Review: Total Loss – A Collection of First-Hand Accounts of Yacht Losses at Sea

Categories: 5 Star,Sailing
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Jack Coote Revised by Paul Gelder

5 Stars Wake Up Call for Anyone Responsible for a Small Vessel and Its Souls

This is a hugely important book that should be in any personal or organizational (e.g. sail training program) library. It is organized into the following parts: weather (and waves), faulty navigation (poor thinking), failure of gear or rigging, failure of ground tackle or mooring lines, collision (think submerged free floating shipping container), fire or explosion, and towing mishaps.

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Jan 17

Review: Yachtsman in Red China


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5.0 out of 5 stars Real Life From Building the Boat to Being Captured by the Chinese

February 16, 2010

David J. Steele

I watched my father build the Piver Tri-Maran in his garage and front yard of our home in Saigon, South Viet-Nam (at the time). This book is a still exciting story of an oil engineer and manager (at the time in charge of all Esso supply for all of Viet-Nam) who built a boat from scratch and sailed it from Saigon toward Hong Kong.

20 miles off the coast of Hainan (by his calculations) he was rammed by militia-pirates and the boat sunk, leaving him in the water. He was taken prisoner and vanished from the public eye. Months later he was released into Hong Kong with some photos of pieces of his boat washed up on shore, and his sextant.

The best part of the book for me has always been his account of being treated as a guest rather than a prisoner in China, and when asked what Americans drank with their meals, his response “a big bottle of beer.” That’s what he got, and he claims that is why he only lost 40 pounds or whatever it was.

I still have the “little red book” he was given to read while a prisoner. My positive opinion of the Chinese has been shaped in part by their very dignified treatment of my father as a quasi-prisoner, combined with my finishing high school in Singapore at a time when Minister-Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was just hitting his statesmanlike-stride.

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Feb 16

Review DVD: Morning Light

Morning Light

Worthy of time and money, could have been better, June 25, 2009

The Amazon review above stinks. Ignore it.

I would never, ever, have known of Morning Light if I had not been the only other person in an advanced meterology class in Seattle under master weatherman Lee Chesneau. The skipper Jeremy, the navigator Piet, and the back-up navigator Chris, and I, spent a full week together. I ended up feeding them and the instructor a lot of sushi.

These three were a cut above the norm, but one of the things I learned from being with them was just how normal the crew was, and the fact that they were giving up a working position in order to carry a camaraman–in other words, they came in second to a world-class professional crew even though handicapped by one cargo camaraman. I was surprised not to see this mentioned in the film.

As for the film, it had me on the edge of my seat and as mundane as some may find aspects of the film–not exactly a James Bond movie, and certainly not a drama with hotties such as Wind–for anyone who loves sailing, this is absolutely a great film to view alone or as an excuse for a gathering of like-minded folk.

My biggest disappointment in the film is the lack of detail on training–absent my comment and my direct experience, no one would know they got advanced meterology training, or that their initial southern pick went against everything they were taught (the wind rotates counter-clockwise). Nor did I learn anything of other training.

From talking to them I learned far more about the training and the details of equipping the boat, e.g. they were each allowed one small sack of personal items, and as the boat was put together there were furious arguments about the exact weight of the navigation light at the top of the mast, and the weight of the wire from the light to the power source. That is the kind of stuff I was hoping would be in this film.

So a bit disappointing, but a superb contribution and one that I would recommend as a gift to any aspiring sailor from high school onwards.

Other DVDs in my sailing library (see my Amazon List):
Volvo Round the World Race: The SEB Stopover Reports.
Racing To Win with Gary Jobson

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Jul 3

Review: How to Sail Around the World –Advice and Ideas for Voyaging Under Sail

Categories: 5 Star,Sailing

Sailing Round WorldUnique, Not a Substitute for Manuals, But Practical Clever Sense, June 28, 2009

Hal Roth

I stayed up late to finish this book, and regret the publisher has not seen fit to offer Amazon readers a “Look Inside the Book.”

I am adding this book to my list of great sailing manuals, handbooks, and other guides, with the observation that this book is in no way a substitute for those more detail oriented step by step books BUT this book is also unique. It is PACKED with real-world experience and clever sense–much beyond common sense–that is literally priceless. Put clearly, I would not leave this book out of my calculations in planning to acquire and manage an offshore journey that includes an ocean crossing.

Chapter 15 on “Can You Be Seen At Night” is alone worth the price of the book. I have NEVER seen this much useful detail anywhere else, including the so-called everything guides. The author excels at providing contact information and specific recommendations and I absolutely would not go to sea in the future without buying the masthead light he recommends in the book. I also realized that the 65 MacGregor, which I have my eye on, falls just within the 65.6′ limits of international regulations on masthead lights sufficing (when sailing), and personally think MacGregor is making a mistake in thinking about a 70′ version.

This book has FOUR chapters on storm management, and I have NEVER seen it explained more sensibly, in logical progression. I am not a lifelong sailed despite a provisional D Skipper rating (less celestial), so these four chapters are for me the equivalent of a life-time tutorial that I badly need.

While speaking of celestial, this book persuaded me I have to get on with that qualification. The author is compelling in describing the circumstances under which GPS could go out, both locally or by military dictat, and I finally appreciate the urgency of having celestial capability in extremis.

The rest of the book is a joy. I now wish I had done this when my three boys were still in middle school range. The chapter on home schooling is fantastic, with lots of detail, and I am fully convinced that the author is correct when he says that two hours of focused study a day easily equal a “full” school day with all its distractions and change-ups.

The chapters on fuel for cooking and fuel for heating are both very important, and marvelous supplements to the more sterile ground as covered by others. The author ranges widely, covers the pros and cons well acorss the various fuel categories, and I put down the book knowing a great deal more. This merits a special comment: this author is gifted at talking sense. I understand his words more easily than the more formal manuals.

Final chapters include one on nine ideas covering tools, water, flashlights, mast climbing steps, nonskid desk surfaces, ship’s book (history and details of every sail, fitting, etc.), cockroaches, enhancement to the topping lift, and stuffing box leaks with ACE bandages in or out of the hull.

The book does not mention piracy, so I am loading a graphic from an article I wrote recently, and anticipate the need for a global guide to piracy and rapid response services. I also see a need for fully concealable sniper rifles that are impervious to salt-water.

Absolutely a great value.

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Jun 28