Reviews From 2015

February 2015 Newsletter
April 2015 Newsletter June 2015 Newsletter
August 2015 Newsltter October 2015 Newsletter December 2015 Newsletter

Jack Tar and the Baboon Watch: A Guide to Curious Nautical Knowledge
for Landlubbers and Sea Lawyers Alike

by Captain Frank Lanier (International Marine/McGraw-Hill Education, 2015, 194 Pages, $16.00 paperback/$9.49 digital)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minnesota

Jack Tar and the Baboon Watch is quirky, informative and fun — a great reference for those who love the water and those who stay ashore. Subtitled A Guide to Curious Nautical Knowledge for Landlubbers and Sea Lawyers Alike, Captain Frank Lanier's book is a collection of unusual nautical "memorabilia."

Lanier began collecting nautical-related material early in his U.S. Coast Guard career and continued on for more than two decades. He explored ships' logs, sea stories, books on nautical folklore, maritime references, and "first-hand accounts of seafarers from pirates to whalers." The information he has compiled includes nautical trivia, phrases, word origins, superstitions, myths, and little-known facts. Along with all that information comes a comprehensive bibliography and index.

Frank says there are plenty of nautical trivia books that give the definition of a chock or tell how many feet are in a fathom. He likens his book, instead, to a nautical Ripley's Believe It or Not! and its slogan of "everything odd, weird, and unbelievable." It's a fine description for the Captain's own handbook.

Selections are arranged in alphabetical order. Some are only a sentence or two long, such as "To Get Spliced," which is a nautical term for marriage. Another example of a shorter entry is "Jaw Tackle" — the mouth. To cast off one's jaw tackle meant to talk too much. Then there's "Grog Blossom," the red nose on a man who "drinks ardent spirits to excess."

Longer selections include "Pirates For Higher Education," "Pitcairn Island," "The Seven – Er – Fourteen Seas" and "Making The Crossing by Rail."

This isn't the kind of book to be completed in one reading. It is to be sampled, perhaps over coffee in the morning, over sundowners, or even — is it tasteless to suggest? — in the head. Jack Tar and the Baboon Watch would be great at any gathering of nautical folk.

(A baboon watch, by the way, is standing watch during a ship's port call, thereby not having the opportunity to go ashore, and a Jack Tar is a sailor. You'll need to read the book to find out why.)

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Osprey Summer: A Very American Experience

by Sandra Clayton (Sandra Clayton, 2014; 244 pages, $13.95paperback, $4.99 digital)
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury
Port Ludlow, Washington

Number four in Sandra Clayton's Voyageur Series, Osprey Summer reads like a logbook and chronicles Sandra's and her husband's journey along the United States Atlantic Coast. Her account is intricately detailed and there are chapters for each of the states explored, beginning with Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina and heading north to Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and everything in between. Readers will find maps of the East Coast areas cruised, and a glossary of sailing terms is also conveniently included.

Aboard Voyager, a 40-foot cutter-rigged catamaran, the Claytons embark on a new sailing experience. This time, they are not making ocean passages or visiting tropical islands. They are exploring the East Coast of America, not just from the Atlantic Ocean, but via waterways that include rivers, canals, and swamps. Sandra's British perspective allows readers to see America through a different prism, that of a pure tourist. She includes the history of the places visited and describes the people, environment, and landscape in a way that make readers feel they are right there with her.

Sandra's first impressions of Fort Lauderdale are that everything is big — the buildings, boats, everything. A motor yacht moored behind their boat is so big that the sun is blocked until noon. The megayachts' owners pay to have their huge ships cleaned from top to bottom daily — then stay in the hotel and only go aboard to use their Jacuzzis! They are overwhelmed by the wealth and choices (even in the supermarkets).

One of the highlights of their trip was watching from the deck of Voyager as an unmanned Delta rocket was launched, sending a satellite into orbit: "The launch goes off . . . There is a huge yellow glow on the bank opposite . . . the rocket roars up towards the stars . . . its great boom arrives, blazing pieces fall back to earth, and a new satellite soars into orbit. The effect, as Americans would say, is awesome."

In Georgia, they are nearly eaten alive by bugs so small they are called "no-see-ums" and enjoy bird watching as the landscape puts visions of Huckleberry Finn in their heads. But the experience she called "a little surreal" was when they had to slow down for a submarine to pass in front of them.

From being visited by dolphins to seeing their first manatee and nesting ospreys (an endangered species in the British Isles) to being bit by the greenfly of the swamp, coming through torrential rainstorms, and then witnessing "ethereal" beauty — their journey is full of new experiences.

In closing, Sandra rates their voyage as one of "our happiest sailing experiences ever" and she comes away with a great respect for the American people, writing, "Total strangers have gone beyond . . . polite greetings. They have taken us home to dinner, put us on the right bus, given us lifts, lent us their car . . . and offered us the use of their clothes dryer . . . in short, made us feel immensely welcome and very safe."

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Victura: The Kennedys, a Sailboat, and the Sea

by James W. Graham (ForeEdge, imprint of the University Press of New England, 2014, 265 pages, 28 illustrations, $29.95)
Review by James Williams
Charlotte Harbor, Florida

"I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it's because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it's because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came."

With these words at a dinner for the America's Cup crews in September 1962, President John F. Kennedy spoke, I believe, for all sailors. It is well known that he and his brothers were sailors, but the impact of this sport on the lives of the Kennedys has not really been explored before this fine book by James W. Graham. For readers who have read full-length biographies of Jack or of his brothers Bobby and Ted, much of the broad story of the Kennedy family will be familiar. But here the role that sailing played in their lives steps forward, front and center.

This is a wise book as well as a great read. As Graham observes early on, "Sailors learn more from mistakes and close calls than from successes." The Kennedy brothers plainly benefited from this truth, and that process began early in their lives. The brothers were fortunate to live in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod, and Jack and his older brother, Joe Jr., bought the family's first sailboat, Rose Elisabeth, in 1927. Their youthful days were filled with sailing, first mastering the 16-foot Wianno Junior. In 1932, the family bought a 25-foot Wianno Senior (built then and still by the Crosby Yacht Yard in Osterville, Massachusetts), which they named Victura ("about to conquer" in Latin) and which they raced regularly in one-design class regattas. The next boat to master was a Star, and Joe and Jack each acquired Stars during the 1930s. Bobby also sailed Stars in the 1950s, but the Wianno Senior remained their favorite sailboat.

Graham spends three chapters tracing Kennedys through World War II, the 1950s, and JFK's presidency. Here sailing takes a back seat to the broader story of the Kennedys, but the sport's importance to the family is never lost. Jack particularly embraced sailing and the sea into his psyche, and as with many of us who sail, he was drawn strongly to images of sailing and the sea in literature and art. They became for him, and also similarly for his younger brother Ted, expressions of himself. Jack brought sailing and seafaring imagery in to his political speeches and, like Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who once served as Secretary of the Navy), Jack brought a seafaring décor to the oval office.

For the Kennedys, sailing was the family sport (despite the focus of media on their family football scrimmages), which regardless of gender all could participate in equally. Eunice, Jack's younger sister, was a very good sailor, and Ethel, Bobby's wife, was an excellent sailor and particularly turned to sailing following Bobby's death. Jack's nephew, Patrick, perhaps summed it up best that the sea, both arbitrary and constant, "is evolving, and yet it is also predictive, the tides come in and out. What a great metaphor for life."

Victura is a lovely book. You'll learn a bit about the history of sailing as well as a lot about one of America's first families. This is a book for sailors and for admirers of the Kennedys.

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Convergence: A Voyage Through French Polynesia

by Sally-Christine Rodgers (Paradise Cay Publications, 2015, 140 pages, $24.95)
Review by Barry Silverman
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sailors dream of that once-in-a-lifetime voyage where they quickly complete what is often a difficult passage and then spend months lingering in exotic islands and harbors. Christine (first mate, wife, and our author) and Randy (skipper and owner of West Marine) lived out that dream with the help of an unusual boat, and a heavy dose of fortitude, skill, and luck. It is almost worth reading this book just to learn about the boat, Convergence. Convergence is a totally custom-designed and -built 67-foot cat-rigged ketch with an engine room you can stand up in. With a big-windowed doghouse, she is almost a motorsailer except that, under sail, she frequently makes 18 knots off the wind and has done 23. Their 3,000-mile crossing from California to Polynesia took only 15 days (averaging 200 miles every day!).

Clearly there was substantial skill and luck involved, particularly since they had not done a shakedown cruise after the boat was built, they hit several storms, and numerous brand-new systems weren't installed right and/or failed during the crossing, including both autopilots. There were young children on board who survived this as well. It is tempting to conclude that Randy and Christine are driven, hyper-focused people who don't consider all of the risks and costs of their choices and there is plenty of evidence to that effect in the stories of seasickness, tunneling through (not over) waves, sailing 18 knots during stormy moonless nights and on perilous reef-filled waters, risky dinghy landings, and so on. 

But this is also a book filled with tales about rarely seen places, natural beauty, friendliness of peoples of different cultures, unusual livelihoods, fascinating arts and crafts (weavings, carvings, tattoos, etc.), children learning with the world as their classroom, and more. Most of the tales fit on a single page or two, so it's easy to read this book in stages. Some of the story threads across the length of the book so that does bring you back — for example, one thread is that they are following the sailing stories Christine grew up on from her father, a commercial maritimer, who fell in love with and repeatedly visited these islands. This is a personal travelogue, but told well. Christine has a writing style that makes you quickly feel she is a friend you'd like to know. You often agree with her, laugh with her, and enjoy sharing her experiences.

I had the good fortune to sail in Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, Greek Isles, across the Atlantic, and all over the USA. But I bareboated for two weeks in Tahiti and Bora Bora, my favorite cruising spot of all. Christine's book captures a lot of what is exciting and intimate about those islands. Back To Top

Own Less & Live More: A Sailing Adventure That Takes You
From the Cubicle to Key West

by Conrad Cooper (CreateSpace, 2013, 146 pages; $11.95 paperback/$8.95 Kindle)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minnesota

Conrad Cooper says, “You always hear people say ‘The journey is half the fun.’ I always thought that percentage was rather low.” Cooper definitely makes the journey through Own Less & Live More fun for his readers.

The subtitle touts it as “A sailing adventure that will take you from the cubicle to Key West.” It does indeed take the reader from the author giving notice he was leaving the corporate world to the west coast of Florida down to Key West. It would be more apt, however, to eliminate the word “sailing.” The book is a quick, easy, light read. It is entertaining and creative. But it focuses less on sailing than on a breezy look at Cooper’s suggestions for leaving the rat race and on descriptions of the coastal towns where he docks. In fact, the type of boat that carried Conrad, his wife, daughter, and black lab south was only mentioned — well into the book — as a catamaran, with no further details concerning make, size, etcetera.

That said, I enjoyed the read. Cooper is clearly enthusiastic and optimistic, and he wants to share his lifestyle with readers. Each short chapter starts out with a quotation that leads into his topic. He addresses everything from the vasectomy he had done while he still had medical insurance through his former company, to swimming with manatees, to the adventures he’d like to take now that his eight-month adventure on the water is over, to his definitely un-fun problems with the boat’s toilet. (He refers to the back porch, the bathroom, and the bedroom on the boat, explaining that he’s “not really into nautical terminology.”)

Cooper offers an interesting appendix with suggestions on the following areas:

  • How to Sail Away
  • How to Buy a Boat
  • How Much Does It Cost to Live on a Boat?
  • Great Sailing Resources
  • How to Create an Internet Business
  • Other Resources

Taken as a whole, Own Less & Live More is a good book for dreamers and those looking for light-hearted coaxing into an adventurous lifestyle. Overall, though, the advice offered only skims the surface.

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Dead on the Wind

by Marlin Bree (Marlor Press, 2014, 240 pages; $14.99 paper; $3.82 on Kindle)
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, Illinois

One of my favorite cautionary sea stories comes from Marlin Bree's Wake of the Green Storm. Author of five nonfiction books about sailing, Dead on the Wind is his first novel, a thriller set in the world of high-tech yacht racing.

The Race Alone Around the World (RAAW), based on the Vendee Globe race, involves boats using the most cutting edge designs, piloted by skilled sailors determined to circumnavigate singlehanded on boats so big that one person can just barely handle them. The boats are made of the most advanced materials, primarily carbon fiber reinforced epoxy plastic.

But things begin to go mysteriously wrong. The Australian entry, Marci Whitman, sails her sled out of Sydney Harbour on a shakedown cruise — and does not return. Kevlin Star, her former lover and writer for Megasail magazine, dashes Down Under ostensibly to get the story but actually to assist in the search. There he meets Tremain Whitman, Marci's grandfather and the designer of her boat, and Trudance, Whitman's granddaughter and Marci's sister.

Despite the mysterious tragedy, the race preparations continue, and soon the race starts from New York Harbor. This section of the story, describing the racers from different countries and their plans to make the most of the advantages of their disparate boats, is the most interesting part of the book. There is lots of heeled over, lee rail under, wave-smashing sailing here, which does not last nearly long enough. More boats suffer mysterious casualties, other sailors are lost, and Kevlin is kept running from one side of the planet to the other covering the race and uncovering how the boats are being sabotaged and who is behind the plot.

Marlin's clipped writing style keeps the story moving right along. Kevlin spends a lot of time waist deep (and more) in the icy cold waters of various oceans as the nicely plotted story keeps him in the middle of the action, until he singlehandedly saves a major harbor and identifies the bad guys.

If you enjoy sailing and techno-thrillers, Dead on the Wind will keep you glued to your reading chair.

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Your First Sailboat: How to Find and Sail the Right Boat for You

by Daniel Spurr (International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 2014, 276 pages; $18, $9.99 Kindle)
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minnesota

More than 10 years ago Dan Spurr wrote the definitive first book for those thinking about becoming sailors. It had perhaps the best sales of all his books . . . and Dan has written many. It’s no surprise that he should republish this book as a new edition for a new generation of would-be sailors. What surprises me is that, in comparing the two books side-by-side, how much has been updated and changed from the first edition. I thought second editions were basically re-publications of the first with, possibly, a new foreword and cover. Perhaps a new chapter.

Not so. This book has been updated from stem to stern with new photos in many cases, additional boats, today’s prices for boats, new equipment and electronic gear that wasn’t around 10 years ago, and much more. Even the fonts and page design have changed.

What has stayed the same, however, is Dan’s great sense of humor and perspective about getting started as a sailor. In his own words, Dan says: “I wanted to address the primal fears first-timers may have and make it fun.” That he does. One by one, he ticks off the primal fears they may have with chapters on: what if the boat heels, what if it flips, what if I hit something, how do I know where I am, what if it gets dark, what if it gets foggy, what if the boat sinks, what if the wind stops blowing, what if the engine won’t start, and more.

To make it fun and overcome the panic new sailors might have about worst-case scenarios, Dan tells good stories about first-time sailors’ experiences . . . usually on himself: the first time he grounded, the first time he was caught out in the dark, a disorienting experience with fog, and so on. All’s well that ends well, and that’s the point of the stories. Even regarding sinking, he provides steps to keep in mind when in a sinking daysailer or a keelboat. But he starts with this advice: “The general rule is to stay with the boat . . . as long as it floats. Obviously, you don’t want to stay with your vessel if it’s heading toward the bottom.”

In addition to turning off the panic button, this book addresses in some depth the how-to of buying a new or used sailboat and the types of sailboats and sailing people do with these boats. He is also remarkably succinct and helpful when explaining how to sail your new boat, including raising sails, tying knots, navigating, and docking each in a brief and useful chapter.

Finally, he tells the truth that good old boaters know all too well regarding what this sailboat is going to cost in terms of time and money: loans, insurance, storage, additional gear, maintenance, and upgrades. At the end of this litany, Dan summarizes this way:

“‘My god,’ you cry. ‘Is there no end to it?!’
“In a word, no.
“‘Is this penchant for acquiring boat gear as compulsive as buying barbecues and patio furniture for my home?’
“More so.
“But relax. It will give meaning to your life. Why? Because unlike your house, which is just a pile of concrete and two-by-fours rooted in the ground, your boat is a transcendent, extraspiritual, out-of-body, cosmic transporter that is going to transform your life. That’s why.”

And there you have sailing summed up neatly, thanks to Dan Spurr. I wish I had said that. If you know anyone who is contemplating sailing (in any of its many variations), buy him or her this book. Read it first if you like. You won’t regret it. Then stand back as a new sailor is created.

The folks at should be buying this book by the truckload and giving it away to anyone who shows even a glimmer of interest in sailing.

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No Ordinary Being: W. Starling Burgess (1878-1947), a Biography

by Llewellyn Howland III (David R. Godine, in association with New Bedford Whaling Museum and Mystic Seaport Museum, 2014, 512 pages; $65.00)
Review by Rob Mazza
Hamilton, Ontario

If the name Starling Burgess is known today it’s most likely as collaborator with Olin Stephens in the design of the magnificent J-class Ranger, winner of the 1937 America’s Cup. The popular scenario is of an aging and declining Burgess, 30 years Stephens’ senior, passing the design torch to the rising Stephens. This “A Star is Born” scenario is attractive, if not entirely accurate. Most would be surprised to hear that it was Burgess’ design for Ranger that was chosen, rather than Stephens’.

The story of the design of Ranger is just one small chapter in Llewellyn Howland’s sprawling and detailed biography of this incredible individual who, like his father Edward Burgess, designed three America’s Cup winners. Howland starts with Edward Burgess’ own design legacy and the influence of his parents’ early deaths on the young Starling, as well as his school years at Milton Academy and Harvard, his first marriage and publication of a book of poetry, before leading the reader to Burgess’ early, often radical, designs during the last years of the Seawanhaka Rule and the early years of the Universal Rule after he opened his own design office in 1901.

Howland then describes Burgess’ remarkable full-fledged leap in 1910 into the emerging aircraft Industry, his involvement with the Wright Brothers, and his being credited with the first aeroplane flight in New England. With the sale of his aircraft company and its loss by fire, Burgess returned to full-time yacht design in 1918 with the re-rig of the William Gardner-designed Vanitie for the 1920 America’s Cup trials and the design of numerous successful and less successful R-Boats, Q-Boats, K- and M-boats under the Universal Rule and any number of 8-, 10-, and 12-Metres under the International Rule, most built by Abeking & Rasmussen of Germany.

This was also the period Burgess designed the notable fishing schooners Mayflower, Puritan, and Columbia for racing for the International Fisherman’s Trophy that led to a number of commissions for performance schooner yachts, most notably Advance, the first staysail schooner rig that was to find its zenith in Burgess’ design of Paul Hammond’s Nina, winner of both the 1928 Race to Spain and the Fastnet Race and, under the long-time ownership of DeCoursey Fales, winner of the 1962 Bermuda Race.

During this period Burgess also designed the Bermuda One-Design and tutored and employed such design protégés as L. Francis Herreshoff, Frank Paine, Henry Gruber, and Norman Skene. With his long background as the preeminent designer of the Universal Rule it was no surprise when Vanderbilt chose Burgess to design the 1930 America’s Cup defender, Enterprise, followed by Rainbow in 1934, and Ranger, in collaboration with Stephens in 1937.

During the same period Burgess became a design collaborator with Buckminster Fuller in the innovative, but ultimately unsuccessful, Dymaxion car, through which he met his fourth wife. It is his pioneering development, with input from his brother, of the first aluminum masts on Enterprise and Rainbow that led to a long contract with Alcoa to design and promote an Aluminum destroyer during the early years of World War II, followed by more successful involvement in developing equipment for anti-submarine warfare.

Howland documents Burgess’ long design career with his many business partners in companies such as Burgess & Packard, Burgess & Paine, Burgess & Morgan, and Burgess, Rigg & Morgan. His biographer does not flinch in examining the pain and chaos in Burgess’ personal life, beginning with his first wife’s suicide, the drowning death of a young son while on Burgess’ own boat, personal bankruptcy, morphine addiction, five marriages— with the resulting emotional pain for all involved as well as the financial responsibilities — alienation from his children of those marriages, and a too-early death at 68 in 1947.

Needless to say, Starling Burgess was not a cautious man. He took risks both in life and in design, some of which paid off and some of which did not. 

What Howland also shows us is how much the profession of yacht designer has changed from the days of Starling Burgess. The stock in trade of most yacht designers, like Burgess and his contemporaries in the early and mid-20th century, was designing individual boats for individual owners, sometimes for cruising but more often for racing under the Universal or International Rule. Each design would result in a design commission that averaged 10 percent of the cost of the project and each design would further the knowledge base of the designer. Yes, Burgess was involved in the design and building of one-designs but, because these were built in wood and one at a time, they did not add much to his design income, which was based primarily on custom-designed one-off boats.

Those days have long gone. People no longer order custom one-off boats to meet the requirements of a particular rating rule and then take a personal interest in the building of that boat. One not only mourns the loss of designers like Burgess, but also the boating industry of which he was a part. With even the America’s Cup now becoming a one-design contest, as well as the Canada’s Cup and the Volvo racing, one has to lament the future of yacht design and yacht designers generally.

For those with any interest in the history of our sport and the people who greatly influenced that history, I highly recommend Llewellyn Howland’s excellent and absorbing biography of this exceptional designer — warts and all.

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Creative Anchoring: Everything about Anchors and Anchoring

By Cap'n Fatty Goodlander (published by Fatty, 2015, 364 pages; $29.99, $9.99 Kindle)
Review by Bob Wood
Angola, New York

For those readers who have followed Fatty for many years, you won't be disappointed. For the newcomers to his watery wisdom, prepare yourself for a genuine original.

The antithesis of polished, urbane and smooth, Fatty can be rough as a saltwater-rinsed towel, unapologetic, unfiltered, opinionated, and generally disdainful of artificial niceties. He is also a plainspoken expert on practical, sometimes bare-knuckled, cruising. His advice is clear and relevant, based on experience rather than theory.

You will discover a rarity in these pages, real names of the good and not-so-good. Names of specific manufacturers, names of locations, names of people, names to avoid. Recommendations are given, along with the reasons for them. The events and boats behind the recommendations are often detailed, with all of their warts and glory. This is boating reality, including mistakes, rather than a continual beauty parade.

The cost to produce this book's knowledge? Over fifty years of time afloat, thousands of sea miles, and thousands of trial and error dollars. The value to the reader? Safety, savings, satisfaction and, possibly, the lives of captain and crew.

An additional benefit will be a glimpse into the mindset of an honest, pragmatic, caring human being who just happens to be a fellow sailor, a shoestring sailor who doesn't much care for crowded marinas, hypocrisy, officialdom, or profiteers in general. Someone who is a lot like you and me.

Anchoring and its subtle nuances do not exist in a vacuum. They are much more than a means to remain at a given location. Anchoring impacts a cruiser's departures, arrivals, stowage, performance, heavy weather tactics, economics, and pleasure. In short, it affects almost every aspect of life aboard.  It is truly, as Fatty says, “a bedrock skill of the cruising sailor.”

Creative Anchoring is probably destined to become a cult classic in useful, hard-won information. Here, in one spot, is a wealth of knowledge on anchoring, specifically, and life afloat in general. This volume should not be saved for your bookshelf; it should be devoured before ever leaving your harbor. And then kept aboard. You will smile, chuckle, and treasure Fatty as you read and re-read his wisdom.

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How Humanity’s Arrogance Will Lead to Nature’s Ultimate Response

By Carl Howe Hansen (Maine Authors Publishing, 2015, 364 pages; $17.95, $6.99 Kindle)
Review by David McDaniel
Redondo Beach, California

Destiny is no ordinary sailing book.

Indeed, it is part sci-fi/part adventure, with sailing strewn into the mix, while catastrophic events unfold in a race against time. Carl Howe Hansen foreshadows his tale with a stormy sea-setting off the coast of Maine. Aboard a hand-built, wooden schooner named Destiny, a young woman struggles to manage the vessel while tending to an unconscious crewmember. In the following paragraph, Hansen jolts back in time five days and starts revealing a series of events that hurl his reader through an American apocalypse.

"Starting with a collision between an oil tanker and a fishing vessel resulting in the spillage of thousands of gallons of crude oil, the story starts its downward spiral that ultimately leaves the entire Eastern seaboard powerless in an unprecedented environmental disaster. The government’s response to the spill is to use an untested new type of biological instrument called E07, a petroleum-eating bacterium that thrives in water. Intentions are well and good as the bacteria rapidly consume the spill. However, panic ensues as the realization develops that there is no way to control it. Driven shoreward, the bacteria devour any petroleum-based object in its path. Fiberglass fishing boats and pleasure craft alike are literally consumed from their waterlines up. And once ashore, E07 runs rampant, devouring car tires, electrical wiring, plumbing, computer infrastructures, clothing, even roads and highways. Once the power grid fails, our everyday world is threatened as society is thrown into a tailspin toward a pre-industrialized age."

Furthermore, Destiny is the story of a family caught in the middle of the disaster. Two brothers are at the core: one, the inventor of E07, is burdened with the task and responsibility of finding a means to end its spread; the other, a thoughtful eccentric, whose history may hold keys to survival on an island yet unaffected by the scourge. It is his daughter who sails Destiny through the stormy opening scene in a last-ditch rescue attempt. Destiny, immune to the plastic-eating bacteria, may well be a magic carpet that rescues the family from the mayhem of a frightened, desperate, and deteriorating society on the mainland.

Destiny is a fun-to-read thriller that strikes a blow at the “essentials” of American modern life, challenging our over-dependence on petroleum. What would we do if the power grid failed permanently? Who would we turn to if our government shut down in an overwhelming crisis? As a result, where would we go if our households became uninhabitable? How could we even get where we wanted if our cars, highways, and airports were rendered inoperable? And in the case of Hanson’s E07, even sailboats — the ultimate escape pods — are useless if made out of fiberglass (and most are). On and on and on it goes — unraveling.

Carl Howe Hanson’s Destiny is a story that offers occasion for pleasure and pause in its telling, confronting the reader with an unthinkable scenario that may well be inevitable.

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Tales of a Hamptons Sailor

By Nick Catalano (Aegeon Press, New York, N.Y., 2015, 230 pages; $14.95, $2.99 digital edition)
Review by Susan Lynn Kingsbury
Port Ludlow, Washington

Nick Catalano’s book, Tales of a Hamptons Sailor, starts off with six short stories recounting what being a sailor in the Hamptons in the 1980s was all about. From the crazy locals and early morning drug busts, to secret interrupted rendezvous at the boatyard and The Hamptons Yacht Club (inspired by a dream one sailor had to sail without their wives), these brief accounts show a New Yorker’s take on the summer happenings in the East Hamptons.

Many of the stories are comic, but “The Gardiner’s Island Rip,” a story of a son and his father, begins as a fish story and later will, at the very least, bring tears to a reader’s eyes.

The second half of Catalano’s book is a novella, “A New Yorker at Sea,” and is a much more intense read. Courted by the romance and the quest for adventure that sailing promises, Joe Pisano (the author’s fictional character) sails through his anxiety again and again, never letting his fellow crewmembers know of his true angst, which is so severe he is literally shaking from fear.

While crewing in the Around Long Island Regatta, they end up sailing in a hurricane. Multiple boats are capsized and dismasted and Joe sees speeds of seventy-five knots while at the helm. Despite the white knuckling experience, they win the race.

Enticed by the romance of circumnavigation, Joe agrees to replace a crewmember on a 51-foot cutter, Bravura, two years into circumnavigating. He’s asked to join the crew in Egypt, a major terrorist hotspot.

From the time he goes through customs and immigration Joe has a sinking feeling. Still, he continues his eventful Middle Eastern trek to the Suez Canal, where Bravura is anchored, and meets his crewmates, Dick Spooner and Roger Thornton, who do anything but make him feel welcome. Anything and everything that can go wrong seems to follow. The engine isn’t working and can’t be fixed, the boat is a pigsty, the refrigerator is broken and the food is rotten. The locals scam them when they attempt to get an engine repairman from Cairo, and to top it all off, the first night onboard, Joe wakes up to find dozens of roaches on his pillow.

Despite all of this, he stays with his plan to crew, and faces more obstacles and trials than one can imagine living through. Readers along for the voyage will feel Joe Pisano’s dark depression, loneliness, and exasperation as well as his swelling pride, determination, and relief.

“After two days she (the dolphin) left me. I didn’t see her go . . . She had become a special romantic companion, and when she was gone, I felt like a jilted lover.”

This book is definitely worth reading, whether you are an experienced sailor or armchair adventurer.

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By Duncan Wells (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015, 160 pages; $25, $9.99 Kindle with audio/video)
Review by Brian Koger
Severna Park, Maryland

Duncan Wells opens his book with the friendly advice (or warning) that all sailors should be prepared for the inevitable moment when, despite their best-laid plans, they will be called upon to sail singlehanded, performing multiple tasks simultaneously with little margin for error. Just reading that introduction gave me an immediate “been there; done that” recollection of times when crew became ill (at the worst possible moment), the engine decided to take an unplanned siesta (at the worst possible moment), critical components broke (at the worst possible moment) and every eye in the marina was watching as I tried to dock singlehanded, in the dark, in a storm (which would be, of course, the worst possible moment).

Wells is a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) instructor as well as being a regular contributor to Yachting Monthly, Sailing Today, and SAIL magazines. He definitely knows his stuff and seems to delight in sharing his knowledge. His advice, delivered in a friendly and conversational style, is very easy to understand. While the book itself is very well illustrated, it also includes 21 “quick response” (QR) bar codes that link to videos that show the procedures in great detail. I tried several on my (Android) smart phone and they’re quite comprehensive. I found one to be especially useful, with that “Ah-ha moment” occurring when I saw a demonstration of the various techniques for storing lines (along with explanations of the advantages of each). For those who either don’t have or don’t care to use digital media, the book offers great sequential photography that shows every step of the procedures described in the text.  

While the book is geared toward the British sailing audience (e.g., not many Americans will ever have to perform a Mediterranean Moor or would understand the color-coding of snooker balls), just about everything in the book has universal appeal at some level and will help to improve one’s sailing skills, particularly in those “uh-oh” situations such as having someone go overboard or dealing with heavy weather.

I highly recommend this book and will start seeking out additional materials from Duncan Wells, as he obviously has a gift for explaining sailing in an entertaining way that is easy for anyone to understand.

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Over the Dunes

by Michael Kahn (Brilliant, 2015, 140 pages; hard cover coffee table presentation $85)
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Perhaps we all hold the interface between land and sea as a special place. I certainly do. Photographer Michael Kahn clearly does as well. Michael has just released a coffee table book with scenes taken at the water’s edge.

The sepia-tone prints in Michael’s annual calendars take your breath away, as did those in his earlier coffee table book, The Spirit of Sailing: A celebration of Sea and Sail, published in 2004. Now 11 years later, he has released a second work of art showing the enchantment of the dunes, the rippled sands, the rocks and pebbles, the surf, the endless sky, and the riveting mirror images that occur in moments of absolute calm.

For those who are taken with his sailing photographs, Michael also includes a section of the photos you’ve come to associate with this master craftsman: traditional sails, rigging, ships, and the sailors who run these vessels.

If you already know the name Michael Kahn, you will want his newest book. If you are unfamiliar with Michael’s work, paging through this book will make you a fan.

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The Boat Improvement Bible:
Practical Projects to Customize and Upgrade Your Boat

by various authors (Adlard Coles Nautical (an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing), 2015, 304 pages; $40 hardcover; $19.79 Kindle)
Review by Brian Koger

When I first glanced at the title of this book, I wondered why anyone would publish yet another volume about boat improvements, but as soon as I cracked the cover of this book I found projects that I wanted to try on my boat. Based on the premise that most boat owners love to tinker with things (and I have yet to meet a boat owner who would disprove that theory), the book “scratches that itch” by illustrating close to 90 projects, ranging from the relatively simple (e.g., various ways to make a nameplate for your boat) to complex undertakings such as designing gantries and “goalposts” for mounting solar panels, radomes, wind vanes, etc., in the optimal position.

The book is lavishly illustrated, featuring multiple color photographs on each page. I found it particularly helpful that for the more complex projects, inset photos were included that provided greater detail. While some projects may not apply to every boat (for example, some vessels don’t have a diesel power plant), there were enough projects with universal appeal to keep a boat owner busy for quite some time.

Not every project was especially practical or even sailboat-centric, however (e.g., underwater LED lights to light up a powerboat’s wake), but I found myself wondering if I couldn’t find a way to adapt them to my boat (such as mounting underwater LEDs beneath the bow to help with docking at night). Granted, I still haven’t figured out a sailboat application for powerboat trim tabs yet, but far and away the majority of projects are applicable to any type of boat.

While the book is British, I can’t think of any projects that wouldn’t apply to boaters anywhere. One potential drawback, however, is that it includes projects centered on current (2015) technology (iPods for onboard music, etc.), which could make the book appear “quaint” in a few decades, although that’s no reason not to purchase it. Although the book arrived at the start of the boating season and I haven’t had a chance to ponder any of the projects in depth, this would make a great “around the fireplace” dream book for contemplating boat improvements during the off-season.

Come to think of it, I might actually incorporate some of the ideas into my spring work schedule. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make a few measurements.

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Sea Fever:
The True Adventures that Inspired our Greatest Maritime Authors,
from Conrad to Masefield, Melville and Hemingway

by Sam Jefferson
(Adlard Coles Nautical, 2015, 336 pages, $27.00; $6.99 Kindle)
Review by Bob Wood

For every great tale, there is a backstory, an explanation of events that led up to the tale, hidden from view and forgotten over time. Curiously, most nautical tales are based in some fashion on the author's experiences rather than pure imagination. Sea Fever investigates those backstories, revealing the men and women behind our maritime fiction classics.

Sam Jefferson has undertaken a massive task that could easily have resulted in a dry textbook best used to combat insomnia. But he doesn't. Instead, he's brought the authors back to life with all of their imperfections and suffering.

And they did have flaws. A common denominator for this band of writers was an almost desperate need for independence, to break away. Rich or poor, strong or weak, brave or timid, theirs was a compulsion to experience life outside the norm. This inexorably drew them to the sea, to a beckoning new world of freedom afloat. That they possessed the sensitivity and skill to chronicle their new world was to our immeasurable benefit.

As Sea Fever reveals, many of the authors’ acquaintances actually end up in their fictional works, albeit disguised under different names. Old bookshelf friends like Treasure Island aren't so much pure fiction as they are carefully rewoven pieces from the author's past.

Throughout the book, the links between real life and famous fiction are illustrated with excerpts from the classics. Jefferson's solid research is evident and the glimpses of history are fascinating.

Sea Fever is much more than just an interesting take on how these stories were born. It becomes a reader's romp down memory lane, filling in the stories that first piqued our nautical interest. And, just in case you may have missed some of these authors on the way, it could lead you to additional discoveries of literary treasure.

Inspiration, entertainment, and escapism define this tale of tales. Amazing sailors speaking with joy and terror and wonder across three hundred years of voyaging are its essence — speaking words that continue to resonate to this day.

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Casting Off: How a City Girl Found Happiness on the High Seas

by Emma Bamford
(Adlard Coles Nautical, 2015, 346 pages; $11.60 paperback (Amazon); $3.03 Kindle
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minnesota

“Being on a boat seemed to be able to offer everything that a life stuck behind a desk could not: excitement, freedom, fresh air, movement, being outdoors, using my body as well as challenging my mind as I learned new skills like sail trim and navigation,” writes Emma Bamford in the prologue to Casting Off.

In a story peppered with Briticisms, 33-year-old Emma chronicles her journey from journalist for The Independent in London to explorer of exotic locales. Her book is well written and well edited, reading more like a novel than still another tale of Girl Leaves Job, Sails Into Sunset.

Know up front that there are not a lot of sailing scenes. “A crossing is a crossing is a crossing,” she writes of her weeklong crossing from the Andaman Islands to Galle in Sri Lanka. She goes on to apologize for sounding blasé and explains that a blow-by-blow account doesn’t necessarily make for the most interesting reading.

The author spends more words on events ashore than those aboard as she shares what is essentially a three-part cruising adventure. The book begins with Emma jumping ship from her job and traveling to Borneo where she pays to join a middle-aged man and his cat on a 46' sailboat. The second segment finds her sailing for free aboard a catamaran; her final adventure is as paid crew on an Italian yacht.

As one reads, it seeps into the story that the author has honed a variety of cruising and personal skills. For one, she focuses on letting go of control and learning to go with the proverbial flow. That flow leads her to the last page that it is (Not) the End. Rather a Beginning. I, for one, will look forward to reading her further adventures.

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Voyaging with Kids: A Guide to Family Life Afloat

by Behan Gifford, Sara Dawn Johnson, and Michael Robertson (L&L Pardey Books, 2015, 336 pages, $35.95.)
Review by Karen Larson

The best thing parents can do for their children these days is to unplug them from society and give them a wider and deeper perspective of the world and more meaningful ways to experience life as they grow. The best way to remove them from the bad influence of today’s tasteless movies, violent video games, and shallow peers is to take your kids cruising.

As more parents are doing exactly that, a brand-new book on the subject tells how. Voyaging with Kids: A Guide to Family Life Afloat was written jointly by a trio of sailors who have made this choice. Their collaboration is being supported by Lin Pardey who is publishing the book and has watched many cruising kids grow into extraordinary people over the years since she and Larry first threw off the docklines.

Authors Behan Gifford, Sara Dawn Johnson, and Michael Robertson each represent one half of a cruising couple that has been out there voyaging with their children for several years. They address the issues of breaking away from land-based commitments, dealing with the naysayers, and helping children make the transition. They talk about choosing a family cruising boat, safety afloat for kids of all ages, staying healthy, and provisioning for a family aboard. They specifically address issues surrounding cruising with infants and — at the other end of the spectrum — cruising with teenagers.

They also discuss how families spend their days aboard (with chores, holidays, home schooling, and great playtime) as well as relationships aboard and those they develop with other cruisers and cruising families. Just as important as transitioning to life afloat, they also cover preparing for the end of a voyage and re-entry into the hyper-society they left behind.

My favorite part of this book is the essays by former cruising kids, those who spent several years afloat. We often wonder what has become of them. Did they get a proper education? Did they grow up properly socialized? Do they look back fondly on their cruising years? Yes. Yes. And yes. While some, once grown, have planted the anchor firmly inland, many have continued to sail or cruise as adults on their own boats. They are exceptional adults in every sense of the word and a tribute to the idea of family cruising.

This is a gorgeous book with additional interviews with, and input from, many other cruising families. If you know of a sailing family with the dream of cruising, buy them the book and then watch their children blossom — far from the maddening crowd — into very capable, independent, and special people.

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Get Real, Get Gone: How to Become a Modern Sea Gypsy
and Sail Away Forever

by Rick Page and Jasna Tuta (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015, 276 pages; $13.95 paperback/$7.99 digital)
Review by Marjorie Preston
Brigantine, New Jersey

Subtitled “How to Become a Modern Sea Gypsy and Sail Away Forever,” this is a great primer for would-be seafarers, and a fun discourse on the vagabond life. Rick and Jasna have been liveaboards for just eight years and five years, respectively. But they’ve packed a lifetime of sailing and problem solving into those years, and it shows.

To live the life of a sea gypsy, they write, you’ve got to get real: forget about fancy boats with landlubber comforts; be ready to rough it and love it; brush up your handyman skills; live within your means (seriously); and as the Boy Scout motto reminds us, be prepared for whatever happens out there on the briny blue.

The book offers a blueprint, explaining how even people of modest means can make this dream life a reality. One way: move to a great port city and develop your chops from the ground up. Rick, for example, started out by moving to the eastern coast of Australia, with its multiple anchorages and helpful sailors who were willing to share their know-how. Later, he and Jasna moved to the Bay of Cortez near Baja California, where they continued to hone their skills.

The most important tip, of course, is to get the right boat. Rick serves up hardheaded, unsentimental, and occasionally hilarious advice about how to choose your new home, equip it so it can manage all kinds of seas, and turn it into a home afloat. That means sidestepping the seductions of boat salesmen, resisting marketers, and forgoing fancy gadgets, doohickeys, and other assorted non-essentials.

Rick argues that anyone who is serious about the sea-gypsy life will eschew extreme fin-keels, spade rudders, multihulls, teak decks, supersized masts, electric refrigeration, and so on. Even adding windows is a no-no; they may flood your cabin with light, but are more liable to leak, which could flood your cabin with seawater. In hot weather, banks of windows also can turn your little sailboat into the equivalent of an Easy-Bake Oven. Mostly, the couple advises, avoid big boats. Add twice the waterline and you could be buying 20 times the expense and maintenance!

More than a how-to manual for the would-be world traveler, Get Real, Get Gone also tells how to live life to the fullest, and make every day an adventure. That’s worth all the comforts you may lose on the way. You’ll learn a lot, and laugh a lot, reading this book.

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Sailing Alone Around the World: The Complete Illustrated Edition

by Joshua Slocum (Zenith Press, 2015, 242 pages; $40.)
Review by Karen Larson
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Just when you thought there was nothing new under the sun when it comes to publishing Joshua Slocum’s classic book, Sailing Alone Around the World, you’re about to be proved wrong.

There are book editions galore. Even more books have been written about Joshua Slocum. And sailors have followed in his wake a century later. There are other books written by Captain Joshua Slocum that have been published together with Sailing Alone. Narrators of audiobooks by the score have added their loving touches, including the first audiobook Good Old Boat produced, which is available from our download store.

Like the rest, we couldn’t restrain ourselves. Slocum’s tale is a classic for sailors and others as well. Joshua Slocum was, after all, the first to sail singlehanded around the world (1895 ­– 1898) and he chronicled that voyage very well, first as installments for a couple of U.S. newspapers and then as the book we cherish today.

But Slocum himself has been dead since 1909, so what could possibly enhance his tale more than 100 years later? The folks at Zenith Press found a way. They created a lovely coffee-table edition of Sailing Alone Around the World with the addition of excellent photos from Slocum’s time and current and old photos of the areas he visited on his route. They added artifacts and maps as well. This new edition will be popular even with those who have read it many times before. The introduction is by Geoffrey Wolf, an American novelist who wrote his own biography of Slocum, The Hard Way Around: The Passages of Joshua Slocum.

This book was released in early November with the clear intent of being available just in time for holiday giving. If you know a Slocum fan, this is the right gift.

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by Christopher Madsen (CPM Publishing, 2015; 468 pages, hard cover; $55.00)
Review by Wayne Gagnon
Antigo, Wisconsin

In the summer of 1998, Christopher Madsen came across Rowdy, a 59-foot Nathanael Herreshoff-designed sloop, in an Oxnard, California, boatyard. He bought her for $5,000, and thus began what would become a 16-year project/odyssey. The vessel was in rough shape, which explains the low asking price, but Madsen was determined to bring her back to her full glory. In the process, he found that the original owner was a man named Holland Duell. He tracked down Duell’s 92-year-old daughter, Harriet “Hanny” Duell, and developed a relationship with her and her family that brought more meaning to the project than he ever imagined possible. This book is the story of that journey.

Rowdy (the book) is not much of a do-it-yourself boat-restoration story. In fact there’s very little on that. It’s rather a history lesson on the golden age of yacht racing on the East Coast; Rowdy (the boat), in particular; and the people who owned her for almost a century. Most of the book is the story of the Duell family and their ownership of Rowdy, from launching in 1916 until they sold her in1941. The remainder follows the boat’s history up until the present day, through various owners from the East Coast to the Great Lakes, through the Panama Canal, to California where Madsen found her rotting away. Also included are excerpts from log books, journals, newspaper clippings, some beautiful water color paintings, and several black and white and color photos of the boat and many of her trophies and owners.

Rowdy comes with a cover that has the feel of worn leather and gold leaf stamping that makes it a beautiful coffee table book and would be worthy to grace any personal or yacht club library. Many readers may balk at spending $55.00 for a book like this, but if you have an interest in the early history of yacht racing on the East Coast, the people involved, and Herreshoff designs, Rowdy would be worth a serious look.

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Pacific Crossing Notes: A Sailor’s Guide to the Coconut Milk Run

by Nadine Slavinski and Markus Schweitzer (Rolling Hitch Press, 2015, 374 pages, $14.99 (Amazon)
Review by Carolyn Corbett
Lake Shore, Minnesota

What an exceptionally fine book!

Looking for cruising advice and adventure? This book is for you. Want pointers on preparing your boat for going offshore? This book is for you. Planning to cross the Panama Canal or the Pacific Ocean? This book is for you.

Nadine Slavinski and Mark Schweitzer successfully present a wealth of information and experience in this extremely well written guide. In a comfortable, conversational tone, they capture the nuances, the delights, and the challenges of their journey across the Pacific Ocean aboard Namani, their 1987 Dufour 35. But don’t be misled by their easy style or by the surprisingly low purchase price. Pacific Crossing Notes is a quality cruising guide, rich with photographs and vibrant vignettes.

Nadine is a teacher, writer, and archaeologist with a master’s degree in education from Harvard. Mark’s background is in engineering and computational mathematics. Their son crossed his first ocean (the Atlantic) when he was four.

In the introduction, the authors explain that their aim is to provide coverage broad enough to be useful while detailed enough to remain practical. They accomplish this in 57 chapters organized into 11 information-packed sections. When the book draws to an end after 374 pages, the reader feels a bit adrift, wishing for more.

The authors include a helpful chapter devoted to their top picks of books for a sailboat heading across the Pacific. Nigel Calder’s Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual makes the list, along with Nadine’s earlier book, Lesson Plans Ahoy (reviewed in April 2012). Other chapters range from the costs of cruising to weather, the Intracoastal Waterway to atoll cruising 101.

It is difficult to sum up an extensive cruising guide in a few paragraphs, but know that this one comes with a hearty endorsement.

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Recollections of My Mistress: A 34-Year Love Affair With a 48' Yawl

by Richard A. Geudtner (Published by the author, 2015, 320 pages; $20 on Amazon or from the author: 532 Andover Court, Lake Forest, IL 60045)
Review by Chas. Hague
Des Plaines, Illinois

Full Disclosure: I learned about this book when Mr. Geudtner hired my wife to proofread the manuscript (tip to aspiring writers: marry an English major). The sailing questions and occasional chortles coming from her office intrigued me, and I eagerly read the book when Richard sent it to us.

In 1973, Richard Geudtner knew what boat he was looking for: a yawl, aluminum construction, 45 to 50 feet. He found exactly what he wanted in what became Aurora. For the next 34 summers, he and his crew daysailed out of Waukegan and made extended cruises as far as Lake Superior and the North Channel of Lake Huron. Recollections of My Mistress describes the travels and travails of the yearly cruises made by Aurora and her crew.

Travails there are a-plenty. For one thing, getting a 48-foot boat in and out of the available docking spaces is no small feat. Only 7 years old when Geudtner bought her (a story in itself), she needed extensive rebuilding to correct bad design details. Those repairs are described in excellent drawings by the author, a successful architect.

A boat that size cannot be singlehanded, and getting volunteers to crew was a continuing challenge. Geudtner had varying luck in this area, finding people like Jim, who didn’t know much about sailing when he came on board, but who remained for 31 cruises as a reliable hand. And Skip, a master mechanic who could simply touch one part of a new engine and tell the captain that it was ruined (I want him to take care of my car!). And the lieutenant, a young soldier who would leap to do any needed task, even if it included almost falling overboard in the process. Others were not so hot, such as the young man who had to be awakened from bed — the flowerbed of the woman who lived next to the dock in Charlevoix. Geudtner demanded good crew, trained them hard, and deliberately avoided some labor-saving equipment, like roller-furling, in order to challenge them and himself.

Great Lakes sailors will find the descriptions of Lake Michigan harbor towns, Door County, Lake Superior, and the North Channel cruising grounds familiar. Reading about some of the conditions encountered on Aurora’s wanderings are a bit daunting — Aurora frequently dealt with winds of 40 to 50 knots and 5-foot seas, and once was dragged into a North Channel cliff by 80-knot storm winds. Geudtner describes the sail changes and tactics he used to handle these conditions with a sailor’s voice, and he admits when he made mistakes in a way that helps the reader understand what he was thinking and what would have worked better. Crew training and leadership are discussed in a non-preachy way that will be instructive to any skipper.

The book includes a few charts and drawings, hand-made by the author, along with photographs taken over the years. An appendix of sailing terms for the non-sailor might have been useful, and a copy of his “Cruising Manual,” described at length in Chapter 10, would have been of interest.

Thirty-four years on one boat will produce lots of sea stories, and Recollections of My Mistress is a fine collection of some good ones. Midwestern sailors will enjoy the yarns about the people and locations encountered while sailing the Third Coast.

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