Julia Jones, Yachting Monthly's literary reviewer discusses The New Crew’s Pocketbook, which is designed to be read in advance of a first sailing trip and kept for reference thereafter

The New Crew’s Pocketbook is a useful little sailing book intended to be read in advance of a first sailing trip and kept for reference thereafter.

I’ve a feeling that the second function may be the most useful as there’s probably a limit to the amount of factual information people can assimilate before they’ve ever stepped aboard.

Occasionally one might query the topic priorities.

Knots are always a useful first step – and certainly how to work the heads – but how to release a flare rather than the basic concepts of anchoring?

I’m not so sure.

There were some good suggestions for pre-passage questions:

  • Will lifejackets and waterproofs be provided?
  • Is there a kitty?
  • What’s plan B if the weather’s foul?

Perhaps more use could have been made of this open-ended approach throughout the book.

Yacht cruising is definitely not the one-size-fits-all experience that is suggested here.

It’s not much help reassuring potential crew members that it’ll always be possible to wash their clothes at a marina, for instance, if the skipper has no plans to visit one.

Introducing the idea that boats and their skippers are various does not have to be confusing – at least no more than issuing apparently definite instructions such as ‘on a yacht you must ALWAYS use a winch to pull in or let out a rope’.

For those of us whose sheets and halyards run sweetly through blocks, this simply isn’t true.

The new crew member could be more gently prompted with phrases such as ‘on many yachts’ you will need to use a winch…

Different approach

Effective use is made of diagrams and photographs though, personally, I would never approach a marina pontoon with a new crew member crouched outside the guard rails, anxiously anticipating the moment to spring ashore.

Neither would I suggest that someone might stand with his back to the boom to hold the sail out when running in light airs – I’ll admit I was astonished by this casual passing reference within a book named the New Crew’s Pocketbook and aimed at such.

What all skippers need to inculcate are the basic understandings of seamanship that will stand a crew member in good stead whatever yacht they are joining.

The niceties of setting a gennaker can be explained later.

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