Boating Skills and Seamanship
by US Coast Guard Auxillary
The auxiliary works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard on search and rescue and boating safety and is the largest U.S. boating educator in that country. It has come up with a 14th edition of its popular primer for boaters who want to learn about seamanship. Topics covered include choosing the right boat and safety equipment, like electronics, locator beacons, and boat handling, trailering, and other, important safety topics. This book is written like a study guide, complete with chapter review questions and answers, to test your knowledge. Both sailing and powerboats are covered, and the book features colour graphics, charts and photographs, making it easier for the novice to understand concepts. Although the regulations are for the U.S., the general concepts, such as recognizing severe weather fronts, tying standard knots, docking and collision avoidance apply to everyone. This book is ideal for the safety conscience among us.
Although British marine journalist Dag Pike, now in his late 70s, spent a good part of his time on powerboats, including navigating during Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Challenger record-breaking, fastest-crossing of the Atlantic on a powerboat in 1986, he’s also spent time on sailboats. He first took up ocean sailboat racing in 1948, and was also involved in some of the early testing of RIB inflatables and RNLI lifeboats. In his latest book, Dag now tackles the subject of cruising for sailors, and how to prepare for the big trip, from using paper charts, anchoring, weather watching, and planning each leg, to using a GPS, understanding tides, the importance of crew and coping with emergencies. On the topic of emergencies, the author suggests a series of “what ifs” to prepare yourself for some tricky situations, like a leaky hull (stuff something into the hole), grounding (safety of crew is most important), towing of being towed, dismasting and steering loss. The book features many colour photographs. The layout is quite simple, but the information contained is important for both the novice and the experienced sailor.
An author of various sailing books (Sailing an Atlantic Circuit, How to Sail on a Budget), Alistair Buchan has more than 50 years of on-the-water experience and two Atlantic crossings and now offers up to long distance cruisers how they can best prepare for the trip, from selecting the boat and crew to mapping all available routes and ways to get there as safely as possible. This book is similar in coverage to Dag Pike’s book (see above review) although Buchan is generally more detailed, with less personal or first-hand accounts of sailing experiences and more facts and figures. For example, in a discussion on the ideal cruising boat, this book mentions topics such as side decks (wide enough for walking), deck hardware (bolted through the deck to backing plates), grab rails (don’t usually have backing pads and may be unsafe) and jackstays (to clip onto when leaving the cockpit), while the other book is silent on some of these topics. The author details plans for short, day trips and longer passages of many days, both coastal and bluewater. There are checklists in the appendix which helps skippers prepare before setting out. And he offers this tongue-twister, borrowed from the military: “Proper planning and preparation prevent pretty poor performance.”