. Michael includes examples. You’ll need to take good photos. Michael’s new book gives the best explanation of pixels and high-res vs. low-res images that I’ve ever read.
You’ll need to have a subject. You’ll need to be familiar with the magazines that might buy your articles. You’ll want to read their writers’ guidelines (usually published online these days). You’ll need to understand those magazines’ readers. You’ll need to have an impartial editor who can review your work before you submit it. Michael tells you all about it.
He also reminds you that acceptances take weeks or months and you must be patient. He notes that rejections happen. Get over it. Move on and try again. He talks about the legal and ethical issues of article publication online, rights and ownership, simultaneous submissions, and other subtle nuances that matter to magazine editors and publishers . . . the people you don’t want to offend over a “silly misunderstanding.” Michael also shares information with his readers about the circulation of the various sailing magazines and their relative pay scales.
From now on when I get queries from sailors wanting to know how to get started as writers for the sailing press, I’ll recommend this book. It’s not just the book that editors have been waiting for. It’s the book long awaited by every sailor who hopes to make a buck while pursuing his sailing dream.
Boat Handling and Docking:
Hands-on Exercises to Improve Your Helmsman Skills
by Capt. Jim Stewart (Snowbank Buddha Publishing, 2015, 78 pages, $9.99 paperback)
Review by Brian Koger
Severna Park, Maryland
Capt. Jim Stewart has been sailing for over 30 years and has been teaching boating since 2004. An employee of SailTime on Lake Michigan since 2005, he has a Merchant Marine license and is a certified American Sailing Association (ASA) instructor. Suffice it to say, he knows his stuff.
There’s a lot of practical advice in this small volume, perhaps the best of which is “You learn to drive a boat by driving a boat.” The book walks the reader through 25 exercises that cover such basics as simply understanding the throttle controls and continues through much more challenging material such as Mediterranean mooring and handling a boat in confined spaces during windy conditions. The exercises are applicable to both sailboats (the author’s primary focus) and powerboats. There’s even a section on multi-hulls and the particular skills required to handle them. The author provides a very useful caveat to all the exercises in the book when he states that, with regards to how, exactly, they are to be performed in the real world: “It depends on the wind.” The practicalities of the exercises in the book all really depend on the conditions you encounter when performing them — particularly the wind.
If there’s one thing about the book that needs improvement, it’s the illustrations. Many of them look like “cocktail-napkin drawings” or white-board screen captures and that lack of clarity detracts from their usefulness. Oddly enough, some of the diagrams (page 15) appear to be professionally drawn (or more probably, computer-generated), so one wonders why they all couldn’t be equally clear. Also, there’s an error in the drawing on Page 12 where the caption says “port” when it clearly refers to “starboard.” Granted, the accompanying text description of the maneuver has the correct directions, but to a beginner such errors might cause a bit of confusion. Also, on page 67 the author mentions a line handling “trick” he saw some Coast Guard sailors perform while docking and provides a rudimentary description of it, yet he doesn’t provide an illustration until page 69. Only then did I really understand what he had described two pages earlier.
While reading the book I couldn’t help thinking how much more useful it would be if it were a DVD (particularly for hard-to-describe stuff such as the line-handling maneuver described above). Actually seeing examples of how to do the things described in the book would, in my mind, be more useful than static drawings and text descriptions.
Perhaps Capt. Stewart is working on that, and if so, I’m looking forward to seeing it.
Given the amount of useful information in the book and its low price, however, I think it belongs in the library of any sailor or powerboater, regardless of their level of experience. If we aren’t constantly learning, we aren’t sailing. The practice exercises in the book are useful and could even make for a fun day on the water — one that could save your bacon on one of those not-so-fun days on the water.
Gordon Bennett and the First Yacht Race Across the Atlantic
by Sam Jefferson (Bloomsbury Publishing, Plc., 2016, 279 pages, $27.00 hardback)
Review by Brian Koger
Severna Park, Maryland
This is the true story of the first transatlantic yacht race, which was the direct result of a drunken bet made at New York’s Union Club in October 1866, with the race itself taking place in mid-to-late December (the time of year when everyone in the northern hemisphere wants to go yachting!). The book is highly entertaining; a quick read that’s tailor-made for a cold or rainy night. As the protagonists slog their way across the Atlantic in fierce winter gales, you’ll be glad you’re safe at home rather than out there with them but, nevertheless, it’s a thrilling ride.
In addition to the story of the race itself, author Sam Jefferson offers his readers a glimpse into the rarified world of the ultra-rich American elite of the late nineteenth century. The three yachts in the race (Henrietta, Vesta, and Fleetwing) belonged to the “one percenters” of their day, yet only one of the owners was actually aboard his boat during the race (Gordon Bennett Jr., the owner of Henrietta and the son of New York Herald founder and self-made millionaire Gordon Bennett Sr.). The younger Mr. Bennett was what we would call today “a real piece of work,” but despite his drunken escapades and eccentric behavior (including surrounding himself with owls and small dogs in his later years) he was certainly entertaining, and since he’s the main character in this book, that means the reader is along for the ride.
Some of the events that are captured in the book are so bizarre that they could almost use the tag line “I’m not making this up!” A reporter assigned to cover the race sneaked aboard a sightseeing boat disguised as a wax replica of the recently-deceased Abraham Lincoln and eventually stowed away on one of the raceboats by hiding in a crate of champagne.
While there are some small errors in the book (e.g., descriptions of newsrooms full of clattering typewriters a full decade before they were actually available, confusing whether Rhode Island and Martha’s Vineyard are north or south of New York, and an editing error on page 238 where both “get” and “take” are used in the same sentence when one should have been removed), they are of little consequence to the overall story.
One odd thing about Jefferson’s writing style, however, is that he often breaks the “fourth wall” and makes editorial comments directly to the reader (e.g., on page 158, “Can you imagine anything more ludicrous?”). That takes some getting used to, but in exchange for a very entertaining story, I’m willing to give him a pass on that. Further, some of his comments are quite insightful, such as the one on page 24 when he opines that “There are few better ways to get rid of a small fortune than to own a yacht . . . ”
If this book is any indication of the quality of his other works, I’m looking forward to reading more from Sam Jefferson. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in yacht-racing history, the Gilded Age, or really good sea stories.
Slow Boat to the Bahamas
by Linus Wilson (Oxriver Publishing, 2015, 350 pages; $24.95 paperback, $9.99 digital edition)
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury
Port Ludlow, Washington
“Boredom drove me to boating. There was little else to do…the heat was oppressive . . . the water provided the best relief from the July swelter at 17 degrees north latitude.”
Linus Wilson, During a vacation to Antigua
Linus and his then-pregnant wife, Janna, took sailing lessons in Antigua during one of their last vacations before the birth of their daughter. At the time, they did it out boredom and for relief from the heat, but in their quest to cool down and find something to do, they were hooked. And so the story begins.
Once they returned home, Linus and Janna took more lessons in New Orleans. Next, the search was on for a sailboat of their own, which in itself was another adventure. They purchased Penelope, a 1969 30-foot Hinterhoeller, for $4600. The first time out sailing, Janna was steering and crashed into the dock. Three gaping holes were the result and they were truly christened — they were sailors!
In Slow Boat to the Bahamas, Wilson covers everything new sailors experience in a light and sometimes comical way — from learning to sail, to getting to know a boat, to the joys of costly repairs and maintenance, to anything and everything that can go wrong during cruising. He takes readers through an all-inclusive narrative of the planning and charting of his voyage, and chronicles the cruise itself, including the people he meets along the way, the lessons learned, and advice for would-be future cruisers.
Though Linus Wilson never considered sailing, once he took hold of the tiller, he was hooked. He chronicles, in a finely detailed logbook fashion, his journey from sailing lessons to finding the right boat, repairing (costly) and refitting his vessel, and finally, sailing to the Bahamas. Seasoned cruisers and armchair sailors alike will find Slow Boat to the Bahamas a valuable addition to their boating book collection.
PENELOPE DOWN EAST: CRUISING ADVENTURES IN AN ENGINELESS CATBOAT
ALONG THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL COAST
by W. R. Cheney (Breakaway Books, 2015, 240 pages; $14.00 paper, $7.99 digital)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minnesota
Penelope is a 22-foot Marshall catboat; Down East is the Maine coast for which W.R. Cheney has a passion and Penelope Down East is an engaging collection of their adventures together. It is not a ship’s log, nor a cruising guide. It is more like a love story with Penelope and a love story with sailing, if the author (and Kendra) will excuse that sort of description.
The book is well crafted and accented with numerous photographs and bits of charts. Various chapters were composed, Cheney explains in the introduction, over a number of years. Though the short chapters would make it easy to savor just one a day, when this reader curled up with Cheney and Penelope on a cozy fall evening, the pages kept turning.
There is a reference to NOAA-nothing and another to Waste-Marine. There is Cheney’s "dual capacity as captain and crew," which provides him opportunity to unanimously pass motions on where to head each day. Then there is the story of Thumper, an evil reincarnation of a recalcitrant motor of his youth, and the reason he sails engineless.
The engineless part referred to in the subtitle allows for the "pure sailing" the author speaks to in his essays. He is a patient and flexible man, genuinely at ease going where the wind blows — and sitting about on the water when it doesn’t blow at all. He finds himself the "resident minimalist" in pretty much any anchorage where he and Penelope drop their hooks. "We won’t even talk about marina slips," he writes. "My attitude in that regard is amply illustrated by the fact that in over sixty years of cruising, I have never used one."
Many years as a photojournalist in Europe, a war in Vietnam, and work in New York City came after Cheney’s childhood excursions in Uncle Lee’s clamming skiff and teen years owning a cat-rigged sailing dinghy. During that time he was able to own a couple cruising sloops and do "some fairly serious voyaging," but it wasn’t until much later in life he was able to have a true cruising catboat of his own. "It’s a hard life," the author writes of an evening aboard filled with lobster, chilled wine, and a radio station featuring good jazz, "but somebody has to do it." Cheney, in his mid-70s, does it well
Anchoring: A Ground Tackler’s Apprentice — Basics And Beyond
by Rudy and Jill Sechez (Waterway Guide Media, 2015, 248 pages, $24.95)
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, Illinois
Contrary to the title, this is not a book about how to anchor. This is a book on how to select and size the gear required for anxiety-free anchoring. As such, it is a great resource.
Like all good engineers, the Sechez’ first determine the loads ground tackle will be subjected to under the different conditions expected. They then tabulate the types and sizes of anchors, chain, rode, shackles, and swivels needed to withstand these loads with capacity to spare.
Chapter 3 contains tables of the loads that different types and sizes of boats can be expected to impose on anchor tackle under conditions of winds and waves. Chapter 4 discusses chain, Chapter 5 concentrates on rope. Chapter 7 discusses different bottom conditions and the types of anchors that are best (and worst) for each. Every chapter starts with a sea story pertaining to anchoring and ends with an example of how the information in that chapter is used. All through the book and appendices are tables giving the capacities of ground tackle materials (working load, proof load, and breaking load). The comprehensive glossary is very useful for explaining the tech terms dropped into the text without explanation (I still want to know what a hockle is).
Along with the tables, there are lots of suggestions and interesting bits of information scattered throughout the text, and many boxes containing hints and tips covering all different aspects of selecting and using anchoring gear — things like how to throw a line correctly, what to do if the anchor is bent, how to apply snubbers, and how to correctly determine scope (there are six factors in the calculation, not three like most books describe).
The book thoroughly covers the hardware. By comparison, selecting an anchor system for a specific set of conditions, setting and recovering it, and alternative anchoring layouts, such as the Bahamian Moor or dual anchor, are only touched upon. A serious weakness in the book are the illustrations, many of which are too small, poorly edited, and unclear. A few more page-inches devoted to larger pictures would have paid off.
If you make it to a harbor of refuge ahead of the green clouds and the Sechezes are there, ask how much scope they have out. Then do what they tell you. Failing that, refer to this book.
by Alan Lucas, Boat Books, 2015, 320 pages. Currently available from Boat Books: https://www.boatbooks-aust.com.au/product_info.php?products_id=31666
Review by Carl Brookins
Wow. You own a boat? Or maybe you are contemplating kicking over the traces, pulling out that IRA, buying a boat and heading for tropical waters. Or maybe you just want to have the experiences of owning and boating for a few years. It doesn’t matter.
Power? Sail? Nevermind. Or perhaps you just like the idea of reading and studying about boat maintenance. This is the book you should have. Before you even start looking for a new ride, or calling the surveyor, buy this book. There is almost nothing about boating maintenance one cannot find in this most excellent volume.
This book is widespread and comprehensive but not exhaustive. On the subject of knots, one can find a selection of practical knots for anchoring, rigging, and so forth, but nowhere do you learn how to fashion a lasso to corral a calf. In 307 succinct and well-organized pages, complete with a detailed table of contents, Simple Solutions provides practical advice that is easily understood and followed by even the most inexperienced sailor.
If it seems as though I’m being fulsome in my praise, you may be right, but consider that the author has even included practical suggestions on how to adapt ordinary tools to use for uncommon tasks. And illustrations — this volume is littered with excellent line drawings and diagrams alongside excellent photographs and this reviewer is amazed at the quantity of information about almost every means of propulsion, every sort of hull configuration, sails, and engines. Had this book been available that morning entering the harbor at Korchula from the Adriatic, our day would have been much different.
Whatever your level of experience this is a strongly recommended book for your sea-going library.
The New Updated, Revised And Expanded Get Rid Of Boat Odors:
A Boat Owner’s Guide To Marine Sanitation Systems
And Other Sources Of Aggravation And Odor
by Peggie Hall (Seaworthy Publications, Inc., 2016, 114 pages;
Review by Paul Foer
This book could be called the "Bible of Bile" or perhaps "Fifty Shades of Gray and Black Water" but its real title is longer than your boat’s sanitation hose. It is The New! Updated, revised and expanded! Get Rid of Boat Odors: A Boat Owner’s Guide to Marine Sanitation Systems and Other Sources of Aggravation and Odor.
Author Peggy Hall is respectfully known as "The Headmistress" in boating circles and her 2006 edition of this book proved quite popular, but if one judged this 116-page book solely by its lengthy and somewhat misleading title, or its amateurish and silly cover, it would not pass the smell test. Thirty-three pages, or about one-quarter of the book, are exploded diagrams of the detailed components of marine heads and pumps. While some are clearly illustrated and labeled, others are too small or otherwise poorly reproduced. A one-page manufacturer-supplied guide about troubleshooting requires a magnifying glass to decipher. If you own a marine sanitation device, or MSD, you probably have a manual (or can obtain one) with the one diagram you need, or find it online.
Generally speaking, most boat owners will likely not take an entire toilet or pump apart or need a complete diagram, but will need to know about purchasing and using rebuild kits. Oddly, only two pages are specifically devoted to rebuilding, following a helpful discussion of the crucial "joker valves."
Yet the helpful and authoritative information in this book may not likely be found elsewhere. The Headmistress explains federal laws and regulations and the differences between the different types of marine heads and how they work so the reader can choose and install a head or tank and maintain and use them properly. For example, you might be surprised to learn that one can legally urinate or defecate directly into the water but onecannot legally dump directly from a bucket (bucket and chuck-it). Hall admonishes readers to perform proper maintenance, from lubrication to cleaning the tank and line, to replacing seals and proper pumping methods.
According to the author, this new edition is substantially upgraded and updated from the first 90-page edition. Hall is best with helpful hints and basic information but there are only four pages dealing with odors other than from the sanitation system. I wish there were more about enclosed spaces and ventilation, moisture detection and abatement, mildew, food storage, proper chemicals, etc. For example, while restoring my boat, I made extensive use of a pressure steam cleaner, which has helped a lot, so perhaps Hall could have discussed steam cleaning and other methods to get rid of odors.
Hall clearly knows more about MSDs than most of us ever cared to know, and it is important to focus attention there as much as we focus attention on other boating equipment. I only wish the book would have either dispensed with, or perhaps improved, the 33 pages of exploded diaphragms, er I mean diagrams, and expanded more on actual troubleshooting, repairs, sources, and solutions to other odor sources. Further cleaning and lubrication of the words and layouts would have made this helpful book even more pleasant and fresh but I can still recommend it for what it does have and does well. Now, go examine your head!
Red Flags in Blue Water: Misadventures of a Freelance Sea Captain
by R. A. Bard (Smooth Passage Books, 2016; 194 pages; $9.99)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minnesota
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book! Red Flags in Blue Water is about assorted calamities R.A. Bard has encountered as a commercial fisherman turned delivery skipper. Most of his passages have proceeded smoothly, he explains in the foreword to the book, but he finds the attention span of friends and acquaintances wanders when he tells of those travels. So it’s the ones in which chaos looms — “When the weather snarls, when mechanical systems fail, when crew relations spiral into weirdness” — that are collected in this book.
“A Taxonomy of Offshore Calamity” on the back cover of the book is comprised of general calamities, calamities due to belligerent weather, calamities associated with the disintegration of physical systems, and calamities that call for psychiatry (a prelude to his wit).
To be clear, the author does not whine about the intense moments. His wry sense of humor is evident in his storytelling, as is the extent of the experience and expertise he’s acquired over a lifetime lived on water. His patience with quirky crew and idiosyncratic owners is admirable, and his competence extends to equipment challenges.
Bard also includes a story with no red warning flags. It is the account of one of his early jobs as a freelance sea captain and the delivery of a 50-foot racing sloop from Hawaii to Seattle. He says, “Although it had its tough moments, this trip was, in most aspects, magnificent, and it’s included as a benchmark with which to compare all those that precede it. If all my deliveries could be as good, I’d be okay even if it meant no more bizarre tales to tell.”
Bard has also written a novel, a look at the life of fisherman in the Gulf of Alaska. Given his writing style in Red Flags in Blue Water, and the book’s synopsis, I believe I will order a copy of West of Spencer.
Sailing Toward Sunrise: Cruising and Treasuring America’s Gulf and Atlantic Coasts
by Bob and Karen Jones (Piankatank Press, 2016; 304 pages; $17.00, $4.95 digital)
Review by James Papa
Bay Shore, New York
Sailing Toward Sunrise chronicles the journey of Bob and Karen Jones, recently retired, as they travel from Corpus Christi to Chesapeake Bay via the Intracoastal Waterway in Watercolors, their 21-year-old Catalina 30. Lake sailors on small boats for most of their lives, two short charter trips in the Caribbean eventually set them dreaming of wider horizons and distant shores. So, done with their work lives, they bought a bigger boat, took some ASA courses, read a few books by bluewater sailors, and set a course for Virginia’s Cape Henry.
The Jones’ somewhat exhaustive account of their cruise is something of a cross between a guidebook and a personal journal. On one hand, it reveals the daily joys and challenges that come with living aboard a sailboat while motoring most of the way through the Intracoastal waterways. On the other, it offers historical and ecological commentary on such issues as global warming, over-fishing, and sea-level rise as these things relate to places visited along the way.
Unfortunately, the attempt to make one book out of what tries to be two is not successful. Without a compelling narrative thread, lacking much in the way of personal reflection, and unsure of its audience, Sailing Toward Sunrise adds up to something less than the sum of its parts when set against many other cruising accounts.
Still, less experienced adventurers inclined to make a similar trip will find the book instructive. Dreams are one thing, reality another, and Bob and Karen Jones hardly confuse one with the other. The couple is nothing if not honest about their limitations, inexperience, and fears (they truck their boat across Florida to avoid sailing around it), and don’t try to paper over their mistakes, such as repeatedly causing the motor to overheat because they forgot to open the seacock through which cooling water flows. Even their vessel proves a less than ideal choice for their cruising grounds, when they are forced to spend most of their time motoring through narrow channels due to Watercolors’ 5-foot draft.
But to spend the better part of a year or more living aboard a 30-foot boat while moving from one new port or anchorage to the next is no small accomplishment, and Bob and Karen Jones should be admired for following their dreams and filling their sea bag with new experiences.
The book is informative and readers seeking a mostly nuts-and-bolts portrait of a trip through the Intracoastal will find it meets their expectations. But with few truly remarkable moments, no original accomplishments, and lacking the kind of subtly salty style that readers expect from those who write of sailing and the sea, Sailing to Sunrise will likely leave more seasoned readers and sailors little to steer by.
The Inside Passage
by Carl Brookins, Brookins Books, 2016; 239 pages; $13.95
Review by Karen Larson
Michael and Elizabeth Tanner and a friend charter a sailboat in the Pacific Northwest and enjoy a typical cruise . . . that is, until the fog closes in and a large mystery boat attacks for no apparent reason. Eventually their charter boat is sunk and Michael regains consciousness sometime later on a beach. He later learns that his wife and their friend have both died in the sinking.
This unexpected chain of events starts Michael on a path of desperation and, eventually, discovery and revenge. He has no evidence that a crime had occurred and was able to see only a few letters of the name on the mystery cruiser’s stern, so local officials find it difficult to believe his story. But the cruiser was large and its diesel engines had a distinctive sound, one he cannot forget.
Michael’s task is to figure out what large powerboat had repeatedly attacked his chartered sailboat — the other boat’s crew even fired rifle shots at them — and where that boat has gone since. He wants to find evidence of the crime and a motivation for the attack.
The coast and offshore islands of the Inside Passage of British Columbia offer a dramatic and wild cruising ground for all boaters. It is in these waters that Michael Tanner pursues the mystery that haunts him, playing cat and mouse with a large, well-crewed, and much faster cruiser from the decks of smaller and slower sailboats, sometimes as a singlehander and later with a crew of one.
In addition to the action and the fear of capture, there are many good sailing scenes. Author Carl Brookins also weaves in a budding romance several years after the loss of Michael Tanner’s wife. This is particularly sensitive and thoughtfully written.
If you’re looking for an exciting sailing adventure set in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll enjoy this book.
The Shores of Tripoli: Lieutenant Putnam and the Barbary Pirates
by James Haley (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016; 448 pages; $28.00, $14.99 Kindle. To be published Nov. 1, 2016)
Review by Karen Larson
Historical novelist James Haley has entered the crowded field of nautical fiction occupied by the likes of Patrick O’Brian (Aubrey-Maturin series), C. S. Forester (Horatio Hornblower), Richard Woodman (Nathaniel Drinkwater), Dewey Lambdin (Alan Lewrie), and William Hammond (The Cutler Family Chronicles).
Like William Hammond, with his excellent and nearly completed series, James Haley tells the story from the perspective of the American Navy. The first book of the series, The Shores of Tripoli, places young midshipman Bliven Putnam aboard the Enterprise en route to the Mediterranean, serving the flagship, the 44-gun frigate President. Bliven’s Enterprise is a 165-ton schooner, 85 feet in length with twelve 6-pounder guns and a crew of 90.
The United States has grown tired of the piracy and tribute required by the Barbary States of North Africa: Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. Tripoli is the biggest offender. While President Adams had supported paying tribute and appeasing the pirates, President Jefferson advocates resistance. The Naval Act of 1794 has authorized the construction of six heavy frigates and the acquisition of support vessels such as the Enterprise.
This is essentially the beginning of the U.S. Navy. Putnam’s fleet left June 2, 1801, for Gibraltar. The young midshipman (one of only two aboard this small ship) learns the ropes along the way. He gains respect in one battle with the pirates and his career is launched. The Navy is essentially dismantled for a year or two and Bliven is sent home to wait further orders. During that time he meets the young lady who is likely to become his wife in future books and he develops the relationship with his previous fellow midshipman, Sam Bandy. This friendship will clearly continue and become stressed as the Civil War draws near in future books. Bliven is a northerner. Sam is from a southern plantation.
Soon the two midshipmen, now lieutenants, are back aboard the U.S.S. Constitution (later to be known as "Old Ironsides") and heading back to the Mediterranean as part of a large squadron to stop Tripolitan piracy, kidnapping, and ransom.
The book ends after some modicum of success against Tripoli, including the famous desert crossing for the battle of Derna. There are some minor arguments and tiffs with the British during this period of time, a perfect setup for a second book in the series focused on the War of 1812. Clearly there will be more to come. This is one more naval historical fiction series worth reading.
In the Wake of Heroes: Sailing’s Greatest Stories
by Tom Cunliffe (Adlar Coles, 2015, 272 pages; $25.00, $11.13 Amazon paperback; $13.19 Kindle)
Review by David McDaniel
Los Angeles, California
In the Wake of Heroes: Sailing’s Greatest Stories is an apt title for this collection of excerpts from sailing adventures penned over the last century and a half. Tom Cunliffe provides a brief introduction to each chapter, creating an entry point from which we are thrust into extraordinary accounts of seamanship, sport, and often unbelievable courage. The stories range the entire scope of sailing — bluewater passagemaking, high-latitude exploration, daysailing, racing — all laced together with a shared spirit of adventure and, in many cases, a sense of urgency. Readers from all walks of life will find much to appease their inner sailor.
Tom opens by explaining the book’s origins: a proposal by Andrew Bray in 2004, the then-editor of Yachting Magazine, for a series of articles that Cunliffe would produce culled from a wide-range of maritime literature. The focus would concentrate on “exceptional feats of seamanship.” Cunliffe delivered, and the Great Seamanship column was founded. Its popularity among subscribers was unprecedented and ultimately became the prime resource for this volume. Cunliffe tells us that these were “the books that sent me to sea back in the 1960s”— authors like James Wharram, Alvah Simon, Edward Allcard, and Uffa Fox. But besides the maritime legends, Cunliffe incorporates a host of unlikely and, in some cases, downright obscure authors who diligently penned their adventures in letters, ships’ logs, magazines, and club journals.
From the more famous bunch, none other than Rockwell Kent, our great American Social Realist artist and poet, describes a night navigating a crew through heavy fog off the coast of Greenland, at times sailing so close to an invisible lee shore as to be surrounded on three sides by rocks. Kent’s “admirable work in the navigation department” saves the day, dependent entirely upon dead-reckoning to pick his way out of treacherous situations, long before the invention of GPS.
Desperate Driving has the author, Erling Tambs, sailing a sinking ship with his wife, infant son, and beloved dog, Spare Provisions, aboard. The seams have opened on their Colin Archer cutter just outside the pass leaving Tahiti. No amount of bailing will remedy the influx, so the only option is to throw caution to the trades and fly full sail in an effort to reach Moorea. It is an epic race against time that takes place over the course of just a few short hours, but the seamanship and courage is marvelous and ultimately wins the day.
In the excerpts by HW Tillman and Alvah Simon, both writers describe high latitude sailing adventures and close encounters with ice. Edward Allcard, in Temptress Returns, finds a beautiful stowaway onboard who makes his acquaintance 24 hours after leaving the Azores as a result of her desperate quest to start a new life in England. The multihull pioneer James Wharram tells of crossing an ocean on a homemade catamaran with an all female crew (one per hull), while Val Howell’s inclusion from his book, Sailing into Solitude, is half spun by an imaginary specter that has come to loathe Howell’s very presence onboard. And what collection of seafaring tales is complete without an entry from Uffa Fox, who describes sailing through a harrowing November blow with a “sheer delight in living” that could only come from someone with intelligence born of the sea?
From less notorious origins, the Log of the Portsmouth Sea Scouts from 1948 reveals a true account about a handful of boys who are given the assignment of rowing/sailing an open, lug-rigged ex-naval cutter on an unsupervised overnight voyage up the Solent. Cunliffe himself asks, “Can you imagine youngsters being allowed to do that sort of thing today?”
Equally compelling from the category of less-famous authors is an excerpt from Sailing to Freedom, a splendid story by Voldemar Veedam and Carl B. Wall about a group of Estonian refugees fleeing the horrors of the Nazi regime in a 37-foot semi-derelict ex-working boat. Sixteen men, women, and children sneak away from the coast at night only to face the treacherous North Atlantic in late October. Slammed by a gale 500 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras — ever so close to freedom — they find themselves fighting for survival. Amazingly, the heroine is an elderly grandmother who saves the ship by suggesting the employment of a drogue to keep them from turning broadside in the 40-foot seas. It works.
The stories are satisfying and the resources listed provide a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow for building a fine maritime library of our own.
Buehler’s Backyard Boatbuilding For the 21st Century
by George Buehler (International Marine/McGraw-Hill Education, 2014; 400 pages, $34.00, $18.70 Kindle)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
I first got the bug to own a sailboat sometime in the late ’70s and for a while I toyed with the idea of building one. However, as the years went by and I came to understand myself more, I realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. The building, that is, not the owning. Anyhow, while feeding the fantasy I managed to accumulate a library of boat plans and how-to books, one of which was the 1991 edition of Buehler’s Backyard Boatbuilding, so when the opportunity to review the 2014 edition presented itself I couldn’t say no.
George Buehler’s philosophy is that anyone with a reasonable amount of ambition and talent can build a safe, seaworthy boat if they want to bad enough and are willing to invest the time and sweat. To help simplify the process further, he takes a no-nonsense approach to the art. For example: his designs, primarily for wooden boats, use dimensional lumber available at most building supply stores; he uses roofing tar for bedding; he gives detailed instructions on how to build a ballast keel out of concrete and scrap metal; and the list goes on. As if this wasn’t reason enough, his writing style is straightforward and at times a little self-deprecating, which makes for a fun read to boot. When I purchased my original copy years ago I enjoyed reading through it, even after I knew I’d probably never build my own boat.
This issue includes complete plans for ten of his designs while the 1991 edition had eight sets of plans. And while the earlier edition mentions steel in a few places, this issue devotes a six-page appendix to building boats out of steel, although as stated above, most of his designs are for wooden boats. In fact, after comparing the two editions, I find that I’m revisiting an old fantasy. I just hope it doesn’t get out of hand. While most of the 2014 edition is simply a reprint of the earlier one, there’s enough new information here to make it a worthwhile purchase for anyone who’s ever considered building a boat.
Singlehanded Sailing: Thoughts, Tips, Techniques & Tactics
by Andrew Evans (International Marine/McGraw-Hill Education, 2015; 244 pages, soft cover; $23.00, $13.69 Kindle)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
I’ve been sailing Tortuga, my 1969 Westerly Centaur, since 2003, and about 75 percent of the time I’m alone, so needless to say I was thrilled when asked to review Andrew Evan’s book, Singlehanded Sailing: Thoughts, Tips, Techniques & Tactics. As it turns out, Evans has been sailing about as long as I have. True, he has a lot more miles under his keel than I do, but like me they’re mostly singlehanded, so in that respect I felt a kinship with his writing.
To be sure, Evans is a racer and a large portion of the book is devoted to racing techniques and racing boat design and operation, but there is still a lot of information that can be applied to cruising boats. He addresses stress and sleep management, food storage and preparation, hygiene, dealing with emergencies, sail handling, going aloft, and a host of other topics many of us can learn from. One comment he makes rather early on that I found particularly interesting: “Older fiberglass boats, built twenty to thirty years ago, have design features that are best suited to singlehanding.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Since those early days I’ve managed to figure out a lot of things on my own, many that Evans has validated because he does them the same way I do. For example, as a singlehander I have developed routines that work, with minor adjustments from time to time, and I’ve found that having a crew can sometimes throw me off my game. Evans concurs, stating, “Perhaps I found it too exhausting, as skipper, to be responsible not only for my own actions but also for the actions of every other person on the boat.” Knowing that I’m doing things and thinking the way a “pro” does is very reassuring. That in itself makes this a worthwhile read for anyone who goes it alone.
Taleisin’s Tales: Sailing Towards the Southern Cross
by Lin and Larry Pardey (L&L Pardey Publications, 2017; 200 pages, $18.95, also available on Kindle, Nook, and Google Books.)
Review by Karen Larson
Lin and Larry Pardey have had a lifetime of adventure and they have willingly invited the rest of us along for most of those grand experiences through their books and published articles. Lin did most of the writing but the adventures were shared 50-50. Their first book, Cruising in Seraffyn, was so successful that Lin was inspired to share their voyages aboard Seraffyn in three more books: Seraffyn’s Mediterranean Adventure, Seraffyn’s European Adventure, and Seraffyn’s Oriental Adventure.
Those books established their cruising bona fides and led to another series, this time a set of how-to books about cruising: Self-Sufficient Sailor, Capable Cruiser, Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew, and Cost-Conscious Cruiser.
Larry wrote about the building of Seraffyn with his highly respected book, Details of Classic Boat Construction: The Hull, and together they wrote another well-respected classic, Storm Tactics Handbook.
Eventually Lin wrote the story of their lives, with particular focus on the time they spent building Taleisin in her award-winning book, Bull Canyon: A Boatbuilder, a Writer and Other Wildlife.
Once launched, Taleisin had many adventures of her own. Some of these adventures were published as magazine articles. But where are the books about her travels? Those books have been stashed away in Lin’s logs awaiting this moment. The first of these, Taleisin’s Tales, has now been published. Although the title may make you think this is one final book encompassing all of Taleisin’s voyages, it’s clear that several more books must surely follow.
Taleisin’s Tales begins with her launch in San Diego, then on to sea trials and an extended shakedown cruise in Baja California. Once she is ready for extended cruising to Lin and Larry’s satisfaction, Taleisin takes the reader through the Marquesas, French Polynesia, the Samoan and Tongan islands, and eventually to New Zealand, where Lin and Larry purchase property on Kawau Island and begin to settle down.
If you wondered, as I did, how a Canadian man and a woman born and raised in the U.S. wound up choosing to settle in New Zealand, you can blame it on cruising legends Eric and Susan Hiscock. Eric’s books had turned teenaged Larry’s head toward cruising. When, early in their own cruising careers, the Pardeys met the Hiscocks in Baja California, they were as star-struck as any newbies upon meeting the oracle. Over the years, their paths crossed several times and that friendship was sealed when the Hiscocks suggested meeting in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands at the conclusion of Taleisin’s South Pacific adventure. They headed south together from there with the Hiscock’s Wanderer III to a lovely protected anchorage on Kawau Island, a bit north of Auckland. This spot, suggested by the Hiscocks, soon became the location of the Pardeys’ new home. They found property there and upgraded it over the years while continuing to cruise aboard Taleisin.
Thus ends one adventure, call it Taleisin’s Pacific Adventure, if you will. There must be more books in store for us because Taleisin’s tales were far from over. Lin and Larry went west to explore Australia, across the Indian Ocean to the southern tip of Africa, across the southern Atlantic to St. Helena and the eastern coast of South America. From there they made their way, by way of Cape Horn, back to the U.S. West Coast, and finally back to New Zealand via the South Pacific once more. Taleisin has new owners now but don’t weep for this boat or Lin and Larry. All three have had the adventures of a lifetime.
You’ll enjoy the photos in this book and appreciate the charted overviews of their travels at the beginning of most chapters. You’ll share their experiences with fellow cruisers and the close relationships they develop with many of the island peoples along the way, including a very strong bond (call it a near-adoption) with a family in Tonga.
As in her Seraffyn tales, Lin is honest about a few of the “learning experiences” they had along the way, the most significant of these being that the dial on Lin’s hand-bearing compass did not float as it always had once Taleisin was below the equator. It makes sense when you think of it, but not necessarily if you have relied on this tool for many miles and suddenly the readings are misleading and dangerous.
At the end of this book Lin includes a few cautions about sailing to, and anchoring in, atolls and she explains the origin of the name Taleisin. Throughout this book Lin Pardey invites you, with humility and honesty, into the life she shares with Larry and Taleisin. It is a wonderful review of their adventures and will surely lead to the rest of the story in books to come.
L. Francis Herreshoff Yacht Designer
by Roger C. Taylor (Mystic Seaport Museum, 2015; 449 pages; $65.00)
Review by Rob Mazza
The amateur yachting historian has been blessed recently with a plethora of superb new biographies of prominent yacht designers. There is Martin Black’s weighty biography of George Lennox Watson, The Art and Science of Yacht Design, Llewellyn Howland III’s exceptional biography of Starling Burgess, No Ordinary Being, followed closely by Stan Grayson’s biography of C. Raymond Hunt, A Genius at his Trade.
The latest addition is the story of the early years of L. Francis Herreshoff by Roger C. Taylor entitled appropriately, L. Francis Herreshoff Yacht Designer. I say “early years” because this is the first of what will be a two-volume set. Volume one deals with L. Francis Herreshoff’s childhood, military service, and yacht design career up to the 1930 racing for the America’s Cup with the design and building of the America’s Cup contender, the J-boat Whirlwind.
I expect that when most of us think of L. Francis Herreshoff today we think of the man in his later years, the bearded Monty Woolley character somewhat set in his ways and distrustful of new materials and ideas such as fiberglass, which he is reputed to have dismissed as “frozen snot.” It is also his later successes such as Ticonderoga and his clipper-bowed or canoe-stern classic cruising boats that come to mind. This later L. Francis is the person who evolved after that devastating 1930 America’s Cup campaign. The L. Francis that emerges in this story of his early years is a much more innovative and adventuresome individual who made his mark in the world of yachting by designing innovative winners in the R, Q, M, and ultimately J classes of the Universal rule, and who championed the introduction of the extreme 30 Square Meter class into the U.S.
This was a designer who had to work out of the shadow of a dominating father who just happened to be the greatest American Yacht designer of the day. Nat Herreshoff thought his youngest son was more suited to manage the family farm than design boats, choosing instead Francis’ older brother to eventually manage the family business. In that respect this book works on several levels, dealing with Francis’ personal struggles, not only with his own father from whom he would eventually earn grudging respect, but also with his difficulty working with people generally, and especially with those he did not like, as well as obliquely addressing his sexuality, since his dealings with women were also distant, prompting Grayson to ask the obvious question whether Francis was in fact gay. However, it is when dealing with the innovations that Francis introduced to sailing in the 1920s and 30s where the book is truly beneficial, from external SS tangs, glued box section wooden masts, longitudinal hull construction, molded hulls with 45-degree planking, solid foil-shaped forestays, rotating masts, etc.
During this period, Francis did design some exceptional cruising boats, which were to foreshadow his later work, as well as a number of remarkable designs that were never built. All of this is covered in remarkable detail by Taylor, who also chronicles Herreshoff’s early successes, such as with the R-Boat, Yankee, and her controversial successor, Live Yankee, and the development of his unique pointed stern on the Live Yankee, and later the Q-Boat Nor’easter V, M-boat Istalena, and others, and which was so prominent on Whirlwind.
What is also remarkable is the overlap between this book and the previous biographies listed above, with the intertwining of the lives of the three American designers. Francis started his design career working for Starling Burgess with whom he remained great friends, and Burgess, Herreshoff, and Hunt each was involved in the lead up to the racing for the 1930’s America’s Cup, all with different boats and syndicates.
What is also significant in this book, and in the others mentioned above, was the importance of the dedicated “patron” to these designers, individuals who would return several times to have boats designed to custom requirements, often in lean stretches, sometimes never to be built. This repeat business was of great importance, and in the case of Herreshoff usually resulted in long-lasting friendships.
If you too enjoy and appreciate reading about the history and development of yacht design and construction, this is a book that will fit very well into your library. I very much look forward to Mr. Taylor publishing Volume 2.
Bound for Distant Seas
by James Baldwin; 2015 Atom Voyages.com; 380 pages ($13.99 paperback, $3.99 Kindle version.)
Review by Karen Larson
James Baldwin has once again pulled out his logs, sharpened his memory, and shared the incredible tale of one of his circumnavigations aboard Atom, his 28-foot Pearson Triton. The first circumnavigation, completed in two years, was made by a youth with few dollars in his pocket who set as a goal to walk across each of the islands where he stopped. James named that book Across Islands and Oceans: A Journey Alone Around the World by Sail and by Foot. In addition to electronic and paperback forms, it is available as an audiobook from Good Old Boat’s audioseastories.com downloads site.
That book was published in 2012 and reviewed by Good Old Boat in our August newsletter. (http://www.goodoldboat.com/reader_services/book_reviews/reviews_from_2012.php#islands). It is an excellent tale. In fact, we noted that sailors awaited the story of James’ second circumnavigation. He completed the book about the first half of his second circumnavigation, this time an 11-year voyage with many stops along the way: Bound for Distant Seas.
His second adventure began not long after James returned from the first voyage and felt something like a fish washed up on a beach. He soon began making plans to sail to China. The time was 1986. The long-forbidden country was just beginning to welcome visitors. His financial situation had not improved much over the previous voyage, so James was compelled to work along the way, visiting the cities he avoided on the first round because of the greater expense of living in towns. The conflict for him was that they were also the places where work was to be found. He stayed several months to several years in some of these locations.
James sums up the life of the penniless sailor after Atom’s old jib halyard chafed and broke early in his voyage: “My lockers held an ample supply of used and very used lines that I had rescued from an early death in the Florida marina dumpsters. The shoestring sailor is a master of recycling, or he is going nowhere.”
His travels took him past the Bahamas, between Haiti and Cuba, through the Panama Canal and on to the Galapagos. From there it was Hawaii, where he had relatives and found work as a house painter. Then it was on to Hong Kong and the Philippines. Both in the Galapagos and Hong Kong, where he attempted to get clearance to visit China, he ran into more red tape than he could tolerate and found creative ways to achieve his goals. His trip to China might happen, he learned, only if he became a crewmember on an expedition known as the Marco Polo Voyage. Unfortunately, this expedition was fraught with troubles, which limited his access to mainland China. Undaunted, he turned his sights to other destinations in Asia.
While in Taiwan, James worked as a manager in the Hans Christian factory and just as important, met the girl of his dreams, Mei Huang, who later became his wife. It’s always nice to have a love story in an adventure tale!
The hassles of a very crowded and civilized world finally became more than he could bear and James and Atom left for an extended cruise in the Philippines. While cruising there, James makes this observation that is valuable to all who cruise under sail: “Passing to leeward was my only safe option. A big part of navigating a small boat can be summed up thus: stay to windward of your destination, stay to leeward of your dangers.”
Bound for Distant Seas leaves us here with the remainder of the voyage to be told in a third book. In the afterword, James does tell those of us who need to know about the love story that Mei later joined him in Trinidad and they were married there. These days the two live in Brunswick, Georgia, where James and Mei continue to maintain Atom and work refitting boats for other sailors.
One of the benefits of writing one’s memoirs long after they actually happened is that the author has the advantage of maturity and the knowledge of how it all turned out. The insight that does not come until decades have passed adds a very worthwhile perspective.
Now, of course, we look forward to the next half of his long excursion in the hope that there was more cruising and less toiling in the cities. We’re looking forward to the rest of the love story and the wedding in Trinidad. And we’re eager to watch the evolving 20-something mature into the 30-something and beyond since we already know the man James Baldwin has become since then and his voyages served to add so much shape and character to his life.
A History of Sailing in 100 Objects
by Barry Pickthall (Adlard Coles Nautical, 2016, 224 pages; $35. Also available on Kindle and Nook)
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, Illinois
Sailing involves Gear. Stuff. Things. Photographer and author Barry Pickthall has selected 100 of the most significant objects throughout the history of sailing and created this very intriguing book.
Many of the objects are obvious: Boats (America, Dorade, Sunfish and Optimist classes), navigation tools (astrolabe, compass, sextant, chronometer), and bits that improved boats (portholes, winches, wheel steering). Then there are items that seem strange, but Pickthall convinces us that they advance the business of sailing (lemons, earrings, tattoos, and freeze-dried food). And then there are the things that are on the list for no discernable reason, such as an Egyptian pot with the first known depiction of a sailboat on it, Popeye the Sailor Man, the plastic model of the Golden Hind, Kon-Tiki, and Go-Pro cameras. The Contessa 21 Assent did not do anything for sailing beyond surviving the Fastnet race.
Popular depictions of sailing in books and movies are also stuck in the book. Serious improvement to sailing or not, Pickthall’s pictures and writing make his choices interesting. The book format is generally a short chapter of text describing the object, its invention, development, and use, with an excellent large-format picture on the facing page. The objects are in roughly chronological order (Harrison would be proud). I can’t help thinking that organizing the book by type of item (all boats together; all navigation gear together; all safety gear together, etc.) might have been more engaging to read. Also, there is a definite English slant to the selection of the objects, which the arrogant know-it-all Yanks among us may find a bit off-putting.
This is a great book for browsing through, to pick up new knowledge of those familiar tools and articles we have on our boats. An unintended consequence is that it would make the starting point for a game of “this gadget is more significant than that one!” to be played during the mid-watch on a long, pleasantly boring passage.