OK, so the old year left us with super-freezing temperatures and a Christmas Day nor’easter that took down trees and left us without power for almost two days. And the new year rolled in on us with an even more powerful “Bomb Cyclone” that took down more trees and killed our power for another day. That second storm was aptly name because the satellite views showed a distinct eye forming when it was off of Cape Cod. At that point the winds were already at tropical storm force here in Nova Scotia, and I knew that we were going to be in for it. Which we were. Two of my friends lost their east facing docks to the high winds, storm surge and wave action. My own dock, which is better protected from easterlies, survived the storm winds and ocean state, but the storm surge did deposit huge junks of ice across its length…fortunately, without any apparent damage.
Meanwhile, temps in the single-digit fahrenheit continue….
All this to say that with four more months before we get even a hint of Spring, it’s going to be a long winter. Four more long, tiresome months without my boat and without having any fun on the water.
Thank God for books, because they’re the only thing that keeps me sane and allows me to retain my nautical spirit during the long depth of these winter months. And with that in mind, it is now time for me to share with you more great nautical reads. Here ya go:
Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History
This 1999 book provides a fascinating narrative of one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever hit America, a 1900 tempest that utterly destroy Galveston, Texas and killed up to 10,000 people. The author does an excellent job of bringing life to Galveston at the turn of the 20th century, and of describing the science of hurricanes, both as understood in modern times and as believed to be understood back then. While Cuba’s weathermen, the pioneers of hurricane forecasting, saw danger inherent in that approaching 1900 storm, the overconfident scientists at the U.S. Weather Bureau gave the all clear. Those weathermen, including Galveston-native “Isaac,” would pay for their hubris.
Fatal Storm: The Inside Story of the Tragic Sydney-Hobart Race
Speaking of storms, the annual end-of-year, 630-mile Sydney, Australia to Hobart, Tasmania sailboat race is known as one of the most challenging sailboat races on the world circuit, due in large part for its propensity of usually including storm-tossed seas. Sailors willing to brave this race know to expect stormy weather; however, the 1998 race brought in an historic weather bomb that included hurricane force winds, six-story waves and resulted in one of the worst sailboat racing disasters in history. While not quite as bad as the 1979 Fastnet race storm, this one led to the death of six sailors, the rescue of 57 sailors, abandonment of seven boats and sinking of six. The author does an excellent job of describing a normal Sydney-Hobart stormy race crossing, and comparing it with the trials and tribulations faced by the 1998 racers.
Divided Waters: The Naval History of the Civil War
This book represents a storm of a different nature—that is, the storm of war. And I would have to say that this is the best book I have ever read about the naval history of the War Between the States. Most folks have at least have some general knowledge about the Civil War’s major engagements, such as Gettysburg, but few people realize the vast scope of the ongoing naval engagements that took place throughout the course of the war. While the clash of Ironclads at Hampton Roads may be familiar to some, the north and south pretty much clashed at sea every day of the war. And while the North won the war through the course of land battles, without the Union’s victories at sea, this book makes it clear that the South would never have been forced to capitulate.
The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate
Kevin P. Duffus
Hands down, this is the most meticulously researched book about history’s most notorious pirate that I have ever read. Not only is it a page turner, but the author examines every possible facet that can help distinguish actual truth from the legend. And stripping the legend from Black Beard and his contemporaries does not make the historical truth any less interesting, but, in my mind makes the whole story of Black Beard more fascinating. If you hold a keen interest in the “Golden Age of Pirates” and/or nautical life during those times, this book is a must have.
Wolfpack: U-Boats at War 1939-1945
Philip Kaplan and Jack Currie
There are better and more comprehensively detailed histories of Hitler’s U-Boat war against the Western Powers; however, this book contains a broad collection of photos and images of the naval action that I have never seen anywhere else. The writing is crisp and does an admirable job of both detailing the historical action and bringing it to life with lots of anecdotal storytelling, but the many images add an extra level of historical reality to the reading experience.
Well, that does it for my latest rendition of great nautical reads, but these and previous selections provide just a small glimpse of my nautical library. I’ll be back again in a future blog to offer even more great nautical reads. If you know of any great reads I should know about, please let me know through SlideMoor’s comment section below.
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