The Practical Mariner's Book of Knowledge|
Second expanded edition
McGraw Hill, 274pp, $20
In 1987 the Vigor family sailed their 31' Freelance, 7,000 miles from Durban, South Africa, transatlantic to the Caribbean, and then up to Florid...an escape from "a country they loved, but whose politics they could no longer abide." (In 2005, he recounted his epic journey across the South Atlantic, Small Boat to Freedom). But his account of this personal journey is an exception to the majority of his books. Primarily, he gives advice to mariners...rock solid, well-researched and clearly explained with generous dollops of humor.
However, and lucky for the boating/reading public, according to Amazon, Vigor has written more than a dozen "advice and general information books" on the subject of boating. The first edition of this title came out in 1994 and if you bought one then, your copy has to be pretty dog-eared by now, so you need a new one anyway. As an added incentive to buy the second edition is that forty more invaluable "'rules of thumb' for almost every boating situation" have been added. The new ones have not been identified as such but if you still have your ragged old first edition you can probably figure out what's new. Frankly, I doubt it's worth the effort, just consider that you and your boat are forty more rules safer and more practical.
Even though the book is set up alphabetically by subject, just like a dictionary, I read it straight through as if it were a narrative, without even a yawn. You can't make that claim for many fact-filled, how-to tomes. One of the first issues Vigor addresses is where the expression "rules of thumb" originated. He surmises that the phrase took on a life of its own from the "ancient rule...that a prudent captain should never allow his vessel to come closer to danger than one thumb's width of the chart. By this means, a vessel was kept a fair distance away on a small-scale chart, and brought considerably closer on a more detailed chart. That advice holds good to this day."
A few good examples of nautical "rules of thumb" cover the mundane procedures like anchoring and theoretical superstitions concerning albatross (es?), to the less appealing and more esoteric subjects like alternators and angles of approach.
The alphabetical organization is handy for a quick answer and Vigor's sly sense of humor makes learning a new piece of information (or correcting an erroneous one) fun and easier to remember. There is at least one "aha" moment per page (at least for this moderately aware sailor). In addition to the alphabetized rules of thumb, there are appendices that present tables and formulas for all manner of nautical mysteries, from recommended sizes of anchors, battery capacity, the Beaufort scale, sound signals and a particularly nice section on weather proverbs. "Tempered by knowledge of local weather patterns, they often provide as accurate an indication of coming weather changes as many supposedly more sophisticated sources." Of the many I've believed since childhood, Vigor confirms the veracity via scientific explanation. One of the most reliable in my experience is, "When halo rings the moon or sun, Rain's approaching on the run." Confirmation comes from no less than the U. S. Weather service: rain follows about 75 per cent of sun halos and 65 per cent of moon halos.
Written in confident conversational tone with lots of humor, this book will enhance both you're on the water time as well as your arm chair time. Enjoy.