Here is a little book with an assortment of sixty or so light stories from the nautical world. There is history, both sublime and ridiculous, modern and not; stories of steam and sail, and wonderful nautical silliness. Written with an appealing, tight, light touch, there aren’t many duds.
I learned some interesting things from this book, little mysteries such as how a bosun’s pipe actually works; that Port Royal in Jamaica had an earthquake in 1692 that destroyed all the Port buildings and 2000 people. I learned how tillers were developed from oars; and about the seven-masted schooner Lawson, the “most-masted” ship in history.
Perhaps Hemingway fans knew about his nutty plan during World War II to turn his wooden fishing boat, Pilar, into a submarine hunter by mounting hidden .50-caliber machine guns on it, expecting to surprise and gun down the submarine crew when they surfaced to inspect his boat. It will stay with me as the best example of how someone can be brilliant but breathtakingly wrong. This book is worthwhile reading for those interested in sea-oddities that you’re not likely to come across in other places.
Myth, Fact, and Navigators’secrets: Incredible Tales of the Sea and Sailors by J. Gregory Dill, (The Lyons Press, 2006; 224 pages)