Sarah P’s comments: As an artist, Rockwell Kent does not need an introduction but for many years I wasn’t aware he was a writer as well. Two of his books are sailing stories and over the years I would see N by E mentioned here or there as, in Maine, it’s touted as a ‘classic’.
Finally, one sailing summer, I read Kent’s story of cruising north to Greenland in 1929 on his 33′ cutter. The illustrations, the descriptions, the subsequent shipwreck…all make for a riveting read. In fact I liked it so much I hunted up his other sailing story which was even better…and which I will write about next…
Sarah P’s comments: It’s tough to choose what items to include my first ‘top ten’ posts because I’ve read so many great and inspiring sailing books. But there is no doubt that Irving Johnson has to be on this list because he was among the first, and the best, plus there is a personal connection for me.
Irving & Exy (Electra) Johnson pioneered sailing around the world with paying crew members. They sailed three times on their schooner Yankee before being interrupted by WWII. Then they purchased a brigantine and circled four more times (on one set of dishes!). Finally, they built a shallow draft vessel which they sailed up the Nile and through the European canals for seventeen years.
Impressive is an understatement. My connection is that Exy went to high school with my grandmother in Rochester, NY. My grandmother then married my grandfather and moved to Maine while Exy married Irving and sailed the seas. My mother recalls going to visit Exy on the second Yankee in or around 1948 while she was anchored in Freeport Harbor (Maine). Irving gave them a tour and my Mom was impressed with the long gimballed table surrounded by cozy bunks with curtains. She was just at the age to dream of going on a trip but there was no way my grandparents had the almost $5,000 to pay for it. However, Irving and Exy did inspire her sailing dream and eventually Mom convinced my father to own sailboats and even earned her Coast Guard Captains license.
Irving and Exy wrote several books about their travels but I consider Westward Bound in the Schooner Yankee their best if you’re going to only read one…
‘The sails are everything, they’re our connection’
‘Our plan was to sail with a number of young people who wold share the expenses of long cruises…We knew this was possible because we knew our ship.’