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Cruising Book Reviews

Dragged Aboard: A Cruising Guide for the Reluctant Mate

by Don Casey

Where to find it: Dragged Aboard

Not in the public domain.
Buy it at Dragged Aboard

Review: Dragged Aboard

There are some cruising couples who met because they liked boats and cruising. I know this, because I've met a few. There must be, somewhere, a couple who decided that they both really liked living aboard and cruising after they had met. For the vast majority of couples, however, one partner gets the cruising bug, and the other suffers more or less gladly for him. Usually, it is her suffering for him.

Don Casey and his wife were one of these typical couples: he wanted to live aboard, she wasn't eager to put up with the discomforts. This book is an eager sailor's description of the joys of cruising, and what makes the discomforts worthwhile. What makes the Caseys, and this book, different is that Don learned to listen to his wife, and heard why she was unhappy. This book is the result.

This book isn't the typical cruising book: it's not about sailing or seamanship. As I said, Don Casey listened to his wife. This book is about living on a boat. The reluctant partner usually has a long list of questions like: ``How will we do laundry?'', ``How will we fit in a tiny boat?'', ``How dangerous is it?'', ``What about the children?'', ``How can we stay clean?'', and, most difficult of all: ``Is it worth it?''. This book gives some answers to some of these questions, but what's more important, it helps the eager partner to hear those questions, and see that they have to be satisfactorily answered.

One thing which this book omits is the ability to live far more simply aboard than is possible ashore. I suppose that for the typical North American housewife, that's not a big selling point. My wife and I would both like to reduce the clutter in our lives, and living aboard can de-clutter lives like a cabin in the Arctic, without the frostbite and nine months of darkness. If simple living sounds attractive, check out Voyaging on a Small Income, reviewed elsewhere on this page.

I'm the eager partner, and my wife is the reluctant one. We're still ashore for a few years yet, but I think that the advice in this book is going to help me hear my wife's objections and help us find answers that satisfy her. If you are the eager partner, I recommend that you buy and read this book, often. I think it'll greatly increase your chances of staying married. If your husband has been bitten by the cruising bug, I hope you'll buy this book and give it to him. There may be better books for you, but he needs this one. Make him read it, and talk it over with him.

Storm Tactics Handbook: Modern Methods of Heaving-To for Survival in Extreme Conditions

by Lin and Larry Pardey

Where to find it: Storm Tactics Handbook

Not in the public domain.
Buy it at Storm Tactics Handbook

Review: Storm Tactics Handbook

This book is neatly summed up in the subtitle. Heave-to, early, and get some rest during the storm. The Pardys have bad things to say about the practice of ``running off'' during a storm. This book is well written, and clearly lays out what the Pardys have learned in their decades of voyaging. If you aren't planning on going out on the ocean where the waves can get big, you won't need this. If you are, you should read what they have to say.

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40,000 Miles in a Canoe

by John Claus Voss

Where to find it: 40,000 Miles in a Canoe

The original appears to be in the public domain, but I can't find it online.
Read the appendix to Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss online, on this site.
Buy it at 40,000 Miles in a Canoe

Review: 40,000 Miles in a Canoe

I have ``The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss'', originally published in Japan, in 1913. That book contains three stories, two of which are in 40,000 Miles. The third story, an account of an island treasure hunt, was left out of 40,000 Miles, probably because it's considerably less interesting than the other two stories. I'm recommending the book ``40,000 Miles in a Canoe'' because it has all the interesting parts of the original, and the original is hard to find, and expensive.

Captain Voss and one companion left Victoria, British Columbia in 1901, in a decked-over dugout canoe which they bought from an old Indian. Their aim was to sail around the world and make their fortune by writing about it, as Captain Joshua Slocum had recently done. Along the way, his first crew member left after a mutiny at sea, and his second crew member was lost overboard. Voss and his canoe didn't make it quite all the way around the world, since they crossed only the Pacific and Indian Oceans and stopped in England. However, he definitely accomplished his underlying goal of making some money and writing a great story.

Voss was an experienced seaman, and his book is still an excellent resource on handling a small boat in bad weather. You will find it quoted approvingly by many authors writing on the subject, including the Pardys. By all accounts, Voss was not particularly articulate or well educated, and the fact that the book is so well written has caused speculation that the book may have been ghost-written by Weston Martyr, who wrote the introduction. I'm not convinced that Voss must necessarily have been a bad writer, but certainly the writing is as good as Martyr's.

The second story in this book tells of the short voyage of the Sea Queen, a tiny yawl in which Captain Voss and two companions set out from Tokyo and weathered a hurricane. Finally, there is a short appendix in which Voss summarised his advice on weathering storms at sea. This book is still one of the best sources of wisdom for small boat seamanship, and it's still one of the best non-fiction accounts of ocean voyaging in a small boat. If you're seriously planning to take a small boat offshore, you need this book. If you enjoy reading accounts of cruises, you need it. If you just enjoy good literature, you won't go wrong with this.

Voyaging on a Small Income

by Ann Hill, Annie Hill

Where to find it: Voyaging on a Small Income

Not in the public domain.
Buy it from Voyaging on a Small Income

Review: Voyaging on a Small Income

The title puts the book in a nutshell. Annie Hill tells us about building and cruising in their plywood dory, Badger, and how they managed to live so frugally that their small savings actually increased during 20 years of full-time cruising. She covers how to select and outfit a boat, how to find and store provisions, how to live aboard and, most importantly, how to live well while living simply and cheaply. I've tried to live simply for a long time, and I've found that this book has inspired me to go farther in that direction.

She opens with chapters explaining their lifestyle and their choice of boat. Their boat, Badger, has a junk rig on a plywood dory hull, which they built in about three years. They chose the design and materials for low first cost and low maintenance. Twenty years later, it is still sailing and still sound. They chose the design and materials for low first cost and low maintenance.

The Hill's ``small income'' was $200 to $300 per month, year after year. One of the main reasons that they were able to live so cheaply was that they lived on a small, simple boat (about 34 feet, 10,000 pounds displacement) with few mechanical systems. Their entertainment was sailing and travel, and one another's company. Their diet was mostly vegetarian, simple, inexpensive and good. This is definitely not a cookbook, but her recommendations can save you a great deal of money on food, and might improve your health.

More coming soon.

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