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SailNet’s Summer Reading List

Summer's here and it's time to indulge in that favorite pastimereading, of course.
Oh, summer, what a time to be alive. The days are longer and the weather is warmer (if you live in the Northern Hemisphere), and there are all those books to be read. Now, you've got even more reason to celebrate summer because this season's batch of new sailing books has an unusually adventurous bent that will appeal to a broad spectrum of sailors. Here's SailNet's annual summer reading list, along with a look at a few special recommendations that you might want to consider.

Lionheart, a Journey of the Human Spirit by Jesse Martin
Allen & Unwin
When an unconventional 18-year-old Australian sets out to learn about the world from the deck of a 34-foot sloop, he also sets a record as the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe under sail, nonstop. Written in conjunction with Ed Gannon, a young newspaper reporter who chronicled Jesse Martin's exploits, Lionheart is an engaging tale with a fresh, revealing narrative style. Martin's youth is evident via his naivete—he managed the whole journey despite forgetting a nautical almanac—but his courage in tackling such a daunting voyage resonates on nearly each page.

The book doesn't simply treat this impressive circumnavigation, but also delves into the adventurous upbringing of Martin, who at the age of 14, spent two months coastal cruising aboard a 14-foot beach catamaran with his father and 12-year-old brother and later kayaked some of the Indonesian coast. He also made a number of deliveries, and in the process of this adventuring, formal schooling took a back seat. Martin is as much a self-styled author as he is a self-styled adventurer, and given his iconoclastic outlook, his first tome should inspire not only adolescent readers, but those beyond their school years as well.

When Club Med closed on the halfway point in The RaceWellington, New Zealandnautical scribe Tim Zimmerman was on hand to capture the moment for his book, The Race.
The Race by Tim Zimmerman
Houghton Mifflin
It's now been over a year since the giant multihulls that battled their rivals and the elements in the nonstop circumnavigating contest—The Race—finished, and now a new book chronicles that event. Tim Zimmerman, who ranks as somewhat of a new name in the world of sailing journalism, is nonetheless an accomplished writer. He has produced a comprehensive account of the event that offers not only a blow-by-blow narrative from several key vantage points, but some informative background on globe-girdling sailors and previous events as well, beginning with Joshua Slocum.

From the extreme misfortunes of the novel Team Philips to the superb performance of Grant Dalton's international crew on Club Med, Zimmerman ably follows the many stories that made up this momentous competition. Like the subtitle of his book, the author takes a "no-holds-barred" approach to researching his 300-page tome, bringing forth behind-the-scenes details that enhance the action and deliver the reader on board these impressive ocean-racing machines.

After the Storm by John Rousmaniere
International Marine
SailNet's own authority on seamanship has scripted an incisive and gripping narrative about the power of storms, revealing not only the physical consequences of their existence, but also the ways in which they affect the psyche and emotions of those who endure them or are otherwise touched by these tempests. His relentless research—including several personal encounters (he competed in the notorious 1979 Fastnet Race)—serves to inform the author's work, and his sensitive treatment continually engages even the most casually interested reader.

"After reading this, you'll have a new appreciation of future storms and their place in the life of every mariner."
In his book, Rousmaniere examines 12 separate storms and succeeds in elevating their study existence from meteorological phenomenon to life-altering wonders. Though his narrative focus regularly changes course to reveal the historical and cultural context of a particular incident, these excursions serve to enrich every chapter. Once you've read this work, you'll regard future storms with a new appreciation of their fury and their place in the life of every mariner.

Eight Men and a Duck by Nick Thorpe
The Free Press
Fifty years after famed anthropologist-cum-adventurer Thor Heyerdahl sailed his reed-built boat Kon Tiki from Peru to Polynesia, an unlikely crew of adventurers attempt to reprise the trip aboard their own classic raft, the Viracocha. Journalist Nick Thorpe talks his way on board for the trip from Chile to Easter Island only to discover that the international team is a hapless, misguided crew lacking a proper navigator. His ensuing account of the "hilarious and unnerving" voyage details a bungled, five-day launch, as well as storms, sharks, adversarial commercial traffic, and the fact that the boat is constantly sinking. Do the wayward mariners make it? Do they regenerate any interest in Heyerdahl's migration theories? And what's with the duck? The answers all reside in Thorpe's amusing text.

Sailing's grandest era comes to life in a new book about the famed transatlantic race of 1905.
Atlantic: The Last Great Race of Princes by Scott Cookman
John Wiley & Sons
For those sailors interested in the history of the sport, Scott Cookman's treatment of the now legendary black schooner and its famed sail into history across the Atlantic is a must read. Cookman has crafted a stirring story that brings to life a captivating episode in maritime history wherein leading industrialists and yachtsmen vied for supremacy on the seas to reap the political and economic prestige that transatlantic victory could convey.

The famed schooner's impressive transatlantic passage set a record that has remained unbeaten for nearly a century, and the story behind the race makes this remarkable achievement even more impressive. Atlantic's skipper Charlie Barr, widely acclaimed as a hero for his exploits, pushed the vessel as only a determined Scotsman might, and the description of his commanding style is just one of the joys to be savored in reading Cookman's book.

In Shackleton's Wake by Arved Fuchs
Sheridan House
It would be difficult to equal the historic feats of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the British adventurer who sailed 700 miles through the Arctic Sea aboard a 22-foot boat to save his stranded crew. And certainly few men have spent as much time in the polar ice, but German adventurer Arved Fuchs, runs a close second. Fuchs, a distinguished explorer in his own right, undertook to trace the wake of Shackleton's diminutive life boat, the James Caird, in an identical vessel 80-plus years after the Brit accomplished his amazing journey.

Though Fuchs and his three crew recreated Shackelton's journey from Elephant Island at the northern tip of the Antarctic Archipelago to South Georgia Island during the summer months (Shackleton managed it during the dead of winter), their voyage was no less amazing and no less dangerous. In his text, icebergs lurk beyond every trough, storms are relentless, and the icy temperatures permeate every recess of the little craft. Reprising such a feat is truly ambitious; offering written testimony of it to compete with the original work is equally so. Add to that the fact that Fuchs occasionally challenges some of his predecessor's decisions, and you've got an engaging chronicle of daring adventure.

Well Recommended

We checked in with several of SailNet's contributors to see what they'd suggest as additions to our summer reading list. Here's what they had to say:

John Rousmaniere: Two classics about two very different types of sailing should be better known, and now that they've been reissued, readers can discover them. For a look into the heart of a successful family cruiser, read Anthony Bailey's The Coast of Summer, published by Sheridan House. To understand what makes adventurers tick, there is Miles Clark's High Endeavours.

An accomplished professional writer (of, among other things, rich biographies of the painters Turner and Rembrandt and sweet studies of boats and coastal villages), Bailey spent his summers cruising between New York and Nantucket in a Tartan 27. Rather than a technical cruising guide or manual of seamanship, The Coast of Summer is, instead, a guide to the cruiser's feelings and a manual of onboard husband-and-wife relations. If I tell you that my wife, who is a novice sailor, loved it as much as I did, you will appreciate the book's success.

Miles and Beryl Smeeton were far more ambitious and rugged sailors than Bailey or most of us will ever be, and in his joint biography of these adventurers, High Endeavours, Miles Clark gives us an intimate look at one of the most remarkable marriages in all history. They climbed mountains on every continent, and in their ketch Tzu Hang sailed around the world despite being twice capsized near Cape Horn. As I wrote in my SailNet column in February (Sailing With a Master Mariner), I had known of the Smeetons for years through Miles Smeeton's writings, but while writing about them in After the Storm I came to appreciate them far better through Clark's book, which includes facts that surprised even their close friends. For some reason not published in the US, High Endeavours was orphaned after its Canadian publisher folded, but it's now available through a few outlets on the web.

John Kretschmer: One of my enduring favorites is Song of the Sirens by Ernest Gann. Sheridan House reprinted it a couple of years ago in a nice trade paperback edition. No sailor should pass through life without reading it at least once.

Secondly, another great old book that I reread every few years is Wanderer by Sterling Hayden. The book has two of my favorite quotes; describing a miserable night at sea Hayden writes, "However rough the going, you have the feeling, '**** it" I wouldn't swap places with anyone else for anything on this earth." Amen, and later he declares, "Yachtsmen are consumed with the notion that their boats must be one hundred percent sound. They are oblivious to the fact that the majority of the world's working vessels are plagued with rot and rust." Sheridan House also reissued this classic recently.

Another new book that is interesting is Treasured Islands, by Lowell D. Holmes. The book examines Robert Louis Stevenson from a nautical perspective and is pretty good. Of course, if you read my extensive blurb on the back cover you'd think it was the greatest book ever written, but alas, that is the nature of blurbs.

Finally, I think the Sailor's Classic Series from Int.Marine/McGraw Hill is great, and one of the best and least known books in the series is The Saga of Cimba, by Richard Maury. The book describes a voyage to the South Pacific in a 34-foot Nova Scotia schooner and the quality of the writing is great. Also, this entire series has intriguing introductions by Jonathan Raban. I think the latest book in the series is Chichester's crotchety classic, Gypsy Moth Circles the Globe.

Sue & Larry: Here are three books we particularly like and heartily recommend. The Boat Who Wouldn't Float by Farley Mowat—an incredible comedy of misadventures that you will often relate to when sailing your own boat in years to come. The Man Who Loved Schooners by R.L. Boudreau—a tale of one man's love of the sea and how he consistently triumphed over each challenge. And Endurance by Alfred Lansing—perhaps the most amazing show of leadership and seamanship in the world. Sir Ernest Shackleton leads his beleaguered, shipwrecked crew from the pack ice of the Antarctic to safety by way of an epic journey aboard a 22-foot lifeboat.

Though most of these books are not currently listed in the SailNet on line store, almost all of them are available on line elsewhere.

Suggested Reading:

Overlooked Books by John Kretschmer

Summer Time Reading 2001 by SailNet

Recommended Books by John Rousmaniere


SailNet Store Section:  Books

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