Good Books

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 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, and on 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, 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 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 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 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.

Glaciers, Bears and Totems: Sailing in Search of the Real Southeast Alaska by Elsie Hulsizer (2010; $45; Harbour Publishing,, also available on The intended emphasis in this book, as expressed in the title, is “in search of the real,” and that’s precisely what the author and her husband set out to do aboard Osprey, their Annapolis 44 sloop, in May 2006. They spent the next three summers cruising what many consider to be the last frontier, delving deeper into the characters, culture, and abundant natural wonders of Southeast Alaska. “Was the real Alaska waiting for us?” the author asks in her introduction. Every reader fascinated with this cruising area will find out in this well-written and entertaining travel book. -L.M.C.

Cape Horn to Starboard by John Kretschmer (2010; $17;, also available on This new edition of a sailor's classic (first published in 1986) is a must-read for anyone who didn't catch it first time around. The author, obsessed with sailing adventures since reading Chichester's Gipsy Moth Circles the World, drops out of college to seek his education on the high seas, ultimately electing to successfully retrace the clipper-ship route from New York to San Francisco the "wrong way" around Cape Horn, aboard Gigi, a Contessa 32. The book contains an insightful new introduction and an afterword by the author that begs the question: Will he do it again? Once you pick up this fast-paced sailing-adventure/love story, you'll be hard-pressed to put it down. -L.M.C.

The Modern Cruising Sailboat: A Complete Guide to Its Design, Construction, and Outfitting by Charles J. Doane (2010; $40; International Marine/McGraw Hill,, also available on Looking for a boat to cruise on? Or to modify yours for long-range cruising? This comprehensive work by a top-notch sailor and writer covers all the bases, from trends and design to construction, sails and rigging, deck gear and layouts, living accommodations, and onboard systems. About a quarter of the weighty tome is devoted to a gallery of cruising sailboats, 40 informative two-page reviews of boats from 27 to 66 feet. The focus is mostly on production yachts, many no longer being built, with a few limited-production and custom designs included. This alone is worth the cover price. -L.M.C.

The Blue Bottle by Jill Sheeley (2010, $17; Courtney Press,, also available on This lively adventure tale is perfect for young readers whose parents are contemplating extended cruising, whether on a summer vacation, a sabbatical, or a “sellup-and-sail” voyage. Targeted at kids aged 10 and beyond, it’s the story of two teenage girls who set sail on ocean adventures of different kinds; their paths eventually converge, with both the wiser for their journeys. About a third of the book is in the format of journal entries and letters, throughout which are woven bits of lively Caribbean lore and nuts-and-bolts nautical know-how plus a dash of intrigue. For older teens and adults, the writing is a bit simplistic, but for pre- and early teens, it’s worth the read. -L.M.C.

Non-Local Flow: Good Chi, the Sea and Me, a Journey of Discovery Through Art and Travel by Tanya Kimberly Orme (2010; $40;, also available on The author, who was killed in an accident at the age of 24, was a gifed artist and poet, an adventurer, and a sailor. This collection of poems, paintings, and prose by Orme, in which sailing plays a part, was compiled and edited by her mother, Mary Orme Ellis, and reflects the inner and outer journeys of a remarkable young woman on a quest to discover the world and herself. The glossy, large-format book begs to be lingered over and appreciated. Her writings make clear that she was devoted to making the world a better place, and part of the proceeds from this lovely book will go to the many causes she supported. -L.M.C.

Saving Sailing: The Story of Choices, Families, Time Commitments, and How We Can Create a Better Future by Nicholas D. Hayes (2009; $22; Crickhollow Books, available on To those who aren’t skilled in the intricacies of sailing, they can seem daunting to learn, much less pursue as an ongoing sport or family hobby. The author, a market researcher and avid sailor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, explores the reasons behind the decline in the activity as well as the logic for those who keep at it. He offers up statistics and anecdotes that help readers understand what’s happening to the sport today. His suggestions intend to inspire newcomers; he acknowledges the existence of those who don’t believe the activity needs more participants, weighing all sides of the issue in intricate detail. -M.G.L.

Pacific Mexico: A Cruiser's Guidebook by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer (2010; $40; Blue Latitude Press, Aboard Om Shanti, their Westsail 32, this adventuresome duo—he, a boat captain, scuba diver,and former graphic designer; she, an equestrienne, sea kayaker, and white-water rafter—combine their love of wandering the rim of western North America with their passion for sharing advice that's attractive to look at, detailed, and fresh via their publishing house, Blue Latitude Press. Like their 2009 guide to the Golfo de California, the book relies on color graphics and photography, including satellite imagery. Covering the area farther south along the Pacific coast of Mexico, it features chartlet details for anchorages gained from, among other sources, GPS readings and the couple's on-site surveys; advice for sail and power; short bits about flora and fauna; and even tips on hiking trails and surf breaks. The website includes chart updates. -E.L.