James Dodds,
ABC of Boat Bits: An Introduction to Sailing a Winkle Brig
(Mystic Seaport, 2000)

I didn't even know what a winkle brig was.

But I love sailing. At least, I love the idea of sailing, since I live a few hours from the closest coastline and never really sailed. But boats fascinate me, so I picked up this cute little book at Mystic Seaport Museum -- a mecca for nautical buffs like myself -- a few years back. I finally read it.

It's adorable.

As author and illustrator James Dodds explains in his afterword, a winkle brig, or bumkin, is "an open clinker boat ... a strong forgiving work boat with a simple rig: a great boat in which to learn the rudiments of sailing." It's how Dodds learned to sail. Now he wants to pass his knowledge on to the next generation.

This isn't actually an instruction manual for sailing, however; it's an ABC book. Not quite a dictionary, it provides basic definitions to various nautical concepts related to the parts of a boat and the methods of sailing. Each letter has a page -- except for I/J, U/V and X/Y/Z, which share a page among them -- and each page has a handful of definitions.

Dodd doesn't even bother to alphabetize them: on the "L" page, for instance, the order of words is "lifejacket," "luff," "luffing up," "lee," "leadline" and "lacing." Many of the words are accompanied by a spare, black-and-white illustration.

This book won't teach anyone to sail a boat, even a wee winkle brig. But give this to a child and he'll grow up with a basic familiarity with the words and concepts of sailing -- and that's bound to help him learn more quickly if he ever gets a chance to sail.

book review by
Tom Knapp

7 February 2015

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