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Book Notes

The last voyage of Jack Aubrey

Patrick O’Brian died in January 2000, but he left behind 63 handwritten pages of what was to be his 21st Aubrey-Maturin book. Now W.W. Norton & Company is publishing “21: The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey” (October 2004, $21.95).

The book includes a facsimile version of those three handwritten chapters, complete with O’Brian’s strike-throughs, revisions and corrections. A typed version of the text on facing pages helps the reader pick through O’Brian’s handwriting.

Also included is O’Brian’s manuscript, which takes the story beyond the written chapters and offers sidenotes, memoranda and fragments of dialogue. Historian Richard Snow provides an afterword.

This final novel follows Jack Aubrey, now Rear Admiral of the Blue Squadron, with orders to sail for South Africa. Doctor Maturin is waiting for his next intelligence assignment.

The Aubrey-Maturin series, written over three decades, includes the historical novels “Post Captain,” “The Far Side of the World,” “The Reverse of the Medal” and “Master and Commander.” The books, set in the Napoleonic era, follow the friendship and adventures of Aubrey, captain of the Sophie, and ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin.

In 2003 O’Brian’s work gained further fame with the release of the movie “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” starring Russell Crowe.

Contact: W.W. Norton & Company, (212) 354-5500.

Recollections of lighthouse summers

Reading “Lighthouse Island” (Ruder Finn Press, 2004, $19.95) is like flipping through a scrapbook of the Baker family’s summers. But it’s no RV or lakeside cabin that houses author Bill Baker and his family each summer. It’s the Henry Island Lighthouse on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Baker bought the 150-acre island in 1992, and proceeded to restore the abandoned keeper’s house and shed. He also returned the 53-foot lighthouse to its original state when built in 1902. With bold red-and-white vertical stripes, the light appears in Baker’s photos as a pristine beacon standing out amid the island’s dense forest.

Baker, his wife, two daughters and assorted relatives summer there with no electricity or running water, and make use of a small outhouse. Baker sees it as a retreat from his hectic life in Manhattan and job as president of New York’s WNET PBS station. The only obligations on Henry Island are books and that morning cup of coffee, writes Baker.

“Lighthouse Island” is filled mostly with photos of the light, the island and the family’s idyllic summers spent there. Readers will envy and marvel at the bare-bones lifestyle and solitude that keeps bringing this family together.

Contact Ruder Finn, (212) 593-6400.

Maine to Bahamas in his 70th year

Robert Winzer Bruce is not the first boater to fulfill the cruising dream. But, having done so at age 70, Bruce can certainly provide inspiration to those still hemming and hawing about pursuing their own childhood goals.

“Queequeg: Maine to Mexico and Bahamas” (Author House, 2004) is Bruce’s account of his nearly five-year adventure aboard a 45-foot ketch. He tells of almost drowning in ice on Chesapeake Bay, engine troubles in Massachusetts and a dangerous crossing of the flooded Brazos River in Texas. He traveled from Maine, through the Florida Keys, cruised the Bahamas then motored up the Mississippi Delta.

Bruce originally chronicled the voyage — taken from his log and diary kept during the trip — as a memento for his children, but friends urged him to publish it, he writes in the introduction. It took him six years to get the story out in book form.

The 45-foot Queequeg, named for the south-sea islander harpooner in “Moby Dick,” was labeled an old hulk when Bruce found her, he writes.

“But I liked her lines. She was built something like the old Viking longships, sharp on both ends called double-enders.

“She was broad and rather flat on the bottom through the midsections with a lot of flare in the sides, like a dory. She had rounded bilges and was carvel planked (smooth planked), modeled after a purse seine dory. She was open to the air and you could see daylight through the seams down in the bilges.”

Author House is a print-on-demand publishing company. You can purchase this book for $19 (paperback) or $27.75 (hardcover). An electronic version is also available for $5.95. Visit

Updates to the Rules of the Road

In its eighth edition, “Farwell’s Rules of the Nautical Road,” by Craig H. Allen (Naval Institute Press, November 2005, $45) looks at the latest developments in navigation and collision avoidance technology, according to the publisher.

Other updates include revisions to the chapters on good seamanship, special circumstances and restricted visibility. The author has also expanded the sections on the narrow channel rule, traffic separation schemes and the application of the rules to high-speed vessels.

Allen is a professor of law, teaching maritime courses at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle. He also served in the U.S. Coast Guard as a marine inspector, marine casualty investigator and attorney.

Contact: Naval Institute Press, (410) 295-1081.