Boating books review: Staying human

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“From the start,” George Michelson Foy writes in Finding North, “staying alive has depended on navigation: the art of figuring out our position and in what direction to travel.”

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One tendril in the root base of Foy’s obsession with navigation grows into a quest to unravel the mystery surrounding the 1844 death of Halvor Michelson, his great-great grandfather and skipper of a Norwegian cargo ship. He decides to re-create his ancestor’s trip using only a sextant and an almanac, but before he sets sail he investigates how cells, eels, spaceships and London cabbies navigate. Foy contends that navigation and memory — who we are, really — are inextricably linked. Although his examination is serious, he writes with a subtle sense of humor and a captivating literary style. (Flatiron Books, $26)

Fun With Rope

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If any book deserves to be labeled “a practical handbook,” Splicing Modern Ropes has to be among them. Written by Jan-Willem Polman, this wonderfully illustrated and organized guide opens with a discussion of synthetic fibers and the characteristics they give to ropes. He follows by examining the construction of rope — showing a photo of each type, a concise description and which page contains the splicing technique. You’ll find answers to which type of rope best suits certain applications, how to calculate breaking loads, guidelines for the length of lines and a list of tools you’ll need for marlinspike seamanship. (Bloomsbury, $30)

Help In A Storm

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Sir Robin Knox-Johnston refers to Heavy Weather Sailing as a classic. Racing sailor Pete Goss says, “If you buy no other book for your voyage, buy this one.” You may think that a book published for the first time 50 years ago shouldn’t be on your shelf, but this seventh edition more than deserves a slot. Written by Peter Bruce, with contributions by Olin Stephens, Dag Pike, Lin and Larry Pardey and a handful of other experienced sailors, Heavy Weather Sailing examines the stability of yachts in large breaking waves; spars and rigging considerations; storm sails; use of drag devices; meteorology; seasickness; and storm tactics for monohulls and multihulls. Part Two of the book contains stories about personal experiences with storms. (Bloomsbury, $50)

This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue.