Recommended Winter Reading
Books to feed the sailor spirit through the off-season.
As we ease into 2012—the Year of the Dragon—we’ve rounded up some winter reads from dragons in the sailing and writing communities. Offshore voyager and Practical Sailor contributor Ed Mapes, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael D’Antonio, and bluewater sailor Charles Doane have recently published new titles, and sailing journalist Herb McCormick has two new books out. Professional meteorologist Alan Watts recently added to his stockpile of weather books, and Laura Hillenbrand’s latest bestselling non-fiction book, “Unbroken,” has already been optioned for a movie. We’ve also included Yan Martel’s “Life of Pi” for this year’s picks for off-season reads because a movie based on the book is due out later this year—if you haven’t already, we suggest reading it before the movie launches. And the children’s adventure tale, “The Lion’s Paw” by Rob White is a must-have for those with young sailor’s on their crew. Enjoy!
McCormick’s new book, “Gone to the Sea,” (2011, Paradise Cay Publication, $12, not available in electronic format) is an anthology of the best profiles and articles compiled from his three decades of sailing. McCormick’s stories, organized into Faces, Places, and Races, tack between profiles of Mr. America’s Cup Dennis Connor, author and entrepreneur Jimmy Cornell, and solo sailor Mike Plant. His “Places” take the reader from the Caribbean to California, down to Mexico on the Baja Ha-Ha, hard over under bracing sail from Australia to Antarctica, and ultimately bashing around Cape Horn, flying a Chilean flag. His “Races” recapture the miles he spent in the Sydney-Hobart, the 100th TransPac, the Pacific Cup, the America’s Cup, and include one last tack across the bow of Ted Kennedy’s schooner off the waters of Hyannis Port, Mass.
McCormick—the former editor-in-chief of Cruising World magazine and yachting correspondent for The New York Times who has sailed over 75,000 offshore miles—never fails to impress and entertain. Even after the boats cross the finish line in the book’s final chapter, we know we haven’t heard the last of Herb.
McCormick’s most recent release—published just before this issue went to press—“One Island, One Ocean: Around The America’s Aboard Ocean Watch” (2011, Weldon Owen 2011, $23) captures the educational journey of five men setting sail from Seattle and circumnavigating the Americas. Sailing north around the Northwest Passage, east to the Atlantic, south clear down to Cape Horn, west and north again, and returning to Washington state, McCormick and crew pursue a multi-purpose mission focusing on science, education, and awareness, discovering along the way the distressing destruction of the environment and native cultures, while also reveling in the beauty, wonder, and hope of our world. The book offers a unique glimpse of the evolution of our planet and the oceans.
Mapes describes himself as a sailor who began his nautical career “when Moby Dick was a minnow.” His third book, “Safer Offshore – Crisis Management and Emergency Repairs at Sea,” (2010, Paradise Cay Publications, $15, not available in electronic format) provides the reader with information on how to manage emergencies offshore, where outside assistance is not available. Mapes outlines procedures for dealing with groundings, rigging failures, loss of steering, crew overboard, fire, and heavy weather at sea, and he emphasizes the need to be vigilant and well-prepared well before leaving shore.
Mapes is a licensed Coast Guard Master and conducts bluewater sailing seminars around the country.
Weather plays a constant role in the success or ruin of a voyage. Watts’ “Weather Wise,” (2008, Sheridan House, $23, not available in electronic format), is a practical, lively, and easy-to-read guide about weather. Watts covers seasons, clouds, rain, weather changes, wind, thunder, rain, fog, mist, and hurricanes—all things of great interest to the sailor, particularly offshore sailors. A professional meteorologist and sailor, Watts has written several other best-selling books on weather.
Doane’s “The Modern Cruising Sailboat—A Complete Guide to Its Design, Construction, and Outfitting” (2010, International Marine, $30, $18 for Kindle) is a thoroughly researched and an impressively exhaustive outline of the modern cruising vessel. Starting with the evolution of cruising sailboats, Doane looks at boat design, hull and deck construction, sails and rigging, deck gear, and onboard systems. He painstakingly dissects 40 cruising sailboats, including the Tartan 27, the Bristol Channel Cutter 28, Tayana 37, Morgan Out Island 41, and the Catalina 42. Packed full of information, this book is a great read and resource for any sailor interested in cruising sailboats or looking to buy a “new” boat.
“A Full Cup: Sir Thomas Lipton’s Extraordinary Life and His Quest for the America’s Cup” (2010, Riverhead Books, $12, $10 for Kindle), is the bracing biography of Sir Thomas Lipton—the original Richard Branson and the world’s first “celebrity CEO”—the adventurer, inventor, and marketer extraordinaire behind Lipton Tea. The compelling story, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael D’Antonio, follows Lipton’s start in the Glasgow slums, his move to New York, and his return to Scotland, where he opened the first of many stores meant to the bring highest-quality goods at affordable prices and the best customer service in town to all levels of society. He used his well-honed marketing skills to turn tea—a beverage that at the time, only the world’s upper class enjoyed—into a drink served in homes around the globe, and to turn himself into a beloved public persona. At the age of 50, he turned his energy toward winning the America’s Cup. “A Full Cup” captures Lipton’s zeal and determination through his five failed attempts at the Cup.
Edited by Stephen Brennan, “The Best Sailing Stories Ever Told” (2011, Skyhorse Publishing, $13) virtually ignores contemporary works, but Brennan has brought together an excellent collection of stories from the great sea writers of the 19th and early 20th century. Frederick Marryatt, Jack London, Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, Richard Henry Dana Jr., and John Masefield are present and accounted for—with Guy de Maupassant, Charles Dickens, and Stephen Crane along for the ride. Almost all of these works are in the public domain and are freely available on the Internet, so if you’re the kind who likes to curl up with your iPad or Kindle—and don’t mind Googling around for a legible copy—you could grab most of these stories for free. However, if you prefer real books with real pages, the collection is a good deal. Conrad’s “Youth,” an often-overlooked gem in Capt. Korzeniowski’s repertoire, is by itself worth the price of admission.
Runaway best-seller “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand (2010, Random House, $17, $13 for Kindle) makes a perfect companion for those long night watches in the armchair. Hillenbrand tells the story of Louie Zamperini, a hell-raising juvenile delinquent who grew up in California, fought his way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and was training for the 1940 Olympics when World War II broke out. Zamperini’s Army Air Corps plane went down in the Pacific in 1943, followed by a series of catastrophic events almost too incredible to believe. After almost 50 days in a life raft, Zamperini is rescued, only to be taken to a brutal POW camp. Zamperini’s story is a staggering tale of survival, defiance, and the will of a man who refused to be broken.
While Hillenbrand’s, “Unbroken” was recently optioned as a movie, filming for the “Life of Pi” (2001, Harcourt Books, $9, $7 for Kindle), has wrapped up, and the movie is set to be released in late 2012. January’s chilly, shortened days are the perfect time to read “Life of Pi” and decide for yourself what actually happened to a young boy adrift for 227 days in a 26-foot lifeboat, with a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, a seasick orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger for company. Once the movie is released, the “real story” will be defined by Ang Lee. Read it before you see it.
According to Bookfinder.com, Rob White’s “The Lion’s Paw” (1996, A.W. Ink Publishing, $20) was among the most requested out-of-print children’s adventure stories. Originally published in 1946, the book is now back in print, and limited numbers are available from Amazon.com and from the book’s website, www.thelionspaw.org. In the young adult novel, two runaway children and a teenage misfit take off on an adventure across Florida’s waterways. Sailing from St. Lucie Canal across Lake Okeechobee and through inland waters to Sanibel and Captiva on the Gulf Coast, Nick, Penny, and Ben learn about life and themselves while trying to stay one gust ahead of tropical storms, the Coast Guard, bounty hunters, snakes, and hungry alligators. The story recalls an old Florida and stirs up nostalgia for an innocence that has long since passed.