Book Review: Sailing a Serious Ocean

Sailing - a Serious Ocean
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Sailing – A Serious Ocean by John Kretschmer: Sailboats, storms, stories, and lessons leaned from 30 years at sea.
John Kretschmer is a seriously experienced sailor having logged more than 300,000 offshore sailing miles and brings every minute of his time afloat in his latest book, Sailing – A Serious Ocean.


Sailing - a serious ocean cover
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He is also an accomplished author having written a number of books: Flirting with Mermaids, At the Mercy of the Sea, Cape Horn to Starboard, The Used Boat Notebook, and is a regular contributor to yachting magazines.

Sailing – A Serious Ocean is a bit of ramble on his experiences at sea – he covers storms & rogue waves, his views on boat design, seamanship and how to live on board through narrations of his adventures. Within these stories, he uses separate boxes to highlight related information and techniques. The result is an attractive mix of entertainment and education on bluewater sailing, something that will keep the attention of any potential cruiser.

Kretschmer is one of the old school of blue water sailors and firmly believes in strong solid boats with semi long keels, a fact that stands out in the chapters covering the boats he has sailed on, including his current boat, Quetzal, a Kauffman 47. His bias is towards North American and some UK designs and unfortunately only lightly covers the innovative French influence that has dominated sailboat production and bluewater racing in the last 10-20 years. There is some mention of catamarans but is not extensive nor well considered.

He talks extensively about passage making, primarily using his numerous trips across the Atlantic, talking about weather, navigation, safety, life onboard including managing watches and sleep patterns. His stories include incidents and emergencies that highlight the need to careful preparation of both equipment and crew.

There is no doubt on Kretschmer’s skill as a seaman as he lists and describes the top 10 storms that he has experienced. He details his strategies for dealing with storms including whether to heave to, lie a hull, forereach or run off depending on the conditions. He covers the boat design attributes, sails and techniques for storms. He also list a number of related storm related literature from Roth, Moitissier, Dashew, the Pardeys and others.

There is a sobering man overboard message during a passage from the Virgin Islands to Florida: a pleasant day in trade winds conditions quickly turns into a nightmare as one of the crew carelessly falls in and her recovery is much more complicated than expected, something that Kretschmer says he will remember the rest of his life.

Sailing – A Serious Ocean, is a great book for anyone considering or interested in blue water sailing. If it is not available at your local marine book store you can find it on Amazon by clicking here