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Ships and Sailing
The US Coast Guard training ship USS Eagle

The United States Coast Guard training ship Eagle under full sail. Eagle is one of very few "Tall Ships," or full-sized sailing ships, remaining in the world. (Photo courtesy United States Coast Guard)

A couple of years ago I had reason to do some research into ships and sailing. While I'll probably never actually do any sailing, that didn't stop me from wanting to learn more about it and how it's done. So I looked around and found a few books about the subject.

Technology of ships and sailing

These books are about the technology and history of ships and sailing through the ages.

  • AMERICAN SAILING COASTERS OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC
    Author: Morris, Paul C.
    Copyright:1973
    Publisher: Bonanza Books
    ISBN: 0-517-26190-1

  • BOOK OF OLD SHIPS, THE: From Egyptian Galleys to Clipper Ships
    Author: Culver, Henry B.
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: Dover Books
    ISBN: 0-486-27332-6
    A survey of a number of ship designs from throughout history, with excellent line drawings and detailed descriptions of the ships, how they worked, and how they were used.
  • LORE OF SHIPS, THE
    Author: Various
    Copyright:1975
    Publisher: Crescent Books
    ISBN: 0-517-32893-3
    A huge coffee-table book that covers at least the basics of every aspect of ships and boats: history, ship and boat types, their technology, how they work, knots and ropes, engines, sails, even the international signal flag code. I have this as one of a set of three; the other two are THE LORE OF TRAINS and THE LORE OF AIRPLANES.
  • MARINER'S DICTIONARY, THE
    Author: Bradford, Gershom
    Copyright:1952
    Publisher: Weathervane Books
    ISBN:

  • ROYCE'S SAILING ILLUSTRATED
    Author: Royce, Patrick M.
    Copyright:1958
    Publisher: Royce Publications
    ISBN:
    A small and well-done guide to basic sailing terms and maneuvers. The illustrations help a lot in understanding the terminology. Unfortunately, I believe this useful little book is long out of print; I found my copy in a secondhand bookshop.
  • SAIL AND POWER, 2ND EDITION
    Author: Henderson and Dunbar
    Copyright:1973
    Publisher: US Naval Institute Press
    ISBN: 0-87021-575-2
    This is an official United States Navy training manual, used to teach small-boat handling to Naval Academy midshipmen. As one would expect of a naval training manual, it is very precise and very thorough. Mine is an old copy, but the book is regularly updated with new material and new technologies.
  • SAILS THROUGH THE CENTURIES
    Author: Svensson and Macfie
    Copyright:1965
    Publisher: Macmillan Press
    ISBN:
    A survey of large sailing ships through the centuries. It contains descriptions and excellent line drawings of sixty-seven distinct ship types, from a Roman galley circa 200 AD to an 1800 ship of the line. The descriptions include commentaries on the evolution of sails and sail types over time.
  • TALL SHIPS 1986, THE
    Author: Liberman, Cy and Pat
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Middle Atlantic Press
    ISBN: 0-912608-29-3
    Souvenir guidebook to Tall Ships 1986, including pictures of all partici[ating ships and a guide to types of sailing ships.
  • TALL SHIPS, THE: A SAILING CELEBRATION
    Author: Clark, Hyla M.
    Copyright:1976
    Publisher: Tree Communications
    ISBN: 0-8467-0237-1
    A guidebook to Operation Sail 1976, also known as the Tall Ships Celebration organized to honor the United States' bicentennial. Descriptive text and photographs for all the Tall Ships that took part in Operation Sail.
  • WHEN CHINA RULED THE SEAS: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne
    Author: Levathes, Louis
    Copyright:1994
    Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press
    ISBN: 0-19-511207-5
    A look at the great era of Chinese seafaring, long before Europeans dominated the oceans. In the fifteenth century, China built a huge overseas empire, and constructed a fleet of huge ships to travel its sea-lanes and collect tribute. The Treasure Fleet of Admiral Zheng He included the largest wooden ships ever constructed: gigantic nine-masted cargo junks which may have been over five hundred feet long.

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Ships and sailors

Sailors have always been a special breed. These are books about ships and boats, and the men and women who sail them.

  • BEFORE THE WIND: The Memoir of an American Sea Captain 1808-1833
    Author: Tyng, Charles
    Copyright:1999
    Publisher: Viking Press
    ISBN: 0-670-88632-7

  • MEN, SHIPS, AND THE SEA (2nd ed.)
    Author: Villiers, Captain Allen
    Copyright:1973
    Publisher: NGS
    ISBN: 0-87044-018-7
    A review of the history of men, ships, and sea voyages over time, from the earliest dugout canoes to modern cargo ships and racing yachts. Like most National Geographic books, this is a superb book with magnificent photographs and wonderful, well-written articles.
  • OLD IRONSIDES: THE STORY OF USS CONSTITUTION
    Author: Horgan, Thomas
    Copyright:1963
    Publisher: Burdette & Co.
    ISBN:
    A history of the U.S.S. Constitution, the famous old frigate of the US Navy known as 'Old Ironsides' because of her metal armor.
  • SCHOONER: Bluenose and Bluenose II
    Author: Silver Donald Cameron
    Copyright:1984
    Publisher: Seal Books
    ISBN: 0-7704-1861-9
    Bluenose was a famous Canadian schooner built as part fishing ship and part racer. Races between working schooners (and betting on the races) was a closet industry in the early 1900s. Bluenose won dozens of races during her career, and is widely considered the best raceing schooner ever built. In 1963 a replica of Bluenose was built by the government of Nova Scotia and turned into a traveling ambassador for Canada. In 1983 Silver Donald Cameron joined Bluenose II's crew for her annual voyage. In this book he mixes firsthand accounts of life aboard Bluenose II with a biography of her namesake.
  • SHIPS AND SEAMEN
    Author: Lloyd, Christopher
    Copyright:1961
    Publisher: World Publishing
    ISBN:

  • UNDER THE BLACK FLAG: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates
    Author: Cordingly, David
    Copyright:1995
    Publisher: Harvest Books
    ISBN: 0-15-600549-2
    A modern re-examination of piracy in the 1600s and 1700s, focusing on the "Golden Age" of piracy in the Caribbean Sea and along the Spanish Main. Cordingly examines the careers of some of the famous pirates and also looks at the everyday reality of life as a pirate. He does an effective job of dispelling the aura of romanticism that grew up concerning piracy in the last hundred years or so.

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RMS Titanic

The Royal Mail Steamship (RMS) Titanic is one of the most famous ships of all time. It's also one of the most written-about ships, and shipwrecks, of all time. It was probably inevitable that I'd accumulate a number of books about it.

  • A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
    Author: Lord, Walter
    Copyright:1955
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-10679-1
    Walter Lord's classic book on the sinking of RMS Titanic. I've never seen another book that captures the atmosphere of this disaster as well as this one does. Lord follows the Titanic's voyage in chronological order from the time she left Southampton through the sinking and the aftermath. Lord uses the official record and survivors' accounts to construct a very detailed description of the ship's last days. If you can only have one book about Titanic, this is the one to have. If you can only have two, then this should be one, and its sequel The Night Lives On should be the other.
  • DISCOVERY OF THE TITANIC, THE
    Author: Ballard, Robert
    Copyright:1987
    Publisher: Warner Books
    ISBN: 0-446-67174-6
    Robert Ballard's personal first-hand account of the two expeditions in 1984 and 1985 that resulted in the discovery of the wreck of the Titanic.
  • HER NAME, TITANIC
    Author: Pellegrino, Charles
    Copyright:1988
    Publisher: Avon
    ISBN: 0-380-70892-2
    Charles Pellegrino is an astronomer and astro-engineer who worked on several spaceprobes before joining Robert Ballard's undersea expeditions. He was on the expeditions that discovered the wreck of the Titanic. In this book, he combines his recollections of that expedition with a well-done recreation of the great liner's last voyage.
  • NIGHT LIVES ON, THE
    Author: Lord, Walter
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Jove
    ISBN: 0-515-09250-9
    After the wreck of the Titanic was found in 1985, Walter Lord realized that his first book about the Titanic, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, had been incorrect in some aspects and incomplete in others. So he wrote THE NIGHT LIVES ON as a sequel, correcting the things he'd gotten wrong and adding information that hadn't found its way into the first book. In my opinion, Lord's two books are the definitive account of the Titanic disaster. Other books add details and explore various aspects of the ship and her death in more detail, but for an overall account of the whole subject, it's best to start with Lord's two books and go from there.
  • TITANIC DISASTER HEARINGS, THE
    Author: Kuntz, Tom (ed.)
    Copyright:1998
    Publisher: Pocket Books
    ISBN: 0-671-02553-8
    Complete transcript of the United States Senate hearings into the sinking of RMS Titanic.
  • TITANIC, THE
    Author: Wade, Wyn Craig
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Penguin
    ISBN: 0-14-009635-3
    Still another account of the Titanic's building and last voyage, written as bits of original accounts mixed with analysis based on everything that's been learned about the sinking.
  • TITANIC: A SURVIVOR'S STORY
    Author: Gracie, Col. Archibald
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Alan Sutton Publishing
    ISBN: 0-86299-179-X
    Colonel Gracie was a passenger aboard the Titanic who also played a major role in the events after the collision with the iceberg. He was one of the few first-class passengers saved.

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Other shipwrecks

History has seen thousands of shipwrecks on the world's oceans, seas, and lakes. Many go down into relative obscurity. A relative few have been important enough for people to write books about them.

  • GRAVEYARD OF THE LAKES
    Author: Thompson, Mark
    Copyright:2000
    Publisher: Wayne State Univ Press
    ISBN: 0-8143-2889-X
    The five Great Lakes -- Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario -- together form the largest contiguous (more or less) body of fresh water in the world. These five "Sweetwater Seas" have been traversed by ships and boats of all sizes for more than three hundred years. For as long as there have been ships on the Lakes there have also been shipwrecks there. Thousands of individual wrecks are recorded, and it's generally believed that there are many more that weren't recorded. This book looks at the history of ships and shipwrecks on the Lakes, from the earliest sailing sloops all the way up to the mighty Lakes freighter Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975.
  • PERFECT STORM, THE
    Author: Junger, Sebastian
    Copyright:1997
    Publisher: HarperPaperbacks
    ISBN: 0-06-101351-X
    In October 1991, a confluence of several weather systems produced what meteorologists call a "perfect storm" in the Atlantic Ocean south of Nova Scotia, between Georges Bank and the Grand Banks. The swordfishing ship Andrea Gail with her six-man crew was caught in the storm and became one of its several victims. This book is an account of the storm from several viewpoints, mixed with a fictional retelling of the Andrea Gail's last days, done as accurately as the author could.
  • SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA
    Author: Kinder, Gary
    Copyright:1998
    Publisher: Vintage Books
    ISBN: 0-375-70337-3

  • TERRIBLE HOURS, THE
    Author: Maas, Peter
    Copyright:1999
    Publisher: Harper Torch
    ISBN: 0-06-101459-1
    On May 23rd, 1939, the newly built US fleet submarine USS Squalus was carrying out diving trials off Portsmouth, New Hampshire, when something went drastically wrong. When Squalus submerged that morning, the "main induction valve" which admitted air for the diesel engines either didn't close or reopened after closing. As a result, the submarine's aft compartments flooded in a couple of minutes, sending her and her crew to the bottom in 240 feet of water. Rescues of crewmen from submarines sunk at any depth were almost unheard of; a rescue from a sub sunk at 240 feet was considered impossible. Nine days after Squalus sank, the British submarine Thetis sank in much shallower water -- but only four of her 100-man crew escaped. However, thirty-three of Squalus's fifty-nine crewmen lived to see daylight again, thanks entirely to the inventions of Lt. Commander Charles Bowers "Swede" Momsen, a maverick who had singlehandedly wrought a revolution in Navy diving and rescue technology and techniques. THE TERRIBLE HOURS is the story of the rescue of the Squalus survivors and of the submarine's salvaging, but mainly it's the story of Swede

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