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Books for the Boat
By Barb Hansen
October 1, 2002


If I designed cruising boats, I'd put a bookcase in every salon, next to every bunk, and in the pilothouse, too.

My boats would be designed for people who, like the designer, live to read and live to cruise and would never separate one from the other. You could read while the boat is at anchor. You could read while the boat is underway. Joy, thy name is reading a good book on a boat.

There would be a lighted navigation table, of course, a place to plan and plot or to look up something in a reference book. My boats would have lots of cushioned nooks and crannies shaped for the human form in the knees-drawn reading position and each reading nook would have a large window for letting in cool breezes and soft light.

I'd even specify the books, Barb's Books for the Boat.

First I'd put in the reference books, basics for the cruising person, the how-to tomes of navigation and vessel maintenance as well as the where-to cruising guides. These are my recommendations for the captain and the fire mate, too:

1. Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual,by Nigel Calder. Subtitled How to Maintain, Repair and Improve Your Boat's Essential Systems, this is the book that teaches you how to make repairs yourself, the kind that can rescue your trip and even you life.
2. The Ashley Book of Knots. Clifford W. Ashley's book is THE book on knots - 3,900 of them. The explanations are clear. We actually enjoy hanging out with Ashley's book and practicing our knots for fun. I know, I know. Get a life.
3. Cruising Guide to Western Florida, by Claiborne S. Young. This is the book we use in our area but, wherever you cruise, bring a Claiborne's guide with you. Thorough yet entertaining, this guide is our guiding light for marinas, depths, restaurants, and sights to see.
4. The Onboard Medical Handbook. Paul G. Gill, M.D. has authored what we think is the ultimate reference book for onboard first aid and emergency medicine.
5. Nigel Calder's Cruising Handbook. Calder's book is for sailors, covering everything from selecting a vessel, equipping a vessel, and sailing a vessel. It assumes nothing.
6. Cruising Chef Cookbook. Ya gotta eat, right? Eat right, then. Michael Greenwald tells you how to buy the right stuff and serve it up deliciously. The recipes are wonderful and the humor is salty.

I have one book that I would put on the top of a table all by itself and make sure the elegant, simple cover picks up the light. This one is in category by itself, a category I call First Read, Must Read:

First You Have to Row a Little Boat, by Richard Bode. Bode's classic tells what he learned as a little boy from sailing and how those lessons help him navigate life. His memoir helped my understand what boating - and life - are all about. It belongs on your boat, and in your philosophy.

Next, I'd carefully place some Cruising Classics about the boat, books that have stood the test of time because of their practical advice, philosophical insights into the cruising life, and - I believe -- glimpses into the desire of man to achieve and to be significant.
1. Cruising in Seraffyn. Lin and Larry Pardey wrote this more than 25 years ago, a record of their seven-year trip from California to England aboard a 24-foot cutter without power. This was one of our favorites when Vic and I lived aboard.
2. Sailing Alone around the World. This is Capt. Vic's pick. Captain Joshua Slocum set out from East Boston in a 37-foot sloop when he was 51 and his vessel was more than 100. He became the first person to solo around the world.
3. The Incredible Voyage: A Personal Odyssey. Tristan Jones sailed the world's lowest body of water, The Dead Sea, and he sailed the highest, Lake Titicaca in the Andes. This journal of his six-year extreme expedition is a salute to man's capacity to endure.
4. Voyage Under Power. Robert Beebe's valuable book about passagemaking was out of the print for a long time. It has been revised and reprinted and thanks for that. This is the bible for anybody who cruises the big ponds including those who contemplate a crossing.

I'm not done, but my space is. So Barb's Books for the Boat will resume next month with shelves dedicated to these categories: Fun Fiction Afloat, the Sea and the Sky, a Kid's Cruising Corner, and Coffee Table Books. Stay tuned.

Vic asked me to please put in here that each bookcase must be equipped with a small battery-powered light for reading so we readers don't drain the juice out of the boat's batteries. Aye, aye.

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