Book Reviews from the Latest Ontario Sailor Magazine:
A Storm Too Soon
By Michael Tougias
Three men were set to cross the Atlantic from Jacksonville to the Mediterranean in May 2007 and sailed north on the Gulf Stream until a storm turned the seas near Cap Hatteras into something resembling the inside of a washing machine. Waves reaching 75 ft. battered the 44-ft. Beneteau and the sailboat ended up sinking, with the crew, including Ottawa-area resident Rudy Snel who sailed on the Ottawa River, scrambling into a life raft. The three clung on during the raging storm until the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter responded to an emergency beacon call and attempted a rescue in the huge seas, threatening the life of the rescuers. This is the story of how these three survived the ordeal, although the storm caught three other boats near them also in a Mayday situation, with only six crew of 10 on these other boats surviving. The three men did everything right, preparing the boat and leaving before the start of hurricane season and, in the end, were lucky to be plucked from the sea. The author has written 20 books, some of other harrowing rescues at sea, and now lectures on these and other killer storms.
Jack Tar and the Baboon Watch
By Captain Frank Lanier
The author spent more than 20 years compiling nautical trivia in his career with the U.S. Coast Guard, which was published in bits and pieces over the years in newsletters on the various ships he sailed on. He squirreled away all of these trivia pieces and has now collected the information for this book. It’s more than a nautical dictionary, and is full of curious maritime stories, words and phrases that are now part of the English language. For example, you can read about Captain Fudge who gave us the term to “fudge” or lie about something and the phrase “square meal” for a hearty dinner that comes from the square, wooden plates once used aboard old ships. The title of the book comes from the term Jack Tar, which stands for an everyday sailor (and resulted in other words like jackhammer, jackknife, etc), and baboon watch, which is the worst watch of all for a seaman because it happens when the boat is in port, and they can’t leave. The various nautical words, terms and trivia are listed alphabetically, and there are some interesting stories behind everyday words — like pale ale, by and large, bigwigs and son of a gun.
Shipwrecks of Lake Erie
By David Frew
Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes and storms and fog can hit with very little warning, making this body of water one of the most treacherous in the world and the perfect setting for a book on shipwrecks, says author David Frew, a university professor and researcher who grew up on the lake’s shoreline in Erie, Pennsylvania. He found himself unfulfilled writing textbooks and research papers until a chance meeting with Canadian Dave Stone, who lived on the shores of Long Point and liked to research pieces of old ships that drifted to shore during storms. They wrote books on the shipwrecks that they researched and now Frew has revised and updated a book they published together in 1993 called The Lake Erie Quadrangle: Waters of Repose. This latest version includes stories on yachts, commercial fishing and excursion boats, and covers the quadrangle area of the lake that stretches for 2,500 miles either side of Long Point where 429 ships perished, says insurance firm Lloyd’s of London. There’s a story on the lake’s first shipwreck in 1813 of schooner Amelia and the “unsinkable” James B. Colgate, and others.
They were called “coffin” ships because of the one million Irish immigrants who came to North America aboard these old sailing ships during the Great Potato famine in the 1840s more than 100,000 would die on the voyage. The potato famine was thought to have been caused by a fungus-like microorganism in bat and seabird guano that was part of fertilizer that originated in South America and sent through the U.S. to Ireland. The famine killed one million Irish, who didn’t make it on one of the transport ships, some dilapidated, for the arduous journey across the Atlantic to the New World. One of these so-called famine ships, the Jeanie Johnston built in Quebec, made 11 trips and remarkably didn’t lose a soul in any of the crossings. Author Kathryn Miles, a sailor based in Maine and writing professor at Unity College, recounts what went right for the crew on this ship and how no one died during the voyage. This is an engaging and happy story in a sea of misery.
Canadian sailor Mark Harwood went to England with his British wife and two young children and after a separation found himself gravitating to a boatyard in Bristol. He spotted a 100-year old leaking lifeboat called The Arab and announced that he was going to sail the boat to the Mediterranean. He was joined by first mate, Karen, who would later join him in Canada where they settled in a cabin Mark had built before he left Canada to raise his children and some goats. The sail from England saw the couple battle late-season gales and hampered by ice in France. They made some minor mistakes that resulted in major mishaps along the way. The couple spent some time fixing up the boat and sewing their own sails before leaving Bristol in August 2003. Ten years later they had sold their boat and were based in Canada, where Mark wrote of their journey from England to the Med. The story is personal, and a tad long and could be shortened.