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Book Notes

Ethics, of which the prohibitionists in America said we had none, prevented us from running narcotics. The rats that went into that racket made, and are still making, fortunes and taking not one-tenth the risk we liquor carriers ran.”

— The Real McCoy

Culled from a marine rouge’s memoirs

Depending on the source, the origin of the phrase “the real McCoy” could come from an American cattle baron, a Canadian inventor, or, as Frederic F. Van de Water

claims in the newly reprinted “The Real McCoy” ($24.00, Flat Hammock Press, 2007), from the last name of Bill McCoy, the Florida boatbuilder turned rum runner during the Prohibition era. It arose, according to Van de Water, from McCoy’s claim that the liquor he carried was the best available.

Collected from conversations with McCoy, the anecdotes in the book detail his four years in the rum running business. “I went into it for the cash,” he wrote, “I stayed in it four years for the fun it gave me.” The “fun” included battling nor’westers with a [hold] full of liquor; nearly sinking from the overload of thousands of bottles.

His 1925 sentence to nine months in prison brought the end to his career.

“Since I don’t drink, myself,” he wrote, “it means little to me now which side wins.”

The book includes black and white photos of McCoy and crew, as well as diagrams and reprints of correspondence.

Frederic F. Van de Water, who died in 1968, was a historian, journalist and author. He wrote more than 35 books, including “Glory Hunter: A Life of General Custer” (1934). “The Real McCoy” was originally published in 1931.

Contact: Flat Hammock Press,

The science behind sailing

Scott Welty’s “The Why Book of Sailing” ($16.95, Burford Books, 2007) aims to provide even the most mathematically-challenged sailors with the scientific principles of sailing to answer the “whys” of seamanship, promising “no word problems and very little math.”

The topics, accompanied by diagrams, photos and illustrations on nearly every page, range from torque to waves, and Welty spends considerable space — two chapters — devoted to vectors. In one of the vector chapters he explains the reason behind applying a high-tech tape to your hull: composed of thousands of tiny, V-shaped grooves, it reduces the “viscous friction of water past the hull.” He adds that research shows that if the tape is applied exactly parallel to the streamlines, there can be up to an 8-percent increase in speed.

The book includes a final section of references, composed of Web sites and books for further reading on anything from boat design, theory, repair and maintenance.

Author Scott Welty is a former physics teacher, and directed the public-education programs at Fermi National Laboratory in Batavia, Ill. He and his wife are now full-time cruisers aboard their Catalina 30, Enee Marie.

Contact: Burford Books,

In the footsteps of a funnyman

Edward Lear (1812-1888) was best known for his limericks and other nonsensical poetry, but he was also a celebrated topographical artist, compared to John Audubon. “After You, Mr. Lear” ($24.95, Sheridan House, 2007) is the account of Maldwin Drummond and his wife, Gilly, who in 1996 set out in their yacht, Gang Warily, to reach the French and Mediterranean scenes painted by Lear. Mixed in with Drummond’s voyages are details of Lear’s voyages, who advocated “green tourism,” wandering on foot with a sketchbook to capture the countryside and enjoy the people.

The 240-page book is filled with cartoons, paintings, photos and maps — from both the author and Lear — as well as a brief chronology of Lear’s extensive travels.

Maldwin Drummond is an English sailor and farmer, and co-author of “The Yachtsman’s Naturalist.”

Contact: Sheridan House,

Toughest trade on the water

On the inside front cover of Capt. Ian Tew’s “Salvage: A personal odyssey” ($24.95, Sheridan House, Dec. 2007) can be read the responsibility taken on by a salvor when agreeing to the Lloyd’s Open Form contract of salvage: “no cure, no pay;” meaning that if he is defeated by the elements, the salvor receives nothing. Tew joined Selco Salvage of Singapore in 1974, spending more than a decade on the front line. His stories, along with color photographs, cover the successes and dangers of his former job. Examples include rescuing a barge adrift in a hurricane in the English Channel and a tanker hit by a missile in the Gulf during the “Tanker War” element of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. “If I appeared unafraid and treated the fighting of a raging fire on a loaded tanker in a war zone, at times surrounded with burning oil on the surface of the sea … I hoped they would do the same,” he writes, describing the latter salvage.

Tew was involved in more than 60 salvage jobs and is the author of “Sailing in Grandfather’s Wake,” an account of his round-the-world voyage. His seafaring family includes his grandfather, trans-Atlantic sailor Comdr. R. D. Graham, and his mother Helen Tew, who undertook her own trans-Atlantic voyage at 88 years of age.

Contact: Sheridan House,

Illustrated history of cruisers

During the half-century after the Civil War, the steel-built protected navy cruiser was evolved to counter the threat of raiders as naval commerce grew worldwide. “Cruisers and La Guerre de Course” ($60.00, MysticSeaportMuseum, 2007) by Ian Marshall features cruisers in the historical contexts that necessitated their design, as well as the progress of its design. The hardcover collection is filled with 52 paintings, 30 pencil sketches, diagrams and maps that describe the experience of the ships in action, the cruiser battles of 1914-15, and the vessel’s brief reprise in 1939.

Ian Marshall is a Fellow of the American Society of Marine Artists and the author of four books of paintings: “Armored Ships,” “Ironclads,” “Passage East,” and “Flying Boats.”

Contact: MysticSeaportMuseum,