Sailing Acts: Following an Ancient Voyage

by Linford Stutzman (Good Books, 2006; 330 pages; $14.95 print, $9.99 Kindle edition)

Review by Gregg Bruff

This book is amazing on several levels. Not only is it filled with sailing adventures, but the adventures are in the context of a rich biblical and historical backdrop. The author-captain and his mate cruised the Mediterranean, but did so following the sailing routes of the apostle Paul during the height of the Roman Empire.

The author’s dream of following Paul’s travels began when he was a little boy in 1955, while looking through maps in the back of a Bible. Fast forward 50 years, and Linford was still dreaming of biblical maps and places to explore.

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Exposed: The Dark Side of the America’s Cup

by Alan Sefton and Larry Keating (Adlard Coles, 2017; 304 pages; $35.00 print, $9.99 digital)

Review by Dan Spurr

When this A-Z history of the Auld Mug landed in my lap, my first thought was: “I am so over the Cup.” Being somewhat on the fence between favoring “traditional” yachts, like the 12-Meter, designed to a developmental rule, and the current super-fast one-design foiling catamarans where execution is more critical than design and even tactics, I’ve tried to keep an open mind regarding the future of the world’s oldest sporting trophy. Opening the book to Chapter 1, “Endless Intrigue and Controversy,” and noting the authors are from New Zealand, I figured there’d be a good bashing of the New York Yacht Club, which employed various chicaneries to keep the Cup for 132 years—until the winged wonder Australia II wrested it in 1983.

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Memoir of a Skipjack

by Randolph George
(Salt Water Media, 2017; 188 pages; $21.95 print)

Review by Wendy Mitman Clarke

It is probably inevitable that a memoir of a skipjack is going to leave one feeling a little melancholy. There are so few of these working sailboats left on the Chesapeake, our very own indigenous species slowly going extinct before our eyes. All the more reason, then, that we’re lucky Randolph George has written Memoir of a Skipjack, a thorough accounting of the life and times of the skipjack Martha Lewis and the families and people whom she touched.

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Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening

by Liz Clark
(Patagonia, 2018; 320 pages; $35.00 print, $14.95 ebook)

Review by Michael Robertson

Full disclosure: Liz Clark is a friend. I followed her adventures in Latitude 38 magazine almost from the start, then had a good fortune to meet her in person in French Polynesia in 2015, as she was putting the final touches on this manuscript. I wrote her story for Cruising World (“Still Riding the Swell,” February 2017, So when I heard this book was out, I was eager to read it, and a bit nervous to review it — what if it missed the mark? How do you tell a friend their book doesn’t warrant a good review?

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All I Wish I Knew Before Setting Sail: A practical guide for short and long distance cruising in the digital age

by Christian Rinke
(Createspace, 2017; 340 pages; $17.95 print, $9.80 ebook)

Review by Michael Robertson

This book is aimed squarely at wannabe first-time cruisers who are ready to take concrete steps to casting off for a voyage. The author is a relatively young cruiser who bought a 1973 Columbia 34 in need of some attention, completed a total refit, and crossed the Pacific with his wife. Though the text contains a bit of motivation and insight, this is a practical distillation of the knowledge the author gained, from start to finish. It’s well-organized and touches on just about every subject I can imagine, from finding the right boat, to outfitting, to life aboard.

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The Next Distant Sea

by James Baldwin
(Createspace, 2017; 350 pages; $13.99 print, $4.99 Kindle edition)

Review by Jim Papa

This is the latest of James Baldwin’s books chronicling his life and travels aboard Atom, his dependable Pearson Triton. Baldwin’s narrative begins in 1992, with Baldwin living aboard Atom in Hong Kong, midway through his second circumnavigation begun “four years earlier in Ft. Lauderdale.” The book covers Baldwin’s voyage from Hong Kong to South Africa by way of the Philippines, the Spice Islands, Mauritius, and Madagascar over several years.

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The Cape Horners’ Club: Tales of Triumph and Disaster at the World’s Most Feared Cape

by Adrian Flanagan
(Adlard Coles Nautical, 2017; 296 pages; $27.00 print, $9.99 Kindle edition)

Review by Lin Pardey

As a nautical author, I know why Adrian wrote this book. There is nothing quite as satisfying as reliving your sailing adventures by committing them to paper (or electronic files.) The highs, the lows, the beauty and the inner turmoil, you can relive each detail as you review your log book, look at your photos and let your mind drift back through each watch, each sail change. And when the adventure you undertook tested you severely, the catharsis of laying it out in words helps you regain perspective. However, the job of a reviewer is not to sympathize with the author, it is to help potential readers decide if they should invest time and money in yet another story about sailing through potentially dangerous turbulent seas, in a remote area where few will ever venture.

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Captain Cook’s Final Voyage: The Untold Story from the Journals of James Burney and Henry Roberts

edited by James K. Barnett
(Washington State University Press, 2017; 321 pages; $34.95 print)

Review by Brian Fagan

Captain James Cook was the preeminent navigator of his day. His three voyages of 250 years ago are classics of exploration and pilotage. Cook’s charts are still useful. Out of interest, I’ve used them in Polynesia myself and found them invaluable. The Admiralty sent the exhausted navigator on his third and final voyage in 1776. He was to search for the Northwest Passage and map the Pacific coast of North America. Cook’s wanderings took him to New Zealand and Hawaii, then to the Oregon Coast, Vancouver Island, also Alaska and the Bering Strait, where he identified Cook Inlet. He died at the hands of angry Hawaiians, the Discovery returning home after a voyage to Kamchatka and China.

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Jean-du-Sud and the Magick Byrd

 by Yves Gelinas, translated by Karen Caruana (59 North, 2017; 169 pages; $24.99 paperback, $9.99 Kindle edition).

Review by Karen Larson

Some sailors know Yves Gelinas as the nice guy behind the counter at boat shows selling Cape Horn windvanes, modeled on the windvane he built in 1981 for a world circumnavigation. Alberg 30 sailors know Yves as an icon because he made this voyage on Jean-du-Sud, his Alberg 30, after making some modifications to strengthen the hull and rig. Some know Yves as the famous Canadian from Quebec who set out to circumnavigate non-stop and to set a record with the smallest vessel to round Cape Horn. Others know him as a successful filmmaker and the winner of numerous awards for his full-length video, With Jean-du-Sud Around the World.

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Spindrift: A Wilderness Pilgrimage at Sea

 by Peter Reason (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016; 194 pages; $23.95 paperback, $23.95 ebook).

Review by Gregg Bruff

“Spindrift – spray blown off the crests of waves in winds of gale force and above. For sailors in a small boat, spindrift is the sign that forceful but workable conditions are becoming dangerous.”

If you have an affinity for sailing and the earth we live with, you should read Spindrift by Peter Reason. It’s that simple. Never have I found a book written by a sailor, about sailing, who can not only convey the fascinating and engaging details of a voyage, but who also can discuss and clarify big picture cultural and ecological concepts with his readers.

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Sea Trials: Around the World with Duct Tape and Bailing Wire

by Wendy Hinman (Salsa Press 2017; print $20.00, Kindle $5.99)

Review by David McDaniel

Sea Trials: Around the World with Duct Tape and Bailing Wire is a real rattlesnake of a tale chronicling the adventures, and misadventures, of the Wilcox family as they sail their way around the world in the early 70s. Leaving a comfortable home behind, the family makes their way out of San Francisco Bay aboard their 40-foot wooden sailboat, Vela, bound for Hawaii and all points beyond. And who better to pen the Wilcox’s story than Wendy Hinman, now spouse of Garth Wilcox, who later relived a similar voyage with Garth aboard a 31-footer? Considering her intimate connection, the story of the Wilcox’s circumnavigation surely took form for the author via bits and pieces related by each family member over time – especially by Garth, the one participant for whom the family’s adventure ultimately rang loudest.

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Kidnapped from the Caribbean

by Todd Duff (Seaworthy Publications, 2017; digital $2.99, print $14.95).

Review by Sarah Moore

Todd Duff’s novel is a thrilling adventure revolving around human trafficking, boat theft, international intrigue, and drug cartels. Though fictional, the book is based on several real stories of human trafficking. This gives a sharper edge to the story.

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Marine Diesel Basics 1

by Dennison Berwick (Voyage Press, 2017; print $15.99; Kindle $7.99)

Review by Robin Urquhart

Here we have a practical, illustrated guide for marine diesel engine maintenance. The main advantage of this guide is its clear and simple illustrations. This guide fills a gap where a person is just getting into diesel engine maintenance. Sometimes Nigel Calder’s books assume a level of knowledge that the neophyte mechanic simply doesn’t possess. Imagine trying to tell somebody how to check the oil that has no idea what a dipstick looks like or where on the engine to find it. Berwick’s guide is a huge asset for those wishing to get a little more hands-on in the engine room due to its simple, visual directions.

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Kings of the Sea: Charles II, James II & The Royal Navy

by J.D. Davies (Seaforth Publishing, 2017; Hardcover $29.95).

Review by Brian Fagan

Everyone has heard of the Great Fire of London and the plague of 1666. You may have read of the diarist Samuel Pepys’ bawdy exploits with a wide variety of young, and not so young, women. What is not widely known is that he was a respected naval administrator. But he played a less important role in what was effectively the founding of the Royal Navy than he, and many historians, would have us believe. David Davies uses his historical expertise to reveal what he pleasingly calls the “elephant in the room”—the two opinionated, sea-loving Stuart monarchs who built ships, took voyages themselves, and made Britain’s navy a force to be reckoned with. Kings of the Sea brings Charles II and James II to the historical center stage, especially the latter during his years as Duke of York and Lord High Admiral (a splendid title). His autocratic influence on naval affairs was immense, but often carefully hidden by Pepys.

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Broad Reach

 by Rob Avery (Jack Tar Press 2017; print $14.95, Kindle $3.99)

Review by Michael Robertson

Rob Avery is back, with the second smart, nicely crafted crime story in the series narrated by our protagonist, Sim Greene. Following a life-altering roller coaster ride of murder and deception and a lost love in the first book, Sim boarded his beloved Figaro and sailed south from Southern California to Panama and up to the Caribbean, looking for a new life with a bit less drama. But the Virgin Islands turn out to deliver everything but the peace and tranquility that lures tourists by the thousands. Instead, Sim finds corruption at levels he could not have imagined, and an unlikely ally in his quest to get his friend Al out from under false murder charges.

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Still Water Bending

by Wendy Mitman Clarke (Head to Wind Publishing, 2017; print $17.00; Kindle $5.99)

Review by Michael Robertson

I’m eager to tell you that the last book I read before picking up Still Water Bending was Lit: A Memoir by best-selling author Mary Karr. This is notable because the depth and poetic quality of Clarke’s prose is, page-for-page, on par with Karr’s. In case I’m not being clear, this is high praise.

Both authors are award-winning poets and equally skillful at leveraging their poetic perceptions to communicate the sensibilities of their characters and the true nature of the settings they inhabit. But here I’ll stop drawing comparisons because Clarke’s work stands alone. And it’s not a memoir, but a novel, a work that is equal parts lush and enveloping, and sharp and unyielding.

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Taken By the Wind: The Northwest Coast, A Guide to Sailing the Coasts of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska

by Marilyn Johnson (Createspace, 2016, 384 pages, print $44.95)

Review by Sara Dawn Johnson

Say you are planning a summer cruise from the Puget Sound to British Columbia, or maybe as far as Southeast Alaska. You’ve probably got a pile of guidebooks on your nightstand already; you spend your winter evenings perusing them, planning the anchorages and towns you’d like to visit. Besides filling your sailboat with food and fuel, you’re ready to go. But before you do, there’s one more book you need: and that is Taken By the Wind by Marilyn Johnson.

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Tales from the Captain’s Log: from Captain Cook to Charles Darwin, Blackbeard to Nelson—great voyages in their own words

by The National Archives (Adlard Coles 2017; 304 pages; hardcover $35.00)

Review by David McDaniel

Polar expeditions, naval battles, discovery, piracy, mutiny on the high seas…these are but some of the themes contained in Tales from the Captain’s Log. As the title implies, this collection of historical tales has been reproduced directly from actual ships’ logs and personal journals of the great men who sailed the oceans in the 17th and 18th centuries, a period long considered the Golden Age of Sail. Commanders, ships’ doctors, and even inmates frequently penned wonderfully vivid accounts aboard sailing vessels, providing today’s reader glimpses into their lives at sea. These documents have been preserved by the British National Archives and were selected as the foundation for this enlightening volume, transcribed and narrated by a host of authors.

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A Darker Sea: Master Commandant Putnam and the War of 1812 (A Bliven Putnam Naval Adventure)

by James L. Haley (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, November 14, 2017, 400 pages, print $27.00, eBook $13.99)

Review by Sara Dawn Johnson

I’m fond of books that take me back to another time, as if I’ve slipped through a portal, to experience our human history in person. A Darker Sea is one of those books.

Award-winning historian James L. Haley has written another gripping story of midshipman Bliven Putnam. The first in series details Putnam’s naval adventures in the Mediterranean and Tripoli; for this second installment, Putnam has returned stateside and been given command of his own ship, the modest USS Tempest. When the United States declares war on Great Britain in 1812, and although outnumbered in ships 50 to1, Putnam goes forth without hesitation to serve his country.

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Barefoot Navigator: Wayfaring with the Skills of the Ancients

by Jack Lagan (Adlard Coles Nautical/Bloomsbury, 2nd Edition 2017; hard cover; $22.00)

Review by Brian Fagan

It’s wrong for hoary mariners to bemoan the evils of GPS and the loss of traditional navigational skills. Nonsense, as Jack Lagan points out in his Barefoot Navigator. His extended exploration of the art of navigation is not about ultra-precision, but an informed excursion through the arcane history of navigation and traditional navigational methods that are invaluable, even if you have all the seductive machinery of the electronic age to guide you. In Part 1, Lagan takes us on a six-essay exploration of the “skills of the ancients.” There are the usual Polynesians and Viking participants, but now refreshing to see respectful treatment of Arab navigators and the Indian Ocean, also of Chinese expertise, much underrated in the West. He ends with Portolan charts and other better-known tools of the Renaissance navigational toolkit.

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by Antonio J. Hopson (Anaphora Literary Press 2017; 260 pages; paperback $20.00)

Review by Chas. H. Hague

It is Race Week in the Salish Sea, north-northwest of Seattle, Washington. This is important to many of the characters in Antonio Hopson’s novel Nefarious, but not because they want to win any of the races, at least not mostly.

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Rogue Waves: Anatomy of a Monster

by Michel Olagnon (Alfred Coles Nautical, 2017; paperback $30.00)

Review by Jim Papa

There is, perhaps, no more ephemeral and monstrous a phenomenon than a rogue wave. A ship that meets one may suffer grave damage or even disappear before a Mayday can be sent. And yet the sea is no different in the wake of a rogue wave than it was before.

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A Man For All Oceans; Captain Joshua Slocum and the First Solo Voyage Around the World

A Man for All Oceans book coverby STAN GRAYSON (Tilbury House Publishers with the New Bedford Whaling Museum, 2017; 400 pages, hard cover; $29.95)

Review by Wayne Gagnon, Antigo, Wisconsin

Sometime in the late 70s or early 80s I became obsessed with the idea of owning a sailboat after seeing one on a trailer with a “For Sale” sign hanging from the bow, and soon found myself reading everything I could get my hands on related to sailing. Then Time magazine had a little blurb about the upcoming BOC Challenge, a single-handed, around-the-world sailboat race, and mentioned that Joshua Slocum was the first man to pull off a single-handed circumnavigation. Naturally, I went to the library and read his book, Sailing Alone Around the World. A few years ago my daughter bought me a copy for Christmas and I read it again with a greater appreciation for what Slocum accomplished, no doubt because by then I had my own boat and some sailing experience on Lake Michigan. That’s a rather long introduction to a book review, but it’s my background that caused me to jump at the chance to review this book..

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Book Reviews From 2017

Reviews From 2017

February 2017 Newsletter

April 2017 Newsletter

June 2017 Newsletter

Parrotfish Cay

BY VERN HOBBS (CreateSpace, 2015; 316 Pages, Print $9.95; eBook $4.95)


Parrotfish Cay by Vern Hobbs

Vern Hobbs’ third novel is his best one yet, and the other two are very good. An artist and contributor to several sailing magazines, including Good Old Boat, Vern began his journey as an author in 2010 with Flying Fish, a detective work focused on a Florida fishing community harmed by political whims in Tallahassee and a large firm seeking to develop a local casino. From there, Vern’s readers were captivated by the live-aboard community described in Mudfish Creek, published in 2013. This time the characters (and an interesting collection of salty caricatures they are) are brought together by the mystery left behind in the will of one of their former dockmates.

Unlike many authors, Vern is not creating a series of related novels focused on one character, who moves along from book to book. Instead, Vern lets his imagination run wild until, I suspect, the next book topic captivates him and the characters begin to write their own story and he must sit down at the computer and join in. (Or so I imagine it anyway.)

This third book, Parrotfish Cay, focuses on the loss of a loved one and the positive response that can occur. Of particular interest to sailors everywhere, the protagonist’s reaction to the sudden loss of his wife is the discovery of a new lifestyle. Ryan Davenport happens upon a sailing magazine in an office waiting room and is captivated by the cruising life depicted there. He leaves the traditional and predictable lifestyle he has been pursuing as a successful accountant in Cincinnati and sets off to buy a boat and to learn to sail, in that order. Of more interest to sailors is the description of life’s stages, not of mourning (although that is covered) but rather the stages of becoming a sailor. We’ve all been there and can chuckle at the milestones and setbacks. As part of his journey, Ryan visits the library for books and magazines for tips and inspiration. Once he becomes a boat owner, he even refers to the DIY content in Good Old Boat. Could this be our first cameo appearance in a sailing novel?

As soon as he has the cruising dream, the boat, and the skills, Ryan heads, as a single-hander, toward the Bahamas and the Caribbean and beyond, driven by nightly visions of his now-deceased wife, Kelly, who urges him onward. His boat is dismasted along the way and Ryan is cast ashore on Parrotfish Cay. This interrupts the from-the-grave urgings of Kelly to sail ever onward. Or was Parrotfish Cay the target location all along?

In each of his books, Vern has impressed us greatly with his characters’ dialogue and also with overall character development. These are not cardboard characters, but rather the multi-faceted people you know on the docks. This is not what you expect from a guy who writes articles for Good Old Boat on subjects such as dealing with drawbridges (March 2006), navigating locks (July 2006), sailing off the anchor (January 2008), vessel documentation (January 2009), keeping your diesel engine cool (September 2009), ground wires (May 2010), and managing seasickness (July 2011).

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The Boat Drinks Book: A different tipple in every port

BY FIONA SIMS (Adlard Coles Nautical, 2017; 176 Pages, Print; $20.00; Kindle Ebook, $9.99)

Parrotfish Cay by Vern Hobbs

I read the title, The Boat Drinks Book: A different tipple in every port. I expected I’d find inside a cold and factual catalogue of all of the boat drinks I’d ever tasted, and perhaps a couple of new ones. As soon as I begin to read it, I remembered how very wrong first impressions can be.

Fiona Sims has crafted a marvelous guide that indeed gave me a comprehensive summary of the best in boat drinks, but she also took me on a world wine and food tour. The book is 176 pages long, but I didn’t get to the cocktail recipes until page 120, and getting there was an enjoyable journey.

Fiona begins by describing what every sailor should have aboard to best enjoy the journey, and also helped me to understand a bit more about wine and spirits. Then, starting along the south coast of her native UK, she took me on a veritable wine, beer and spirits tour of each region. Europe and the Med, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. Coasts, the Caribbean – she gave each their due. The pages are interspersed with great local recipes for food and snacks to add to the tour.

Once I did finally reach the cocktails section, she right away taught me the basics on mixing a proper drink and explained each term. She then took me through the five main types of liquor I’d be using: rum, gin, whiskey, vodka, and tequila. She begins with a history and description of each and then describes the best cocktail recipes for that particular spirt. She even includes a section on non-alcoholic cocktails and then caps it all off by describing the processes involved in making beer and wine.

I am familiar with, or have tried, most of the cocktails she describes, and while my own proportions may vary a bit, her recipes are accurate to a tee.

Don’t judge this book by its cover alone, putting it on a shelf with other recipe books. If you do, you’ll miss a very enjoyable and educational read. Having The Boat Drinks Book aboard will enhance my boating experience.

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Finding North: How Navigation Makes Us Human

BY GEORGE MICHELSEN FOY (Flatiron, 2016; 291 Pages, Hardcover; $25.99)

Finding North

In the wake of his brother’s recent death, George Michelsen Foy becomes interested in the fate of his great, great grandfather, Capt. Halvor Michelsen, lost aboard the Norwegian packet Stavanger Paquet when she went down under Havlor’s command in 1844. Hoping to understand something of the Stavanger Paquet’s loss due to a navigational error, Foy plots a course offshore from Hyannis, Massachusetts, to Maine aboard Odyssey, his aging Morgan 35 sloop, employing the same sorts of navigation tools and strategies his great, great grandfather would have used.

Over a winter spent readying Odyssey and himself for the voyage, Foy finds himself drawn deeper into the art and science of navigation, and the ways in which it informs and is in turn affected by almost all of our daily activities. In between dusting off his old sextant and making necessary repairs to Odyssey, he travels to the Caribbean to sail with a Haitian skipper who carries no compass; journeys to the Greek island of Samothrace to visit the “shrine of the megaloi theoi, the great gods,” where the ancient Dioskuri initiated would-be navigators in the magic art; consults with neuroscientists mapping those areas of the brain involved with navigation; and visits the “Dark Heart” of today’s GPS at Schriever’s AFB in Colorado. All the while, Foy finds himself navigating his own memories as well, especially those that now make up his relationship with his brother.

When it comes to what matters most in life, Foy realizes that “navigation and the disorientation that’s part of it have taught me: that we cannot live without loss.” And that when we lose those things that make us who we are, “we are forced to look hard around this world” to find our way, and ourselves, again.

Every sailor who’s ever looked at a chart, tried to take a sight with a sextant, wondered how GPS works, or had to rely on dead-reckoning out of sight of land will enjoy Foy’s examination of navigation’s many fascinating aspects in Finding North. Those who have ever looked in the mirror, or into their heart, or the heart of another, to locate a different sort of fix, will discover even more.

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Anne Bonny’s Wake

BY DICK ELAM (Brown Books Publishing Group, 2016; 232 Pages, Hardcover; $22.99; Kindle Ebook, $4.99)

Anne Bonny's Wake

Is it every sailor’s dream to rescue a mermaid, a topless lady in distress? What could be better? How about a somewhat modern slant on the mermaid theme…say, a mermaid who can get around on two good legs and who just happens to know how to hand, reef, and steer? Too good to be true? Perhaps. Imagine she comes aboard with a bushel-load of personal baggage she’s keeping secret and is stalked by bad guys who just might kill anyone who happens to be aboard?

Author Dick Elam captures readers’ attentions from the start, when Maggie Adelaide Moore, fleeing her tormentors, swims to the anchored boat of Herschel Barstow. What do you say to a semi-naked lady?

Hershel’s sentimental cruise on his former sailboat, now in charter, was meant to be a time of reflection in which he would spread the ashes of his deceased wife. When they weren’t working as CIA operatives, he and his wife had enjoyed their time on the Anne Bonny, a sailboat named for a well-known female pirate. But now the identity and motivation of his new crewmember, who arrived dripping wet in her cutoff jeans, was in doubt. Was she another female pirate or on the right side of the law? Which of her stories were lies and which were the truth?

There are enough twists and turns in this book that you can’t be sure. Suffice it to say that it’s a good thing Hershel has his CIA training and the ongoing friendship of his former trainer, who is now retired. The two are determined to learn Maggie’s secrets. But Hershel may die trying as he and Maggie sail the Carolina waterways to return the Anne Bonny to the charter company…always just a few strong strokes of a mermaid’s tale ahead of the bad guys.

This is Dick Elam’s first in what may become a series. He clearly is a sailor who knows good old boats. He doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining to the non-yachtsman among his readers what this is or what that means. A few lubberly expressions such as “Over and out” as a signoff on the VHF radio, and “bumpers” for fenders, made me think he had a bit too much “help” from non-sailor early readers or editors, because all the rest rings true and there is the occasional mention of “lines and fenders.” If you can overlook those trifles, you just might enjoy sailing along in the Anne Bonny’s wake, just so long as you are safely in your armchair and can’t feel the bad guys’ breath on the back of your neck.

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Notable Boats: Small Craft, Many Adventures

BY NIC COMPTON, WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY PETER SCOTT (Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2017; 160 Pages, Hardcover; $29.95)>
</h3 >Notable Boats

This is an intriguing little book. Although it is titled Notable Boats, it really is the story of some extraordinary people. Compton, who is a past editor of the British magazine, Classic Boats, sets out to profile 36 small boats which he deems to be worthy of note, and his eclectic selection certainly provides interesting reading. The only trait that is common to his choices is that none have engines as their primary propulsion, with the vast majority being propelled by sail. Some, such as Huck Finn’s raft, have no propulsion system at all, and three are propelled by oar alone. The latter include the Tom McClean’s 20-foot dory, Super Silver, which he rowed across the Atlantic in 1969, Jerome K. Jerome’s Pride of the Thames from Three Men in a Boat, and Casanova’s gondola. Indeed, like Huck’s raft, some of Compton’s picks exist only in literature, such as Robinson Crusoe’s periagua. Some that he selects are well known to most sailors, including Joshua Slocomb’s Spray, Robin Knox-Johnson’s Suhaili, the Olin Stephens-designed Dorade, Sir Francis Chichester’s Gypsy Moth IV, Robin Lee Graham’s Dove, and, of course, the schooner yacht America and the iconic Canadian fishing schooner Bluenose.

The majority of the small boats that Compton profiles have completed some truly remarkable solo ocean voyages, a number of which I was either totally unaware or had only peripheral knowledge. A couple that truly astounded me were the 3,400-mile transatlantic crossing from the Canary Islands to St. Martins in 1956 by the young German doctor Hannes Lindermann in an open folding kayak — a voyage he made to test the bounds of human endurance — and the around-the-world voyage in 1999 to 2003 of Evgeny Gvozdev, in an 11-foot 10-inch boat he built on his balcony in Russia! The amazing thing about both these individuals was that these voyages were the second for each.

Through these often amazing little craft and their incredible voyages, Compton focuses on the men and women who sailed them. If you can argue that every boat has a unique personality, then it is no stretch to claim that in each of these boats that personality perfectly matches, and is even instilled by, that of the owner. Even in the case of Chichester and Gypsy Moth IV, a boat he claimed to hate, both the boat and the sailor are forever fused.

The format of the book is well structured, although the order in which the boats appear in the book seems to be totally random. Each segment opens with a page headed by the boat’s name, with a thumbnail sketch of the boat’s and owners achievements accompanied by a plan view drawing of the boat by John Woodcock listing its principal dimensions. The next page has a full color “sail plan” profile drawing of the boat in color by Peter Scott. Page 3 contains a color map of the voyage by Nick Rowland, along with a description of the achievement extending to all of page 4.

My criticism of this book that purports to focus on notable boats is that the information on the boats themselves is particularly sparse. The chapter on John Lennon’s 1980 voyage to Bermuda in the 42-foot Megan Jaye shows a sail plan drawing that could be a Tartan or Bristol, but the information on the boat does not specify either a builder or designer. The same can be said for Dove and Ellen MacArthur’s 21-foot Iduna, which she sailed around Britain in 1996, as well as Laura Dekker’s Guppy, which she sailed solo around the world as teenager. Each seems to be a fiberglass production sailboat, so I’m not sure why a builder’s designation was omitted.

I would have also liked to know a little more about the illustrators, particularly Peter Scott, who did all the colored sail plan drawings. The name (Sir) Peter Scott is already well known in sailing and ornithological circles. This is obviously a different, but also talented, Peter Scott.

This book is a teaser, giving just enough information to be illuminating, but in a lot of cases left me wanting to know more about some of these incredible boats and people. Fortunately, to satisfy that need, Compton supplies a two page “Further Reading” section at the back of the book. An impulse I had after reading this book was to think of boats that perhaps could also qualify as Notable Boats but that Compton chose not to include. John MacGregor’s Rob Roy sailing canoe, perhaps? Shackleton’s famous Endurance? Any book that leaves you thinking is a book worth reading, and this book does and is. It’s a very worthwhile addition to any sailor’s library. Thank you Mr. Compton.

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Learn to Sail Today: From Novice to Sailor In One Week

BY BARRY LEWIS (International Marine/Mcgraw Hill, 2016; 195 Pages; $21)

Learn To Sail

Note: Editor Karen Larson asked Avital Keeley — a junior member of the Good Old Boat crew and an enthusiastic newbie — to review this book. What better opinion than one from a youngster who is very interested in becoming a sailor? Before she asked Avital for her thoughts about this book, Karen also read the book and offers her own review below.

To a beginner sailor, a book titled Learn to Sail Today: From Novice to Sailor in One Week sounds like a dream. And that it is.

Barry Lewis formats his book according to its name: it is split into seven sections with one section per day. He then divides each section into multiple steps, each adding onto the reader’s knowledge of sailing. Sometimes he includes vocabulary without a good explanation or breezes through a subject that might trip people up. It’s definitely not a book to read when you are tired!

Although it’s meant to be read as you spend a week sailing (and I’m sure that would be helpful), that’s not necessary. This book is incredible in the way that it is easy to understand, even when not aboard or near a boat. I read this book on various buses, before bed, and while eating cereal, yet I still learned more than a summer of weekend sailing trips could teach me (excepting a summer of weekend sailing trips with the amazing teachers I know).

Getting back to those vocabulary terms that were left dangling in front of me. At first they are like the words you can’t translate in a foreign language sentence, completely without meaning. But then you see the words elsewhere, in other contexts, and things click. I’ve already used my newfound knowledge, both in sailing conversations and in odd things in my everyday life.

I can’t wait to go sailing again to see how much this book has helped me (In the same way I’d love to go to France after studying French for years.) Learn to Sail Today not only teaches the terms and the science behind sailing, it teaches so much more. Lewis’ writing style is friendly and warm. It feels like he is right there telling you everything, jokes and all. It’s not a formal, informational book, and yet it relays the same amount of information.

Any beginner sailor should read this book, even if he or she has been sailing before. Experienced sailors might want to read this book as a refresher and to open themselves to a new perspective about sailing and learning.

Learn to Sail Today: From Novice to Sailor In One Week

BY BARRY LEWIS (International Marine/Mcgraw Hill, 2016; 195 Pages; $21)
Minneapolis, Minn

Learn to sail in one week. “Yeah, sure,” I thought. This book claims to be the only book that can take you from landlubber to novice sailor, safely, today. “Ha! Prove it,” I said to myself as I picked it up.

Author Barry Lewis is a Good Old Boat subscriber and friend. He starts by encouraging everyone who has ever thought sailing might be fun to give it a go. Many have the dream but few pursue it. Why? Barry says there are no excuses. If you want to try sailing, there are ways to make it happen. He offers several ways to get access to boats, such as offering to crew at a yacht club or finding lessons near home or as part of a vacation.

Next Barry tells you how to prepare: what to bring and things to watch for and understand when you’re aboard, whether it’s a large or small sailboat. He discusses how to prepare a boat: rigging, basic parts, and a few knots to know. He explains how to be safe before you get aboard, how to step aboard, and what to be aware of once you are aboard. This is basic stuff, yes. But did anyone ever tell you on that first day that it’s a good idea to climb aboard with nothing in your hands and to look for strong handholds, not to pause with one foot on the dock and one on the boat, and — if it’s a small dinghy — to step into the center of the boat and sit down quickly?

No, they did not! Yet these are good things to think about and be aware of in advance.

Barry offers an overview of raising sails, talks a bit about tiller steering, discusses strategies for leaving the dock, and tells his readers about capsize recovery in small boats. He gives the basics on sail trim, steering, rules of the road, tacking, returning to the dock, and putting the sails away. He offers just enough that the beginner can be tuned into these activities even if he is not yet competent in any of them. The new sailor learns by paying attention. This book directs his attention to the activities going on around him. With this sort of background, he will not be a passenger but rather will become a willing participant.

What follows, once these basic concepts are covered, are the refinements: how to jibe, improving sail trim, crew overboard procedures, anchoring, and a few more knots. Not to overlook furling gear, use of the VHF radio, and navigation. He even touches on buying and maintaining a boat and adds an appendix section with the basics of first aid, potential emergencies, flying a spinnaker, cruising gear, and the physics of sailing.

Too much in a small book? Not at all. It’s just the right amount to inform a new sailor and to make him aware of the things that are there to learn. Give him this book and access to a sailboat for a week, along with some of your own gentle guidance, and I believe a new sailor will blossom. This might not be the only beginners’ book available. But it would be a good gift to anyone who has said, “I want to be a sailor.”

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Close Hauled

BY ROB AVERY (Jack Tar Publishing, 2016; 402 Pages, Print $14.99; eBook $6.99)

Ever wonder why all Good Old Boat book reviews are positive? It’s not because all the books we review are good. It’s not because our reviewers are kind to a fault. It’s because when a Good Old Boat book reviewer can’t recommend a book, we don’t publish the review. This means that as reviewers, we sometimes wind up reading books we don’t like (or can’t finish). That’s our lot. But it also means that we sometimes get a jewel that seems to have been written just for us.

Close-Hauled was that kind of reading pleasure for me.

This is a crime mystery filled with Southern California liveaboards, sailboats, powerboats, cruising dreams, and a victim’s body, discovered by our protagonist off the harbor jetty in the opening pages.

From there, author Rob Avery unfolds a smart whodunit with impeccable timing, dead ends, creative twists, the right pace, and a cast of salty characters who propel the story with ample dialogue.

In describing Close-Hauled to family and friends, I’ve likened it to a John D. MacDonald read, except that 40 years have passed and instead of Travis McGee on the East Coast, it’s Sim Greene on the West Coast.

Greene is a compelling character, pulled along by his pursuit of the truth through a maze of others’ lies and corruption, a pull that doesn’t always align with his best interests. And along the way he’s torn between a settled life with a woman he loves, and his boat and a life on the water he’d have to walk away from.

His choices ultimately drive this story to its dramatic, satisfying conclusion.

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The Salty Bard: Up In Smoke

The Salty Bard

BY CRAIG PARMELEE CARTER (BeachWrites, 2017; 48 Pages, Print; $8.95; Kindle Ebook, $3.99)

The Salty Bard makes magical moments.

For those who sail there are magic moments; and not all of them come with the canvas flying.  While the swoosh of a hull slicing through white caps can quicken the pulse of any good old boater, there are other, equally unforgettable memories, only the sea-stricken share. Good times with family and friends conversing over a meal and beverage while tied to the dock. Diving off the stern into ice-cold water on a blistering summer day while your boat sways at anchor in a sheltered bay. But the moment the Salty Bard makes magical is that one we all know; huddled below decks in the dark of night as the boat dances on the hook, the wind and waves tossing our bodies and teasing our minds. Rain pelting a machine-gun melody on the deck over head and us wondering if that anchor will bite and stay…or drag and wander as we sit and ponder. It’s then…that moment when you call together your crew, young and old, and reach for the slender tome of poems, Up In Smoke, by Craig Parmelee Carter; or as he is better known…the Salty Bard.

You read aloud in a calm and soothing voice, the rhyming couplets cascading across the hushed silence. Their eyes widen as the verses pour forth bringing with them images of ships and seas and seafarers of long ago or just yesterday. The storm outside becomes less fearsome as they knowingly nod at the wistful “Sailor’s Dream,” smile at the whimsy of “Tattoo,” shudder at the ghostly spirits “Aboard the Charles W. Morgan” and sing along to “Yacht Club Party,” for those who are old enough to remember Ricky Nelson’s song, “Garden Party.”

One after another, the stories roll forth with soothing, comforting contagion. All is well and the moment is seared in impressionable minds to be evoked over and over again in days to come. Up In Smoke is a sailor’s poetic romp that should come as standard equipment aboard every good old boat. With wit and humor and insight, The Salty Bard captures the thoughts and feelings all sailors have known at one time or another. With each reading there’s something new and fresh that emerges…a thought…a feeling…a remembrance…that was somehow missed before. The Salty Bard is a master painter with the sea his canvas and poetry his pallet. Buy your copy of Up In Smoke today…read it forever.

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Islands in a Circle Sea

Islands in a Circle Sea


“Initially a reluctant sailor, I fell in love with the cruising life…waking up each morning in a different place…Also the satisfaction of a life pared down to the essentials, yet all you really need…understanding what is most important in your life. What actually makes you happy.” –Sandra Clayton

Superb story-telling and perceptive descriptions hooked me and off I went on a pleasurable journey aboard Voyager, the author’s 40-foot Solaris Sunstream. It’s a journey that begins where the author left off in her previous book, heading out from the Florida coast for a winter in the Bahamas. From there she took me up the United States East Coast, from Florida to Nantucket and back, before crossing the Atlantic to England, by way of the Azores.

Clayton’s books read like a ship’s log in some ways, and like an interesting travel log in others. She describes the sea conditions and weather as well as tourist sites. She’s also clearly done her research and weaves it effectively into histories of the places she visited.

Islands in a Circle Sea is a fitting title for the conclusion in the series, as here the Claytons return home, exactly four years after the beginning their voyage. There is ample, astute reflection in here from someone who has traveled 23,137 nautical miles and visited 19 countries. Someone who has gone full circle.

“The Milky Way on a clear, moonless night, stretching out to infinity is truly awe-inspiring…a meteor storm above your head is magical…there is no more joyous way to begin or end the day than with the rising or setting of a vast, luminous sun.” –Sandra Clayton

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An Unlikely Voyage: 2000 miles alone in a small wooden boat

An Unlikely Voyage

BY JOHN ALMBERG (Unlikely Voyages, LLC, 2016; 328 Pages; $19.95)

In An Unlikely Voyage, John Almberg takes us along a 2,000-mile journey, from a sleepy slip on the Florida Gulf Coast to grand New York Harbor, aboard his newly-purchased good-old-wooden boat Blue Moon. The journey starts with the dream of owning a classic wooden sailing vessel all his own, and where his delightful book begins.
In the early chapters, John shares with his reader the trials and tribulations of searching out that never-quite-perfect boat. As he wrestles with the myriad of questions associated with sailboat ownership, as well as those pesky questions aimed back at his own commitment to the project, John decides to check himself by building from scratch the dinghy he’ll eventually need with his dream yacht. The author admits to having very limited boat-building skills, but welcomes the test with humility and spirit, two ingredients that see the project through and instill an integral confidence needed by any sailor. Cabin Boy, a John Atkins-designed wooden skiff, was built in his rudimentary basement workshop from the plans up, and John documents the project thoroughly. Through the challenges, questions, and mishaps that come with any boat-building project, he impresses upon the reader his unshakable determination in realizing his dream. Like so many DIY projects, his success building Cabin Boy becomes the foundation for his journey, purchasing, preparing, and motor-sailing the Blue Moon to her new home waters in New York.

And journey he does, down the west coast of Florida, across the peninsula via the Okeechobee Waterway, and into the ICW for the northbound trip toward home, all the while with his hand-built companion and first mate Cabin Boy in tow. Their adventures along the way are full of lessons learned by first-time voyagers that are both humorous and enlightening. From alligators eying him in the murky Florida/Georgia shallows to rowdy locals in backwoods marinas; from fast-moving tidal runs to bridge-ducking in the ICW; from heavy weather in the Atlantic to entering New York Harbor via Hell Gate, John again and again proves his mettle by negotiating endless hazards as he ventures on. All the while, the author encounters beauty at every leg of his journey, documenting events with a steady pen and Thoreau-like mindfulness. John’s story is no bluewater adventure; instead it is a graceful challenge filled with moments of clarity that only slow travel can provide. Enjoy the ride!

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Herreshoff: American Masterpieces

BY MAYNARD BRAY, CLAAS van der LINDE, BENJAMIN MENDLOWITZ (W.W. Norton & Company, 2016; 272 Pages; $100.00)

Herreshoff: American Masterpieces

The thing I like about opera is its ability to bring together of so many complementary artistic endeavors to create a production that pleases all the senses. That is, a production where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts, even when the parts are each first-rate. In that regard this book is a Puccini of publications. Whether you like opera or not, if you are at all interested in the history of our sport, this book brings a whole lot to the table.

The book focusses on 36 surviving boats and classes designed and manufactured by the Herreshoff Manufacturing company from 1889 (Coquina) to 1938 (Seafarer Class), with the 34 other boats in between, listed in chronological order. The foreword is co-authored by Maynard Bray and Claas van der Linde who provided the detailed and meticulously researched text for this book. Importantly, their foreword addresses N.G. Herreshoff’s unique design process, based on the older method of carving models rather than designing the hull on a drawing board in the then-established “Scientific” method. Indeed, Herreshoff throws a monkey wrench in my oft repeated narrative of the evolution of yacht design from “rule of thumb” modellers to drawing board designers. This emphasis on the model explains why there are so few lines plans in the Herreshoff Collection in the Hart Nautical Collection housed at MIT, and one could say is a harbinger of the current computer design method of “solid modeling.” The introduction is written by Kurt Hasselbalch, curator of the collection, who describes Herreshoff’s early engineering education at MIT starting in 1866, only one year after MIT opened, and goes on to explain how MIT ultimately acquired the over-14,000 engineering drawings in the collection.

Buzzards Bay 25

The Herreshoff-designed-and-built Buzzards Bay 25

Herreshoff was a superb engineer. Some will argue that his designs weren’t as breathtakingly beautiful as Fife or Watson, but there can be no doubt that he was a master of early production and custom boat building. That is one reason why so many of his designs survive today. They were just well and soundly built. Each “chapter” in the book focusses on a particular boat or class, listing the Herreshoff project number, the date of design, the class, and the principal hull dimensions. The text then focusses on the initiation of the project, for whom it was designed and built, the boat or class’ history and significance, subsequent owners, and the boats still in existence with histories of their rebuilding. The level of detail is exceptional, while still being immensely readable. Herreshoff started his career with his blind brother, John Brown Herreshoff, designing and building high-speed steam launches and patrol boats, so the book does include a number of elegant powerboats, as well as sailboats.

In addition to the remarkably detailed and readable text, what raises this book to operatic levels is the photography of Benjamin Mendlowitz. The photos span many years, transitioning from film to digital, but some of the photos are so remarkably beautiful that they illicit comparisons to a Christopher Pratt painting. Each chapter not only includes photos of the yachts under sail (or power as appropriate), but also detail photos of deck and interior. Accompanying every boat featured is a photo of the incredibly detailed construction plan, often with watercolor highlights to the drawing.

I was pleased to see the 1907 Canada’s Cup winner Seneca (to which I recently referred in my short article on bowsprits—“Bowsprits past and present,” March 2017), featured in the book, which elicited an intriguing and enjoyable email communication with Maynard Bray and Claas van der Linde, whose patience with my enquiries was admirable. Often the discussion of one boat in this text would lead to other boats associated with that boat. The chapter on the large “rule beater” P-Boat Joyant makes reference to “Corinthian, Joyant’s nemesis from 1911, has also survived, owned for decades in Toronto as Nutmeg III…..” Nutmeg was actually owned by Norm Robertson of my own Royal Hamilton Yacht Club in the late 1930s and early 40s.

This is a book of some substance, measuring 11½ x 14 inches, with corresponding heft. It is listed at $100 and would be a fine addition to any serious nautical library. This is truly remarkable addition to the record of the history of our sport.

construction plan

The construction plan of the Buzzards Bay 25, with photo of a replica under
construction using the Herreshoff method of upside-down construction

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Sailing Into Retirement; 7 ways to retire on a boat at 50 with 10 steps that will keep you there until 80

By Jim Trefethen ( International Marine, 2016; 244 pages, Print $25.00; eBook $15.99

Review by Wayne Gagnon, Antigo, WI

When author Jim Trefethen wrote Sailing Into Retirement, he combined some information from his previous book, The Cruising Life, first published in 1999, with a second, updated edition in 2015. But, in the author’s own words, “I have tried not to duplicate material…but to build on it, especially where specific subjects pertaining to elderly sailors are involved.” In the past 40 years he’s owned and sailed several boats on several oceans, so he knows whereof he speaks. He’s also in his 70s, which adds to his credibility, so being that I’m in my mid-60s myself, I felt it was worth a look.

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Who’s The Captain?

BY MARY LAUDIEN, ILLUSTRATIONS BY DAVE ALAVOINE ( Createspace, 2016; 56 pages, Print $13.99; eBook $7.99)

Review by Carolyn Corbett, Lake Shore, MN

Who’s the Captain? is a 56 page picture book of sailing life according to Dad and his crew. The humor in the text is accentuated by clever, colorful cartoons. Older kids who are familiar with the ins and outs of sailing will appreciate the humor and little ones will love the cartoon characters.

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And Soon I Heard a Roaring Wind: A Natural History of Moving Air

Book Cover - And Soon I Heard a Roaring Wind

BY BILL STREEVER ( little Brown, 2016; 308 pages, Print $26.00; eBook $13.99)

Review by Brian Fagan, Santa Barbara, CA

Bill Streever is a biologist and a well-known nature writer. He and his wife, Lisanne, are novice cruising folk, who boldly set off on a cruise from Galveston, Texas, to Mexico’s Yucatan with only a very brief sailing course under their belts. They set sail in a 50-foot yawl, which strikes one as foolhardy, until you realize that Bill takes weather forecasts very seriously indeed. They enjoyed a remarkably incident-free cruise, which speaks volumes for their calm acceptance of the vagaries of the sailing life.

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More Than You Think You Know

Book Cover: More Than You Think You Know

BY CYNDI PERKINS ( Beating Windward Press, 2017; 215 page, Print $18.95

Review by Karen Larson, Founder, Good Old Boat Magazine

Not in all the years that hundreds of sailing books have landed on my desk for review have I thought that a novel was destined for the leap from boating literature to mainstream reading and popularity on the big charts. This vault above all the rest of the books I’ve reviewed is all the more amazing because it is a first novel by a woman who has been a writer all her life but never the author of a book.

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Singlehanded Sailing: Thoughts, Tips, Techniques & Tactics, by Andrew Evans



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.

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Buehler’s Backyard Boatbuilding For the 21st Century



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.

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