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"Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual" by Don Casey - Book Review

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Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual by Don Casey

Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual by Don Casey

Actually a collection six books in one, Casey's Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual is one of the few essential books virtually every sailboat owner should have. This tome covers most sailboats' primary parts and systems. With crisp descriptions and easy, step-by-step, illustrated explanations of how to make repairs and maintain the boat, this manual gives boat owners the confidence they need to do the job themselves.

Don Casey
Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual
International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 2006
892 pages, hard cover

What It's About?

Casey focuses on the five largest parts and aspects of sailboats and walks the boat owner through what is needed to inspect, maintain, or fix them. In addition, the first chapter is written for anyone who is looking to buy a used sailboat and needs to know what to look for to avoid a potentially costly mistake.

Here's a quick overview of the book's contents:

  • Volume 1 Inspecting the Aging Sailboat covers in considerable detail (140 pages) how to examine every key part of a used sailboat, from hull and rigging to the engine and electrical systems and everything in between. While it's always important to get a professional survey before purchasing any sailboat larger than a dinghy, Casey helps you through the first pre-survey stage to prevent wasting money on a survey if you find a serious hidden flaw.
  • Volume 2 Sailboat Hull and Deck Repair considers all aspects of fiberglass repair and restoration, from fixing small but irritating leaks and restoring the gloss of gelcoat to making more complex repairs in a damaged deck or hull.
  • Volume 3 Sailboat Refinishing is a detailed primer on wood and fiberglass finishes and paints. Casey excels in the details, including points as fine as choosing sandpaper grit and cleaning brushes, and a compendium of data about different products available. From his many years of personal experience he shares lots of good tips you won't find elsewhere to make the job easier and achieve a better result.
  • Volume 4 Sailboat Electrics Simplified explains often complicated electrical systems - including the boat's battery, circuits, and charging system - in ways you don't need to have taken a physics course to understand. Casey must have been a superb teacher in a previous life, because he has a real knack for patiently building from basic concepts like amps and ohms to explain how everything works together so that you understand how to approach fixing it.
  • Volume 5 Troubleshooting Marine Diesels will alone justify buying this book if you have a diesel engine on your boat. After a section on how to maintain an engine, the lengthy troubleshooting section eases you through a step-by-step logical way of determining the cause of any problem in order to know what to fix. This book should be kept aboard any boat with a diesel for treating problems at sea.
  • Volume 6 Canvaswork and Sail Repair describes a number of simple projects for the do-it-yourselfer, including making awnings, lee cloths, windscoops, cushion covers, etc. - as well as all-important repairs to sails. A reasonably handy person can save a bundle by following his directions here rather than paying a canvas shop.

Why It's a Good Book

There are lots of books on boat maintenance and repair, but Casey's stands out for several reasons. First, he's very knowledgeable: you can trust that he knows what he's talking about (in an online world with often too much conflicting information).

And he's a good writer. His step-by-step directions are written in simple but precise language. No scratching your head trying to figure out just what that means.

The book is also well illustrated with line art showing what to do along with the steps. Although most of the art is simple 1- or 2-color sketch art, giving the book a bit of an old-fashioned feeling that may not compare well with color glossy photos in some other books, it is nonetheless quite functional. The art is well thought out and shows what you need to see to accomplish the task, not to just be visually impressed.

There is one difficulty some readers will have, however, with Casey's book. At 892 pages, the Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual does seem to have more information than Casey's other bible of sailboat care, This Old Boat, which is 576 pages in its 2009 second edition and which overlaps considerably with the Maintenance Manual. This Old Boat focuses more specifically on the process of renovating and upgrading a rundown older boat - and maybe that's what you need to do. The Maintenance Manual has a lot of that too but expands the focus to cover things average boat owners may also need to learn; it has, for example, much more information on sailboat engines. Just be aware of both and check their indexes for content if you have specific needs.

About the Author

Don Casey, a sailor for decades, has written regularly for SAIL magazine and other publications. The expanded second edition of his classic book This Old Boat was published in 2009.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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