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Boating books review: A stellar life at sea

The sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, may be the most thoroughly researched and chronicled maritime disaster in history, but we know little about one of the event’s major players — Sir Arthur Henry Rostron, captain of the Carpathia. His ship responded to the Titanic’s distress signal, rescued 700 survivors and took them to New York.

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In Captain of the Carpathia, Eric L. Clements uses accounts from newspapers, government documents, contemporary publications and memoirs to relate Rostron’s life at sea. Revealing facts about the ships he commanded, the book explores the captain’s participation in the invasion of Gallipoli during World War I and his command of Cunard’s Mauretania when she was in service as a hospital ship in the Mediterranean and troop transport in the North Atlantic. He remained her skipper when regular passenger service resumed. (Bloomsbury Publishing, $30)

Capsule History Of Navigation

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Good things often come in small packages, and Richard Dunn’s Navigational Instruments is one of those. Dunn is senior curator for the history of science at Royal Museums Greenwich in England, and the book is a delightful history of navigation as practiced by European seamen beginning about 500 years ago and ending in the age of sophisticated electronics. Printed on heavy semigloss paper and seasoned with wonderful illustrations, charts and photographs, Navigational Instruments examines the techniques for finding one’s way at sea and how a variety of tools help that process. The “Further Reading” and “Places to Visit” sections alone are worth the price of admission. (Shire Books, $15)

Voyage Of The Oxymoron

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Alone Together opens with an invitation to join the author, Christian Williams, on a solo voyage from California to Hawaii and back. He doesn’t know what to expect from being alone in a pure sense — no cellphone, TV, Internet or the myriad other things that clutter our lives. “That’s why I want you to come with me,” he writes. Williams planned this 6,000-mile trip as a test of his seamanship skills and endurance and to fulfill a goal. His focus, however, quickly turns to the reader. “Is anyone the same person when no one else is there? Do we dare to find out?” In addition to a philosophical inquiry, the book is a course in sailing technique and yacht preparation. (Amazon, $19)

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue.