Cruising RulesSailors’ libraries are filled with every conceivable subject matter from dinghies to clipper ships – alcohol stoves to diesel engines, etc. but missing is a book to explain personal relationships at sea – or how to make a peaceful cruising passage with mate and/or crew members.

Roland S. Barth, a retired Harvard professor, has assembled a melange of mishaps on board and off, which actually occurred during his ownership of a vintage wooden Friendship sloop. These misadventures prompted Barth to discover solutions: “Rules for personal behavior at sea making it possible to stay on speaking, even friendly terms while confined in close quarters for an indefinite period.”

Cruising Rules is presented in an entertaining, humorous manner with the academic skills of a lifelong educator. Beautifully illustrated, the book is prefaced by the author’s reasons for writing about “relationships at sea.” It also contains a glossary of terms, a map of the Maine coastline, and a consolidated list of the 25 rules to be followed for compatibility and happiness on board.

Examples from the glossary:

  • Dismasting – cataclysmic act by which a sailboat is transformed into merely a boat
  • Winch handle – essential metallic, elbowlike appliance usually found (or lost) in mud at ocean’s bottom

I particularly enjoyed two of the cruising rules emerging from strained, onboard relationships:

Rule Number 6 – Non-discussibles may be discussed only within swimming distance of home port
Rule Number 10 – The gods protect beginning sailors and fools – sometimes both at once

Statements by William F. Buckley, Jr., author of Atlantic High, and Roger Duncan, co-author of Cruising Guide to the New England Coast, provide evidence this book is a must-read for every sailor.

Editor’s note: We were also very impressed with Barth’s work, and will be presenting selected chapters in future issues of Good Old Boat magazine. Personal favorite rules, based on our experience, include:

Rule Number 2 – Any story worth telling is worth telling often.
Rule Number 7 – The hand that holds the paintbrush determines the color.

Cruising Rules By Roland S. Barth