The most important thing in life is to know what is important. Likewise, the most important thing in reading an instruction book on sailing is to know what is important to understand. The first hurdle for the beginning sailor is the volume of new language and terms with multiple meanings. Does this book cut it? You bet! Fast Track To Cruising gets you from A to Z with ease. It’s a must-have book to take aboard and also for year-round review and fine tuning.

Fast Track to Cruising is well organized and continuously informative with outstanding illustrations and photos to assist the novice. The clearly drawn diagrams and many of the photos have bold print comments in the margin. For example, in Chapter 3, where cycling through the points of sail is explained, bold print comments review the multiple meanings of the word “tack.”

Tack (noun)
1. Forward lower corner of a sail
2 A boat’s heading in relation to the wind, on a starboard tack
3. A course, when the boat is underway, it’s on a tack

Tack (verb)
1. To change direction from one side of wind to the other while sailing toward the wind

Comments such as this are helpful for the beginner trying to pick up on the sailing lingo.

Knowing what to do in a variety of conditions is helpful, but it is of greater value to the new sailor to understand why. The chapter on wind and sails is very helpful in understanding how the wind moves the boat. The illustrations clearly convey these concepts. The “test yourself” section at the end of each chapter reassures you that you are understanding what is important.

The authors include a discussion of when things do not go as planned, such as the accidental jibe, as well as when tacks don’t go as planned. Throughout the book are tips for understanding what some novices consider difficult subject matter, such as navigation. The author starts in Chapter 8 giving tips for using parallel rules and picks up the subject again later with navigation basics. Great illustrations help explain this subject on the first exposure.

Knot tying is scattered throughout the text as the knots are being used. A separate section on knot tying would have been more helpful, easier to find, when going back to practice.

All in all, it’s a great book featuring excellent instruction and practical advice. It is a thorough basic training manual and a complete source of reference for the more experienced sailor. After finishing this book, the novice will have the knowledge to get on a boat and fill the sails. With additional experience on the water he or she will be cruise-ready.

Fast Track to Cruising: How to Go from Novice to Cruise-ready in Seven Days by Steve and Doris Colgate (International Marine/Mcgraw-Hill Publishing, 2005; 246 pages)