Looking Back on the Sailing Life

Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 10:46AM - Comments: (0)

November 30, 2011

This year has been a particularly good year for sailing books. Thanks to e-books and the Internet, some old favorites are getting second lives and industrious individuals are now able to cast their stories out onto a larger audience to see where they will land. As we were putting the January issue together, we had trouble cramming them all into the magazine, and several interesting reads landed in our inbox past deadline. Here are a couple that are worth sharing.

As Moore’s Law insinuates itself into the sea, and the idea of a remote-controlled world cruise seems less sensational than steering by the stars, it is hard for some of us to avoid feeling nostalgic. As the last of the sextant-only sailors move into their retirement years, a new type of cruising tale is emerging—the maritime memoire. It's debatable whether the movement is a rebellion against the new wave of digitographic sailors or simply the result of too many old salts with too much time on their hands. Whatever their origins may be, these mildly self-indulgent sea stories offer a fun look back at a simpler time when young around-the-world voyagers didn’t want or need a sponsor, and GPS navigation was years in the future.

Though the title suggests it, Marshall Lubin’s "From Boys 2 Men, an Adventure in Paradise" has no connection to the famous R&B group. The first-person travelogue revisits Lubin’s Endless Summer-type journey around the world in the early 1960s. Kicked out of school for wearing his shirt tales too long, Lubin decided to set out and see with world — with his surfboard of course. First flying to Hawaii with three other surfing buddies, he carried on to complete the circle on his own, at the age of 19. Serendipity guides his journey by plane, an inter-island copra boat, a 56-foot ketch, and two ships. Lubin’s account oscillates between stock descriptions of places and historical events and fascinating accounts of his adventures. The result is a rough blend of personal memoire and travel brochure, but the story is compelling enough to recommend.

Cyclones, near sinkings, and eccentric island characters highlight the tale. If anything, Lubin reminds us of a time when you could sail into Pago Pago and be hard pressed to find a phone, much less an Internet connection to the outside world. Most of all, "From Boys 2 Men, Adventure in Paradise" is a poignant reminder that most of us are only young and reckless for a while, so we should enjoy it while we can. Lubin, who served in the Navy, and eventually became a chiropractor, now volunteers for Challenged America, a nonprofit that provides therapeutic services for the handicapped. 

Steve “Skip” Dashew is a familiar name to many PS readers, as is his emphatic allegiance to big, fast, complex boats, including those of his own Deerfoot design. Dashew has published several books on equipping cruising boats and runs the popular cruising website www.setsail.com. The Dashews are currently tooling—quite comfortably, I imagine—around in their 83-foot motoryacht Wind Horse. What readers might not know is the genetic source of his technical and financial prowess. Dashew’s father, Stanley Dashew, now 95, along with friend Josef S. Klus, recounts his life as a sailor, inventor, and businessman in "You Can Do It!," a hybrid memoire/business-advice book. Dashew, who accumulated much of his fortune with a patented embossing machine that led to the modern credit card, dedicates a chapter of his book to the family’s adventure aboard their 76-foot fully-crewed schooner Constellation. A feature-length movie that dramatized the adventure turned out to be a flop (the trailer offers some hint as to why). Dashew tells how it helped him land a lucrative business contract and save his company Dashew Business Machines. The moral, writes Dashew: “Some ‘failures’ open doors to other valuable opportunities.”

Dashew’s other maxims will also ring familiar—luck, hard work, and persistence are central to his business philosophy—and they are wrapped in a story that will connect with business owners, salesman, or aspiring inventors. Dashew’s rise to success, capped by his generous philanthropic work, is inspiring, and the advice is sound, if not original. At times, Dashew comes across as insensitive and self-absorbed, eliciting little sympathy from the reader, but sympathy is probably the last thing Dashew would want from anyone. Today, at the age of 95 and suffering from Parkinson’s disease, he continues to live an active life. His latest venture is an exercise-machine/walker called the “Dashaway,” a product designed for people with as much persistence as him, a rare species indeed.

 

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