A Unit of Water, a Unit of Time Hardcover – March 16, 1999
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Whynott spent a year (June 1996 to July 1997) at White's boat yard in Brooklin, Maine. At the time, White was battling cancer, nearing the end of his life, and designing what would be his last boat, the W-76, a wooden racing yacht with "sublime lines and exquisite rigging." A Unit of Water, the result of that experience, traces White's life from his birth in 1930 to his childhood spent in New York and Maine, his naval architecture studies at MIT, and his eventual move to Brooklin, where he began working at the small boat yard that eventually became his own. In the early '80s, White and his crew stopped making fiberglass boats in favor of wooden ones; Brooklin, headquarters for WoodenBoat magazine and the WoodenBoat School, became the center of the wooden-boat revival and White something of a boat-building guru. The book looks closely at the art of boat making--shaping deck beams, making bronze chocks, boring holes through sternposts--and the many characters in the Brooklin boat-building community. It's very interesting stuff, and Whynott tells the story simply and thoughtfully, emulating White's philosophies. He also describes White's health battles with respect and poignancy and without getting overly sentimental.
Joel White was a man of few words who tended to downplay his accomplishments, but they shine through in A Unit of Water. One Brooklin boat builder, describing the "soul" of boats, could have been describing White: "Boats are live. They talk. The more poorly made boats talk more. The best-made boats don't talk as much. They're quiet--quiet soldiers, they call them." --Andy Boynton
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Publisher : Doubleday; 1st edition (March 16, 1999)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0385488122
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385488129
- Item Weight : 1.05 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.75 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #838,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
"A timely novel highlighting the worth and delicate nature of Nature itself." -Delia Owens Learn more
Top reviews from the United States
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Wynott does a superb job describing the interpersonal dynamics of a boatyard's personnel and the importance of good management. Though I found myself irritated at Steve, Joel White's son, for spending his winter in the Carribean during his father's last year, Steve's management style is instructive for leading a group of talented artisans, be they boat builders, scientific researchers, or writers.
I savored every page of this short book, sometimes reading each section twice as not to miss the rich details. It made me laugh, such as the passage about novice sailors who they ended being towed into port and decided to buy a boat anyway, and cry -- Joel's death. I recommend it highly for all who find satisfaction in "messin' around with boats." This book squarely dispells what every boat owner already knows: Boating only looks romantic!
As a non-reader of Wooden Boats magazine,the source of much of the info here, I'd love to have seen photos or sketches of the boats mentioned, as well as the boatyard crew.
And for the ocean-loving landlubbers among us, a good glossary would be a godsend. For example, what's deadwood? or a spoon-shaped bow?
It's also a bit of a stretch to say that Whynott wrote this book. Take out the extensive -- and wonderful -- citations from the writings of E.B. White and his son, Joel that Whynott lovingly included, and not much of the writing came from the pen/typewriter/PC of Whynott. What did is quite well written, sometimes really well written, however.
What this book really did is send me searching for my copy of E.B. White's "One Man's Meat." I'm not surprised to see this title in the "others who bought this book" section here on amazon.com.
I'm also gonna check out "The Yard: Building a Destroyer at the Bath Iron Works," by Michael S. Sanders. The Boston Globe review of this book is what interested me in Whynott's book -- which the reviewer liked a lot.