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There was a time when men knew what to do and they did it...
on May 1, 2012
A friend likened the author, Lewis Francis Herreshoff (LFH), to Thoreau when he handed me a copy of LFH's "Sensible Cruising Designs". LFH's "The Compleat Cruiser" is like Thoreau's Walden even though it is patterned after the Complete Angler. From the first page you will be immersed in an enchanting summer of good cruises while answering what makes it good and by impute a good life. The Compleat Cruiser is a Socratic story--teaching while it entertains. It raises questions and answers them. It shows how to keep the bright work bright during the season--without using precious vacation time to apply an extra coat. How to teach children to right a dinghy and bail it out, how to retrieve the man overboard and how to climb back aboard from the water. The story places you in situations that are leisurely resolved with good old-fashioned common sense which seems rather lacking these days. It takes you back to a time when men know what to do, and they did it.
More importantly, it subtly asks you to reevaluate why you go cruising as part of what makes your life good.
The story takes place over the course of one summer with a couple of weekend cruises in June and a week long cruise in August along Cape Cod, Newport and Block Island in the 50's. A little racing, a little eating, and erudite gentlemen discussing the finer points of yachting with each other and four or five well behaved children. The wives are pleasant partners, never shrill, and enjoyably present. How it was and how it should be. The protagonist Goddard is a 50 something lawyer with a 14 year old daughter Primrose, her friend Vanessa, and wife named Mrs. Goddard. Never an uncivil word is issued. Safe for the whole family. My children enjoy about 10 pages per night when they are tucked in their bunks.
Several of LFH's designs like the Meadowlark and Rozinante are featured prominently as well as the history of other small boats and cruising canoes like the Rob Roy.
After reading you might find yourself turning in your West Marine Advantage Card--who needs a knot meter when you can gauge speed by the length of the quarter wake? Why install a windlass which requires 30 feet of #2 gauge wire run along the interior of your vessel when you can break out your anchor with block and tackle from the cockpit? Why use a winch and a winch handle to get the last 4 inches of halyard when you can turn the main halyard into a 3 part tackle with the tack horn? How do you get a boat off the breakwater after a storm with a dinghy, a rode, and an undersized anchor? How do you cook a hearty delicious meal without stuffing yourselves in a pressure cooker in about an hour? How do you keep the pests at bay and keep your meal cleanup easy? The author goes into an impressive logical discussion regarding costs of sailing and dollars per enjoyment--literally allowing you to fix a price to your passion. All questions answered by the LFH in due time. Certainly, a beneficial read.
This is cruising in a time when men knew what to do and they did it rather than whimper at the dock fixing a piece of technology.