Reviews From 2010

February 2010 Newsletter
April 2010 Newsletter
June 2010 Newsletter
August 2010 Newsletter
October 2010 Newsletter
December 2010 Newsletter

Serena to Sea Story II

by Mary Jane Hayes (Nautical Publishing Company, 2009; 200 pages; $24.95)
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minn.

The work of Mary Jane Hayes (magazine covers, photo spreads, and articles) has appeared dozens of times in the pages of Good Old Boat. Now she has published the book that explains how she captured those images and the significant cruising events that were her inspiration. Called Serena to Sea Story II, this book tracks the evolution of Mary Jane and her husband, Warren, as boatowners and East Coast cruisers starting in 1969.

Mary Jane has always had a gift of observation and a way with words. She was able to find the beauty and the humor in scenes around her and to capture each event in words and pictures so eloquently that others are transported there to share the experience. Over the years as the wife of an avid boater, Mary Jane has been blessed with a rich pageant of water scenes and shoreside activities to describe with her pen and camera. It breaks my heart to report that she died in early January soon after this book was published.

“Sea stories almost write themselves — that is if you’re receptive and have a pad and pen handy,” she tells her readers in this book. “All writers have an almost compulsive need to record. To see something clearly or to feel something deeply is to wish to express it. Whenever anything catches my eye, stirs my heart, or bubbles up from the subconscious, I write it down … Since the sea is the core of my husband’s heart and soul (after his family) and central to our relationship, it was inevitable that I would write about it.”

The things that stirred Mary Jane’s soul were the ordinary sights other sailors take for granted: “I love the sight of a sailboat romping by itself in a brisk breeze on an otherwise empty bay. I love still waters, endearing children, and their patient parents enjoying the myriad aspects of aquatics, and “old salts” with their weather-beaten visages and mischievous grins. Dogs of every description aboard any kind of vessel are a continual visual feast. So are dinghies, tethered willy-nilly at docks; the doughty forms of tugs and other workboats; and on it goes … the sea heaving up an endless procession of memorable and fascinating images to admire and record.”

If you’re an East Coast cruiser, like Mary Jane and Warren, you’ll particularly enjoy reading her descriptions of places you’ve visited as she sketched the highlights of their cruises in colorful detail: “Twilight descended on a Cuttyhunk bathed in peach and gold; sunset giving way to a night so calm and bright we might have been anchored in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.” Or “As if to make up for her misbehavior, Nature, in both Sakonnet Harbor and Westport, fashioned sunsets so splendid we would have liked to frame them and send them home as postcards.” Or “How we relished this cruising country! To the east, we knew, lay Falmouth, which had amazed us on a previous trip with its numbers of boats tucked into what was essentially a finger of water, so many large powerboats to either side of the harbor they seemed to face each other like the dancers in a reel.”

So, if you cherish the same cruising country … if you want inspiration that comes of seeing ordinary scenes made extraordinary and new … if you cherish cruising with a woman who had a magic touch for description, get the book and join Mary Jane and Warren as she reminisced on their adventures afloat.

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Fast Track to Sailing: Learn to Sail in Three Days

by Steve and Doris Colgate
(International Marine/McGraw Hill, 2009; 120 pages, $19.95)
Review by Bob Wood, Angola, N.Y.

Fast Track to Sailing is a large format softbound book that covers the wide spectrum of knowledge required for introducing students to sailing. The authors are internationally recognized for their Offshore Sailing School and professional expertise, with over forty years of instruction development. 

In ten chapters, complete with diagrams and photos, the techniques of sailing are shown and explained. Also included are introductions to right-of-way, navigation and seamanship.

It would be easy to relegate this book to the large selection of efforts already available, but it shouldn’t be. This one is decidedly different. 

For instance, this manual covers just the essentials. Learning to sail safely, comfortably and efficiently is the entire focus. Related subjects such as maintenance, tradition and etiquette are reserved for later training.

Also different is the exceptional clarity of the writing. Every concept, every maneuver, is so well explained that the average person can easily understand and accomplish the described step.

The book is a confidence builder. Information is discussed in a matter-of-fact style with the authors giving students credit for everyday knowledge. It is written to "you," not to a third-person stranger — a small but effective distinction.

Finally, this is an ideal standalone course. It is possible to purchase this book and learn independently how to sail a smaller boat. There are beginners who wouldn’t do that, preferring some hands-on instruction, but it is definitely possible.    

If there is a weak point, perhaps physical agility is not emphasized enough. Along with the skills, sailing still requires some balance, an ability to function on a rolling work surface. A minor point, but a new sailor should expect a moving environment where sure hands and anticipation of the boat’s action are essential.

I wish I had had this book fifty years and seven sailboats ago, rather than learning through my often-vivid mistakes. It is simply the single best source of basic sailing instruction I’ve seen. Steve and Doris Colgate are to be congratulated.

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Flotsam and Jetsam: The Collected Adventures, Opinions,
and Wisdom From a Life Spent Messing About in Boats

by Robb White, Breakaway Books, 2009; 568 pages, $19.95.
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, Ill.

I'm attempting to review this book in the same style it is written.

Those of you Good Ol’ Boat readers who listen to NPR may be aware of commentator Bailey White. Turns out she had a brother named Robb White who was a science teacher, a boatbuilder, a man who loved to marvel at the world, and a writer of prodigious talent. He lived down in the Georgia pine woods, just north of the Florida line near the Big Bend of the Gulf of Mexico, and he had a 65-year-long childhood, much of which he recorded in articles written for Messing About in Boats magazine and other places. His stories have been collected by his wife Jane into this book, Flotsam and Jetsam.

He writes in long, rambling sentences that have a tendency to veer off in odd directions and use peculiar words, kind of like you’d expect a man from rural Georgia to write, except that he knew a thing or two about a thing or two — he will use the local name, the “Yankee” name, and the scientific Latin name for whatever bit of local flora and fauna he’s discussing. When talking about making a tin canoe, he uses the correct jargon to describe the construction.

I need to take a minute to describe the construction of a tin canoe. They were made from one sheet of “five V crimp,” obtained from the roof of a chicken house, and shaped by laying it on a nice fluffy lawn and stomping it with bare feet until it looks sort of like an 1890's battleship. The balance between beam and freeboard is real tricky. If made too narrow, it will be so tippy you won’t be able to get settled before it turns over. If made too wide, it won’t have enough freeboard and will sink quickly to the bottom.

But I digress. White’s essays into boats (sail and power) outboard motors, weather, island living, anchoring, the ecology of the Florida Bend country, children, fish, ducks, and hurricanes are both entertaining and educational. Although much of the book involves powerboats, there are some tales of voyages under sail: “Naked Woman Inlet,” “The Time We Almost Lost the Chicken Feed Skiff,” and “Po Boy Bahama Trip,” in which we learn that lee shores off of poor holding anchorages are good places to look for salvageable boat parts.

This is the kind of book which will make you an annoyance to others in your vicinity as you quote cute descriptions, bizarre events, and bits of philosophy at them. In that spirit I leave you with this: “If your boat ain’t too pretty to walk away from without turning for another look, you ain’t getting all the goody out of life.” Read this one and save me the trouble of quoting it to you.

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Twinkle Toes and the Riddle of the Lake

by Susan Peterson Gateley (Ariel Associates/Whiskey Hill Press, 2009; 230 pages; $15.95)
Review by Henry Rodriguez
Mound, Minn.

Twinkle Toes and the Riddle of the Lake is a book written by a cat. Don’t let that put you off; this cat is not a bad writer. A quick Google search shows that quite a few cats have taken to writing, though not all were as successful as this one. This appears to be a children’s book but it has much to recommend it to adults. It is a great book to read aloud to your school-age kids or grandkids. The story will keep them interested while at the same time educating both reader and listener about the perils facing our Great Lakes.

As mentioned, Twinkle Toes and the Riddle of the Lake is written from the perspective of the real author’s cat Twinkle Toes. Twink, her mother Dusty, and her cousin Miss Piggy are landlubbers all. They hate the idea of cruising in a small sailboat. Nevertheless, they are shanghaied aboard Skipper Sue’s 23' wooden yacht,Ariel, for a cruise across Lake Ontario. They soon figure out that the fastest way home is to solve the mystery of where the lake’s eels have gone. To do that, they have to sail to the lake’s most remote island, Main Duck. The cats have a number of adventures on the way and learn a lot about the history of the lake from various characters they meet.

Part 1 of this book is the fact-based novel told from the perspective of the cats. It includes a glossary of nautical terms as well as diagrams of the boats involved. Part 2, an extensive appendix called "Skipper Sue’s Notebook,"contains a number of environmental and historical articles. Included are short chapters on subjects as diverse as slaves and the Underground Railroad, eels, ship ballast, and territorial swans.

Twinkle Toes is a good read for children, parents, and anyone interested in the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Ontario. It has enough action to keep youthful readers interested while giving valuable insights into the history and ecology of the lake.

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Wild Beauty: A visual Exploration of BC

by Al Harvey (Heritage House, 2009; 128 pages; $26.95)
Review by Durkee Richards
Sequim, Wash.

This book is well named. Those of us who have fallen in love with cruising the coast of British Columbia are in awe of its wild beauty. We boaters skirt the headlands, explore the inlets, and sometimes prowl a short ways up one of the great river systems. This book shows mariners how much more grandeur awaits in the interior. So much more, that perhaps we should let our boats rest easy in their slips for a while and go explore a portion of the interior.

Al Harvey is a remarkably talented photographer, and it is his images that will draw people to this book. The book is organized into three major sections: Mountains, Rivers, and Shorelines. There is an introductory four-page Overview which helps orient the reader to the geography, peoples, and history of British Columbia. This overall organization works well. Starting with “Mountains” allows Al Harvey to lead off with some of his most stunning images. It is the glaciers and snowfields of the mountain ranges that give rise to the rivers, which in turn take one down to the shoreline.

Each of the major sections includes its own short introduction that highlights key features. Intermixed among the photographs of the section is informative, descriptive text. This material can help readers plan an exploratory trip to a region that particularly appeals to them.

Al Harvey has spent much of his life exploring BC: backpacking through the mountain ranges, rafting the rivers, and sea-kayaking along the shorelines. Most of the photographs selected for this book originated during those outings. In addition, he has included images captured from the air. His love of this country shows clearly in this work. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in the “wild beauty” of wilderness areas in general, and of British Columbia in particular.

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A Cruising Cook’s Guide To Mexico:
Essential Provisioning & Cooking Tips
for Cruising the Mexican Coast

by Heather Stockard (Seaworthy Publications, Inc., 2008; 196 pages; $24.95)
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury
Moreno Valley, Calif.

“My goal . . . to help you learn to shop for food in Mexico . . .prepare delicious meals using locally available ingredients . . . learn how to adapt your own recipes to use Mexican ingredients.”
 --Author Heather Stockard

A Cruising Cook’s Guide To Mexico is much more than a cookbook. In fact, you won’t find the recipe section until you get to page 74. What you will find is one of the most complete and up-to-date provisioning guides ever published for those cruising the Mexican coast.

Heather relies on vast personal experience — three years of sailing the Pacific coast of Mexico with her husband aboard Legacy, a Saga 43 — and she thoroughly shares that abundant knowledge with her readers, in an easy-to -navigate format. But while she reveals all she knows, she also encourages would-be cruisers to use the information only as a guide, personalizing their experience based on their own cooking preferences.

The author’s conversational writing style draws readers in from the first page. You will feel as if you are sitting and chatting with Heather — not reading a book. Her goal is to take the guesswork out of provisioning for those cruising Pacific Mexico. Two tips she shares: 1) don’t believe everything you are told about what to take, and 2) you are not likely going to change the way you eat entirely, just because you’re cruising.

In “General Provisioning Tips” she advises future cruisers on a multitude of topics, including cash and currency, the variety of grocery stores available and what to expect, safe food and water, and the most useful items to have onboard.

Find out what foods and ingredients are available, along with their Spanish translation, where they can be found, and ideas for preparation in the section titled: “Ingredients and Cooking Terms.”

“Things to Bring From the U.S.” and “Substitutions, Conversions and Rules of Thumb” are two chapters you will want to be sure to read before leaving home. Knowing what to take and what’s available once you get there can make life a whole lot easier. Why overload your boat if you don’t need to — or do without if you can bring it along? And once you are happily cruising, you will still be able to prepare your favorite recipes, even if you run out of your usual ingredient, by utilizing one of the tried-and-true substitutions listed. Extremely helpful is the exchange rate chart on page 52, converting pesos to American dollars.

Stockard provides information on Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Santa Rosalia, Puerto Vallarta, and numerous other port cities and small villages you may visit, including the VHF channels used, transportation offered onshore, types of stores and foods available, and more in the “Local Provisioning Information” chapter.

The recipe section is another book inside a book and includes appetizers, beverages, and raft-up food; make-ahead main dishes and favorite main dish recipes; soups, salads, and side dish recipes; bread and breakfast recipes; dessert, sauce, condiment, and topping recipes.

Prepare “Tuna Pate” or “Warm Artichoke and Chile Dip” for your next raft-up. Enjoy a “Cranberry Cooler” or “Sunbreak Mango Margarita” on deck after a day of sailing, followed by a delicious pre-prepared dish of “Shrimp Paella” or “Easy Baja-Style Fish Tacos.” How about a thick wedge of “Triple Chocolate Rum Cake” for dessert? Still hungry? You’ll find nearly 170 recipes to choose from.

A Cruising Cook’s Guide To Mexico would be a great addition to any cruiser’s galley or boat-book library.

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Sustainable Sailing: Go Green When You Cast Off

by Dieter Loibner (Sheridan House, 2009; 210 pages; $24.95)
Review by Bob Wood
Angola, N.Y.

Sustainable Sailing is a wake-up call for the boating community of incipient disaster. Steadily eroding our watery world are pollution and disappearing resources. The disaster is an apocalyptic echo of political cartoonist Walt Kelly's proclamation, "We have met the enemy . . . and he is us."

This book chronicles, with numbing detail, the nautical history of our misuse, our current overuse, and the stark potential future of non-use. It also offers shimmering alternatives that could slow or even reverse our future's unraveling.

Dieter reminds us of the famous moment in the film, “The Graduate,” when Mr. McGuire's advice was, "…There's a great future in plastics." The idea symbolized progress 30 years ago but its unchecked advocacy has become today's ecological suicide.

Using data and statistics, the author has carefully documented our plight. Fiberglass boat construction requires a massive carbon footprint. The amount of oil needed to produce a 30-foot hull and liner is staggering. At the same time, thousands of boats that are no longer used are clogging the waterways. Recycling solutions are obvious.

For the sake of convenience, we often use fossil fuels to hasten passages, heat our cabins, and cook our meals. These same precious fuels are used in the manufacturing of boat interiors, tanks, sails, and much of our clothing.

First impressions from reading Sustainable Sailing can be shock and hopelessness. Is pleasure boating already extinction-bound and are we blind to the tragedy? A cautiously different answer might be, “Perhaps not.” Instead, we must change.

In ways big and small, our focus must change. Change to enjoying the purity of traditional sailing, with motors reserved for clearing marinas and maneuvering. Change to reincarnating unused boats and equipment rather than longing for the shiniest and newest. We must embrace “green technology” and environmental stewardship to prevent and reverse the direction of our waters becoming toxic waste.

Brace yourself: Sustainable Sailing is a bucket of cold reality. Pollution and consumption, in our planet's environment, will taper off until equilibrium is reached; that is scientific fact. Whether sailing still exists when it's reached depends entirely on our choice to preserve or squander. More to the point, it is our inevitable fate.

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Every Boat Turns South

by J. P. White (The Permanent Press, 2009; 240 pages; $28.00.)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
Antigo, Wisc.

J. P. White is an accomplished writer whose work has appeared in over 100 publications in the past 30 years. He also has four anthologies of poetry to his credit, the earliest in 1978, the most recent in 2001. Every Boat Turns South is his first novel. The story takes place in the 1980s when Matt Younger returns to his parents’ home in Florida after wandering around the Caribbean, primarily the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, as a delivery captain.

Along the way he meets some pretty unsavory characters and ends up paying a hefty price for his wayward lifestyle. Through a series of flashbacks, Matt tells Skip, his dying father, where he’s been for the past several years. While Matt’s Caribbean experience is the focal point of the story, we also learn about the family’s earlier adventures on Lake Erie when Matt and his older brother, Hale, were kids, how the family came to Florida in Pirate’s Penny, a 40-foot sloop that Skip had built, and how Matt became a vagabond after the death of Hale, the family’s golden child.

Without giving away too much of the story, the circumstances surrounding Hale’s death foreshadow Matt’s life as he relates it to Skip as he lies on his deathbed. All the while Matt and his mother, Emily, keep each other at arm’s length, he out of guilt, she out of disappointment.

As I read through Every Boat Turns South I was struck by the vibrant imagery, but once I went online and found out that White is an accomplished poet it all fell into place. His character development and descriptive narrative are skillfully done, and the reader feels like he’s along for the ride, rather than a mere spectator. His portrayal of the Bahamas and Dominican Republic are believable enough to discourage anyone from getting too far off the beaten path for fear of who or what they’ll run into, although I imagine, or at least I hope, that things have improved in the 20 or so years since the story takes place.

If you’re in the market for some light reading that moves quickly, and you’re not easily offended by graphic language, Every Boat Turns South definitely has something to offer. It would fill a few quiet evenings at anchor with a story that’s well paced, has plenty of colorful characters, and enough intrigue to keep the reader involved from start to finish.

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The DeWire Guide to Lighthouses of the Pacific Coast, 2nd edition

by Elinor DeWire (PARADISE CAY PUBLICATIONS, 2010; 292 PAGES; $19.95)
Review by Lewis Keizer
Aromas, Calif.

Why haven’t lighthouses faded into obsolescence like RACON and LORAN? Because everybody loves lighthouses, and Elinor DeWire shows us why — not just tells, but shows, with attractive full-color and archival photos on nearly every page, plus diagrams and historical lighthouse log entries. Elinor (<http://www.elinordewire.com>), who has researched and written guidebooks to every one of our nation’s historical lighthouses, writes compellingly about lighthouse ghosts, pets, gardens, and the devoted men and women who kept the lights burning and the steam engines turning to drive their huge foghorns. Many keepers were women, such as the amazing Emily Fish of the Point Pinos Lighthouse on the rocky Southern point of Monterey Bay. She not only scrubbed the inevitable mess of bird droppings from the windows surrounding the massive Fresnel lens, but was a beloved Monterey socialite who held tea gatherings at her lighthouse home and always dressed fashionably even when weeding her garden.

Then there were the brave seamen who manned the old lightships, like the Columbia off the Columbia River Bar in Oregon. The lightships were painted with red topsides and, while equipped with powerful anchors, they had wholly inadequate propulsion. When the Columbia broke free in a November storm in 1899 she was unable to maneuver, landed on the rocks at Cape Disappointment, and was given up for lost. But an enterprising house mover from Portland employed teams of horses and a railway to salvage her and eventually put her back into service.

Elinor’s look at the lighthouses of California, Oregon, and Washington takes you on a journey from San Diego to the San Juan Islands, but it is not a dry reference book like a Coast Pilot. It has the copious illustrations and graphics of a coffee-table book, telephone and contact numbers in a sidebar for each lighthouse like a tourist guidebook, and fascinating sections about lighthouse history and personalities that read like short stories. You can read it from cover to cover like a novel, then keep it for reference when you get a chance to visit one of the historic lighthouses — some of which are maintained by private non-profits, others by park agencies. Today they function as fully automated aids to navigation, but also serve as museums, bed-and-breakfasts, and hostels. Elinor DeWire’s book will inspire you to visit them!

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George Washington’s Great Gamble and
the Sea Battle That Won the American Revolution

by James L. Nelson (McGraw-Hill, 2010; 376 pages; $26.95)
Review by William Hammond
Golden Valley, Minnesota

There are those who to this day insist that the United States was born by an act of divine intervention. How else, such people argue, could a ragtag band of farmers, silversmiths and shopkeepers prevail against the mightiest military the world had ever known?

A compelling view to such speculation is provided by James L. Nelson’s well-researched account of the final months of the American Revolution, a time when rebel enthusiasm for the Glorious Cause was clearly on the wane. America desperately needed a victory on land, and she desperately needed French control of the sea to ensure that victory.

Unsuccessful in its campaigns in the North, in 1780 the British High Command settled on a “southern strategy.” At the core of this strategy lay the assumption that living in Georgia and the Carolinas were legions of Tories loyal to King George who would flock to his banner if offered the opportunity. Once Lord Charles Cornwallis had subdued the Carolinas, he could march north, conquer Virginia, and restore the entire South to the British Empire.

However, as Mr. Nelson points out with an intriguing blend of cutting edge analysis and commentary sprinkled with a delightful dose of dry wit, there were several problems with this strategy. First, while there may have been numerous Tories living in the South, precious few of them were willing to spill their blood for the British king. And second, Cornwallis’s superior, Sir Henry Clinton, was in New York, many miles away, and the two generals had little use for each other. Both wrote to American Secretary Germaine in London rather than to each other, and Germaine’s views of the war were almost child-like in their naivete and optimism.

After a series of battles in the Carolinas produced no conclusive outcomes, Cornwallis finally marched north into Virginia. There, a perilous game of chess was being played between British and American forces, each side jockeying for position between the Virginia capes and the capital of Richmond. Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, le Comte de Rochambeau had landed in Newport with a French army and le Comte de Barras had sailed in with a fleet of battle cruisers. From the West Indies le Comte de Grasse wrote General Washington that he would be sailing with a far greater naval force for the Chesapeake, where he would remain until the end of hurricane season.

As Mr. Nelson writes, “Finally the stars were beginning to align to make a decisive victory possible.” Washington, who had long favored a siege of New York, now suddenly changed strategy and ordered his ragged Continentals and the superbly uniformed French army on a forced march to the Chesapeake. 

What happened next was a checkmate for the ages. Cornwallis’s army was defeated at Yorktown, but it was a victory made possible by yet another shocking wave of British blunders in an epic sea battle fought between de Grasse and Adm. Sir Thomas Graves.

The benevolence of a divine providence? You decide, but not until you have read this gripping and superbly written account of the facts at hand.

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Adventures in the Trade Wind

by Richard Dey (Offshore Press, 2009; 329 pages; $22.99)
Review by James Williams
Daytona Beach, Fla.

This is the story of pioneer charter-boat captain, Morris Nicholson, and of yacht chartering in the Caribbean since World War II. It is an incredibly rich topic, sure to attract sailors and wanna-be sailors alike. I have read many West Indies cruising guides, new and old, and a dozen or more cruising memoirs (the best: An Embarrassment of Mangoes) and know well Ed Hamilton’s web site historical sketches of the British Virgin Islands’ charter story <www.ed-hamilton.com/charter-connection-Pastfeatures/history/history2005.05.html>, yet Nicholson’s story, as told by Richard Dey, is the most complete I’ve found. It is also one of the most frustrating.

Morris, a young lad running off to sea, answers a call in Britain to purchase a share of a 60-year old 80-foot wooden ketch and join other adventurers in taking it round the world. They made it to Spain, Morocco, the Canaries, and across the Atlantic to Martinique, where the conniving Captain went ashore and sold the boat out from under them. Marooned in the Caribbee, Morris made the best of it. He got passage to Castries, St. Lucia, and found work with another English émigré, mechanic and craftsman Bert Ganter. Morris ran boats for Ganter, helped get his marina at Vigie Cove organized, and became acquainted with charter yachts out of English Harbour, Antigua, which came regularly to Vigie Cove to have work done. He became acquainted with Gus and Jane Koven, who were building Eleuthera II, a 60-foot ketch, in Germany. Morris became her skipper for over thirty years, helping outfit her, and sailing her with the Kovens from Bremen, Germany, to the Med for a year, and eventually to St. Lucia.

The Kovens increasingly booked charters for Eleuthera, and Morris was kept busy after 1956 sailing well-to-do Americans around the Caribbean. This early chartering centered on English Harbour, Antigua, where retired British naval commander Vernon E.B. Nicholson and his family (no relation to Morris) had started a charter business with their 70-foot schooner Mollihawk in 1949. They soon had a flotilla of charter yachts, skippered and owner-operated, sailing out of English Harbour. Eleuthera was based for a couple of years there as a member of the Nicholson charter fleet, and in 1959 Morris won the first yacht Antigua yacht race — officially the “Guadalupe Channel Race” — which morphed into the now-famous Antigua Race Week the following year.

Adventures in the Trade Wind takes readers on a sprawling passage through the post-World War II West Indies. Landfall is made at Grenada, Trinidad, Panama, the Windwards and Leewards, Cuba, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands and more — the breadth of the Caribbean. I found myself immersed in the flavor of the region and its people, intrigued by a very good history of bareboat chartering in the Virgin Islands, yet annoyed by the telling of it all. Quite simply, Dey has not mastered how to tell someone else’s story, for his voice and that of Morris Nicholson collide repeatedly and convolute the tale. Too often Dey is rambling and distracted. In the chapter “Out of Bequia,” for example, he splices together seemingly unconnected vignettes – a rogue wave incident, Morris’s search to find the bones of Enid, the yacht that originally brought him to Martinique, and an observation on smuggling — all quite separate from the meat of the chapter — bareboat chartering in the Virgin Islands. And, when one goes to the index to try and locate places, people, and events you know are contained in this jumbled landscape, they as often as not are not to be found.

All this said, however, Richard Dey has assembled a vast amount of material from his interviews with Morris Nicholson and from his wide reading. His bibliography is an excellent starting point for digging further, and his chapter notes, though few in number, contain gems of information. It is a book you’ll pick up again, despite any aggravations you might find with it, because it is a heartfelt and truly rich story.

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Fiberglass Boat Repairs Illustrated

by Roger Marshall (International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 2010; 184 pages; $24.95)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
Antigo, Wisc.

Admittedly, I’m not what you’d call a “hands-on” kind of guy. But in the eight or so years that I’ve owned Tortuga, my 1969 Westerly Centaur, I’ve become handier than I ever thought I’d be, and I’ve enjoyed working on my boat more than I ever imagined I would. Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks; it just takes a little longer. I’ve done some minor fiberglass repairs on my boat, and have several books on the subject, but when I was asked to review Roger Marshall’s Fiberglass Boat Repairs Illustrated, I thought it couldn’t hurt to have another resource. I wish I’d had this book a few years ago.

Fiberglass Boat Repairs Illustrated is made for guys like me. There are nine chapters in all, covering everything from cosmetic repairs like gelcoat restoration and repair and renewing non-skid surfaces, to identifying and repairing major structural damage to hulls, keels, rudders, decks, etc. And each chapter has plenty of high-quality color photos worth tens of thousands of words that will make almost any job at least seem less daunting than one would imagine. For example, chapters 1 and 3, “How Fiberglass Boats Are Built” and “Materials, Tools, and Basic Techniques Used,” respectively, are practically encyclopedic. Both chapters clearly show-and-tell materials, tools, safety equipment, procedures, and various products from a variety of suppliers, including WEST System, Interlux, MAS Epoxies, and System Three, to name a few. Marshall also explains the different applications of each item and its cost effectiveness dependent upon that application. In short, he’s taken a lot of the guesswork out of what to use, and when and where to use it. I think the two chapters should have been run sequentially, but that’s a minor detail that won’t detract in any way from the usefulness of the book. The remaining chapters give detailed descriptions, and more of those photos, of any kind of repair job you’re likely to run into.

Fiberglass Boat Repairs Illustrated is a comprehensive, easy-to-use reference for anyone who owns a fiberglass boat, be it sail or motor. We never know what we’ll have to repair, and this could prove to be an almost indispensable resource. No matter what books you may already have on the subject, I believe that if you were to invest in a copy of Fiberglass Boat Repairs Illustrated you would not be disappointed.

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The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon: And 101 Other Things
for Young Mariners to Build, Try, and Do on the Water

by David Seidman and Jeff Hemmel (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, 2010; 272 pages; $24.95)
Review by Ashley More, Age 12
Shorewood, Ill.

I would recommend the book The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon: And 101 Other Things for Young Mariners to Build, Try, and Do on the Water to kids 12 and even up to adults who have experienced or like sailing or being on the water. This book covers many of the safety skills needed on the water, including how to escape a rip current, weather safety, rescues, sun calculations, taking boating safety exams, and many more. It would also be helpful for kids interested in being around or in a water sport like paddling a canoe, learning to waterski and barefoot waterski, and sea kayaking. Another way this book is helpful is the lesson on how to tie knots. This skill would be handy on any boat. I would recommend this book because of the fun projects to make, like making a paddle, rope swing, boat, weather glass, and many more. The fun facts in the book are very interesting and information that most kids don't know. 

The only thing I did not like was that it was hard to pick up and read from cover to cover in one sitting. This book would be a great resource to find out information on boating fun. I also wanted to do the projects on my boat but we did not have all of the supplies on hand. I am planning on continuing to read this book as a resource and as I want to look up information on water activities.

Thank you very much for allowing me to read and review this interesting book. I enjoyed the opportunity to read it this summer while on my boat.

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Maxing Out: Red Sea Chronicles

(Maxing Out Media, 2008; 82 minutes, DVD; $19.95 plus $5.00 shipping and handling in the U.S. and Canada; $19.95 plus $10.00 shipping and handling international. See: <http://www.maxingout.com>.)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
Antigo, Wisconsin

Maxing Out; Red Sea Chronicles is a homemade documentary that follows the Abbot family as they sail from Salalah, Oman, through the Gulf of Aden to Bab el Mandeb (Gate of Sorrows) where they enter the Red Sea, and then north to Port Said, Egypt, on the Mediterranean. Dave Abbot is the captain of their 39-foot catamaran, Exit Only, and a retired eye surgeon who spent eleven years working in Saudi Arabia while dreaming of sailing around the world with his family. Dave, his wife Donna, their son David, and his wife Sarah sailed from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to Oman where this adventure begins. As they sail up the Red Sea they share many of the sights and sounds of this exotic region, dodge pirates, wait out weather, and tour some of the oldest sites of civilization in the world, many of which we’ve all read about in history books as kids, and see today in contemporary news media.

There are moments when the viewer may think they’re watching home movies, but David, the chief videographer and editor, does a good job of keeping things from becoming too (for lack of a better word) schmaltzy. The overall quality of the piece is such that it can be seen in short segments on Bob Bitchin’s TV show Latitudes and Attitudes. In addition to the 82 minutes of travelogue, like most DVDs there are over 40 minutes of special features that include information on cruising in a catamaran, some useful things to know if you plan on cruising in the Red Sea, boat management in stormy weather, and more.
 
Like many others, when I was much younger I would fantasize about sailing around the world. But, also like many others, as the years went by that dream was tempered and now I spend summers cruising the Great Lakes, which is pretty cool in and of itself. However, while watching this I found that those old dreams are being stirred up out of the silt at the bottom of the slow moving river of time. I dare say that Maxing Out; Red Sea Chronicles could have the same effect on anyone else who has ever put a similar dream on hold.

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For Love of Country

by William Hammond (Naval Institute Press), 2010; 256 pages; $29.95)
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minn.

Bill Hammond and Richard Cutler, the hero of his historical naval series of novels, have done it again in Bill’s second book, For Love of Country. This book begins tracking the activities of the Cutler family just after the end of the American War for Independence.

Because it is a young country lacking resources and international respect — and a navy — the merchant ships of the United States are harassed by the British and other countries, including the Barbary States of North Africa. The British prevent the Americans from trading freely with Great Britain’s colonies by boarding and impounding American merchant vessels. The Barbary States take ships and sailors as hostages (ever wonder about the origin of the word barbaric?) and demand exorbitant ransoms for their release.

Meanwhile, the revolution in France is underway and the sugar islands of the West Indies are hotly contested by the empires of France and England.

Richard Cutler and members of his family are, quite naturally, involved in this political stew, as they own merchant ships trade in the West Indies, United States, and Europe. To further personalize the situation for the family, Richard’s brother, Caleb, serves as a foretopman on a Cutler merchantman seized by Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean.

Richard gains Congressional approval (and the use of family funds) to operate as an American agent in Algiers to secure the release of Caleb’s ship and crew. Thus the stage is set for Richard Cutler to once again take the reader to many of the political hot spots of the times, from an encounter with Captain Horatio Nelson in Antigua, to a stopover in Gibraltar, to Algiers and on to France as the revolutionary fuse is being lit. There he meets with the Marquis de Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson, and Captain John Paul Jones.

There are a few thrilling chase scenes, some not-so-chaste sex, and excellent dialogue. Bill Hammond is a master historical researcher and author. It’s wonderful to see the Cutler Family Chronicles receiving the acclaim it deserves. There are several more books on his drawing board. We will all be enriched as he brings history to life by making the people of the times heroes and fond friends. If you haven’t read A Matter of Honor, the first book in this series, start there before you move on to For Love of Country. You’ll be glad you did.

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An Illustrated Cruising Guide to the Great Loop Inland Waterway:
Chicago to Mobile (Volume 1: Chicago to Paducah, Kentucky

by Mark and Diana Doyle, semi-local publications LLC; <http://www.managingthewaterway.com>; 2010; 168 pages; $49.95)
Review by Cyndi Perkins
Houghton, Mich.

Managing the Waterway authors Mark and Diana Doyle were intercepted by inland waterway patrols for “suspicious behavior” aboard their 22-foot pilothouse C-Dory while creating this new and improved addition to the popular cruising guide series. Questions raised by leisurely wending, inexplicable weaving, and close-up picture-taking in and around the channels are answered in this exhaustively comprehensive, well-illustrated volume that is actually three guides within a guide: a preparation and planning section that contains fascinating natural and historical highlights and river trivia; a mile-by-mile cruising guide; and an annotated chart guide for the 580-mile transit of the Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio rivers from Chicago, Illinois, to Paducah, Kentucky. Organized with a nod to Maslow’s "Hierarchy of Needs," the Doyles proceeded on the premise of working up the “Cruiser’s Triangle,” prioritizing safety first, followed by planning and, finally, appreciation of natural and man-made resources along the journey.  

Issued just in time for the yearly migration of snowbirds and America’s Great Loopers, Volume 1 is the debut of enhancements in design, including color icons that allow for quick location of marinas, anchorages and other essentials. Guide favorites, including a top-of-each-page “heads-up” list of vital safety info such as upcoming locks, bridges, and barge-fleeting areas, remain a staple. Of particular note are the “documentary-style” photos liberally sprinkled throughout, which are extremely helpful to mariners in visually identifying approaches to the correct facility or landmark while piloting the often deceptive rivers.

The lay-flat spiral-bound, 168-page, three-pound guide includes 180 GPS waypoints, 548 photos and illustrations, 182 bridge and lock listings, and 309 websites and phone numbers.

As the Doyle's note, “The best way to outwit chart gaps and discrepancies is to use several different sources of cartography. Use paper and electronic, raster and vector, and government and private. Most important, keep an eye on the water!” The seven official chart books covering the route from Chicago, Illinois, to Mobile, Alabama, while essential, are dauntingly primitive due to the nature of the rivers. Season-to-season, sometimes hour-to-hour, depth levels fluctuate, buoys drown, currents vary, and lock/bridge schedules are altered. To assist in immediate tracking of changing conditions, each geographic region in the MTW series, including the new Chicago to Paducah guide, is now updated using Twitter feeds via e-mail, Web, RSS feed or SMS text. Finally, a valid reason to Tweet!

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The Blue Book of Sailing: The 22 Keys to Sailing Mastery

by Adam Cort, (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, 2009; 264 pages; $19.95)
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury
Moreno Valley, Calif.

Like angle of sail, the wind — its strength, its direction, the way it’s trending — should always be in the back of a sailor’s mind. - Adam Cort

Whether you are already an experienced blue-water cruiser, expert racer, sail for pleasure or are just learning to sail, reading The Blue Book of Sailing will have you looking and thinking about sailing in a whole new way.

According to the author, Adam Cort, when you know your boat and how it responds to different conditions, you are able to plan ahead and know what actions to take. This may seem simplistic. Believe me, it is not. So many topics are covered in The Blue Book of Sailing, and in such a comprehensive manner, that you will want to keep a copy on your bookshelf for future reference.

Cort’s goal is to “bridge the gap between basic sailing skills and true sailing knowledge.” He accomplishes this by taking us chapter by chapter, beginning with basic sailing maneuvers such as tacking, jibing and points of sail — and in 22 chapters he unveils the keys to sailing mastery.

He begins with "Knowing the Angles" of sail, called point of sail. Know if you are on a run, reach, beam reach or close reach. Detailed descriptions and easy-to-read illustrations set up a great general knowledge base for all that follows.

In "Getting to Where You Want to Go" you will jibe, sail downwind, sail windward and even zigzag. Then you will find out "How to See The Wind." Cort advises to sail without a wind indicator to develop your skills and look around — the wind is not really invisible.

The author explains in "Catching the Wind" that sails are more intricate in design than airplane wings. In fact, both sides of a sail work in unison in powering a boat through the water.

How do your keel and rudder come into play when "Steering with Your Sails"? Find out all the facts when it comes to getting centered, resistance, balance and heel and you will know instinctively how to steer with your sails.

Read on — "The Anatomy of a Knot" and "Docking Under Sail and Power" chapters offer a multitude of information on the best knots to use on our lines and sheets and step-by-step directions for docking.

Why are boats designed differently? The chapter "Sail Plans and Lines Drawings" gives readers the opportunity to study in-depth illustrations and details on boat rigging, sterns and hulls and discover the answer — and why they do what they do. Then follow up with "Keels, Rudders and Other Hull Features" and learn how different shapes affect speed, comfort and resilience.

The Blue Book of Sailing also covers why sails are shaped like triangles, boat speed, why sailboats don’t tip over (usually), and even the basic question of why we sail.

Do you want to become more than what Cort calls a “practiced novice?” Reading The Blue Book of Sailing will definitely take your sailing to a new level.

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The Galley: How Things Work

by Donald Launer (Sheridan House, 2009; 112 pages; $17.95)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minn.

The short version of this review? Buy the book. It is comprehensive. Applicable. Balanced. Informative. Understandable. 

If you prefer further details, read on. 

Author Donald Launer tells readers that The Galley: How Things Work is not the typical galley book. No recipes; few references to food at all. This book is about “the infrastructure of a boat galley.” Launer then proceeds, over the next 100 pages, to do a dynamite job of detailing equipment available for galleys, how the stuff works, installation requirements for said stuff, and suggestions — all in a basic, comfortable-to-read framework.

A hundred pages. Fifty-five illustrations covering everything from accumulators to electric instantaneous no-tank water heaters, along with concrete examples of the author’s own schooner. Launer is frank, supporting his recommendations with facts. He is clear about the drawbacks of equipment or installation procedures, but presents all options. The pros and cons are laid out, along with specific “what happens if” examples. Once Launer has made clear the disadvantages, he puts just as much effort into describing how to make it work if a person is sold on it. With all equipment and procedures, he weighs the materials available and their cost, the installation cost and the life expectancy of the setup.

When he says that boaters “should” install a particular piece of equipment, he explains clearly why he considers it to be critical. He often identifies certain subsections of boaters who need particular items and why. He may then go on to explain why it is good for everyone to have it aboard, but again, he doesn’t push.

Launer’s suggestions are both eclectic and practical:

  • The freshest source for diesel for stoves is likely the gas station.
  • Stores catering to the RV crowd carry a wider variety of 12-volt galley appliances and are cheaper to boot.
  • Maple cutting boards are safer than plastic. (Don’t believe it? Read the book.)
  • Solid fuel includes pine cones.
  • Cell phones and curing fiberglass can trigger carbon monoxide detectors.

The long version of this review? Buy the book.

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