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Book Notes

Nobody painted water like my grandfather. He mastered it in all its moods: icy blue, dark and stormy, glassy calm in the fog, tossing in a gale, rushing before the wind. Water is his work at its impressionistic best.”

— “John Prentiss Benson: American Marine Artist”

Artist’s fascination is brought to life

Whether it was a glassy, placid day on the water or the rush of an oncoming storm, John Prentiss Benson could capture it with a brush.

“John Prentiss Benson: American Marine Artist” ($65, Baker Marine Publications, 2009) by Nicholas J. Baker and Margaret M. Betts celebrates the life and work of this New Englander. Born in Salem, Mass., in 1865, he grew up next to the seaport where he quickly became fascinated with boats coming in and out of the harbor. Benson trained in Paris from 1888-1889, though he spent much of his professional life as an architect. He closed his business in 1925 and moved to Kittery, Maine, where he became a full-time artist. Before he died at age 82, he created more than 750 canvases but many remain unlocated.

Baker is also the author of “The Artistic Legacy of John Prentiss Benson.” He has a personal connection because his late wife, Joan Prentiss Benson Baker, was the artist’s granddaughter. He was prompted to begin work on this book after her death in 2000.

Co-author Betts was the first cousin of Joan. She has been researching the artist for the last eight years and lives near Auburn, Maine.

This hardcover, clothbound book is oversized to better display more than 90 full-color plates. For information visit

A 20-year dream built from the ground up

There were three things Jack Thompson always wanted to do: build a log cabin, paddle a canoe in Hudson Bay, and sail to the South Seas. Little did he know the third item on that list would lead to what he calls a 20-year journey of love.

“Turtle Dove: One Man’s Odyssey” ($19.95, Xlibris Corporation, 2008) by Thompson is the journey of one man who took on the ultimate backyard project: building a 40-foot oceangoing ketch through the course of 12 years during the nooks and crannies of time left over from his day job. Thompson says the project was so expansive his neighbors at one point thought he was building a patio in his yard. He spent eight years sailing the world with 33 volunteer crewmembers and his book recounts his many adventures during that time, including two trips through the Panama Canal.

Thompson is a retired newspaper reporter and journalism professor. He is the author of two books, “Right to Know” and “Naked in the Rain.” He lives in Warwick, R.I., with his cat, Rocky. For information, visit

British sailor goes over the top

Plenty of people have sailed around the world, but British sailor Adrian Flanagan had a dream to do something different: sail around the world “vertically.”

“Over the Top: The First Lone Yachtsman to Sail Vertically Around the World” ($26, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008) by Adrian Flanagan is about one man’s successful attempt to take a different circumnavigation course around Cape Horn and the waters of the Russian Arctic, facing icebergs, pirates, dislocated wrists and a short disbanding of the trip along the way.

Flanagan mortgaged his house to buy a 38-foot stainless-steel sloop with the dubious name of Barrabas and took off Oct. 28, 2005. After almost a year and 25,000 miles, Flanagan was forced to wait to resume his trip in summer 2007 when a damaged propeller shaft made the use of his engine impossible. He completed the 30,825-mile trip in May 2008 — a dream fulfilled and a life changed.

Flanagan has worked as a freelance sports journalist for various British papers such as The Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. He started a business in food distribution to fund his sailing ambitions and lives near Oxford, England. He is currently planning a microlite flight around the coast of Australia. For more information visit

From obscurity to a time-tested vessel

There’s an old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

This is Dieter Loibner’s philosophy in “The Folkboat Story: From Cult to Classic — The Renaissance of a Legend” ($29.95, Sheridan House Inc., 2008), now available in paperback format.

First published in 2002, Loibner tells the tale of how an obscure, minimalistic boat design took shape to become a classic and modern mainstay. Designed during the early years of World War II, the 25-foot folkboat was built to be a sparse, fast vessel. Its seaworthiness has helped it resist radical modifications in more prosperous times and retain the Spartan philosophy of “less is more.”

Loibner is an editor and boating writer, and is Soundings’ sailing editor. He lives in Portland, Ore. For information, visit

Cooking tome unlocks the beauty of Maine

Hungry for more than just the next delicious dish? “Windjammer Cooking: Great Recipes from Maine’s Windjammer Fleet” ($27, Seapoint Books, 2008) by Jean Kerr and Spencer Smith gives boaters a taste of everything coastal Maine has to offer.

With an oversized design and full-color pages, it is more than just a cookbook. It takes the reader on a journey through the 12 vessels of the Maine Windjammer fleet, with five accompanying recipes from the crew of each one. History, appetites and the sea converge in the DVD “Come Sail With Us” that gives readers a background about the Maine Windjammer Association and their yearly coastal sailing vacations. The book also includes a complete guide to hosting a lobster bake.

Kerr has written a number of books such as “Mystic Seafood: Great Recipes and the History and Seafaring Lore from Mystic Seaport.” She is the editor of Taste of the Seacoast magazine. Smith has worked at Fodor’s Travel Guides and David MacKay Publishers and has authored two books. Both are avid boaters along the Maine coastline. For information, visit

This article originally appeared in the February 2009 issue.