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Book Notes

Recalling the sinking

of the tall ship Sofia

When the tall ship Sofia sank off New Zealand in 1982, many newspapers and magazines — including Soundings — were interested in the story. But in the years since surviving that event, Pamela Sisman Bitterman has believed the story of the tall ship’s voyage was just as compelling as its dramatic end.

Bitterman has finally written of her time aboard the Sofia in “Sailing to the Far Horizon,” (University of Wisconsin Press, November 2004, $29.95). Culminating in the dramatic retelling of the ship’s sinking, the story also takes the readers through Hurricane Kendra, civil unrest in Latin America, the arrest of the entire crew — twice — dengue fever and a near mutiny.

But more than just a series of adventures, “Sailing to the Far Horizon” is also a travelogue of the type of adventures many boaters dream of. Bitterman recalls gatherings with the Cuna Indians in the Gulf of San Blas, discovering ancient tikis in the Marquesas and, of course, life aboard as she graduated from swabbie through bos’un to first mate.

The tale culminates with Bitterman’s first-hand account of the 16 survivors and their five days while awaiting rescue. But that’s not where it ends. Bitterman was proposed to while floating on the life raft. She and her husband, Joe, have been married for 22 years, and raised their two children aboard a 50-foot brigantine.

Contact: University of Wisconsin Press,

Finding and using

your first sailboat

Daniel Spurr tries to demystify sailing and counter all the arguments against getting into the sport in “Your First Sailboat” (International Marine, 2004, $14.95). It’s easier and takes less money than most people think, he says.

He starts at the beginning, figuring out which boat to buy, then tackles other questions: Should I buy used or new? What equipment do I need? How do I tie up my boat, attach sheets, care for the boat and raise the sails? He also goes into seamanship, navigation and what to do in case of an emergency.

Those interested in buying might find his sailboat guide especially helpful. He looks at what he calls 75 recommended vessels, breaking them into categories: daysailers, trailer sailers, general purpose vessels, cruisers, racers and multihulls.

Contact International Marine, (212) 904-5951.

For coastal cruisers dreaming of bluewater

Sailing across the sea can be safer than sticking close to shore, so you might as well go ahead and pursue that dream, advises Reese Palley in “There Be No Dragons.” Sheridan House has released the book, originally published in 1996, as a paperback (April 2004, $16.50).

Palley writes intending to encourage sailors to put aside their worries and set out across the oceans. And it can be done with inexpensive equipment and a reliable small boat, says Palley, who managed to complete a 15-year circumnavigation despite claiming to be a sailor of no great skill.

Contact Sheridan House, Phone: (888) 743-7425.

Not too small

to go offshore

Just because you have a small boat doesn’t mean you can’t have big adventures. That’s the point of “A Speck on the Sea” by William Longyard (International Marine, August 2004, $13.95), which tells of more than 70 such escapades committed in boats around 20 feet or smaller.

The vessels include small sailboats, canoes, and even a couple of pontoons strapped to a man’s feet. Longyard includes the 1902 venture by Gladys Gradely to become the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo; Captain Bligh being dropped in the middle of the ocean in a 23-foot open boat with 18 crewmembers; Shackleton’s desperate voyage aboard the James L. Caird; Serge Testa’s record-setting run for circumnavigation in the smallest vessel (a 12-footer); and tales of Inuit crossing the North Atlantic in skin-covered kayaks.

Contact International Marine, (212) 904-5951.

Cruising Guide:

New Jersey waters

This is the updated second edition of Capt. Donald Launer’s “A Cruising Guide to New Jersey Waters” (Rutgers University Press, July 2004, $19.95). It focuses on that state’s navigable waters and shore-side facilities.

The guide covers the lower Hudson River, through New York Harbor and its tributaries, Raritan and Sandy Hook bays, the Jersey shore, Delaware Bay and the Delaware River up to Trenton.

The updated version looks at the post-Sept. 11 security restrictions, pollution regulations, advances in electronics, and changes in the waterways.

Contact Rutgers University Press, (732) 445-7762. http://rutgers