One of the nicest things to land on my mantelpiece this festive season was Peter Isler’s ‘Little Blue Book of Sailing Secrets.’ It is a delightful mix of wit and wisdom, bon mots, good advice and reflections drawn from enormous experience.
In short 1-2 page stories – or articles – Isler covers all manner of subjects from ‘The Fine Art of Jury Rigging’ to ‘The Best Nautical Joke.’ He draws in comments and words of advice from Dennis Conner, Ben Ainslie, John Bertrand, Roy Disney and many others. It is a collection of musings, or short conversations you might have over a beer or two after racing. And I absolutely guarantee that there isn’t a sailor out there who will – first – recognise almost everything that Isler is saying, and – second – learn something worth taking away from almost every page.
There’s technical information in here (‘The Physics of Sailing’), and there are kindly words of advice (‘How to be the Ultimate Offshore Shipmate’). But above all this is a book of reminiscences written by someone who loves his sport so much that it shines through on every page. ‘Getting Kids into Sailing’ is just as important as ‘Boat Speed Magic’. It’s not a sailing textbook, it’s a take on Isler’s extensive sailing history and philosophy. Above all, he tells the reader over and over again, 'no matter how important it is, no matter how serious you are about sailing, it must be fun.'
Christmas has just slipped over the horizon, so Santa’s list may have already been discarded. But all the sailors I know sail just as well in armchairs as they do on deck – so sit down and read this. Call it a New Year present, call it an un-Birthday present, or just go out and buy it for yourself. Peter Isler’s Little Blue Book of Sailing Secrets. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-470-90263-9