No­table Boats: Many Craft, Many Ad­ven­tures

By Nic Comp­ton (2017; Riz­zoli In­ter­na­tional Pub­li­ca­tions; $30)

Cruising World - - Underway -

A bliz­zard pasted snow on my win­dow as I nes­tled into a read­ing nook, sipped a hot choco­late and opened this square lit­tle book about boats. On the very first page, I was taken away.

No­table Boats is not about wa­ter­craft, per se, but what you do with them. Ev­ery boat is a dream afloat, and this is a col­lec­tion of dreams ful­filled.

Some went around the world — you know the skippers’ names: Slocum, Pardey, Chich­ester, Macarthur. Some chased records or fame; I’ve seen a few of their boats in mu­se­ums. Au­thor Nic Comp­ton, the for­mer ed­i­tor of Clas­sic Boat, chose ves­sels that were “strik­ing, re­mark­able and emi­nent.” There are even a cou­ple of fic­tional boats — Huck Finn’s raft and Swal­low (from Arthur Ran­some’s Swal­lows and Ama­zons) — that met the cri­te­ria.

But what stands out for me in this hand­some col­lec­tion of 36 boats is their mod­esty, set against the jour­ney each took. For the most part, it wasn’t the boat that made the trip — it was the am­bi­tion or guts of each sailor to see the dream through.

I am par­tic­u­larly drawn to the old pre-electronic-era ones, or the hand­made back­yard ves­sels of less than 20 feet that car­ried the dreamer down the Mis­souri, along the Mex­i­can coast or across the English Chan­nel — jour­neys that were, for them, daunt­ing and life-chang­ing. The names of their boats tell the story: Guppy, Squeak, Tinker­belle.

A short story and map de­scribe the achieve­ment of each sailor. All but one are in­cluded in a bib­li­og­ra­phy of

The bliz­zard is gone and the ap­ple tree by the win­dow is in bloom as I re­open the book, in part be­cause of its feel, an al­most creamy tex­ture, with won­der­ful draw­ings of each boat in full sail, flags fly­ing, by Pe­ter Scott. These boats tug at you, their mo­tions

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