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Offshore Sailing by Bill Seifert with Daniel Spurr - Book Review

Going offshore or even on a long coastal cruise? Read it!


Offshore Sailing by Bill Seifert

Offshore Sailing by Bill Seifert

This is a collection of tips involving the really practical things sailors can do to prepare for offshore sailing and make the most of it while staying safe. Even coastal cruisers can gain much from the extensive experience of these two authors. Unlike most other books with long discussions of what type of boat to buy and expensive gear to stock it with, and how to cope with storms and all that, this one focuses on practical matters like simple modifications a do-it-yourself boat owner can make to improve offshore sailing.

Bill Seifert with Daniel Spurr
Offshore Sailing: 200 Essential Passagemaking Tips
International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 2002
256 pages hard cover (and Kindle)

What It's About?

The focus of the Offshore Sailing is on very specific, practical things sailors and boat owners can do. Each "tip," on average about a page, addresses a concrete issue one might not anticipate before heading offshore - or may experience when underway but not know how to address. Frequent photos and line art show exactly what you need to do to make modifications yourself.

Although the subtitle promises 200 tips, the book actually has far more than that, since many actually include a number of different suggestions or solutions for a given topic. The wide range of topics is shown by the chapter titles:

  1. A Safe Deck
  2. Rig and Sails
  3. Interior Modifications
  4. Electronic and Electrical Equipment
  5. Engine, Mechanical, and Plumbing Systems
  6. At Sea (safety, comfort, watch standing, navigation)
  7. Galley Tips

Plus 9 appendices with much additional information on cruising paperwork, adaptation for foreign ports, spare parts lists, etc.

Why It's a Good Book

Although fairly short, this book is jam-packed with useful information. One of the things I particularly like is that it assumes, for most modifications and gear suggestions, that you do the work yourself and have a limited budget - true of most cruising sailors.

Another strength of the book comes from how it builds on the experience not only of the authors, both very experienced offshore sailors, but also other cruisers. Examples from real cruisers' experience show why it is important to address all these issues as well as how different people have found their best solutions. Even experienced offshore sailors will find much here to learn. I'll give just three examples from the many things I've never before seen in print, having read dozens of books on this subject:

  • Everyone knows that if the boat is dismasted, you must be able to free the rigging quickly before the mast pounds holes in the hull. Almost all books tell you to carry heavy bolt/wire cutters or similar tools to cut the standing rigging. Seifert and Spurr explain the problem with this advice and illustrate how, instead, to make attachment points easy to remove through correct use of cotter pins in clevis pins.

  • Deck cleats (for dock lines and anchor rode) often have little use offshore, but they frequently cause toe stubbing or tripping and catch sheets when tacking or gybing. The authors show how to make your own simple removable cleat guards to eliminate the problem.

  • Everyone knows the importance of conserving freshwater carried offshore, and most books simply advise using as little as possible in cooking, cleaning, etc. These authors have a number of good, specific tips, including how to adapt a hardware-store sprayer for making a fine mist of water to rinse off salt water after swimming or washing with salt water - a really nifty little thing that can save many gallons of precious tank water.

The Downside

I have lots of praise for the usefulness of this book, but it does have one downside. Published in 2002, its chapter on marine electronics is seriously outdated, given all the new types of equipment that have become available. One can only hope for a new edition! But almost everything else is timeless advice.

About the Authors

Bill Seifert has spent most of his life in the marine industry as well as sailing over 100,000 miles offshore. He knows an enormous amount about sailboats, in part from his experience as a seaworthiness inspector for the Marion-Bermuda Race.

Dan Spurr has been the editor of Practical Sailor, a leading sailing publication that tests and advises on boat equipment, and Cruising World magazine and is the author of several books including Spurr's Boatbook: Upgrading the Cruising Sailboat.

Additional Suggested Reading

Best Sailing Books and Magazines
Sailboat Equipment
Best Sailing Gifts
Life Aboard a Sailboat

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