Stress-free Sailing: Single and Short-handed Techniques by [Wells, Duncan]Duncan Wells opens his book with the friendly advice (or warning) that all sailors should be prepared for the inevitable moment when, despite their best-laid plans, they will be called upon to sail singlehanded, performing multiple tasks simultaneously with little margin for error. Just reading that introduction gave me an immediate “been there; done that” recollection of times when crew became ill (at the worst possible moment), the engine decided to take an unplanned siesta (at the worst possible moment), critical components broke (at the worst possible moment) and every eye in the marina was watching as I tried to dock singlehanded, in the dark, in a storm (which would be, of course, the worst possible moment).

Wells is a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) instructor as well as being a regular contributor to Yachting Monthly, Sailing Today, and SAIL magazines. He definitely knows his stuff and seems to delight in sharing his knowledge. His advice, delivered in a friendly and conversational style, is very easy to understand. While the book itself is very well illustrated, it also includes 21 “quick response” (QR) bar codes that link to videos that show the procedures in great detail. I tried several on my (Android) smart phone and they’re quite comprehensive. I found one to be especially useful, with that “Ah-ha moment” occurring when I saw a demonstration of the various techniques for storing lines (along with explanations of the advantages of each). For those who either don’t have or don’t care to use digital media, the book offers great sequential photography that shows every step of the procedures described in the text.

While the book is geared toward the British sailing audience (e.g., not many Americans will ever have to perform a Mediterranean Moor or would understand the color-coding of snooker balls), just about everything in the book has universal appeal at some level and will help to improve one’s sailing skills, particularly in those “uh-oh” situations such as having someone go overboard or dealing with heavy weather.

I highly recommend this book and will start seeking out additional materials from Duncan Wells, as he obviously has a gift for explaining sailing in an entertaining way that is easy for anyone to understand.

Stress-Free Sailing: Single and Short-Handed Techniques by Duncan Wells (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015, 160 pages)