A practical test of whistles? Yup. It’s right there on page 184 in “Safety and Survival.” If you own a good old boat, you need this book.

This book was created from articles published in Practical Sailor magazine over a number of years. It’s not just a reprint of articles; a lot of the testing details have been condensed to provide the most useful information in the fewest pages. Yet the editors haven’t skimped on details; in every section they provide background. For example, in the section on high-tech line, there’s an explanation of the variety of modern line components, then the testing of various lines. A similar approach is taken with almost all of the gear tests and comparisons. Depending on how you use your boat, coastal versus off-shore, it’s possible to narrow the choices to the best gear for your boat and your type of sailing.

The book is well laid out and while you may not be interested in all of the sections, it’s a good cover-to-cover read. The best use after the initial reading is to put it on your reference shelf, where it’s available the next time you need to replace things, maintain things, or just putter — it’s reassuring to confirm you’ve been using the right caulking, boat cleaners, and waxes, for example.

Topics are grouped logically and range from deck hardware to plumbing, electrical systems, safety and survival, creature comforts, and more. Other excellent features are the numerous sidebars, tables, and photos that give summaries of information.

One caveat: the editors admit that prices are not current. This can be a bit disconcerting at first but, as they point out, the given prices will provide a relative comparison that is useful when you go to your favorite chandler. The eight pages of websites and contact information may even help you pick the right source of the gear you need. You can do a lot of homework with the help of these resources.

This is an excellent book for anyone who owns a sailboat, new or old. It packs a lot of information into its pages. I wish I’d had this book when I refitted Water Rat II.

Practical Sailor — Guide to Sailing Gear edited by Dan Dickison (Lyons Press, 2006; 296 pages)