Of Yachts and Men
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It is very nice to have this book back in print. For a much of the 20th century the Atkins, father and son, were among the designers who most inspired people to build interesting and individual boats. Just this fall while Nannette and I were working on our own boat in the boat yard we chatted with two owners of William Atkin designs. One couple with a small child were getting ready to start south on their 36’ Atkin double ended ketch intending to spend the winter somewhere south, probably in the Bahamas. Since the husband is a boat builder, and therefore able to earn a good living just about anywhere in the world, we wouldn’t be surprised if they just kept on going. Their excitement was wonderful to see and they were kind enough to pretend that the advice of an old geezer on getting by the New Jersey coast was appreciated.
Probably a week after they left on their way south, a gaff rigged cutter came in to haul out for the winter. The family aboard had gone about 3/4s of the way around the world over the last few years and had decided to winter over in Maine before going on to complete their circumnavigation on the West Coast. You could easily see that sense of deep happiness, closeness, and peace we see so often in long time liveaboards.
This book is by William Atkin about how he became a yacht designer and his life up to the time he wrote it. It is full of drawings of some of his most famous designs, presented in the context of stories about how they came to be.
To this day an extraordinary number of substantial cruises and world voyages take place in designs either done by William and John or derived quite closely from their work. Are these boats the be all and end all of design? No, they aren’t, though some of them are truly amazing vessels. To me the biggest thing we can learn from the Atkins and this book is that the best vessels are the ones designed not to impress people with how rich you are, or how “cool” you are, but rather the simple, rugged, honest vessels that quietly take you out on the water without fuss or great expense.
William Atkin describes types of vessels which you can love, your family can love, and generations following you will love. The amount of human happiness which can be provided by just one vessel like these over time is absolutely extraordinary. This book is a good introduction to a philosophy of boats that many have tried to describe. Few have done as good a job at it as William Atkin. You will love this book and dream about these boats. After reading this book you may not buy or build an Atkin vessel, but there is a good chance that you will build or buy a vessel which would make the Atkins smile and nod and say, “Well done skipper.” (320 pages) (tm) $45.00