Summer Reads for Every Sailor
From anchorage guide to books on bettering business and seamanship.
Summer is here, and hopefully, the living is easy. We’ve put together a roundup of summer reads perfect for those lazy afternoons aboard. Our reading selection this season includes a provocative reassessment of the War in the Pacific, a look at turning sailing skills into business strategy, the mysteries and memoirs of yacht racing, and more than one way to die, or survive, at sea.
Solo sailor, racer, outlier, and winner of the 1986-87 singlehanded BOC round-the-world race, Mike Plant was the definition of the fearless, talented, and popular American underdog. In a sport dominated by Europeans, Plant planned to attack the 1992 Vendee Globe race (formerly BOC Challenge) with his state-of-the-art, 60-foot sloop, Coyote, but Plant never arrived in France for the race start. In “Coyote Lost at Sea: The Story of Mike Plant, America’s Daring Solo Circumnavigator” (International Marine, 2013, $12 hardcover, $12 Kindle), Plant’s younger sister, Julia Plant, uses research, personal accounts, and Coast Guard reports to investigate the mystery of the Coyote, lost at sea. She recounts his younger years, his development as a sailor, earlier races, and dreams for the future. With tough love, she addresses Mike Plant’s darker side, and explores the idea that often the storm within is what keeps you alive during the storm at sea.
History buffs and Pacific cruisers will find John Prados’s “Islands of Destiny: The Solomon Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun” (NAL Caliber, 2012, $14 paperback, $13 Kindle) a provocative and fascinating reassessment of the War in the Pacific. Backed by meticulous research, including interviews done with Japanese veterans in the 1960s, Prados asserts that the turning point during World War II in the Pacific was not the Battle of Midway, but rather the air and sea battles fought around the Solomon Islands, beginning with the Allied invasion of Guadalcanal and ending with the Allied siege of Rabaul. Prados, a senior research fellow on national security, has written 22 books, and has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
With the 2013 America’s Cup getting into full swing this month, we checked out “The Billionaire and the Mechanic: How Larry Ellison and a Car Mechanic Teamed Up to Win Sailing’s Greatest Race, the America’s Cup” (Grove Press, 2013, $13, $12 Kindle). In it, San Francisco Chronicle journalist Julian Guthrie shares the inside story of one of the world’s most unexpected partnerships, that of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and radiator repairman Norbert Bajurin, commodore of the blue-collar Golden Gate Yacht Club. In 2000, Ellison sought a partnership with his sailing club, the prestigious St. Francis Yacht Club (SFYC), in his bid for the Cup. SFYC turned him down, but Bajurin saw an opportunity for an historic partnership. Offering an unvarnished look at Ellison’s ego at work, the book tells the story of the dramatic road to Oracle’s 2010 America’s Cup win. This is a great read for yacht-racing fanatics and America’s Cup fans.
“The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea,” by Callum Roberts (Penguin Books, 2013, $11 paperback, $10 Kindle), is a powerful wake-up call to protect and restore the seas that sustain life on our planet. Roberts, an award-winning author and a marine conservation biologist at University of York in England, asks readers to acknowledge the enormous amount of destruction and negative change occurring today in the world’s oceans, oceans that had previously been stable for 6,000 to 7,000 years. He offers a devastating account of the impact of modern fishing techniques, agricultural pollution, and climate change, and addresses what must be done to save our seas. A must read for any seafarer who cares about the future of our oceans.
Is your business threatened by the need to find and keep key talent? Crane Wood Stookey’s “Keep Your People in the Boat: Workforce Engagement Lessons From the Sea” (Alia Press, 2012, $16 paperback, $10 Kindle) is a business book for sailors. It applies lessons learned aboard ships to the corporate world, and explains how to get the most out of a workforce crew. This well-organized and thoughtfully written book examines the principles and techniques of engagement, and outlines their real-world application. This is a worthwhile read for those sailing captains who are also captains of industry.
Those transiting the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) this summer—or planning to soon—will find a useful resource in “The Great Book of Anchorages” (Beach House Publications, 2012, by Chuck Beier and Susan Landry, $24). Authors Beier and Landry (former general manager and former editor of Waterway Guide, respectively) list more than 530 anchorages between Norfolk, Va., and the Florida Keys. The spiral-bound book’s focus is on finding anchorages and free dockage; it is not a cruising guide. Anchorage information includes a colored chartlet (based on NOAA charts) showing location (referenced in both latitude and longitude coordinates and ICW statute miles), approach and anchorage depths, holding, and wind protection. Personal observations, along with information on shore access, nearby marinas, and pet-friendly areas are also included, as is a suggested “anchor only” itinerary along the ICW.
Editors picked two tales of sea survival, and tragedy, for this roundup. As the sailing season kicks into high gear this summer, we hope the lessons learned from these accounts will help keep sailors safe. “A Storm Too Soon: True Stories of Disaster, Survival, and an Incredible Rescue” (Scribner, 2013, $20 at www.practical-sailor.com), written by author and PS contributor Michael J. Tougias, is an account of three boats caught in the Gulf Stream during a May 2007 storm. Only six of the 10 crew on the three boats made it home alive. Tougias, a master of maritime-disaster stories, leads readers through a spellbinding, harrowing narrative of what happened, what choices were made, what actions were taken, and how their sum total made the difference between life and death. “Suddenly Overboard: True Stories of Sailors in Fatal Trouble,” by Tom Lochhaas (McGraw-Hill, 2013, $14, $13 Kindle) is another look at unexpected disasters at sea, the choices sailors make, and how these impact their chances for survival. The recent, true-life stories are told in short, compelling narratives, and all address the importance of staying safe while sailing. Lochhaas also provides an analysis of what may have led to some of the accidents, and touches on the roles of stress and extreme emotion when survival is threatened.
For the wood boat enthusiast, “The Big Book of Wooden Boat Restoration: Basic Techniques, Maintenance, and Repair” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012, $16 Hardcover), by Thomas Larsson, covers what you need to know to lovingly restore classic wooden boats from stem to stern, above the waterline and below. This oversized book includes beautiful glossy photographs paired with instructive sketches, and numerous charts and tables. Larsson, one of Sweden’s most respected wooden boat restorers, includes information on surface maintenance, engine installs, winter treatment, wood selection, fasteners, and floors. There are also 10 pages of advice on how to inspect and survey a wooden boat before buying it.
“Why Knot? How to Tie More Than Sixty Ingenious, Useful, Beautiful, Lifesaving and Secure Knots!” (Abrams, 2013, $13) is not just another knot book. It is not written by a sailor, but rather, it is written by high-wire artist Philippe Petit, best known for his 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in New York and being featured in the 2008 Oscar-winning film “Man on Wire.” Petit offers readers a delightfully illustrated, highly entertaining book that demands a respect for knots. The book includes pictures of Petit traversing points between sky-high landmarks around the world, including Notre Dame in Paris, Niagara Falls, and Grand Central Station. The stunning photos include his discussion of which knots were used, of course.