Winter's settling in, and there's no better time to curl up with a good read. We've compiled our book reviews from 2011 to bring you a reading list chock-full of sailboats, adventures, and entertainment to get you through the season.
Peter Isler’s Little Blue Book of Sailing Secrets by Peter Isler ($20; John Wiley & Sons, 2011, available on amazon.com). There’s no harm in taking a tip or two from the other side of the sailing equation, and who better from which to get them than an Olympic match racer and two-time America’s Cup winner? Isler’s been at this for 40 years now, and he was most recently in the news as the navigator who called the Mayday aboard the ill-fated Rambler 100, which lost its keel and capsized in the Rolex Fastnet Race. Isler shares oodles of intelligent gems here about the mechanics and process of the sport, plus he tells a lot of good stories. Surely the dramatic rescue of the Rambler 100 crew, and the lessons learned, will become another one. -Elaine Lembo
Winter in Fireland: A Patagonian Sailing Adventure by Nicholas Coghlan ($35; 2011, www.uap.ualberta.ca and on amazon.com). This rugged region at South America’s southern tip has lured hardy adventurers and sailors for centuries. Don’t miss reading this tale of one couple’s voyage in Bosun Bird, their Vancouver 27. Packed with carefully documented history and as much about adventures by land as by sea, it’s a volume you’ll want to keep permanently on your bookshelf. The only drawback is that while we travel far with the author and his wife, Jenny, we never really get to know them. -Lynda Morris Childress
Life at Sea Level by Stephen J. Pavlidis ($20; 2011; Seaworthy Publications, www.seaworthy.com). In this entertaining book, the author ties up the loose ends and untold stories that underpin his 14 successful cruising guides. His intimate and open style, whether he’s running after poachers with the park wardens of the Bahamas National Trust or spinning yarns about islands, islanders, and cruisers, is full of authenticity. Piracy yesterday or today, drug and gun running, ghosts and hauntings, voodoo and hoodoos—all are chronicled with as good a flare and timbre as Pavlidis, who’s also a musician, gives to his guitar when he plays the blues. Take this book with you, then head for the Bahamas and the Caribbean. - Bruce Van Sant
Gary Jobson: An American Sailing Story by Gary Jobson with Cynthia Goss ($27; Nomad Press, 2011, available on amazon.com). This account of the dramatic life of the well-known America’s Cup tactician, ESPN commentator, and editor at large for Cruising World and Sailing World magazines may start slowly, but the memoir soon reveals itself to be a gripping page-turner. What rings loud and clear is Jobson’s hunger for life and his complete willingness to fall, take a deep breath, pick himself up, dust himself off, and start all over again. Great lessons for adults and kids abound in this tale; add it to your holiday gift-giving list. -E.L.
Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest by Amy Gulick, illustrations by Ray Troll (2010; $30, Braided River Books, available on amazon.com). Cruisers who venture into Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage will appreciate this collection of photographs of the Tongass National Forest. The book’s intent is to illustrate the interdependence of the environment, animals, and people in this special place with the assistance of essays that weave together stories of the forest with its inhabitants. The images are profound, and the issues addressed will draw readers in to this compelling, and largest, of U.S. national forests. -Marianne Groszko Lee
Betty’s Barge: Adventures Afloat on the Canals of France by Bill Hezlep (2010; $14, CreateSpace, available on amazon.com). Here’s inspiration for anyone contemplating the transition to seasonal retirement in the European canal system. As many old-hand Bahamas and Caribbean cruisers do, Bill Hezlep and Betty Berkstresser traded sails for power. Betty went Bill one better: She got an antique Dutch canal barge in France to match Bill’s old Down East lobster boat in the United States. So it became six gourmandizing months in the French canal system, then six months lobstering in the Bahamas. Bill drew upon thorough logs to fashion a book detailing the couple’s adventures acquiring a barge, negotiating the canals, and savoring French cuisine. -B.V.S.