Winter is here. For most of us that means our sailboats are under wraps and days on the water are only a pleasant memory. For those of us who would like a brief respite, two recently published books may take us back on the water, if only in our minds. Great Adventure Stories: Against the Sea and The Greatest Sailing Stories Ever Told are anthologies of boating stories, with each adventure just long enough to complete on the bus commute to work or as a quick read before going to sleep.
Against the Sea, edited by Louisa Rudeen, has 24 power boating and sailing (mostly power) stories, told by authors who experienced “when nature turns from a gentle companion to a wrathful enemy; when the going gets rough and there is no place to hide; when it all comes down to a man and woman against the sea.” Taken from articles previously published in Motor Boating and Sailing magazine, the book chronicles the extremes of boating. The table of contents provides brief summaries of the stories, so you can pick and choose your adventure, be it crossing the Atlantic in a 26-foot skiff, getting pulled overboard while fishing for marlin, or surviving in a raft after your sailboat has been sunk by an enraged whale.
This book acquainted me with the broader world of boating. I found a marked difference in the mentality between the powerboater (conquer the sea) and the sailor (partner with the sea). This provides me with a better understanding of the powered partners who share our waters. In some of the stories, I felt the reason for being “against the sea” was due to poor preparation or a disregard for the awesome and destructive capabilities of the sea. This was disturbing. Other stories demonstrate that in the world of boating . . . stuff happens. As boaters, we need to know our boats, equipment, navigation, and the other aspects of boating that make for safe passages. It’s a quick and adventurous read.
The Greatest Sailing Stories Ever Told, edited by Chris Caswell, consists of 27 stories (fiction and non-fiction) written by sailors. I felt more at home with this book, as the sailing mentality pervaded the book. I missed the brief summaries in the table of contents that was included in Against the Sea, however each story is introduced with a brief bio of the author and his/her relationship to sailing. The stories cover man’s love affair with sailing and the depths and relationship we sailors have with our boats and the sea. Written by the infamous, famous, and the not-so-famous, the time frame ranges from the days of the tall ships to the modern racing yachts of today. Stories include works from the pens of Tristan Jones, Joshua Slocum, C. S. Forrester, and Sterling Hayden. After reading the book, I was impressed by the collection of stories that Chris Caswell had pulled together. These sailing authors described many feelings I have experienced but was never able to put into words. In his introduction, Chris says he pictures the “readers of this book enjoying it in one of two places. The first is in a comfortable chair in front of a roaring fire and the second is tucked in a cozy pilot berth aboard a sailboat, with rain pattering on the deck and the smell of coffee on the galley stove.” My experience was that it was enjoyable in both places.
Great Adventure Stories: Against the Sea Edited by Louisa Rudeen (Hearst Books, 2001; 250 pages)