I'm a book man. I read them, collect them, and have written or edited 19 of them. As fantastic and effective as this electronic medium on which we are meeting today may be, I doubt if it can be as warmly personal and portable as a book.
The time of the book is the late fall, when the comforting glow of the lighthouse of Christmas looms just over the horizon and beckons us to think of gifts for shipmates, friends, and family. Some reader-sailors want practical information, others cheerful inspiration, still others entertainment. Here are some recently published books that I think fit one or more of those bills. I've included the names of publishers (most of whom have websites) and US retail prices.
To begin with heavy weather, there are two notable books, one new and the other a revision of a classic. One is Steve and Linda Dashew's new Surviving the Storm. The most sweeping book on the subject that I know, it covers the whole range of techniques and equipment from the perspective of an extremely thoughtful circumnavigating couple who also design boats. Contributors have provided narratives of important storms (I wrote the one on the 1979 Fastnet Race disaster). The illustrations include fascinating schematic drawings of waves and boats struggling with them, (Beowulf, $69.95)
Surviving the Storm, complements but does not replace the new edition of the great Heavy Weather Sailing. If you own one of these books, you should also own the other. First edited by the late Adlard Coles and now in the capable hands of Peter Bruce, it (unlike the Dashews' book) is a collection of instructional essays by various authorities, who include Olin Stephens, Robin Knox-Johnston, and Dag Pike. Like the Dashews' book, it has a lot on multihulls (International Marine, $59)
More suited for placid reading in a bunk in a snug cabin is William Galvani's wonderful collection of sailing quotations, Mainsail to the Wind. Here are more than 1,000 poetic, humorous, or pointed observations about the sea, boats, and sailors. The 300 writers include literary figures from Homer to Patrick O'Brian, and also average mariners with a gift for language. The book is helpfully organized by topic, from A (America's Cup, Anchoring, Art) through M (Multihulls, Mutiny) to Y (Yachting). (Sheridan House, $22.95 hard cover, $14.95 paper)
Boat selection is always a challenge, and two new books from International Marine address it in unusual ways. Most writers in this area do no more than review existing boats and make recommendations. In Choosing a Cruising Sailboat, Roger Marshall, a yacht designer and writer, does some of that but his main goal is to identify ideal features and then build on them to draw up good boats of five types: the weekender, cruiser, voyager, singlehander, and cruiser/racer. ($24.95)
In The Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat, John Vigor shows how to evaluate and improve a boat for long-distance cruising. Chapter 2, titled "Test Your Boat," is a unique, detailed 56-point questionnaire that should help anybody answer the all-important question, "Is she ready?" ($29.95)
The most beautiful cruising narrative of the last couple of years is Tim and Pauline Carr's Antarctic Oasis, about sailing around and living near South Georgia Island in the deep South Atlantic in their 100-year-old gaff cutter Curlew. Illustrated with over 200 four-color photographs of the island and its waters, where they wintered and summered, this is an enchanting portrait of a place and a way of life. The Carrs have gained a large following through their slide shows. (W.W. Norton, $40)
A more "normal" cruise is made fascinating in Anthony Bailey's The Coast of Summer. That coast is the one between Cape Cod and the eastern end of New York's Long Island. This gifted writer, who wrote The Thousand Dollar Yacht and has long written for The New Yorker, covers these popular waters over a summer in his Tartan 27 yawl. I envy Bailey's ability to make the diurnal routine of life aboard a small boat so interesting and in the area of husband-wife, skipper-crew relationsso hilarious. (Sheridan House, $14.95, paper)
Many women sailors, both new and experienced, will like Doris Colgate's new book Sailing. As an instructional manual, much of it inevitably applies to sailors of both genders, but Doris' encouraging tone and use of women (of all ages) in clearly illustrated examples may well make this an especially effective guide for women put off by the macho excesses of traditional manuals. (Ragged Mountain, $14.95, paper)
There are two new books of 1999 that I helped produce. One is the yacht designer Olin Stephens' wonderfully written, at times poignant autobiography All This and Sailing Too, which I helped edit and which is beautifully illustrated and handsomely published by Mystic Seaport Museum. It is about an eminently good man's extraordinarily successful, but always reflective life, mostly but not always around boats. As alert and thoughtful at the age of 91 as most of us hope to be at any age, Olin remains extremely active. This month he is in Australia and New Zealand for international meetings on rating rules and the America's Cup trials. Famous for his six Cup defenders and many champion ocean racers, he also turned out many important smaller boats, including the Tartan 27 (one of which Bailey sails in The Coast of Summer), the Lightning, and the little Blue Jay. A running theme of this book is the lasting value of seaworthy boats for cruising and long-distance racing. While anything but a reactionary, Olin makes clear his dismay that there are too few boats like this around today. ($45)
My other 1999 book is not completely new, but a revision. It's the third edition of The Annapolis Book of Seamanship. About half the text of this big sailing manual has been exhaustively (and exhaustingly) updated or expanded. Mark Smith (the book's gifted artist and designer) has introduced a sparkling new, modern appearance based on his successful older design, with a number of new features. Like the previous two editions in 1983 and 1989, the book is published by Simon & Schuster .($40)