The Arts of the Sailor


Hervey Garrett Smith

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This is one of those books which is a work of art in itself, yet also a very practical manual of some of the basic skills and projects that help make your boat a special one all your own.  The pen and ink illustrations are among the best you will ever see for a combination of beauty and practical value.  Mr. Smith starts out with the basic "anatomy" of rope and other cordage and moves on to the essential knots every sailor needs to know.  Then he teaches splicing.  We have found that today an amazing percentage of sailors don't know how to splice line or even tie proper knots.  Having introduced splicing the author covers whippings.  Read this and you will never have pieces of line, that you've "burned" the ends on, unraveling.  Nor will you be trying to put on heat shrunk tubes or electrical tape or other makeshifts.  I know from experience that a good palm and needle whipping such as explained herein will last as long as the line does.  So whipping becomes a job you do once and which looks good and seamanlike from there on.  He moves on to cover seizings, proper coiling, and serving over wire and rope to protect it.  He covers the basics of hand sewing and canvas work, decorative knots, ornamental coverings of small stuff and how to make netting.  Sennit making is discussed, chafing gear is reviewed.  Reefing techniques and towing procedures are described.  He describes how to make cleats and belaying pins which will treat line well.

Then Mr. Smith moves on to projects such as making a proper boatswain's chair, how to make and use rope stropped blocks, which have been seriously neglected given their versatility and easy of maintenance and repair.  He shows you how to do rope mats and how to make a proper canvas bucket which stows so much better than the clumsy hardware store products most boats have aboard.  How often have you seen people try to throw lines to some one on a dock or another boat by heaving the coil at them?  Here is a good discussion of making a proper heaving line so that you can throw a light line a great distance which is then used to pull a heavier line across.  Once you've done this you feel pretty embarrassed about the way you've done this in the past.  Your reviewer remembers seeing a great 130' three masted former collier coming alongside the dock in Camden, Maine.  She brought up parallel to the dock but quite a distance from it.  A whistle shrilled and two heaving lines shot out, one from the bow and one from the stern.  As these were used to pull across the heavy docking lines, the whistle shrilled again and to more heaving lines shot out from bow and stern but this time the bow one heading toward the end of the dock at the aft end of the vessel and the one from the stern going forward so that they crossed in mid-air.  These were used to pull across the spring lines.  All in all a beautiful example of precision handling of a large vessel as she settled slowly into position alongside the dock as the lines were gradually tightened.  She would hardly have broken a shell had she had eggs over instead of fenders.

The final projects are how to make a good ditty bag and rig deadeyes and lanyards.  These ditty bags are nothing like the store bought canvas bags people stuff their sail needles and other small rigging items into.  As shown here these are true works of art which end up as very individual personal items.  The final project is a discussion of how deadeyes and lanyards are traditionally rigged.  Some may think that this is not a very useful art to preserve, these days.  One the other hand someone with a few tools and this knowledge will not be troubled if a turnbuckle must be replaced where there is no way to buy a new one.  With wood, line and a few other items plus simple hand tools you can make a useful replacement for yourself.  In fact I find that as we re-work our own boat for living aboard and traveling, we rely heavily on arts such as this book contains to give us a boat which does not require constant access to expensive ship's chandleries to keep shipshape.

If you expect to spend a significant amount of time on the water you need this book.  233 pages, profusely illustrated. (tm) $8.50

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