Inspirational boats

Notable Boats: Small Craft, Many Adventures
By Nic Compton, with illustrations by Peter Scott, The Ivy Press Limited 2016, 160 pp., $29.95 (hardcover).

Reviewed by Bob Muggleston
For Points East

From the “Oxford English Reference Dictionary”: notable/ adj. worthy of note; striking, remarkable, eminent.

All sailors have a short list of boats they love. In “Notable Boats: Small Craft, Many Adventures,” British boating writer and editor Nic Compton presents his, in the form of a lovely illustrated coffee-table book. Inside are 36 boats – both real and fictional – that over the years have inspired him, and that one might, but any standard, consider “notable.”

But, of course, there are so many boats, each with their individual stories and accomplishments. Compton wisely addresses this early on, first listing the above definition, and then writing, “I could have filled this book one hundred times over with notable boats . . . . What was clear was that each boat must have made an interesting or even a historic voyage (the circumnavigators), have contributed to the history of sailing (America, Avenger), or perhaps played a key part in a notable or eminent person’s life (John Lennon, Casanova). . . . It’s likely that our consolidated list of notable boats is, at the very least, eclectic.”

As you’ve probably already surmised, the group of small craft profiled in “Notable Boats” is eclectic – yes, Casanova’s gondola is there, and so is the 43-foot sloop, Megan Jaye, that John Lennon chartered for a sail to Bermuda. So is Webb Chiles’ Chidiock Tichborne, Robin Lee Graham’s Dove, Joshua Slocum’s Spray, and Huckleberry Finn’s raft. You get the picture.

But just try and put this book down. It’s wonderfully written and illustrated, and the profiles themselves are just right – not too long, not too short. Half the fun is turning the page to see what’s coming next. After Suhaili and Sea Serpent, for instance, we change course to Pride of the Thames, the 26-foot water taxi featured in Jerome K. Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat.” This followed by the legendary Olin Stephens-designed Dorade.

Reading the book (and I did, cover-to-cover, in just under three hours) is a bit like exploring new cruising grounds on a small boat: You never know what’s around the corner, or how it will impact you. Isn’t this one of the reasons we love these voyages so much?

Compton and illustrator Peter Scott have put together a wonderful little compilation, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. With so many notable craft designed and built over the years, and with such a diverse cast of characters who’ve piloted them into our collective consciences, is it too much to ask for a Volume 2?

Comments are closed.