Jeff Toghill has combined a lifetime of worldwide sailing (being an administrator and instructor at sailing and navigation schools) and vast experience as a maritime legal consultant to produce a comprehensive and valuable introduction to boat maintenance.

This book is especially attuned to someone very interested in working on boats but who may not have any previous experience in things mechanical or who may fall short of the description of craftsman, carpenter, or old salt. A key to this being an excellent book for this level of experience is the use of photographs. There is hardly a page without one, and many pages have two splendid photos illustrating a broad range of themes. Pictures of boats displaying typical or unusual features; detailed pictures of rigging, carpentry, fixtures, equipment, and procedures; pictures of boatowners, boatyard workers, sailors, and craftsmen fixing and using boats, hand tools, and power tools. Most photos show how to do something; some others (my favorites) show how not to do something. (Boatyard employees are not always safety conscious.)

The book starts out very basic: “Every boat is a box.” It proceeds with a straightforward discussion of construction materials and how to work with them. Even specific tool use is discussed, in case the reader is not familiar with common or specialty tools. Sails and rigging have their own chapters along with engines, electronics, underwater stuff, safety gear (what good is maintaining the boat if you wreck it or yourself?), and maintenance trouble spots.

The author takes each of these subjects to a high level of understanding, with enough details to reduce the fear of trying a do-it-yourself vessel repair, improvement, or installation. He stops at a point at which more understanding or experience is required and refers the reader to professional assistance. You go in, you do what you can, and get out – nobody gets hurt. The book finishes off with a chapter detailing several common boat projects (accompanied by the same terrific photos and technical illustrations) and the obligatory glossary.

All in all, Jeff Toghill has used his vast nautical experience to produce another clear, concise, and correct book (he has published more than five dozen) that prepares a solid foundation for a new boatowner, young sailor, or perhaps sailing spouse interested in messing about in boats. Did I mention the great pictures?

The Essential Boat Maintenance Manual by Jeff Toghill (Lyons Press, 2001; 288 pages)