When you see a book title like Cruising: The Basics, you would normally assume that it would cover ground about the cruising lifestyle: sailing from port to port, provisioning, and the sort of tips and tricks sailors generally pick up while adventuring out from the dock for weekends, weeks, or months. Such books have been written, but this book isn’t one of them.

More suitable is this book’s original title, Cruising: The Illustrated Essentials. This title gives you a better impression of what you will find inside. It condenses the likes of the Annapolis Book of Seamanship and Chapman’s Piloting, Seamanship & Small Boat Handling into the bare minimum of what you need to know when sailing or motoring.

The book organization is well executed and, overall, authors Zora and David Aiken succeed in getting the information across by breaking it down into various bite-sized topics. The navigation section covers the basics such as lights, buoys, sound signals, and plotting a course. The chapter on rules of the road is a nice refresher.

Section two is the largest of the three sections and covers the most ground. This is where the book really shines. It covers bridges, locks, towlines, anchoring, and riding waves. In addition, each section talks about how to handle encounters with commercial traffic. The third and final section covers weather, laws, insurance, and etiquette for boaters.

Considering it’s small size, Cruising: The Basics covers a lot of ground. Those of us who cruise will find it to be a good refresher or quick-reference book. It’s not a replacement for the larger books dedicated to the fine points of seamanship, but it doesn’t require much muscle to lift, either. It does have tips for cruising scattered throughout. The only noticeable shortcoming is that a chapter on sailing is absent; sailing isn’t even touched except during the “Rules of the Road” chapter.

Cruising: The Basics will shine as an introduction for friends who have never set foot on a boat. If you give them a good introduction to recreational boating and allow them to participate more, they’ll enjoy their time aboard and you’ll enjoy having them as guests.

Cruising: The Basics by Zora and David Aiken (The Lyons Press, 2006; 209 Pages)