The July issue of Practical Sailor should be up on the home page soon, and tucked among the tests of chafing gear and broadband radar you’ll find our annual list of good summer reads. This month we offer a mix of memoirs, fiction, trivia, and how-to books. The featured authors include two-time America’s Cup Winner Peter Isler, ESPN sailing commentator Gary Jobson, the late great naval historian Alan Villiers, and National Book Award Winner John Casey.
I tried to think of another leisure pursuit so blessed with great writers and came up empty. I suppose avid travelers might muster a competitive roster of story-tellers, but some of these writers' best travel tales are tied to the sea, so we, too, could claim them as our own.
To mark our summer reading issue, I’ve pulled a couple of books from my own bookshelf to share, both of them related to round-bilge sharpies and our recent review of the Presto 30 in the June issue.
The first is the “Commodore’s Story,” a memoir of yacht designer Ralph M. Munroe, co-written by his longtime friend Vincent Gilpin. While ostensibly the reflections of a turn-of-the-century sailor, pioneer, and a yacht designer, the “The Commodore’s Story,” emerges as an environmentalist’s paean to the early days on Biscayne Bay. Anyone who has watched “progress” consume their favorite sailing grounds can identify with Munroe’s saudade: “. . . as I look back there is a color—a tone—a resonance—a life, in those early days and their doings which is now unknown.”
The second book is Gilpin’s “Good Little Ship.” Gilpin initially wrote the book as a tribute to Munroe’s designs, the great volume of line drawings, photographs, and plans that the Hurricane of 1926 swept from Munroe’s home in Coconut Grove, Fla., The Barnacle. But the slim book’s purpose becomes more far-reaching, ultimately presenting the foundations of a philosophy that is equal parts romantic and pragmatic-the philosophy of the small-boat sailor.
“Man has adventured on water in endless ways . . . but of them all, the small craft lies closes to wind and wave, which are the soul and body of the sea,” Gilpin writes.
If you’ve ever imagined yourself gunkholing North America’s estuaries in a boat that carries not an ounce of plastic, then you’ll enjoy “The Good Little Ship.”
Whenever I feel like contemporary yacht designs are losing touch with their raison d’ etre, these are two of the books I turn to. If you’ve got a great book you’d like to share with other sailors, please let me know at email@example.com, or leave a comment below.