Monday, January 12, 2009

Hands On: Weather/Wind References, Part III

I'm not sure if this is going to be the last post or not... I didn't plan on this whole series going past one post, but I'm going to give it the ol' college try at finishing things here.

The last book for weather/wind that I'm going to write about is authored by one of the true authorities of sailboat racing, Stuart H. Walker.

I have a genuine respect for Dr. Walker -- this man knows more about sailing than I'll ever hope to, in large part because I don't have the meticulous discipline that he does. He comes into the shop every now and then, is a nice guy and I can only hope to be as active as he is at his age. You'll understand my need to write all of this in a minute...

Anyways, of all of the books and resources that I read during this odyssey into weather and wind, Dr. Walker's "The Sailor's Wind" is BY FAR, without any doubt, the most complete. At 362 pages, it's basically the bible for those of you that really, really want to understand what's going on with the wind.

But, holy crap it's boring...

No joke, I've read technical manuals about Dell servers that had a more lively literary style. In large part though, that's what makes this such a good resource (and addiction-free sleeping aid); Dr. Walker doesn't seem to care if you like the way that he writes. As I see it, his goal was to create a first class analysis of the wind that puts together personal experience and lots of meteorological data (the bibliography for the book is four pages long). And to that end, he accomplishes his mission with flying colors.

"The Sailor's Wind" does some interesting things -- specifically, it ties concepts together with specific locations, allowing you the ability to visualize and better understand what you're reading, provided that you've actually been to these places. And while I'd be lying if I said that I actually read each word of this book, I can say that even if you just glance over most of the material, you'll come away with a greater understanding of the topic. The supporting illustrations for a given topic are really quite good; no pictures, but detailed illustrations that truly compliment the material.

Make no mistake -- this may look like any other hardcover book, but it's a science textbook no different than the one you used to carry around with you in middle school, in your LL Bean backpack along with your Trapper Keeper. Everything from the wording to the illustrations give you that feeling from the first moment that you start reading.

So... I haven't hidden my feelings on this one -- it's boring and difficult to slog through, but awesome for its detail and possessed knowledge. I can't say that this book is my particular brand of vodka, but it may be yours. I certainly recommend it, but don't carve out a day thinking that you're going to knock it out. You'll re-read a number of paragraphs a couple of times, as I did (Note: I'm by no means a genius, but I'm not diving into the shallow end of the pool either) to actually understand some of this stuff. If you finish this book, you'll feel an amazing sense of pride -- after which, you may chuck it into the first available fire. As such, I'd highly recommend taking notes while you read, so you can easily go back over the information in the future as a refresher.

Overall Grade: B
Information: A+
Readability: C-

PS: Dr. Walker has also put together smaller, 40-ish page guides for certain venues that I highly recommend. Down to the yellow cover, they are Cliff Notes for an area and really do help. They are available for the following venues:
● Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay
● Long Island Sound
● Kingston
● Miami
● Rochester
● Mountain Lakes
● St. Petersburg
● Savannah
● Narragansett Bay


  1. Great review of The Sailor's Wind. I totally endorse what you say. You just know that there is extremely valuable information in there but it's so hard to tease out the full story because of the turgid prose style.

    I have a question. Are the smaller regional guides basically extracts from The Sailor's Wind? Or do they have more detailed info than TSW? And are they any easier to read than TSW?

  2. Had to check on this -- right on the inside cover of the "Cliffs Notes" regional guides, it informs you that the guide is extracted from "The Sailors Wind".

    So yes, the information isn't different in the regional guides, but it's a more manageable version. Also, it appears that Dr. Walker also included snippets about the regional conditions and how to analyze them (such as "Will the Sea Breeze Come In?") from his book as well.

    Oh, and some of the guides to include current (as in water moving, not brand new) information that isn't in TSW.

  3. Thanks for the honest appraisals of these refernces. This is really helpful.

    Are those Stuart Walker local guides available for sale anywhere? I haven't found them listed here... I might read those portions, but might not read the full book.

  4. We have the local guide books available online
    here. They're only $8 ($12 for the Annapolis book) so it's almost a no-brainer if you're going to a venue you've never sailed at before.