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
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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

Review DVD: THE ART OF RACING SAILING

Racing Sailing

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5.0 out of 5 stars Must Own, Must View Annually

July 29, 2007

Bennett Marine Video

It’s a stormy day and the boat I crew on (as a grinder, the lowest of the low) is in for warranty work, so I spent the afternoon with this DVD.

It grabbed me right off by pointing out that many races are won or lost before the boat ever hits the water, and then going over a stem to stern list of all the warps and unevenness along the hull that could significantly reduce the boats symmetry and consequently, speed.

I can barely remember all the good stuff covering every position on the boat, but I know now that I am going to have to watch this DVD at least twice more this season, and then annually thereafter.

I’m a big fan of Gary Jobson and have his book; I dsicovered his DVD by wrting this review and will buy it. In the meantime, this specific DVD is a world-class opportunity to improve your racing sailing, at a price that so low that buying this could be the best $30 bucks you ever spend.

See my list of great sailing books, adding this DVD to it.

Gary Jobson’s Championship Sailing : The Definitive Guide for Skippers, Tacticians, and Crew
Racing To Win with Gary Jobson
Getting Started in Sailboat Racing
Championship Tactics: How Anyone Can Sail Faster, Smarter, and Win Races
Whitbread 97/98: Pushing The Limits.
The Race: Extreme Sailing and Its Ultimate Event: Nonstop, Round-the-World, No Holds Barred
Volvo Round the World Race: The SEB Stopover Reports.
Advanced Racing Tactics

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Jul 29

Review: International Marine’s Weather Predicting Simplified: How to Read Weather Charts and Satellite Images

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International WeatherGreat Book, NOT a Substitute for the Five Day Course

June 14, 2007

Michael Carr

This is one of four weather books I recommend, the other three are hot-linked below. It is a truly great book with both white space and color images, easy to read font, and a sensible easy to understand roadmap for integrating satellite imagery, upper air (500 milibar) and surface forecasts and sea state charts.

After I finished the five day course in Advanced Meterology, I created a short guide for myself that I could share with others, and this book was very helpful as a reference to complement the binder that I received with the course.

See also my list of books in my sailing library.

Mariner’s Weather
Understanding Weatherfax
The Weather Wizard’s Cloud Book: A Unique Way to Predict the Weather Accurately and Easily by Reading the Clouds

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Jun 14

Review: Mariner’s Weather

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Marine WeatherGreat Book, for Weather One is Not Enough

June 14, 2007

William P. Crawford

I buy books in pairs or triples, but in the case of weather, both in preparation for the 35-hour Advanced Meterology Course and as a reference library after the fact, I bought four, the other three hot-linked below.

Weather extremes are getting worse, NOAA is under-funded and has trouble getting one 96 hour forecast out, the bottom line is that we are largely on our own where the boat meets the wave offshore.

This book is packed with more detail, including very specific guidance on what to do in relation to specific situations, and absolutely great multiple choice quesitons at the end of each chapter.

This is “the” textbook, but I don’t believe in just one book, so I like all four together.

See also my list of books in my sailing library.

Understanding Weatherfax
The Weather Wizard’s Cloud Book: A Unique Way to Predict the Weather Accurately and Easily by Reading the Clouds
International Marine’s Weather Predicting Simplified: How to Read Weather Charts and Satellite Images

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Jun 14

Review: The Weather Wizard’s Cloud Book–A Unique Way to Predict the Weather Accurately and Easily by Reading the Clouds

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Wizard WeatherSuperb, portable, and incomplete,

May 16, 2007

Louis D. Rubin Sr.

I bought this book in preparation for an advanced mariner’s meteorology course, and could not have made this comment without having first gained that higher level of knowledge.

This is a suberb book with two major flaws:

1) It sticks to the two-dimensional depiction of weather that is common to the average person. Although there are a couple of illustrations showing altitude, the author could easily have put in a few pages on the rotation of the earth, the 500 mb level, and how weather on the surface cannot be understood without underestanding what is happening at the 18,000 level. As my instructor put it, the high-level troughs are the chicken that hatches the surface level (scrambled) egg.

2) It provides the pictures of the clouds, but missed the key chance to break down the names into the original latin meanings, to create a matrix of high (Cirro), medium (alto), and low (strato), with substantive meaning including layer (stratus), curly (cirrus), stacked in a vertical heap (cumulo-cumulus), and delivering rain (nimbus).

Add this little matrix above, and read “Mariner’s Guide to the 500-Millibar Chart” by Joe Stenkiewicz and Lee Chesneau, and Google for <Lee Chesneau> to find his web site, and you’ll have all you need to move to the better three-dimensional interactive viewing of weather and weather charts.

I also recommend Understanding Weatherfax

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May 16

Review: Understanding Weatherfax

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WeatherfaxReally great book, part of the whole picture,

May 16, 2007

Mike Harris

I bought this book in preparation for an advanced mariner’s meteorology course, and could not have made this comment without having first gained that higher level of knowledge.

This is a suberb book. It provides superb information about the weather fax, including an excellent and easily portable manual for the various symbols. It has two areas for improvement:

1) It sticks to the two-dimensional depiction of weather that is common to the average person. Although there are a couple of illustrations showing altitude, the author could easily have put in a few pages on the rotation of the earth, the 500 mb level, and how weather on the surface cannot be understood without underestanding what is happening at the 18,000 level. As my instructor put it, the high-level troughs are the chicken that hatches the surface level (scrambled) egg.

2) It does not make the connection, at least that I could see, between the vital importance of making your own observations at 00 and 12 Zulu, so that when you finally receive the weather fax six or seven hours later, you can compare reality with what was provided. This also applies to forecasts–you can keep them, compare your own observations as the time passes, and get a sense of the difference.

Add the above, and read “Mariner’s Guide to the 500-Millibar Chart” by Joe Stenkiewicz and Lee Chesneau, and Google for <Lee Chesneau> to find his web site, and you’ll have all you need to move to the better three-dimensional interactive viewing of weather and weather charts.

I also recommend The Weather Wizard’s Cloud Book: A Unique Way to Predict the Weather Accurately and Easily by Reading the Clouds

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on Cover Above to Buy or Read Other Reviews,

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May 16