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Book Review: The Art and Science of Sails, Revised Edition

Art-Science-SailsThe Art and Science of Sails, Revised Edition
Tom Whidden and Michael Levitt
North Sails Group, 2016
Hardcover, 182 pp.

Twenty-Five years ago, these authors published the first version of this book. As they note, in the quarter-century, there has been many amazing advances in sail design and construction. Published by North Sail, this book is stuffed with full of theory and discussion of how sails work. It has sections on theory, materials, design, use of sails, as well sa the use of computers in sail design and manufacture. There are also distinct chapters on headsails and mainsails. There are also substantial chapters on the advances that North Sail has made since the late 1980s, specifically 3DL and 3Di sails. It absolutely benefits from the personal knowledge of the authors, and their involvement with North Sails.

This book is clearly written for people who are interested in the cutting-edge sail design and manufacture techniques, specifically as applied to racing sailboats. It does not address square rigs at all. It is beautifully printed, and is filled with really interesting diagrams and photos that illuminate the text. This is highly recommended for racers, and also for anybody who is interested in how sails work, and modern sailmaking. It is suitable for all levels of experience.

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We’re Looking for Part Time Help in November & December

Become Santa for some sailors! Join our dynamic team of salty dogs and an actual dog for the holiday season as we distribute books, charts, and cheer from our Toronto storefront and across the internet. Familiarity with books, boats, and selling things is necessary for this position. Comfort with nautical charts and paper cuts an asset but not required. Available shifts will likely mostly be on weekends from mid November through the end of December with the chance of further opportunities at the Boat Show and beyond.

Please email or phone.
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Book Review: Arctic Cargo by Christopher Wright

arctic-cargo-backArctic Cargo: A History of Marine Transportation in Canada’s North
Christopher Wright
Marquis Book Printing, 2016
Softcover, 571pp

The Arctic is a neglected topic for Canada, in many ways. It’s isolated geographically, culturally, and economically. Canadians are taught about the First Nations cultures that live there, but aside from that it is rather romanticized. Whether it’s the Franklin Expedition, and the many other efforts to find the Northwest Passage, The St Roch, or Farley Mowat’s stories, or Peter C Newman’s histories of the North, it is a land more of narrative than of reality.

With global warming, it is accepted that the North will become very important to Canada’s relationship with the world as it becomes much more accessible by sea. The reality is that for much of the North, shipping has been the most viable way for goods to get to communities. Author Christopher Wright is an engineer by training, but has spent many years involved with shipping companies. He was first involved with shipping to the Arctic in 1973, and has many years of experience since. He brings that experience and detail-oriented approach to this book.

Arctic Cargo is a history of shipping and cargo transport in Canada’s North. It is not a narrative history, in the style of Pierre Berton or Peter C Newman. It examines all kinds of activities, from defence and deterrence, to resource extraction, to support of communities. In addition to being well written, it is full of data, tables and illustrations. The sheer volume of information is very impressive.

The publisher and printer have done an excellent job. Softcover, it has a pleasing weight to it. It is well structured and laid out. It has three different indices — a general one, a place index, and one for ships. It is well conceived and executed.

Clearly, there is a lot more to talk about when it comes to Canada’s Arctic history. This is a very good book. It is highly recommended for academic audience, especially for maritime and arctic history. That said, anybody who is interested in maritime history, Canada’s North, shipping or history of the merchant marine will enjoy this book as well.


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New Books and New Editions!

Recently, some fantastic new books have come into the store.

New Editions

instant-weather-foreasting5thInstant Weather Forecasting
Alan Watts

This is a fantastic resource for any sailor or cruiser. Each pair of pages discusses a type of weather, and provides a photographic example. This is a fantastic onboard reference for judging weather by sight, and is also good for looking at the weather before heading to the yacht club.


The Complete Rigger’s Apprentice
Brion Toss

This is a great reference for anybody who works on (or is interested in) rigging sailboats. There are major changes in this 2nd edition, Toss has incorporated much of the content from his second book, The Rigger’s Locker. He also incorporates an entirely new section on splicing and dealing with braided line. The rest of the book is retained from the original edition, and describes all facets of working with and maintaining various types of riggings. This includes single-hulled vessels, and multi-hulled vessels.

destroyer-hmcs-haida-warshipDestroyer HMCS Haida
Rindert van Zinderen Bakker

The sixth in a series of glossy books looking at warships, this provides an in-depth discussion of HMCS Haida specifically, and Tribal class destroyers in general. It is filled with amazing images, photos and schematics that span its entire career from construction, to its current life as a museum ship in Hamilton, Ontario. Highly recommended for warship and Canadian naval history enthusiasts.



How to Read Water
Tristan Gooley

This is the third book by Gooley, who is also the author of The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs and the Natural Navigator. This book is in the same narrative style as the others, teaching lessons about how to navigate and read the environment, interspersed with anecdotes and stories from his experiences. This book teaches you how to gauge depth, navigate, read the weather, as well as other skills. It further deals with bodies of water of every size and shape from the ocean, to bays and inlets, rivers, streams and ponds. Highly recommended for those who love being in nature.

History-Sailing-100-objectsA History of Sailing in 100 Objects
Barry Pickthall

This is a fantastic new coffee table book. It’s great for history enthusiasts, and especially for children and teens. Not everybody has access to a maritime museum, to be able to see these kinds of objects in person. Barry Pickthall brings a collection of 100 important objects to the reader, and explains theirs significance. These objects describe all kinds of sailing communities and cultures from the Royal Navy, to racers, to Polynesia, and has selected from thousands of years of maritime activity.

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From Zero to Yachtmaster, Part I

Several months ago in this blog we looked at the kinds of books and information that are needed to sail around the world. In Part I, we looked at Planning Basics. This was followed by a discussion of Charts, Cruising Guides and Pilots, and then Part III was Reference Books. Those blog posts assumed a certain level of practical knowledge, an ability to cruise long distances safely and successfully. Every year, especially at the boat show, we hear from clients who have relatively little or no sailing experience, and would like to know where, how and what skills they need to learn to sail around the world safely. This blog series is titled “From Zero to Yachtmaster”, and will provide a roadmap for learning the skills you need to sail around the world safely.

What is Necessary/Important?
Strictly speaking, there are only some basic legal requirements for anybody to have sailing certifications, at least for most nations. Some jurisdiction in the US, and in Europe require you to have a form of basic operator’s license to allow you into their ports. In Canada, it’s necessary to have the Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card. For Italy, Greece and Turkey, skippers are required to have the International Certificate of Competence, which is approximately equivalent to the RYA’s Day Skipper qualification and can be obtained that way. For US jurisdictions, United States Coast Guard requirements and information can be found here. These certificates are like a drivers license, they allow you to have a boat in environment (and jurisdiction). But they do not strictly prepare you for long-range cruising.

So Why Take Classes?
It is not strictly legally necessary to complete higher-level qualifications such as a Yachtmaster course in order to own or charter a boat. Having such qualifications may reduce the insurance costs involved in chartering or owning a boat. However, the more important reason for taking classes is that the maritime environment can be extremely dangerous, and it sailors and cruisers must ensure that they have the competencies they need in order to do so safely. Taking courses and achieving certifications is one way to ensure that you have the skills you need to sail and cruise safely, whether it is in the Great Lakes, the Caribbean, or around the world.

Competencies for Cruisers
Boat Handling
This is the basics of how to sail – and cruise safely. How a boat moves through the water, how it handles, how to maneuver. How forces act on a boat, and how it reacts.

Foul Weather Sailing
In foul weather, the environment is unpredictable and dangerous. Foul Weather sailing is about knowing how to prepare and how to react to foul weather.

Navigation and Chartwork
Knowing where to go is only part of the task, being able to track your progress and know exactly where you are is also very important. While GPS and modern technology can help you get where you want to go safely, knowing how to read and use charts is a critical skill.

Collision Regulations/Buoyage and Lights
The water is a complicated environment. Collisions regulations, buoyage and lights standards are the ‘rules of the road’. Who has right of way, who can go where, what signals means. These are critical for being in the environment safely.

Passage Planning/Skippering the passage
Even before you leave, it is important to plan ahead. Where are you going? What resources do you need to do this safely? What supplies do you need? What can you buy or find on the way? This is also about leading a crew, and actively skippering during a trip.

Emergencies at Sea & Safety
The ‘Cruel Sea’ implies humanity where none exists. The water, whether rivers, lakes, oceans, or any other type of water, is a place of unimaginable forces and pressures. This is made more complicated by weather, the presence of other boats and ships, and other factors. When things go wrong, it is very important to know what to do- and also, what not to do.

In the next blog, we’ll look at several different systems for classes and certifications, and discuss their advantages and disadvantages.





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The Nautical Mind’s Great Book Action/Adventure Photo Contest & Raffle!


Reading aboardSend us pictures of you or your crew enjoying our nautical books and charts aboard or ashore and you could win a gift certificate!  Just email or facebook action shots of you or your crew:

Please try to make the book easily identifiable in the picture.  Photos will be added to Image Galleries on our online store.  Jury will select one winner, and raffler will select one winner on October 1st, 2016.

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In Memory of Skip Gillham

We thank Buck Longhurst for this moving tribute to Skip Gillham. Skip will be greatly missed.


  On July 27, 2016 the Great Lakes marine world lost one of its’ most avid historians and staunch promoters, Edwin Barry “Skip” Gillham, aged 75, after a long and valiant battle with cancer

I was first put in touch with Skip by John Bascom in 1970, and we exchanged photos and information by mail. My first face-to-face meeting with Skip was in June 1978. I had some material that Skip was wanting for one of his books and we were introduced at an intersection just west of Fonthill  by Al Sykes. We talked “boats” for quite a while and I knew that I had found a kindred spirit in preserving the history of the Great Lakes shipping industry.

   Skip was a very private person. Family and church always came before his boats and although we talked on the phone at least once a week or exchanged e-mails regularly, we only met once a year, usually at the Lock 3 Visitor Center. He was always very willing to help with a project either by providing photos or vital information or both. He could always be depended upon for help. He would quickly pass over personal matters but would talk at great length about ships and shipping.

  In 2004 we were talking on the phone and I asked him  – “why don’t you do a book on Yankcanuck Steamships?” He thought for a few seconds before replying “you worked for them – why don’t you write it?”  That was the beginning of a sort of partnership that has resulted in several company histories and given me a sense of accomplishment and a great deal of satisfaction and this is due in a large part to Skip and his willingness to share both his knowledge and his collection with others.

  Skip has been recognized by several marine societies as one of the world’s outstanding experts on great lakes shipping and we are much poorer for his passing.


G I “Buck” Longhurst
Gore Bay


Skip was a great author of local history, specifically focusing on the Great Lakes and freighters. Sadly, only a small number of Skip’s books are still available, including The Kinsman Lines, Purvis Marine, and Final Voyage II: Ships Scrapped in Hamilton and Niagara


Skip’s passing was also commemorated here in the St Catharines Standard.

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Cruising The Trent-Severn Waterway

Stretching nearly 400km from Trenton, through Peterborough and central Ontario to Port Severn, the Trent-Severn Waterway is the cruiser’s passage from the Eastern part of the Great Lakes to Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. It is one of the most popular cruising trips in Ontario, and is accessible for everything from canoes and kayaks to houseboats and powerboats. It is also a way for boats to get from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay if they can’t go through the Welland Canal.

The waterway is 386km long, with approximately 20km of man-made canals. It was constructed in the 19th century as a military waterway, but long since has become recreational. There are 45 locks, including 36 conventional locks, two sets of flight locks, hydraulic lift locks at Peterborough and Kirkfield, and a marine railway at Big Chute which transports boats between the upper and lower sections of the Severn. The system also includes 39 swing bridges and 160 dams and control structures that manage the water levels for flood control and navigation on lakes and rivers that drain approximately 18,600 square kilometres (7,182 sq mi) of central Ontario’s cottage country region.

Unsurprisingly due its popularity, there are a number of cruising guides. PORTS Cruising Guide Trent-Severn released a new edition in 2016. The Skipper Bob Cruising Guide Cruising the Trent-Severn, Georgian Bay and North Channel is also very popular, and likewise has a new edition for 2016.

Charts are needed for the Trent-Severn Waterway, and can be found here.

The Trent-Severn Waterway is managed by Parks Canada, and information regarding access and fees can be found here.


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Cruising the North Channel

There are many lovely places to sail in the world, but the North Channel between Georgian Bay and Lake Superior may be the loveliest of all. It is also a trickier place to cruise, especially when water levels are lower than normal.

To cruise the North Channel, it pays to be prepared. We have prepared a list of the charts you’ll need, as well as cruising guides that we recommend. There are several charts required for the North Channel

2205 Killarney to Little Current
2206 McGregor Bay
2207 Little Current to Clapperton Island
2245 Manitowaning Bay- East End of North Channel
2257 Clapperton Island to John Island
2258 Bayfield Sound & Approaches
2259 John Island to Blind River
2268 Boyd Island to Spanish River (and various harbours)
2299 Clapperton Island to Meldrum
2251 Meldrum Bay to Joseph Island

Richardson’s Chartbook is also an option. It is cost effective because it provides charts for all of Lake Huron, Georgian Bay, and the North Channel. It is also a comfortable form factor for using on chart tables aboard yachts. However, Richardson’s does not legally cover you in terms of the requirement to carry large-scale (small area) paper charts. Richardson’s Chartbook would certainly be accurate for navigating (after updating with Notices to Mariners). When possible, we advise purchasing both the Richardson’s and the paper charts, to provide ease of use, and satisfy legal requirements. While this would cost more than simply buying Richardson’s alone, it would definitely cost less than the price of a fine from the Coast Guard. If cost is an issue, we strongly suggest buying the Paper Charts.

Cruising Guides
Well-Favored PassageWell-Favored Passage is a classic, and a definitive cruising guide for the North Channel. We have the 40th anniversary edition, updated with GPS coordinates and new information. Also very popular is the PORTS Cruising Guide: Georgian Bay, North Channel and Lake Huron.

We cannot strongly enough recommend exploring the North Channel. It is truly one of Ontario and Canada’s greatest treasures.

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Books for Tall Ship Sailors

Tall Ships are coming to Toronto this July! Here at the Nautical Mind, we’ve consistently had Toronto Brigantine alumni among our crew- and old and new friends are always dropping by. This year, we have some great books for the Tall Ship sailors and fanatics out there.

Kedge-AnchorThe Kedge-Anchor or Young Sailor’s Assistant
William Brady

From its publication in 1847, this was an immediate success among American sailors. This Dover edition, published in 2002 is a complete reproduction of the enlarged 4th edition originally published in 1849.

Created originally for the US Navy and Merchant Marine, it is an absolutely fantastic reference book for modern Tall Ship sailors and enthusiasts.


YoungSeaOfficersThe Young Sea Officer’s Sheet Anchor
Darcy Lever

First published in 1808, this was a popular sea grammar in both England and the United States. Another beautiful Dover publication, it is edited and a foreword provided by John Harland. This book particularly focuses on a ship’s rig. How it is created, how they are designed, and the effect of the weather upon them. It is beautifully type-set to reproduce the look of the original.



The Seaman’s Friend: A Treatise on Practical Seamanship
Richard Henry Dana Jr.

Dana Jr. Is best known for the classic Two Years Before the Mast. This particular volume (also lovingly published by Dover) is reproduced from the 1879 edition. This book is divided into three sections. The first deals with practical seamanship such as rigging and ship handling. The second discusses the customs of the merchant service. The third examines the duty of a master aboard a cargo ship. Based on the author’s experience, it’s another fascinating insight into 18th century maritime commerce and seamanship.


Seamanship-Age-of-SailSeamanship in the Age of Sail
John Harland

This book is one of the best in terms of discussing shiphandling specifically. It has been particularly popular with many crewmembers from the sail training brigantines STV Pathfinder and TS Playfair. Originally published in 1988, this is the 2nd edition, released 2015. It is absolutely stunning and should have a place on your shelf.



Rogers-collection-shipyard-models-CoverRogers Collection of Dockyard Models, Vol I.
Grant H. Walker

The US Naval Academy Museum has an amazing collection of Dockyard models. Prior to widespread literacy and the development of blueprints, ship designers used models to provide shipwrights with their instructions. This is an absolutely gorgeous book about a fantastic collection.


Clipper Ships and the Golden Age of Sail
Clipper Ships and the Golden Age of Sail

Sam Jefferson

Where Victory and its like where the pinnacle of age-of-sail warships, clippers where the peak form of the age-of- sail merchantmen. These ships have given us some of the most iconic sailing narratives of the 19th century. Clippers raced to get Tea from China, Wheat from Australia and around Cape Horn to get Nitrates from Chili. This book is filled with over 200 paintings, illustrations and photos of clipper ships and their exploits.
Special Price $12.99 while stocks last.