The Compleat Cruiser
L. Francis Herreshoff

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When this book first came out it was fighting against a philosophy of macho sailing which L. Francis Herreshoff felt was ruining the enjoyment of cruising.  He tried to build a picture of sensible cruising in simple, easily handled, modest boats in which one could be comfortable and happy with one’s family and friends.  Though one of Herreshoff’s hopes, that more women would become involved in cruising, has been more than fulfilled unfortunately they too have been encouraged to think of cruising as something “rugged” that they need to be liberated and “empowered” enough to enjoy.  Sometimes I feel that this has robbed the sport of one of it’s finest influences in that women have tended to insist on some measure comfort and rationality, which they now sometimes feel embarrassed to insist upon.  Today some women too should read this book just to turn them away from the idea that “excitement and adventure” should be the goals afloat.

In fact, as my brother has said a number of times, this has become something of an “in joke”.  In that more experienced cruisers come to regard “excitement and adventure” as what happens when you take risks, make mistakes, and haven’t learned enough to be trying things which you aren’t ready for.  Thus “excitement and adventure” quite properly turn out to be something which we are, or should be, trying to avoid.  This book should help achieve this goal.

I feel that everyone who wishes to go out on the water and cruise should read this fictionalized narrative about people on several boats meeting and discussing their experiences and learning from each other.  Every generation has an advocate or two for modest simple boats designed for good all around performance and ease of handling.  In his day L. Francis was one of the best and brightest of these voices and he remains fully relevant today.  This is where you should start in developing a philosophy of sailing and cruising.   Should you become more ambitious in your goals, in that you wish to liveaboard and voyage, you can go on from here to read books by the Pardeys, Eric Hiscock’s “Cruising Under Sail” and various publications written by the present reviewer and his wife.  But make no mistake, L. Francis Herreshoff is a master voice who set the tone for many who came after him.  You will love this book and recommend it to others. (tm)

($16.50,  369 pages, illustrated with line art and sketches from a master draftsman for whom it was an art form, an unfortunate color cover illustration, not done by the author, somewhat degrades the first impression, but, after all, you can’t tell a book by its cover)