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Maine Harbors

September 2006
BOOK REVIEWS
- by Carol Standish
     Three Odd-ball Little Books on Watery Subjects
Reviewers often receive unsolicited copies of new books from publishers in hopes that they will be favorably reviewed. It’s cheap publicity worth the gamble. Obviously, some books are more worthy than others and get more attention. But a backwater of potentially worthy books pile up.
The reviewer earnestly intends to take a closer look at the pile as soon as she’s finished with the one in hand. Over time, more books arrive in the mail and the pile of worthies gets taller and tottery. Some books have the misfortune of falling behind the book shelf to languish until the flood.
The other day, I addressed the pile and here, finally are three small survivors you may want to take a closer look at yourselves. All slight of size and content, each, nevertheless, has enough cock-eyed charm or eccentricity to recommend it.
Book Cover Four Guys in a Boat
A Decade of Rum, Cigars, Poker and Lies
by Tom Watkins
(Sheridan House, 106 pp, $10.95)
Inspired by Tania Aebi’s book, Maiden Voyage (the account of the young author/sailor’s solo sail around the world which she chose to do instead of going to college) an unlikely cast of middle-age college professors from Colorado head for Fort Lauderdale one February to hear her speak. From there “the guys” Flakey, Shakey, Studly and Scout drive to the Keys for some sailing and snorkeling, cigars, lies and port. You’ve heard this story before, you say? Not quite.

As bad as these guys try to be, fully admitting to doing their damnedest to act like twenty year olds, they are just too decent a bunch of human beings, albeit of the male persuasion. They drink a lot, but they also sail a lot. They talk about sports and women, and they gawk a lot but when the opportunity arises, they run like hell. They also read Dave Barry aloud to each other and laugh a lot; and get over the strangeness of spreading sun block on another man’s back.

They take an annual sailing trip to the Caribbean almost every year for ten years, all the while trying to act like ninnies, and doing a lot of bonding, self-discovery and growing up along the way. This little book makes me, as a female, feel a little bit like a voyeur. It seems to be a pretty frank and honest tale of what “guys” really do when they are together, not what they say they do.

Book Cover 100 Weird Ways to Catch Fish
by John Waldman
(Stackpole Books. 189 pp, $19.95)

John Waldman has been fish-obsessesed since he was a kid. In fact, he is a biology professor and researcher heavily involved with the health of the marine environment. Other books to his credit include Heartbeats in the Muck (review) an investigation of the waters of New York harbor and Dance of the Flying Gurnards—Coastal Curiosities and Beachside Wonders (review).

In this 2005 book, Waldman ranges world wide and deep into history to compile this bizarre collection of fishing methods. On the cover of the book, for instance, is a photograph of a man in the middle of a coastal road hauling back a giant sling shot which will cast a railroad spike sinker, hook and bait farther out into the Columbia River than any of his more conventional rival fishermen casting from the bank. My favorite among Waldman’s examples is the methods which employ fishing birds. Cormorants have been used for centuries and can be trained like a falcon to come to hand, fish in gullet. A cruder method uses a goose with a baited hook tied to her leg. After the fish is hooked, there is a fight to the finish with the goose being dragged under over and over. The goose prevails, the report goes but I have my doubts.

Apparently, Saddam Hussein was fond of fishing with hand grenades, a fishing method which gained popularity in the Philippines after World War 11. After all, if you don’t put all that unexploded ordnance to practical use, it might just blow you up! The book is organized alphabetically which discourages a straight through read, but it is fun to pick up and peruse a couple of entries (or a letter section) at a time. People are amazing, fishermen, more so!

Book Cover Does a Lobsterman Wear Pants?
by Barbara Delinsky
(Down East Books, 78 pp, $7.95)

This is a truly slight book—a 5 x 7” format, lots of funky line drawings which illustrate a Q and A text about the lives and habits of lobsters. What attracted me was the author’s note.

Delinsky is a popular mystery novelist and as she explains, does reams of research for each book. So for the novel, The Summer I Dared the protagonist of which was Noah Prine, lobsterman, she researched lobstering and all that hard-gathered info was doomed to storage after the book was published. “It broke my heart,” she says. “There was nothing out there that came close to what I had in my files.”

Judging from the size of the book, most of her research is still in her files but, she nevertheless manages to produce an amusing stocking stuffer for the lobster lover on your list.

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