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Total Loss: A Collection of 45 First-hand Accounts of Yacht Losses at Sea with a Summary of the Lessons to be Learned Paperback – August 4, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

Review

For leisure reading, Total Loss is highly recommended. For anyone going offshore, it should be required reading. (Sailing and Yachting)

A collection of 40 firsthand accounts of yacht losses at sea with a summary of the lessons to be learned, the stories will make the reader a better, or a retired, sailor. (Wooden Boat)

About the Author

Paul Gelder is the editor of Yachting Monthly and has sailed thousands of miles in a variety of boats. He has written two books on round the world yacht races, The Loneliest Race and InterSpray's Race Around the World. He is no stranger to misfortune afloat. His boat, appropriately called Phoenix, a 30-ft trimaran, was blown ashore in a gale and rebuilt after being declared a total loss by the insurers.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Sheridan House; 2nd Edition edition (August 4, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574091468
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574091465
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #690,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Houtz on July 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book badly needs to be edited by a marine expert. It could also be improved by publishing some statistics on how many such sinkings occur so how likely are some of the events.

Conclusions are from the skippers involved. This leads to errors and even deliberate misinformation.

The story of "Strumpet" is the worst; a father and two young boys spend the night on a yacht. The two boys have a kerosene lamp for light in the forward berth. The boys are called to breakfast and then the boat sets out, and soon the interior is engulfed in flame and smoke.

The skipper's explanation is that the boys put out the lamp, but supposedly the residual heat of the glass set the sleeping bags on fire and the fiberglass ignited with miraculous speed.

Finally the guy states that he will never go cruising in a fiberglass yacht again!

You tell me: Do you think the residual heat of glass ignited the sleeping bags--or do you think maybe two young boys forgot to put out the lamp before coming down to bacon and egg? Here's a clue: The first words out of the submitter's mouth in the conclusion are "Naturally the insurance company required a full explanation." Obviously they got a doozey.

Other stories also have questionable conclusions. One yacht's sinking is blamed on an off center companionway. Then it is noted that the ballast shifted in the yacht, causing her to list over far enough on the same side to allow water in. OK, the cause of this yacht's sinking is the shifting ballast, the companionway location was NOT the cause of the sinking. If your yacht has an off center companionway, don't worry, it's OK.

There are some REALLY GOOD STORIES!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Brian Arthur on October 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Forty-five fascinating accounts of every sailor's worst nightmare. Whether you own a sailboat, or just go sailing regularly, buy this book! Even if you don't sail, it is still a morbidly interesting read. Aside from hair-raisingly gruesome tales of sailboat shipwrecks (both protracted week long foundering, and instantaneous and catastrophic crashes are covered), the book also analyzes what went wrong in each case. These analyses may avert some future disasters, and probably have prevented many already. None of the stories involve deaths, only some injuries, but still should please even the most voyeuristic reader's desire to vicariously experience carnage at sea.
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Format: Paperback
This is a hugely important book that should be in any personal or organizational (e.g. sail training program) library. It is organized into the following parts: weather (and waves), faulty navigation (poor thinking), failure of gear or rigging, failure of ground tackle or mooring lines, collision (think submerged free floating shipping container), fire or explosion, and towing mishaps.

While some of the short stories go back to years before modern electronics, the fact is that modern electronics can fail (and be wrong or not updated even when working). Each vignette ends with a lessons learned summary.

Here is what I pulled from the book:

Bad -- really bad -- stuff happens even when you have done everything right. Plan for and practice for the worst case. When its catastrophic and not your fault, get over the guilt and move on.

- Weather. Freak weather and freak waves happen. Assume dismasting. Assume loss of steering. Assume capsizing and need to cut access hatch. Assume loss of antennas and installed electronics. Assume broken bilge pumps clogged by tin can labels and such. Now what? Have answers.

- Navigation. When in doubt stand off. Do the azimuths and the chart work. Do not approach at night where there is any doubt. Have someone up the mast (or a webcam?) in hazardous reef areas.

- Rigging/Gear Safety. Stays will snap, double stays are nice, know what's beneath the surface ("10mm" mounts could be on top of 6mm threads). Have the lifeboard accessible and where it won't be holed by pieces of mast flailing about. Think about batteries and bilge pumps and portable options. New batteries for all hand-held emergency beacons and radios. Flourescent strom sails. Consider a flourescent deck or at least foredeck.
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Format: Paperback
Jack Coote's "Total Loss: A Collection of 45 First-Hand Accounts of Yacht Losses at Sea" is a compendium of short (2-8 pages) accounts of yacht losses, and each story is followed by a short "Lessons Learned."

The stories are a mix of losses in storms, losses due to navigational errors, explosions/fires, and other disasters. Because they were written by participants, the stories are of uneven quality - some are excellent and gripping, others dry and forgettable. Because the stories are so short, none are epic sagas of struggle and survival on the high seas. Also, some photographs/illustrations would have helped bring the boats and people to life and added depth to the book, especially because some readers may not be familiar with all the different types of sailboats in this book.

The "Lessons Learned" from each experience are likewise of uneven quality - some draw important and note-worthy lessons that all sailors should heed, while others simply restate and quote what the reader read just a page or two earlier.

One lesson that I learned is never to sail with the couple who had two (!) accounts of yacht losses in this book!

This is a good read for anyone interested in sailing and a must read for anyone serious about sailing.
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