Category Archives: blog

Tall Ship to Charlottetown (w books)

Talented illustrator, skilled woodworker, and bookstore pal Erin Philp is heading from Toronto to Charlottetown on the schooner Mist of Avalon.  She sent us some great pics and stories to go with them. She’ll send more soon.

Mist of Avalon at Anchor

Mist of Avalon sitting at anchor

As I write this I can hear the gentle lapping of water against the hull as we motor past the outskirts of Montreal. We have just left the last lock of the St. Lawrence Seaway behind us and are heading for the open ocean. My name is Erin Philp and I am currently crewing aboard the hundred-foot Schooner, named Mist of Avalon, as she makes the round trip journey from Toronto to P.E.I and back again. Mist (as I will be calling her) is honored to be a part of a tall ship festival in Charlottetown P.E.I that will run from August 28th to 31st as well as a connected festival in Quebec City from September 5th to 7th. During our voyage so far, Mist has also been the set for a television series named Helix, filmed in and around Montreal. Now we are back on the water and making way after three days spent amongst the exciting chaos of a giant film production, where Mist was overrun with extras covered in grotesque boils and pustule wounds.


Loki running down the side deck

Loki running down the side deck

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Some Ontario Sailor Book Reviews

Book Reviews from the Latest Ontario Sailor Magazine:


A Storm Too Soon
By Michael Tougias

Three men were set to cross the Atlantic from Jacksonville to the Mediterranean in May 2007 and sailed north on the Gulf Stream until a storm turned the seas near Cap Hatteras into something resembling the inside of a washing machine. Waves reaching 75 ft. battered the 44-ft. Beneteau and the sailboat ended up sinking, with the crew, including Ottawa-area resident Rudy Snel who sailed on the Ottawa River, scrambling into a life raft. The three clung on during the raging storm until the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter responded to an emergency beacon call and attempted a rescue in the huge seas, threatening the life of the rescuers. This is the story of how these three survived the ordeal, although the storm caught three other boats near them also in a Mayday situation, with only six crew of 10 on these other boats surviving. The three men did everything right, preparing the boat and leaving before the start of hurricane season and, in the end, were lucky to be plucked from the sea. The author has written 20 books, some of other harrowing rescues at sea, and now lectures on these and other killer storms.


Jack Tar and the Baboon Watch
By Captain Frank Lanier

The author spent more than 20 years compiling nautical trivia in his career with the U.S. Coast Guard, which was published in bits and pieces over the years in newsletters on the various ships he sailed on. He squirreled away all of these trivia pieces and has now collected the information for this book. It’s more than a nautical dictionary, and is full of curious maritime stories, words and phrases that are now part of the English language. For example, you can read about Captain Fudge who gave us the term to “fudge” or lie about something and the phrase “square meal” for a hearty dinner that comes from the square, wooden plates once used aboard old ships. The title of the book comes from the term Jack Tar, which stands for an everyday sailor (and resulted in other words like jackhammer, jackknife, etc), and baboon watch, which is the worst watch of all for a seaman because it happens when the boat is in port, and they can’t leave. The various nautical words, terms and trivia are listed alphabetically, and there are some interesting stories behind everyday words — like pale ale, by and large, bigwigs and son of a gun.


Shipwrecks of Lake Erie
By David Frew

Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and storms and fog can hit with very little warning, making this body of water one of the most treacherous in the world and the perfect setting for a book on shipwrecks, says author David Frew, a university professor and researcher who grew up on the lake’s shoreline in Erie, Pennsylvania. He found himself unfulfilled writing textbooks and research papers until a chance meeting with Canadian Dave Stone, who lived on the shores of Long Point and liked to research pieces of old ships that drifted to shore during storms. They wrote books on the shipwrecks that they researched and now Frew has revised and updated a book they published together in 1993 called The Lake Erie Quadrangle: Waters of Repose. This latest version includes stories on yachts, commercial fishing and excursion boats, and covers the quadrangle area of the lake that stretches for 2,500 miles either side of Long Point where 429 ships perished, says insurance firm Lloyd’s of London. There’s a story on the lake’s first shipwreck in 1813 of schooner Amelia and the “unsinkable” James B. Colgate, and others.


All Standing
Kathryn Miles

They were called “coffin” ships because of the one million Irish immigrants who came to North America aboard these old sailing ships during the Great Potato famine in the 1840s more than 100,000 would die on the voyage. The potato famine was thought to have been caused by a fungus-like microorganism in bat and seabird guano that was part of fertilizer that originated in South America and sent through the U.S. to Ireland. The famine killed one million Irish, who didn’t make it on one of the transport ships, some dilapidated, for the arduous journey across the Atlantic to the New World. One of these so-called famine ships, the Jeanie Johnston built in Quebec, made 11 trips and remarkably didn’t lose a soul in any of the crossings. Author Kathryn Miles, a sailor based in Maine and writing professor at Unity College, recounts what went right for the crew on this ship and how no one died during the voyage. This is an engaging and happy story in a sea of misery.


Life Boat
Mark Harwood

Canadian sailor Mark Harwood went to England with his British wife and two young children and after a separation found himself gravitating to a boatyard in Bristol. He spotted a 100-year old leaking lifeboat called The Arab and announced that he was going to sail the boat to the Mediterranean. He was joined by first mate, Karen, who would later join him in Canada where they settled in a cabin Mark had built before he left Canada to raise his children and some goats. The sail from England saw the couple battle late-season gales and hampered by ice in France. They made some minor mistakes that resulted in major mishaps along the way. The couple spent some time fixing up the boat and sewing their own sails before leaving Bristol in August 2003. Ten years later they had sold their boat and were based in Canada, where Mark wrote of their journey from England to the Med. The story is personal, and a tad long and could be shortened.

Transport Canada Exam & Certificate Guide Updated

We’ve just updated our popular and import Transport Canada Exam & Certificate Guide to reflect our current understanding of the requirements and of the editions currently available to help professional mariners study.  [Thanks Rhys! -Ed.]

If there’s any area you’d particularly like to see expanded, or would like to contribute, please let us know.

Rough Seas, Lee Shores, 20% Off.

Lee Shore Sale
20% Off Most Items In-Store

Visit us in person before August 1st
and get a 20% discount on just about anything in the store
(*some exceptions apply, including charts,
cruising guides, & professional texts)

Please Tell all Your Shipmates
& Yacht Club Pals!

We Hope to See You Soon


Sailors have been flocking to our store on the shores of Toronto Harbour for books, charts, guidance, and yarns since 1980. As one of Queen’s Quay’s longest-lived establishments, and as a “candy store”-like environment for mariners, we’ve become a natural meeting spot and destination.  For the past couple of years though, disruptive street construction has made it harder to reach us. The late, lamented storefront of our neighbour The Dock Shoppe was an early casualty of this familiar Toronto story, and the number of people coming through our own door has dropped very noticeably.  Fortunately, we’ve got a pretty good website, and people near and far are keeping us mostly afloat with mail-orders (many thanks).

Nautical disorder in front of the former Dock Shoppe.  This is now a Tim Hortons. :/Part of the whole point of a neat little local nautical bookstore, though, is having a place for people to go to get advice on trips, find the right chartbooks, and run in to other sailors.  Our website can’t quite offer that, and some days our storefront feels like a shipping warehouse. So we’d like to invite everyone down to our sale.

Press Gang: We’re Hiring. Join the Nautical Mind Crew!

The Nautical Mind Bookstore is looking for a new crew member to work a couple of days a week, starting in September extending ideally for several years, depending on circumstances.

The job involves helping customers in the store, on the phone, and online find the right books, charts, and cruising guides for their needs, and getting said items to them.  Detailed knowledge of boats, books, the implacable heart of the sea, and navigation would be a great boon, as would a facility and comfort with computers, and an ability to learn and problem solve, specifically with respect to fiendish logistical problems. An interest in writing blog posts and/or engaging in social media would be nice but isn’t mandatory, as would comfort around scrappy little sea dogs. Flexible availability, including weekends would be helpful as the scheduling gods are as fickle and capricious as a sea breeze.

The Nautical Mind is a positive and inclusive workspace where the traits, skills, and contributions of all are acknowledged and respected.  It’s a unique local niche bookstore focussed on a deeply fascinating subject matter.

If you’re interested, please send your resume and a cover letter to, subject: “Press Gang”.


David Beaupré’s Advice to Liveaboards

David Beaupré, author of Quest and Crew writes:

There are as many reasons to buy a sailboat and cruise off to the Caribbean as there are dreams. Quest and Crew is the memoir of one such dream. It is a dream complete with blue water sailing and palm fringed islands. For Wendy and me it was the adventure of a lifetime. Each day in paradise presented us with new challenges which helped to refine our sailing abilities.

David and Wendy

David & Wendy

Our cruising style varied considerably from most liveaboard cruisers. We sought out the most remote beautiful anchorages, free from the trappings of civilization. We routinely stayed for weeks in hidden coves that only saw two or three boats a year. The key to our enjoyment and independence was having the right boat and the perfect equipment.

Quest and Crew is the story of our adventures. I also hope that it is a testament to a fine classic boat that was lovingly restored. Quest is a Bayfield 36 that was built in Ontario from a Hayden Gozzard design.  Her beautiful lines and unquestioned pedigree do not tell the complete story. She possesses one elusive and intangible quality that we all seek. She is a very lucky boat. Her luck was proven in Chapter One when Quest faces down a 150 mph hurricane and survives without a scratch while the marina is destroyed and the fleet of moored boats were holed and sunk.

If I could convey one important thought to the reader, it would be the idea that anybody with the will to succeed and a modest cruising kitty can follow their dream. It doesn’t require great strength or a lifetime of blue water sailing. The ability to captain a boat safely does require complete knowledge of the craft and a great deal of common sense. The most important requirement to make an ocean cruiser successful is the desire to take on the unknown. Out on the ocean, outside of the sight of land you discover the meaning of self reliance.

Quest in Nevis

Quest in Nevis

Apart from a good boat and cruising kitty the would-be cruiser should possess the ability to adapt to an ever changing environment and have a high degree of faith in their ability to make themselves into competent sailors. They will certainly need to adapt to very tight living conditions. Without a doubt the greatest stress on a cruising sailboat is not the raging sea. Many couples choose to live their sailing dream in later life. For the first time in their lives they will be living day after day, shoulder to shoulder in the tightest of quarters. In the end it is the human relationship that is put under the greatest strain.  Be prepared. Your relationship will change. It will strengthen or weaken. Under adversity you and your mate will grow closer only if you are willing to compromise.

Quest and Crew by David BeaupréIf I were to offer the simplest advice it would be to purchase the right boat for your chosen cruising grounds. Spend some time discovering the boat’s strengths and weaknesses. But most importantly you must get up every day and make a commitment to get just a little closer to your goal of sailing away. Many want-to-be cruisers take a passive attitude to preparing for their adventure. The preferred alternative is to be a hands-on captain and do the work yourself. This will serve you well in finding the confidence to become a successful cruiser. This intangible quality can only come from deep within you. The desire to go sailing is a classic dream that has stood the test of time. To live even a part of your life on the water requires a mind change and the strength to test your abilities.



Unprecedented Online Clearance Sail – Up to 80% off!

Example of nautical books on shelves

An example of medium-high density nb/sqft

If you’ve visited our little nook in the harbour , you’ve seen that our store is crammed floor-to-ceiling with a complete collection of nautical books. We’ll go out on a limb and wager that we’ve got the highest nautical-book-to-square-foot (nb/sqft) densities in the world, and among the highest book-to-square-foot densities in the city.  Anyway, all this is to say that we need to make a little room, so we’re taking the unprecedented step of selling off some older stock at clearance prices.

These books are all new, un-remaindered, and (for the most part) undamaged. Previously, to save up to 80% on such books, you’d need to come on down to the Sail Sale Bargain table, but no more!

And dozens more in the new Clearance Section

* PleaseNote that supplies are usually limited to one or two copies, so we may sell out before our website catches up.

Ontario Sailor Reviews: Dana & Spurr

Some book reviews from Ontario Sailor Magazine:


The Annotated Two Years Before the Mast
By Rod Scher, Original story by Richard Henry Dana

Sailor, author and Harvard dropout (measles weakened his eyesight), Richard Henry Dana, wrote his book, Two Years Before the Mast, in 1840, about a trip he took on a working ship to California. The book became a hit and launched a genre, serving as a forerunner to maritime classics like Moby Dick, Sailing Alone Around the World and Caine Mutiny. Dana, a lawyer and member of a wealthy Boston family, signed up for grunt duty on the ship Pilgrim, and ended up writing about the poor working sailors who travel onboard “before the mast” compared to ship officers and privileged passengers who traveled in more comfortable quarters found aft of the mast. Dana went on to write another book, The Seaman’s Friend, that dealt with sailors rights during the early years of working sailboats, and he defended them in his law practice. His first book has never been out of print in more than 170 years and is now reprinted, along with annotations and notes in the margins by Nebraska-based writer and former English teacher Rod Scher. He has studied Dana’s life and books and has now added notes to explain in the original text old sailing terms, to criticize or compliment, and put the author’s life and experiences in context (eg. Dana’s use of the phrase “weakness of the eyes”).


 Your First Sailboat, 2nd Ed.
By Daniel Spurr

A marine writer who has worked for various magazines including Cruising World, Daniel Spurr has updated his book, Your First Sailboat, designed to help find the right sailboat and gain the skills to enjoy a day on the water. He is the author of other books like Upgrading Your Cruising Sailboat, Yacht Style, and co-author of Offshore Sailing. This book, with lots of black-and-white photos and graphics, tackles many topics, from what to look for in a new or used boat, handling and maintaining the vessel, navigating and what happens when things go wrong (eg., the engine doesn’t start). The back of the book lists 84 various mono- and multi-hulls, from dinghies to 38 ft. yachts, with the author offering pros and cons on various makes and models. Some topics may not be in detail, but the whole point is to get someone into sailing, and out enjoying themselves. Sail along with Daniel.