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Sailing Pocket Companion by Miles Kendall - Book Review

A Collection of Facts, Lore, and Miscellaneous Entertaining Sailing Stuff

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It's hard to classify the Sailing Pocket Companion in a phrase or two. This little shirt-pocket-sized volume is mostly for entertainment but also contains a far-ranging collection of useful information and light reading. It makes a nice stocking-stuffer type sailing gift and is fun to have on the boat to pull out when conversation lags or you want to impress someone with a good sailing joke or bit of esoteric sailing knowledge.

Miles Kendall
Sailing Pocket Companion
Pavilion, 2008
160 pages pocket size, imitation leather hard cover

What It's About?

There is no table of contents, no index, no orderly arrangement of information here - and that's half the fun. You can read it cover to cover in an hour or two, but most readers will prefer simply to keep it around somewhere and pull it out from time to time and flip through it, sure to find something delightful or entertaining or, occasionally, useful. Entries range from half a small page to somewhat longer, along with illustrations (knot typing, cartoons) and occasional almost random tables of data and lists.

The fun thing is that it shatters your expectations over and over, presenting you with information you weren't looking for, and usually don't already know, and that you will likely forget soon - letting you enjoy it all over again next time you pick it up.

Why It's a Good Read

I'll try to give a sense of this book with a few examples of things it includes. The following list is by no means all inclusive in its categories of what you'll find here - but it's a starting point.

  • Historical items - such as a brief story of Sir Francis Drake, the first Golden Globe sail race, the Sydney-Hobart Race disaster of 1998
  • Practical or useful advice - such as how to tie knots like a bowline or clove hitch, the fog sound signals for different types of boats, and how to clear your boat of cockroaches
  • Humorous - jokes and cartoons
  • Curiosities - such as a list of 13 kinds of phobias that keep people away from the water
  • Nautical puzzles - such as how to know you've crossed the equator when you have no electronics and the sky is constantly obscured by clouds and fog
  • Nautical terms and sayings - such as why sailors refer to "as the crow flies," the origin of "son of a gun," the meaning of an "angel" on a boat, the origin of "Mayday," what it means to "like the cut of his jib"
  • Lists - such as popular songs about sailing, sailing movies
  • Recipes for popular and rare sailors' cocktails

In the book's Introduction, Kendall writes, "There are plenty of publications that explain how to sail - but this is not one of them. Instead it is an eclectic collection of nautical knowledge ... I hope that it will also remind us that sailing is something that shouldn't be taken too seriously." He's correct on all counts.

Other Sailing Books of Interest

Vigor's The Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat
Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual
Circle of Bones
Three Ways to Capsize a Boat
Voyages of a Simple Sailor
Cruising for Seniors

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