Joshua Slocum on SPRAY by Mark Whitcombe
Long before a wheel rolled, some shaggy fellow straddled a log or sat on a raft and held up something to catch the wind.
-- From The Complete Sailor
The Complete Sailor: Learning the Art of Sailing
By David Seidman
Art by Kelly Mulford, Mark Whitcombe (1st Edition) and Jan Adkins (2nd Edition)
Review by Dave Zeiger
I'm a modular kind of a guy.
I like to have things broken down into bite-size, manageable pieces that can be combined and compounded every which way, adapted to whatever situation presents itself. It's the way I think.
So does David Seidman.
The Complete Sailor presents sailing knowledge and skills ranging from essential basics through solid intermediate level, and touches on more advanced topics.
Wind and water, sailing and anchoring and docking, marlinespike skills, charts and navigation... it's a long list of things to know. Each topic is covered in an easily digested page or two.
Seidman's prose is at once spare and flowing, covering the ground with a sure and easy stride. Mulford's illustrations are as evocative as they are informative. Together, they speak volumes in simple terms. Simple though it be, each time I open these pages I learn something new. Connect new dots and deepen my understanding.
This is one of the two friendliest how-to books on sailing I know (Jan Adkins' The Craft of Sail is a similar but less ambitious introduction, and now he's on board for the second edition). If you - like me - struggle through the dense and endless prose of such tomes as (the admittedly encyclopedic) Chapman's Piloting & Seamanship, you'll appreciate the lighter touch.
Another point I appreciate immensely is that examples are drawn from across a wide spectrum of vessels and their rigs. Not only the latest extrusions, but traditional and even funky boats are well represented. From balsa rafts to clipper ships. From Jeanneaus to JESTER. One can almost smell the pine tar!
This isn't a book written solely for trendsetters, but also - even primarily - for those of us going to sea by the means at hand.
So many books on sailing somehow manage to lose sight of the romance - the dream - of sail. Reading them, it's easy to imagine that seamanship is little more than another exercise in consumerism. That, with informed purchases and proper use of appliances, the world is your Disney. Or the other hand, perhaps worse, that the learning curve before us is so steep and long that one is discouraged to begin.
Dreams are delicate things. They often don't survive the necessary, accumulation of nuts and bolts and know-how that empower them. They get lost in data, overwhelmed by 'practicality', bogged down in tedium, abandoned in despair.
This book pilots us safely. In its care, we circumvent shoals of ennui and reefs of detail, enticed ever forward, eyes lifted at every league to the horizon...
The Complete Sailor is a gift to all of us who dream of water.
PS. The first edition features gorgeous chapter headers (such as that leading this post) by the late Mark Whitcombe. In the second edition, his artwork has been replaced by the work of Jan Adkins.
While I'm a big fan of Jan's, I miss Mark's touch. The extra materials - GPS, Racing and Trailering - aren't on my need-to-know list. For these reasons, I favor the first edition.
But both are excellent.
PSS. If nothing else, keeping a copy on board for guests is something I highly recommend. Sitting down with this book between us beats the oakum out of my own, unaccompanied words and doodles.
PSSS. I just found out that Kelly Mulford passed away in 2011. You can read his cousin's memorial post, here.