Lit Bits

TIN CANOES & OTHER MADNESS: The Genius of Robb White

Robb White

How could I have lived so long without discovering this man? He is such an improbably entertaining writer, and all he wrote about, pretty much, is boats, the water surrounding them, and the life that is in it. Hats off to crew member (and erstwhile Boréal shopper) Nat Smith, who handed me a copy of White’s first book, the only one published in his lifetime, How to Build a Tin Canoe (Hyperion/Theia, 2003), and promised me I would like it.

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SHAKEDOWN CRUISE: Nigel Calder's First Cruising Narrative

Book cover

I’m feeling some vindication here. Several years ago when I was Nigel Calder’s regular editor at SAIL Magazine he told me the story of the first time he ever went sailing with Terrie, his future wife. To impress her he’d suggested they borrow (without permission) a small wooden boat that belonged to his brother and take off on a cruise together. She suggested they sail across the English Channel to Amsterdam (they were in the UK at the time) and he readily agreed, though he had little idea what he was doing. Terrie temporarily jumped ship once they got there (to visit with another boyfriend), and on the way back they got run down by a ship.

On hearing all this I immediately suggested that Nigel should write it up for the magazine, but he demurred. Though he’d built up an enormous reputation as the marine industry’s most popular technical writer, he told me he didn’t really feel comfortable writing a simple narrative. And now here we have an entire book of it: the (mostly) unvarnished tale of Nigel’s early days as a bluewater cruiser.

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ROUND BARBADOS MEMORIES: The Most Fun Race I Ever Sailed

race start

I have studied with some interest the results of the most recent running of the Mount Gay Round Barbados Race, which this year boasted a record-breaking seven race records broken. I was amused too to see that it was billed as the 82nd running of the event. A deft bit of marketing I reckon, as the race, in its current form, was but two years old when I sailed it in 2012. At that time it purported to be a reincarnation of a much older round-island competition amongst trading schooners that dated back to the 19th century. Tradition has it the consolation prize for the last boat to finish was a barrel of Mount Gay rum, and that skippers loitered about the course for days attempting to win it. The first recorded round-island race, in 1936, was between five schooners. The winner was Sea Fox, which belonged to a New England rum smuggler, Lou Kennedy, who allegedly, when sailing on the Maine coast, would amuse himself by spiking lobster pots with bottles of Mount Gay.

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THE SEA IS NOT FULL: A Must Read For Bluewater Sailors

SINF cover

John Kretschmer, one of the most popular bluewater authors of our generation, has called it “ONE OF THE BEST SAILING BOOKS” he’s read in a long time. “More than that," he continued, "it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. [Doane’s] revelations of being at sea recall the spirit of Moitessier.”

A SPECIAL OFFER! Buy the book on Amazon and give it a read. Write a review (good or bad, it’s up to you), print out your review and send it to me (the author) along with your copy of the book (see mailing address below). I’ll sign it for you, with a personal inscription, and send it back at my expense. (Offer good only in the continental United States.)

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