Most of us, I’m sure, have at least one edition of Chapman’s Piloting. I personally own two copies, a 51st edition and a 60th edition, both given to me as gifts when owning a boat was still a dream. They have proven to be excellent reference books, as I’m sure you realize, but there are a few drawbacks to Chapman’s: 1) If you try reading it from cover-to-cover it’s be a great cure for insomnia, but that’s not what it’s for. And 2) if you did try to read it at bedtime, it could cause minor injures because it’s so darned big. The information is useful to the point of being essential, but on Tortuga, my 26-foot Westerly Centaur, there isn’t much room to spare. Enter Seamanship Secrets by John Jamieson. Actually, the complete title is: Seamanship Secrets: 185 Tips & Techniques for Better Navigation, Cruise Planning, and Boat Handling Under Power or Sail.
At first I was a bit skeptical, wondering how John would fit all of that information into a paperback with only 326 pages, but he did. Simply put, the book could be considered a condensed version of Chapman’s, with 13 chapters on everything from how to read charts to diesel maintenance, reading tides and currents to understanding radar, basic marlinspike seamanship to . . . well, the list goes on. At the end of each chapter there’s a short “quiz,” if you will, entitled “Your Call, Skipper,” in which, “You’re the skipper or most knowledgeable crewmember on board. What actions would you take in the following situations?” You’re then presented with five scenarios relating to the chapter, followed by the best way to handle each situation from the author’s point of view. At the end of the book the author provides one appendix of “Useful Tables,” and another entitled “Additional Concepts and Formulas,” followed by a bibliography and an index, all pretty standard stuff for a book of this nature.
John freely acknowledges his gratitude to the people at Chapman’s, where he was on staff in their seamanship and chart navigation department. He also served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 23 years, so his credentials are quite impressive. Obviously the work isn’t as comprehensive as Chapman’s, but it isn’t meant to be and doesn’t profess to be, but you’ll definitely get a good bang for your buck. If you’re looking for a quick on-board reference guide or review, or if you want to brush up in the off-season, you would be hard-pressed to find something this comprehensive in such a small package.