797.1 Woo (c1997/2012)

Sarah P’s comments:  This book was originally released in 1977, way before Stuart Woods became a bestselling author. In fact, he was supposed to be writing his first novel when about a hundred pages into the book, he discovered sailing, and “everything went to hell. All I did was sail.”

The book was re-released in 2012 and suddenly all sorts of non-sailors were calling it a rip-roaring read. Well, sort of. It’s really a fairly standard sailing book of the era but what does make is interesting is that Stuart has a sense of humor and how he goes from dinghy sailing to crossing an ocean does make for interesting reading.

YouTube Video Review of the Book


‘...it is all too easy to bandy about a few technical terms and give someone the impression that you know more than you do. This is done every day in yacht club bars.’

‘Many human beings need adventure, real adventure, personal adventure and sometimes, as in my case, solitary adventure.’

‘Some men and women have always needed [adventure], finding their own physical limits without the aids of bearers and sherpa guides, searching out their own emotional and spiritual boundaries in places where there is no one to answer to but God. As our society grows and our environment shrinks, there will be more and more little men [and women] who will wish to deny us that…they must be ignored.’

Reading while underway…


910.4 Pay (c1980)

Sarah P’s comments:  Humor in sailing books is not all that common. Most tales tend to the deep or the disastrous…so Herb Payson’s story is refreshing. When I first this book it was fairly new, now I read it and think egads they had an alcohol stove and a sextant?! However, this ‘get-away-from-it-all story is timeless. For description, I am going to defer to words from The Boat Galley blog:

Blown-Away cover with commentary

SAIL magazine article about Herb Payson (2015)


‘Sunday dawned dull and dreary…but before long the sun came out bright and warm, the wind freshened, we raised sail and experienced that amazing sleight-of-mind that happens when a beautiful day on the water blots out all thoughts or previous discomfort.’

‘To depend on luck is to court disaster; to sail without it is to do the same. From this delicate balance is a sailor’s superstition born.’

‘Life is a series of lessons with no chance to practice. Second only to foresight, a sailor’s best insurance is his ability to improvise. It’s an ability that depends upon attitude, an art that can improve with experience.’

‘I loved cruising the coast of Maine. For one thing, it helped me conquer my fear of fog. Not that I have learned to feel secure in the fog, but at least I have learned how to grope without panic.’ 

payson's boat

Sea Foam: Herb & Nancy Payson’s boat

WaterBug letters