Book Review – Off Watch by Alan Lucas

admin | February 8th, 2008 - 15:45

OffWatch Off Watch is an off beat kind of book. As Alan Lucas might have put it in his introduction, it is a book of left-overs. Bits of research that didn’t find a home anywhere else, but were too good to throw away. Essentially it is a collection of tidbits that might have found their way into a cruising guide as a footnote or sidebar.

Most of the entries are no longer than a couple of paragraphs and none of them are longer than a page. They are arranged by topic and the 204 page book features a comprehensive index.

It is self published by Alan Lucas and distributed by Boat Books. The price in Australia is $29.95.

The topics are:

  • Scribes & Movies
  • Different Ships
  • Disasters
  • Survival
  • Diving
  • Pirates & Slaves
  • Ships at War
  • Just Cruising
  • Racing
  • Nav Aids
  • Early Navigators & Salty Talk
  • Rigs & Rigging

A  couple sample entries:

Handy Hints
Included in Nock and Kirby’s 1930 Chandlery catalogue were a number of handy hints. They are interesting for their reference to the materials of the day.
* To waterproof canvas. Spread canvas out flat and wet down with fresh water. An ordinary paintbrush can be used for this. Have the paint mixed the colour you want it, and put over fire to boil; when the paint is boiling and bubbling like water, paint it on to the wet canvas. Two coats should be given to get best results, when dry canvas will not stick or crack, and can be rolled up. This is an excellent way to do side-curtains, and spray hood covers on your launch. It is absolutelo waterproof, and will not rub like ordinary canvas.

How long is a cable?
A cable is one tenth of a nautical mile, making it 608 feet long basd on the accepted average length of a nautical mile (6,080 ft). This rather untidy fact is ignored in favour of calling the cable 600 feet long, which is 100 fathoms. This rounds off to about 183 meters, but because meters are not used to measure distances at sea, it is irrelevant.

An interesting book to while away a few hours “off watch” and a veritable mine of information for anyone preparing for a nautical trivia quiz. I’m not sure that it lives up to its suibtitle, “The essential companion to all other boating books”, but a good read, nevertheless.

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