Three salty books for your summer reading

Reviewed by Sandy Marsters
For Points East

Around the World in Six Years

by Henry Holt, self-published, 288 pp., $17.

by Henry Holt, self-published, 288 pp., $17.

Not every book that should be read is well written or even well edited. In the age of self-publishing, that is simply a reality. I’m something of an Island Packet acolyte. In a recent company newsletter, I saw mention of a book written by a man who at age 67 cast off on a six-year circumnavigation, much of it solo, aboard his Island Packet 350 Chyka.

For anyone of any age, that is a remarkable achievement. For anyone who regularly receives mail from the Social Security Administration, it is incredible and inspirational. Most of us are dreamers. Henry Holt is a doer, and the fact that he passes it all off as a walk in the park, as he does in “Around the World in Six Years,” makes his tale that much more compelling.

Holt’s simple philosophy: “Cruising does not have to be difficult, only if you choose to risk making it so. If you do, you have to be careful.” A good editor would not let the first sentence of that quote stand. But, sometimes, unfiltered thought is more compelling than highly scrubbed prose.

Throughout this tale, which is largely developed from his logbooks, Holt is honest, funny and sensitive. These qualities were clearly critical to the success of his voyage as he developed new friends, dealt with cumbersome bureaucracies, and even nurtured a new and lasting romance along the way.

“Always learning,” Holt writes. “I often said to people that by the time I finish this circumnavigation I will know enough to do a circumnavigation.”

The Complete Ocean Skipper

by Henry Holt, self-published, 288 pp., $17.

by Tom Cunliffe, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016; 269 pp., $32.

If Holt’s book inspires you to cast off on a voyage around the world, or even just across the bay, it is worth listening to some of the experts first. Many cruisers have weighed in on the topic in various books. Now Tom Cunliffe has joined the conversation in his new book, “The Complete Ocean Skipper.”

Cunliffe, a Royal Yacht Association instructor, intends the book as a handbook for anyone planning on taking the demanding RYA course, but it’s packed with information and advice that would be helpful to any boater.

Many such books can be dry and dogmatic, and therefore dull. And Cunliffe can fall victim to lecturing, as in “If a galley doesn’t have fiddles, don’t buy the boat,” but for the most part he has a light touch. In just a couple of pages he addresses the subjects of “rats,” “booze,” and “fishing,” including a photo of a glass of whiskey cooled by a chunk of the iceberg that can be seen in the distance. Elsewhere there is an amusing breakout graphic that explores the conjugation of the verb “heave to.”

Cunliffe is a very traditional sailor who at the same time does not eschew modern conveniences such as chart plotters, refrigeration and autopilots. Still, he believes in a strong background in the basics. One chapter is devoted to a pet topic, astro navigation. I don’t think he was thinking about me when he promises, “If you read the chapter carefully, and make sure you understand the examples, you will have sufficient knowledge to move forward into the wonderful world of star navigation.”

Or, in my case, not.

Beyond the Moon

by James Greig McCulty, World Scientific Publishing, 2006; 279 pp., $75.

by James Greig McCulty, World Scientific Publishing, 2006; 279 pp., $75.

Finally, speaking of stars, for a few years I have been reading a superb treatise on the science of tides. If you think you know something about the rise and fall of the tides, think again. Better yet, read James McCully’s fine book, “Beyond the Moon.” I’ve been reading it for a few years only because it is so fascinating and dense with science, which is not my strongpoint. While this is not a book written for boaters, it is a book that should be read and re-read by anyone who looks at or spends time on the ocean. Study it, and you will quickly know more about tides than any of your friends.

This is one of those rare books that makes science fascinating and accessible. Whether you spend a half hour with it or a few years with it, you will find it enlightening. It deserves space in your onboard library.

Media and book reviewer Sandy Marsters is co-founder, along with Bernie Wideman, of Points East.

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