Features January 2014 Issue

Reads for Whiling Away Winter

Dig into epic survival tales, real-life dramas, and historic reports.

books about sailing

books about sailing

Do your 2014 New Year’s resolutions include quitting your job to sail around the world? Brushing up on maritime history? Learning new knots? Or how about just setting aside more time to enjoy a good book? Then, our winter reading recommendations will certainly fit the bill. The list also includes the memoirs of former cruising kids, an epic survival story, and tales of solo sailing.

“Sailing a Serious Ocean: Sailboats, Storms, Stories and Lessons Learned from 30 Years at Sea” (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, 2013, $20, $12 Kindle), by John Kretschmer, gives detailed information and field-tested advice on sailing in storms, circumnavigating, and fair-weather cruising. Written by an ocean sailor with 30 years of experience—he stopped keeping track of sea mileage after 300,000—the book offers advice on myriad topics, relayed through accounts of the author’s personal experiences. Topics include advice on managing watches; the science of rogue waves, rough weather, and the Beaufort Wind Scale; boat buying and boat design; ocean sailing routes, storm strategies, and survival tactics. The book features useful, information-packed tables, sidebars, and lists. Editor favorites were the list of Local Winds of the Mediterranean; the SA/D and D/L Ratios of Kretschmer’s favorite sailboats; and Kretschmer’s Top 10 Storms. (Anyone who has to limit his top storms to 10 should consider writing a sequel, in our opinion!)

“Capsized: Jim Nalepka’s Epic 119 Day Survival Voyage Aboard the Rose-Noelle” (New Street Communications, 2013, $20, $10 Kindle), by Steven Callahan, recounts the physical, psychological, and emotional components of survival, at once both personal and universal. This book will certainly have sailors asking themselves how they would react if faced with such extraordinary circumstances. Jim Nalepka and his three shipmates spent 119 days inside the hull of the capsized Rose-Noelle, in a compartment the size of a double mattress. When they weren’t inside the compartment, they climbed on top of the overturned hull. The Rose-Noelle capsized and never righted after being hit by a wave off the coast of New Zealand. Nalepka, an American who had been working as a cook for a New Zealand-based Outward Bound school, had quit his job and joined his friend, Rick Hellriegel, and two total strangers for a sail to Tonga. Nalepka had no offshore experience and was seeking the “edge” of life and adventure. The book, a reprinting of the original 1992 story, is told by Nalepka through author Steven Callahan, himself a survivor of spending 76 days adrift in a life raft alone.

One of the most stunning stories to come out of October 2012’s destructive Hurricane Sandy was the loss of the Bounty, a replica of the famous HMS Bounty, an 18th-century tall ship. “The Gathering Wind: Hurricane Sandy, the Sailing Ship Bounty, and a Courageous Rescue at Sea” (New American Library/ Penguin Group, 2013, $20, $11 Kindle), by Gregory A. Freeman, tells the story of the loss of the Bounty replica and the U.S. Coast Guard’s dramatic and courageous rescue of most of the Bounty’s crew. The book also takes an in-depth look at the deaths of the ship’s captain, Robin Walbridge, and crew member Claudene Cristian. The author is an award-winning writer of several well-known narrative nonfiction stories, including “The Forgotten 500” and “Sailors to the End: The Deadly Fire on the USS Forrestal and the Heroes Who Fought It.”

“Marlinspike Sailor’s Arts and Crafts: A Step-by-Step Guide to Tying Classic Sailor’s Knots to Create, Adorn, and Show Off” (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, 2013, $13, $10 Kindle), by Barbara Merry, is a guide to those hard-to-make Turk’s Heads, Monkey’s Fists, and Carrick Bends. Merry’s detailed directions, along with drawings and photographs, make the Chinese Buttons and Canvas Ditty Bag projects as easy as tying a knot.

Maritime history buffs will be interested in the January 2014 release “Ate the Dog Yesterday: Maritime Casualties, Calamities and Catastrophes” (Whittles Publishing, 2014, $30) by Graham Faiella. While it’s a fairly dry account, the book is a densely packed, fascinating exposure of shipping history. “Ate the Dog” takes a look at shipping traffic, shipwrecks, and other shipping news as reported by “Lloyd’s List,” a daily newspaper that has recorded shipping news since the late-1600s. Faiella’s book samples stories from the pages of Lloyd’s List editions from 1869 to the early 20th century, the height of the ocean-voyaging commercial sailing ships and the early transition years of the steamship era. Regular Lloyd’s List sections included “Missing Vessels,” reports that always ended with“...and has not since been heard of;” “Loss Book,” a record of casualties; and more interestingly, “Bottle,” where messages that were found at sea in a bottle were recorded. It was one of these Bottle messages that gave Faiella the title for this book: A message found in a bottle in June 1875, dated May 1873: “Ate the dog yesterday, schooner James, from Liverpool to Jamaica, foundered on a reef of rocks about 1,000 miles from land. Anyone finding this will please publish in the papers and oblige your humble servant, James Jones, 23 Scotland Road, Liverpool.” What it lacks in narrative arch, “Ate the Dog Yesterday” more than makes up for in novel historical coverage.

Our winter reading list includes two stories about growing up as a live-aboard. Daughter of famed bluewater sailor and author Jimmy Cornell, Doina Cornell lived aboard the family’s 36-foot boat with her parents and brother from age 7 until age 14. Sailing out of England in 1975, the Cornell’s cruised the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Caribbean, the America’s, the Pacific, Asia, and the Indian Ocean. “Child of the Sea: A Memoir of a Sailing Childhood” (Cornell Sailing Publications, 2012, $17, $10 Kindle) is Doina Cornell’s story. The book offers a peek into the cruising life, from the unique perspective of a child, including the challenges of returning to “landlubber life” as a young teenage girl who grew up on the ocean.

“Boat Girl: A Memoir of Youth, Love, and Fiberglass” by Melanie Neale (Beating Windward, 2012, $12, $6.95 Kindle), is marine writer Melanie Neale’s raw memoir of growing up aboard her family’s 47-foot sailboat, Chez Nous, in the ’80s and ’90s. The Neale family spent summers sailing the U.S. East Coast and winters in the Bahamas. Melanie spent 18 years onboard Chez Nous, and her brave story tells of how she secretly struggled with an eating disorder, the alienation of being a boat kid, and confusion over her developing maturity—even as her father, notable author Tom Neale, published articles about family bonding through living on a boat together. “Boat Girl” was also adapted for a younger audience (middle-schoolers) and published under the title “Boat Kid: How I Survived Swimming with Sharks, Being Homeschooled and Growing Up On a Boat” (2013).

Both “Boat Girl” and “Child of the Sea” are recommended reading for children and teenagers who daydream of sailing off with their family, and for parents who are considering taking their children to sea.

To spice up the dull winter days, editors selected two real-life tales from different walks of life that add a little humor to your reading list.

“Shipwrecked in Paradise: The true story of a cleaning lady who set out to sail around the world” (Mereo Books, 2013, $12, $5.50 Kindle), by Julie Waterman, recounts Waterman’s tough upbringing in England as one of seven children of a single mom in the 1970s. Her hard-scramble early years taught her about relentless hard work and helped her develop a positive spirit in the face of adversity—the perfect preparation for life at sea. Waterman tells of her own early marriage and raising two kids as a teenage mom, starting and growing a successful cleaning business, and the decision to buy a boat and go to sea, alone. Her journey takes her across the globe and through a string of islands, enjoying along the way a string of adventures, rum drinks, and romances until the fateful day she finds herself shipwrecked in Vanuatu. A woman solo sailing across the Pacific is not all that common even now; in the early 1980s, one can only imagine the feisty and ever-optimistic Waterman was one-of-a-kind—as is her story, an engaging and fun read.

“Love with a Chance of Drowning” (Hyperion, 2013, $13, $10 Kindle) by Torre DeRoche, is the well-written story of “fearful adventurer” Australian Torre DeRoche and her travels across the Pacific with her Argentinian boyfriend, Ivan. After meeting in San Francisco and falling for each other, the two set out across the Pacific on Ivan’s boat, Amazing Grace. Told with courage and a sense of humor, the book is a love story, between two people, a boat, and the sea.

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