The International Marine Book of Sailing is a great book for beginning sailors or those who may not yet have started but are eager to learn all the basics about sailing. It takes a practical approach, starting with the first chapter focusing on immediately getting on a boat and heading out, and then gradually building to higher-level skills for controlling the boat, seamanship, and navigation.
The International Marine Book of Sailing
International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 2009
528 pages, hard cover
What It's About?
Robinson wants to get the reader out on the water sailing as quickly as possible, and the first chapter does just that. You could read that chapter alone and head out safely in a small boat like a Sunfish, and then read later chapters to expand your skills and learn about seamanship and navigation and prepare for racing and cruising.
Here's a quick overview of the book's contents:
- Chapter 1 First Sail covers everything you need to get going, from rigging a simple boat to hoisting sail, casting off, steering and trimming sails, and getting back in one piece.
- Chapter 2 Controlling Your Boat delves into more detail on handling lines, better sail control, reefing, and recovering from a capsize.
- Chapter 3 Sailing Seamanship explores the basics of anchoring, coping with tides and currents, the rules of the road, knots, and docking.
- Chapter 4 Sailing Farther, Sailing Better moves into intermediate skills such as navigational aids, piloting, advanced sail controls, and sailing in heavy air.
- Chapter 5 Navigating covers topics like setting a course, sailing in fog, using a GPS and radar, and the basics of celestial navigation.
- Chapter 6 Racing is a good introduction to racing skills including specifics for starting, sailing the windward and downwind legs, rounding a mark, and finishing.
- Chapter 7 Going Cruising prepares a new sailor for a wide range of cruising sailboat issues including choice of boat and sails, accommodations, and voyaging gear.
- Appendices offer additional information on understanding weather, safety gear, crew-overboard techniques, and other helpful topics.
Why It's a Good Read
Rather than writing an encyclopedia, Robinson focuses on what you really need to know to go sailing - and to sail safely and reasonably well. He writes in a wonderfully personal, friendly, direct approach like a personal teacher. From the beginning you can hear the voice of experience: "Most sailboats have jibs, and if yours does, you're probably eager to hoist it. For [now] let's leave it down. Learning with a single sail helps you focus on how a sail works with the wind...."
Some of the things I like best:
- Foremost, this is an imminently readable book. The style is friendly, warm, and upbeat rather than dry and technical. It's also fun to read about the author's own experiences interwoven through informative descriptions, such as this little jibe in the Cruising chapter against sailors obsessed with new sails: "Over 29 years we've had the same main, jib, and spinnaker that we bought with the boat ... we've spent more on cookies over the years than on sails."
- Beautiful full-color photos and diagrams (over 1000) are used throughout to illustrate what the text explains. Printed on heavy, glossy paper, this is a book to keep and use over and over.
- Robinson isn't obsessed with but teaches sailing terminology as needed and useful, often with interesting historical explanations of a term's origin.
- Helpful sidebars highlight different boat models, types of gear, and so on.
- Most of all, there's an excellent balance of information: enough to understand the concept and know what to do and how, but not so much that the main points get lost in a forest of words.
About the Author
Robby Robinson has written widely on sailing and is co-author of Sailors' Secrets, a wide-ranging collection of tips for all things sailboat and sailing gained from his and other sailors' personal experience and the sailing literature. Having cruised throughout the world, raced on serious boats, and taught sailing for two decades, he certainly knows what he's talking about - and he talks well about it. This is a guy we might all have liked to have learned sailing from.