American Small Sailing Craft
Howard I. Chapelle

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This book is well illustrated with very good pen and ink drawings.  It is a classic source of information on the historical small craft of the United States.  In this case when the author says small he really means it.  Mr. Chapelle loved traditional small craft and felt that the secret of economical enjoyment of the water lay with traditional types that were not over complicated.  There is no doubt that he was correct that simple and simply built boats are much less expensive than may of the boats sold today which are outrageously complex and extremely expensive to work on and to even just maintain the cosmetics on them.  For those who buy into this philosophy wholeheartedly there is a tremendous wealth of information in this book.

If I have to complain about anything about Mr. Chapelle's philosophy it would be on two points.  First he feels that boats "naturally evolved" to be best for the waters in which they operated.  Unfortunately for this delightful Darwinian conceit, we can see all around us evidence that this is not true.  I've seen scallop draggers that were incredibly dangerous and kill a number of people every year for easily preventable reasons.  Many of these traditional types relied on a level of skill not found today and accepted a rate of death unacceptable in family sailing.

The second point I would make is that this book encourages people to short change themselves by not going to a yacht designer with a summary of how they'd want to use a boat and asking for suggestions.  A good designer will "qualify" them by telling them how much a custom design would cost.  If they can afford a custom design they can probably afford to have a boat built or build it themselves.  If they can't afford a custom design the designer, if he or she is good will make sure to either show them a stock design which they might be able to afford to build, or suggest a boat that they may be able to find used which will suit their needs.

On the other hand once it is determined that small craft such as Mr. Chapelle writes about can meet the needs of the particular person, a good yacht designer may well suggest looking at certain designs in this book.  For some there may well be enough information available to build them.  For others this book will at least give a start from which a designer can prepared construction drawings.

One of the biggest pluses of this book is that it just plain can get you thinking about different types of boats and how to have fun on the water in a more rational manner than you can ever get from reading the current boating magazines.  Today's boating magazines tend to be heavily advertiser driven and if there is one thing for sure it is that there are vast numbers of boats being designed to be sold rather than designed to actually make people happy.  A magazine dependent on advertisers trying to sell the largest possible interior in the least possible boat are hardly likely to tell you that you don't need a huge luxurious boat and that you may be much happier sailing a little 22' pocket cruising sailboat.

In this sense Chapelle gives you a much healthier perspective than is common today and I hope that people will continue to  study this book for further generations.  (363 pages, many line art illustrations) (tm)  $40.00

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