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Thread: Notable Little-Known Sailing Books

  1. #1
    Moderator Christian Williams's Avatar
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    Los Angeles
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    Notable Little-Known Sailing Books

    For a potential project, I would like assistance in putting together a list of lesser-known sailing books.

    Not Chichester, Slocum, Moitessier--but ones we may have missed.

    Such as, "The Boy, Me and the Cat" by Henry Plummer. (Intracoastal, before the war)

    "On the Wind of a Dream" by /Commander Victor Clark, RN (After the war)

    "The Curve of Time" by M. Wylie Blanchet (not well known enough, except perhaps in Pacific Northwest).

    Thanks for any favorites.
    Thelonious II, E381 hull 513 (1984) Universal 5432
    Table of Contents for Thelonious Blog here

  2. #2
    Principal Partner ignacio's Avatar
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    "Kodoku" by Kenichi Horie - Solo crossing from Japan to San Francisco in a 19 foot plywood boat.

    "Alone Through The Roaring Forties" by Vito Dumas - Circumnavigates via the southern ocean....during WWII.

    "At One with the Sea" by Naomi James - first woman (Brit) singlehander to circumnavigate around Cape Horn. Uses first Sailomat model to do it.

    "Maiden Voyage" by Tania Aebi - first American woman (and at the time, youngest person) to circumnavigate.

    Oh, and I think this got overlooked too: Teddy Seymour's solo circumnavigation in Love Song, an Ericson 35 Mk I. His account is not in book form, though it's published online here in three chapters:
    Last edited by ignacio; 06-11-2018 at 06:19 PM.
    1979 Ericson 35-II - Katherine S
    Emeryville, CA

  3. #3
    1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
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    Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada on Vancouver Island
    One of my favourites is "First You Have To Row A Little Boat" by Richard Bode. It's full of simple wisdom, an easy enjoyable read. Everyone I've lent it to has loved it, and bought their own copy.

  4. #4
    Contributing Partner Teranodon's Avatar
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    Nov 2011
    San Juan Island, Washington State

    Here is a long-winded response to your request. If you (or others) wish to skip the palaver, my list is at the end. The books are guaranteed to please a sailor.

    Some thirty years ago, and for no particular reason that I remember, I read a book by travel writer Eric Newby, the story of his first great adventure. In 1938, fresh out of an English public (i.e., private) school, he gave up a job at an advertising agency and joined the short-handed crew of the giant steel four-masted barque “Moshulu”, bound for Australia to pick up a cargo of wheat. “The Last Grain Race” is wonderful piece of writing, complete with colorful characters, storms, fights, treachery, camaraderie - all depicted with British understatement and wry humor. But overshadowing everything in Newby’s account is the great ship herself:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    As soon as I put down the book, I had to know more. First, I studied “Moshulu’s” history. In the days before Wikipedia, this was not so easy, but I discovered that she was built on the Clyde for a German shipper in 1904 and christened “Kurt”. At the outbreak of World War I, she was interned in Astoria, Oregon, then seized by the government when the U.S. entered the war. Her new peculiar name was chosen by none other than the wife of President Wilson. Some of Edith Wilson’s ancestors were Native Americans, and she found an “Indian” word that pleased her in the Library of Congress. It’s actually a proper noun, the ancient name of a creek in what is now New York’s Bronx district, possibly meaning “smooth stones”. In 1935, the barque was acquired by eccentric entrepreneur, Gustaf Erikson, who bought up many of the last great windjammers and sent them around the world, carrying bulk cargos out of the home port of Mariehamn in the Aland Islands between Sweden and Finland. Today, “Moshulu” is one of a handful of surviving square-riggers. Bizarrely, she can be found at Philadelphia’s Penn landing, where she has been converted into a floating restaurant! In 1973, she was towed to New York for a cameo appearance in “The Godfather, Part II”, bringing the young Vito Corleone to Ellis Island.

    When I was done with “Moshulu”, I began systematically researching the history of the last iron and steel square-rigged ships. Hundreds were built in the second half of the nineteenth century and on into the twentieth, when they were finally pushed into oblivion by the power of steam. I amassed a library of some three hundred books (for all I know, it’s the most complete collection on this obscure subject, anywhere). Many of these books are fascinating technical treatises about masting, rigging and seamanship, but my most treasured ones are autobiographies authored by the captains of the great ships, written in retirement as a last wistful testament to closed era in maritime history. After reading dozens and dozens of accounts of voyages in square sail, I began to feel as though I had been reading a chapter in my own life. That’s when I knew it was time to stop.

    In the meantime, and for many years as my work took me traveling around the world, my compulsive hobby sometimes put me on board the few square-rigged ships that can still be seen: the “Balclutha” in San Francisco, the lovely “Pommern” in Mariehamn, “Peking” and “Wavertree” in New York, “Bellem” in Brest, “Rickmer Rickmers” in Hamburg, “AF Chapman” in Stockholm, “Nippon Maru” in Yokohama. But the biggest thrill was briefly taking the wheel of the mighty “James Craig”, gliding majestically into Sydney Harbor with all square sails set.

    So that’s my story an obsession. Since I would like it to be instructive and not just amusing, here are some favorite book titles that Forum members may wish to pick up (possibly through an Interlibrary Loan program):

    “The Long Voyage” by HC DeMierre

    “The Last Grain Race” by Eric Newby

    “Master of the Moving Sea” by M.O. Gowland

    “All Hands Aloft!” and “The Cape Horn Breed” by W.H.S. Jones

    “The Life and Death of the Duchess” by Pamela Eriksson

    “The Tall Ships Pass” by WLA Derby

    “The Call of High Canvas” by A.A. Hurst

    "Rolling Round the Horn" by Claude Muncaster

    "By Way of Cape Horn" and "Grain Race" by Alan Villiers

    "Under Sail" by Felix Riesenberg

    "Under Sail Round Cape Horn" by Gunther Schultz (superb illustrations)

    Stefan Michalowski
    San Juan Island, WA
    1988 Ericson 34 "Talpa"

  5. #5
    Advanced Beginner bgary's Avatar
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    I'll add more as time permits, but the here's a corner of the "little known" genre: one of my favorite authors of historical fiction, Bernard Cornwell, has a number of novels set around sailing.

    Wild Track, Crackdown, Sea Lord, Stormchild, Scoundrel... good reads, and he gets the sailing parts pretty right.
    "Makana" (ex-Thelonious)
    1985 Ericson 32-III #604
    Makana blog: here

  6. #6
    Principal Partner Mark F's Avatar
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    “Once is enough” by Miles Smeeton
    Lotus Flower
    1976 E27
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  7. #7
    Sustaining Partner
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    here's another vote for "First you have to row a little boat." Love that book on life.

    Recently read "All Standing: The remarkable story of the Jeanie Johnston, the legendary Irish famine ship." Interesting historical book with a family story woven in.

    "My old man and the sea: A father and son sail around cape horn" was a good read many years ago.
    Southpaw, E-27
    Yanmar 2qm15

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Annapolis, MD
    How about, "Log of the Molly Brown". Read it back in the 70's, but basic jist is a fellow here in Annapolis knew the IRS was aftter him, so his solution was to walk down to his pier and hop on his Alberg 37 for a trip around the world. Fun story with lots of adventure, as to be expected.
    Independence 31

  9. #9
    Principal Partner footrope's Avatar
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    I would second the suggestion of "The Curve of Time" by M. Wylie Blanchet. No swashbuckling or hurricanes howling in the rigging, but fascinating and intrepid in its own way. The original was published in 1961, but the memoir is set much earlier, in the late 1920s and 30s. The second edition is from 1968, with a new Introduction.
    Craig Davis & Ellen Le Vita

    1980 E38 "Pilot Project"
    Hull #20, Universal Diesel 5432
    Gig Harbor, WA

    In Puget Sound there are only two directions to go - North and South. That applies to the boat and the wind.

  10. #10
    Contributing Partner
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    San Francisco
    On the cautionary side:

    Adrift, Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan

    I believe this is the reason the PO had two solar stills stowed in a lazarette.
    Last edited by mfield; 06-12-2018 at 02:24 PM. Reason: change font
    Mike Field
    "Jenny" E35-3 #251
    San Francisco

  11. #11
    Principal Partner Kenneth K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mfield View Post
    On the cautionary side:

    Adrift, Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan

    I believe this is the reason the PO had two solar stills stowed in a lazarette.
    I was going to post this one as well. A great story. He was ultimately found; 'on Callahan's 76th day afloat in the raft, picked up by fisherman just offshore, who were drawn to him by birds hovering over the raft, which were attracted by the ecosystem that had developed around it' during his 1800 nm float across the Atlantic.

    I learned about this book from an "off-topic" (but related) book called Deep Survival (Gonzales)--full of lost-at-sea, lost-in-the-woods, mountain-top-rescue, etc, "survival stories." An exploration of the physical and mental process survivors and "non-survivors" go through in such situations. A good read for anyone, but probably especially useful for anyone contemplating a long sea voyage.
    Last edited by Kenneth K; 06-12-2018 at 03:27 PM.
    '85 E32-3 "Mariah" #641
    Universal M-25

    "Saltwater is the cure; sweat, tears, or the sea......"

  12. #12
    Contributing Partner
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    Lake Champlain, VT

    For kids too

    I read a number of the books in the Swallows And Amazons series by Arthur Ransome to my kids as bedtime stories and I would swear they even helped build momentum for the ultimate purchase of the family Ericson.
    1985 E32-3
    Universal M25
    Lake Champlain, VT USA

  13. #13
    Senior Moderator Loren Beach's Avatar
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    Lightbulb T.a.r.s.

    Quote Originally Posted by Filkee View Post
    I read a number of the books in the Swallows And Amazons series by Arthur Ransome to my kids as bedtime stories and I would swear they even helped build momentum for the ultimate purchase of the family Ericson.
    So well written.... good reading for the young-at-heart.... from 8 to 80...
    1988 Olson 34 #8
    Sail # 28400
    Betamarine 25 (new 2018)
    Fresh Air
    Portland, OR USA

  14. #14
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    Not as much lesser known, as much as shouldn't be forgotten: Dove - Robin Graham.

    And Webb Chiles - in the present sea.
    September Sun

  15. #15
    Principal Partner Rick R.'s Avatar
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    Here are a handful I had in my ipad.

    Once is Enough - Miles Smeeton
    Desperate Voyage - John Caldwell
    The Loss of the Ship Essex Sunk by a Whale - Thomas Nickerson & Owen Chase
    God forsaken Sea - Derek Lundly
    Atlantic High - William F Buckley
    To Boldly Go Where So Many Have Gone Before - Ron Palmer
    Sailing Alone Across the Atlantic - Trevor Wilson
    At the Mercy of the Sea - John Kretchmer
    Sailing the Dream - John F. McGrady
    Adrift - Steven Callahan
    And, a book by a new guy, what’s his name? Christian Williams....? Ah yes, Alone Together
    Last edited by Rick R.; 06-12-2018 at 07:40 PM.
    1989 32-200
    S/V "Easy"
    (hull #844)
    Pensacola, Florida

    The difference between a sailboat and a power boat? On a powerboat you rush to get somewhere. On a sailboat, you're already there.

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