- by Carol Standish
Three great gifts for the Holidays
The Great Classic Yacht Revival by Nic Compton (Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 192pp, $45) is a classic itself. Utilizing the pictorial archive of the author, a former editor of Classic Boat Magazine, virtually every pair of facing pages of this stunning book are adorned with glorious photos of classic sailboats. An exploratory fanning will take at least a half an hour even if you don’t read any of the picture captions. This should be no surprise if you are familiar with Compton’s first book, Sailing Solo (see Maine Harbors Dec 2003 review). Equally comprehensive and as sumptuous as his first book was dramatic, the author presents a brief history of recreational sailing—augmented with a charming forward by legendary yacht designer, Olin Stephens. (It’s hard to believe that what would become the U.K.’s most famous yacht building yard was founded by William Fife in 1700, that the first America’s Cup race took place over 150 years ago or that the first yacht club in the U.S., the Eastern of Boston was established in 1842.)
Having extolled the “golden age” of sailing, Compton then presents the ongoing revival/restoration movement of these classic early craft, which has been underway since the 1960s. Seattle-based Boeing engineer, Dick Wagner is credited with one of the very first efforts. His hobby was collecting and restoring old wooden boats in the early years of the fiberglass boom. In fact, he eventually left his day job to open his own business renting out his restored boats. The Old Boathouse was founded on a remark made by his wife, “ ‘by the time our children are grown, there won’t be any wooden boats left.’ ”
The rest is history. The first WoodenBoat Magazine went to press in 1974—an almost instant success. As the wooden boat restoration business was slowly standardized, restored classic yachts became collectors’ items, often referred to as “floating paintings.” And, inevitably, as the supply of authentic craft dwindled, “modern” classics (boats with classic lines using modern materials and equipment were and continue to be developed. Regattas, parades and festivals featuring these beautiful boats have fuelled popular interest. In 1996, the Festival of Sail, in Brest, France was attended by four million people and 2500 boats.
An equally graphic book of an entirely different sort, In Praise of Sailing compiled by Welleran Polternees (Laughing Elephant, 30 pp, $17.95) is a collection of painted images of sailboats and sailing activities. The 25 paintings, posters and prints are an unusual and eclectic selection of American and European works—from the late 19th century Gisbert Combaz’ “La Mer” to the more contemporary “Frostbiting at Larchmont Yacht Club” by David Bareford. Images from famous marine painters like Britain’s Montegue Dawson and the Cape Cod-based artist, Edward Hopper are companioned by the delightful but obscure 1960 poster by Georges Renevey and the 1949 “Honeymoon on the Rocky Coast of Maine by Polish-born Nicolai Cikovsky. (This charming scene can be nowhere else but Lobster Cove, Oquinquit!)
It would be interesting indeed to know the author’s method of choosing images for this unusual little book. He sails on Seattle’s Lake Washington, but that is all we know—except that he has felt compelled to pen a few lines about his feelings about sailing to accompany the images. They do not intrude on the visuals and occasionally they connect uncannily, but their best virtue is their sparseness. An odd little book, considered by some critics as a children’s book. I think its appeal is to sailors of all ages and especially—arty ones.
Contemporary watercolorist Margaret S. McCrea’s Maine Sail - An Artist’s Journal of a Cruise Down East (Down East Books, 128pp, $26) is yet another sort of art book on sailing. Over the years the artist and her husband have taken extended cruises along the Maine Coast in their 32-foot sailboat, Panacea. While he sails, she keeps detailed journals, both verbal and visual. Maine Sail is a compilation from the journals of several cruises.
Islands, lighthouses, villages, curious seal mugs emerging from the sea, other lovely boats, all come alive on these pages. Seven chapters divide the Maine coast by region; each introduced with a hand painted map of a waterborne journey. Evocative sailing havens and ports of call such as Penobscot Bay, Mount Desert Island, Frenchman Bay, Blue Hill Bay, Eggamoggin Reach, Vinalhaven Island and Fox Island Thorofare are the picturesque names of places that beg to be painted. McCrea does them all justice in both word and paint.