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on August 22, 2014
This is one of the best creative nonfiction / memoir books I have read in years. Although it is out of print, I recommend getting a used copy. This is an account of Harvey Oxenhorn's self discovery and world discovery. The tall mast ship on which he sailed is a metaphor for life and the importance of relationships. It is an incredible story of how one can learn something totally new that is seemingly disconnected from everyday life yet in reality is intimately connected with the living of life. He learned how to go beyond his comfort zone, face danger and the real prospect of death,the necessity of relying on and trusting others, and a whole host of other things.

And, are you curious what the title, "Tuning the Rig" means? Well, get the book. I don't think you will be disappointed!
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on January 24, 2017
If you like travel stories this is a very good one.
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on June 15, 2013
Why, oh why is this masterwork "long out of print"? Because the author died so young perhaps, in a fatal accident shortly after it was published? That accident deprives us, a potentially great, engaging author lost to readers far too early. Probably a greater loss to teaching and scholarship. An incredibly good read, great easy-flowing prose, startling revelations and insights as this "landlubber" grows into a tall-ship sailor.

A whale-watching research cruise into the Arctic, up among our beloved "newfies" and their hard fishing lives, this Professor finds several 'animals' of interest. "To think differently about these animals is to think differently about ourselves as well. From now on, we must all stand watch. One tribe. One family. One crew."

The work reduced this reader to tears by the final chapters, even as he read and sang-along to those half remembered shanties, feeling again those wet-feet moments and the hearing the laughter and jeers of long forgotten shipmates. An apt and regretted memorial to this author.

If you find a copy, do read and enjoy it.
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VINE VOICEon August 12, 2002
The late Harvey Oxenhorn secured an enduring legacy through his captivating, detailed account of his apprentice voyage on the tall ship, Regina Maris. He painstakingly chronicles all facets of life during the nine weeks spent traversing from Boston to the Arctic Ocean, recounting sights, sounds, encounters, and experiences at sea and on shore in various ports from Newfoundland to Greenland and back again.
The result is not one of those irritating "look, look at me" travel books or the ramblings of a self-absorbed trekker who intimidated his editor into leaving in the most boring of details but a refreshing recap of life at sea, warts and all..
Mr. Oxenhorn, motivated by a journey of spiritual discovery, soon finds his preconceived notions of life at sea challenged not only by the mundane, repetitive tasks that consume most hours, but also by his inexperience and fears that he must confront whether scaling the vertical matrix of ropes and sails or keeping watch in the middle of the night in all kinds of weather and knowing that his decisions and observation will affect the well-being of the crew and ship.
As the story unfolds-and more so as a novel than travelogue-Mr. Oxenhorn constantly finds surprising aspects about his crew mates that force him to reconsider them, and himself, in the context of this expedition and extrapolates from these experiences a growing sense of self-mastery and awareness of interdependence.
As he recounts late in the book, "But again, the main point wasn't the rules themselves. Nor was it to demonstrate someone's authority. . . Rather, it was to break down the habit of mind that makes exceptions and desires special treatment. To replace it with a heart called unity."
Though this notion may sound a bit like the process used to mold soldiers in boot camp, his ruminations regarding interdependence reach a deeper resonance when he argues, both convincingly and cogently, that "We have made ourselves responsible for the life that ours depends on, from copepods to whales. To think differently about these animals is to think differently about ourselves as well. From now on, we must all stand watch. One tribe. One family. One crew."
Mr. Oxenhorn takes great pains to present his facts and details with care, clearly having spent many hours researching and documenting his observations about everything from various seabirds, to the construction and operation of tall sailing ships, to traditional navigational methods involving sextant and compass and stars. His narrative jumps to life as he describes what it is like to be sailing on a wooden ship among "tabular icebergs twice the length of football fields and seven stories high."
The point of the expedition was to study whale populations, and the author provides enough information about whales, their place and role in the marine environment, and how humans have affected (almost always badly) the balance of nature. He provides just enough details about how the research is conducted, what key findings are made, and what sort of future might be in store for the whale populations. Mr. Oxenhorn does not come off sounding like a overzealous, gung-ho Greenpeacer hunkered down in a Zodiac; rather he applies the same sort of calm logic to why we must carefully manage the oceans as agrarian essayist Wendell Berry proffers.
Likewise he captures both the ugly and shining sides of human behavior and interactions aboard ship and shore, pulling no punches even from his characterizations of Captain George Nichols, with whom Mr. Oxenhorn butted heads----and came away chastised more than once----the mates, or his peer crewmates. More than once, I cringed at some of these depictions, wondering if the author might be overstepping his rights, but he never fails to reveal the good, sometimes surprising, qualities of his shipmates.
If I had been Mr. Oxenhorn's editor, I might have asked for more explanation of some of the nautical and sailing terms that pepper the chronicle, maybe a glossary for those of us who will never experience firsthand such an adventure. The map inside the front cover is useful, but not nearly detailed enough, and without including the longitude and latitude lines, a puzzling lapse I would attribute to the publisher, it's not easy to track the voyage sequentially. (Most chapter titles follow this convention, for example, "17 July. 63◦N/54◦W."
Those minor points aside, "Tuning the Rig" is the kind of book that causes you to postpone your own chores while you read about the myriad tasks of "field day" or the duties of the "galley slave." I cannot say that I now have the urge to spend two months at sea on a tall ship, but I am grateful to Mr. Oxenhorn for his splendid account. Had he not been the faultless victim of an automobile crash, Mr. Oxenhorn, who is also a published poet, might have made quite a name for himself.
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on November 28, 2007
There are two ways I know I like a book. Of course, the very action of reading it is the primary. The secondary is the number of little slips of paper sticking out from between the pages. The papers earmark pithy passages, insights, and/or incredible language. Oxenhorn's Tuning the Rig was festooned with so many florets by the time I sailed through this fantanstic tale of life at sea that if it were a food, it'd have to be broccolli. For affifiandoes of appreciable writing, stories of the sea, or adventure, Tuning the Rig is a running-fast read. If there's one complaint I have it's the introduction. While its message is utterly sincere (Oxenhorn died tragically and young just after the book was published) its writing style seems diametrically opposed to that within the pages. Neveerthless, from dockside-to-dockside I really liked this book.

Mark Clement, Author of The Carpenter's Notebook, A Novel
The Carpenter's Notebook -- A Novel
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on June 1, 2003
I sailed to the Arctic on the Regina Maris in 1997, a couple years before Oxenhorn took his trip. Not quite the book I would have written, but I started out with greater expectations of discomfort and hardship. After all, it was the Arctic. Nonetheless, Oxenhard paints an accurate picture of life on a tall ship on the frigid edge of the world, and, more importantly, gives a true recounting of the deep personal changes that take place in everyone aboard on such a voyage. I sailed with many of the characters in the book, and would disagree with the more negative of Oxenhorn's descriptions of them, nonetheless, he does give a good feel for some of the friction that occurs on a long trip under difficult conditions with no privacy. Its a great pity that the good ship Regina Maris no more. I believe that everyone who sailed on her to the frozen north came back a deeply changed and better person. This book is perhaps the next best thing.
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on February 4, 2017
Disappointing tale about sailing.
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