Tuesday, January 26, 2010


It is better to sail than to read, but reading is good too. I have always collected sailing books and lately I have become a bit more focused on my collection. As will not surprise you if you have been following this blog, I like best the books from the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's, when one could sail without checking one's email.

I thought I would show some of my collection, so I took a series of photos.These are some of my oversized books.

At the top is Ashley's Book of Knots, about which I lately wrote. Next is L. Francis Herreshoff's The Common Sense of Yacht Design, 1974, a book I warmly recommend. The book is packed with information and shows, among other things, how little sailing has in its essence changed, and no one writes like cranky old Herreshoff.

Below is Sailing the Great Races, Robert Burton 1979. A bit dated, more so than Herreshoff in a way although it describes a much later time (bloopers, 12 Meters with trim tabs), and a snapshot of 1970's ocean racing.

Arthur Beiser's The Proper Yacht. Beiser is a physicist, independently wealthy I think, and he owned the big fast steel Alden ketch Minot's Light. "I start from the premise that no object created by man is as satisfying to his body and his soul as a proper sailing yacht." The book is a series of essays discussing particular yachts, and it is very good.

The next is an outlier, Shang by Dixon Merkt and Richard Grave, the latter the father of a friend. Shang Wheeler was a genius at duck decoys and the book is a real find for those interested in the decoys of eastern Long Island Sound, and who isn't.

 Across the Western Ocean by William Snaith. Snaith was an architect, and the book is the story of his 1961 passage from St. Johns, Newfoundland to England aboard Figaro, his storied 47 foot centerboard yawl. He is an insightful and happy writer and this book is nearly as good as his On the Wind's Way, a must have.

Brings us to Ships of the World, a sort of encyclopedia of ships, by a friend, very well done, and a book I really must spend some time with some day soon.

The two matched volumes are from the United States Naval Institute, Destroyer and Submarine, an official history of actions involving those classes of U.S. ships in World War Two. It is pretty terrific stuff, wonderful illustrations and comprehensive. (Click on the photo, it's worth a good look.) I believe Samuel Elliott Morrison was involved in the editing. These books were the gift of my wife's uncle Truman Bradley of New Haven, who commanded a squadron of patrol-torpedo boats in that war, bringing them from east coast U.S. to the western Pacific. He was a consummate yachtsman and a great guy, much missed.

To the right, Nowhere is Too Far, annals of the Cruising Club of America, a club to which I do not belong but would like to, then Phillip Rhodes and his Yacht Designs. (I do love Rhodes, who's shear is as distinctive on a Widgeon as on his 97 foot Curlew.) Then a 1995 yearbook of The Catbook Association featuring Oscar Pease, the last man to scallop under sail in Vineyard waters, with whom I painted boats as a boy and whose cat Vanity has since been desecrated with AN OUTBOARD MOTOR BOLTED TO A BRACKET ON THE TRANSOM, like putting lipstick on La Pieta, and finally The Bay and the Sound, photos by Norman Fortier.

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