Saturday, November 16, 2013

Book Review - Sailing A Serious Ocean

A good thing about being jammed up in Oriental for a couple of weeks is that our copy of John Kretschmer's new book "Sailing A Serious Ocean" caught up with us.  A disclaimer first; Deb and I have sailed with John on Quetzal, been to his house and had dinner with his family, and have recommended friends sail with him as well.  He is a friend. is in his world of sailing what I used to be in mine of aviation; a hard core professional who has earned his way, up close and personal, in a vast, sometimes violent, potentially lethal environment.  He has survived close calls with skill and an iron determination to never give up ... leavened by a little bit of luck.  He has written several books. I have read and enjoyed them all.  But this last one is a step above.  His writing skills are a match for his sailing expertise.  For those of us who are new to his world, or are working to join it some day, "Sailing a Serious Ocean" is a "must read" for gaining solid advice about what kind of boat it takes to face big water on its own terms.  John's opinions on the boats, equipment, sails, and gear are hard earned, offered without excuses by a man who has nursed all kinds of boats through all kinds of conditions.  Some of the boats, and some of the gear, were barely up to the task.  It is good to know of these things before one casts off the lines to join him "out there".

When it comes to what it takes, as a person, to face the sea on its own terms, "Sailing a Serious Ocean" is more than a must read; it sets a new standard.  John's candid tales of his own experiences, the times he should have made a different decision, are also offered without excuses.   The events he - and his crews - had to face as a result of those decisions are a revelation.  In my world of aviation a crisis normally lunges, proves deadly or is handled in a matter of seconds or minutes or, at most, tens of minutes, and passes by with the adrenalin still coursing though your veins.  In John's world the crisis builds to a crescendo that may last for hours, or days.  The sky will kill you quick and dead, but the ocean will break you first, attempt to disassemble your boat from under you, batter the crew to exhaustion, wear out the resolve to keep going ...

Yet somehow "Sailing a Serious Ocean" avoids making the realities of going to sea in a small boat sound terrifying.  Instead of scaring off the hopeful sailor John leaves the impression that most of us can do this.   He learned to find his way.  The hundreds of people who have sailed with him often stepped up, did what had to be done, and learned to find their way.  And we can learn to find ours.  His love for ocean, for the challenge, and for the rewards of sharing his world with others glows from every chapter.  The side bars on sailing weather, navigation, boats, and gear are the information every cruiser is seeking.

It is a serious ocean.  John is a serious sailor.  And this is a serious book.  But it is also a great read and should not be missed by anyone looking to do a serious thing.

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