The fall temperatures have been warm and although we’ve had storms, fine weather has encouraged boat owners to keep their boats in the water for just one last sail or fishing trip. But we all know that the wicked winds of winter are coming and soon we’ll be battening down the hatches and settling in for vicarious rather than actual maritime adventures.

As I do every year I’ve selected a pile of maritime books which may engage your imagination, fire up your enthusiasm for planning a voyage, or nag you into completing some overdue repairs and maintenance, all of which can be undertaken in front a cozy fire, or at least in a sheltered space or perhaps even a heated shop.

Books from the list would also make dandy Christmas presents for any sailor — armchair or otherwise. As always, my choices focus on the traditional working watercraft and classic yachts. I have no interest whatsoever in single-handed circumnavigations or in adrenaline fueled races on ever more technically sophisticated (and costly) boats.

Comfortable, sea kindly, fast and able vessels, and those who sail on or write about them are what interests me.

In the foreword to the just published fifth edition ofCruising Yachts by T. Harrison Butler, the late Edward Burnett, a good friend and talented British naval architect, wrote: “When it comes to boats it is the sea that will pass judgement, and one would be hard pressed to find an entity less respectful of labels or clever marketing.”

Having led off with a quote from that book, I’ll give it just a quick commendation (I’ve only had time to skim it as it arrived today from England). It is one of the series of fine reprints from Richard Wynne’s Lodestar Books which “was established in 2009 to publish new and neglected nautical writing.”

Since then Dick has become a publishing wonder. Originally, he published several titles in very limited editions which sold out quickly. He had a day job and several boats which kept him busy. His fledgling business has become incredibly successful and he’s gone from strength to strength.

Now, having established cooperative relations with various British publishers and distributors, he’s publishing more books each year. They are all produced to the highest standards, reasonably priced, and the narratives are very appealing. I’ve written about them in the past so I won’t enthuse too much this year but I’ve got copies of several of the titles, including the recently republished A White Boat from England by George Millar, For the Love of Sauntress by Martin Scannell and Albert Strange, Yacht Designer and Artist by John Leather, as well as others. Each and every one is a winner.

A bit more about T. Harrison Butler — he was an eye doctor by day and an amateur boat designer during his spare moments. His boats are noted for their sailing qualities while providing a handsome and comfortable “home” to cruising sailors. He developed a form of hull balance which he termed the “metacentric” balance. This edition has been revised and updated with a biographical chapter by his daughter, the late Joan Jardine-Brown, a chapter about her, and a plans supplement, plus lots of black and white and some color photos.

One final word from Ed: “THB designs have crossed many oceans and turned many heads, but perhaps more importantly they have introduced a great many people to the modest satisfactions of sailing and cruising in small (affordable) but very capable yachts.”

Last year when I was writing the annual reviews we were eagerly awaiting No Ordinary Being, W. Starling Burgess by Llewellyn Howland 3rd. Subtitled “Inventor, Naval Architect, Poet, Aviation Pioneer, and Master of American Design,” it has rapidly become a very scarce and incredibly expensive title. I believe that Louie Howland (the author) who is one of the few maritime and antiquarian book dealers left in this fast paced world, still has copies. You can reach him at Howland and Company in Jamaica Plain.

Published by David Godine in association with The New Bedford Whaling Museum and Mystic Seaport Museum, it is the result of many, many years of research, interviewing and cogitation.

This past summer, sharp-eyed observers looking out in late June at Menemsha Bight were treated to the sight of a very long and lean black schooner which lay at anchor for several days. It turned out to be a steel replica of the Starling Burgess fishing schooner Columbia, built at Eastern Ship Building in Panama City, Fla. for the shipyard owner, Brian D’Isernia and his family. Although the original Columbia (launched in 1923 and lost off Sable Island in a gale in August, 1927) was wood and very much a fishing schooner, the current Columbia (launched in August of 2014) was built to a very high end spec. She has a teak deck, full mechanical systems, bronze winches (engraved with her name) and a sumptuous interior including ensuite cabins.

The fishermen of old would have been dumbfounded at the boat (just the idea of a head would have been very radical) but looking out at her gave us a chance to see what a Gloucester fishing schooner, surely one of the loveliest of all sailing vessels, looked like. If you search the internet you can find two very interesting videos of her under construction and during her sea trials.

To round out the yacht designer books, two other fine, and long awaited, titles have been published recently. The first is Stan Grayson’s A Genius at His Trade, C Raymond Hunt and His Remarkable Boats, also published by The New Bedford Whaling Museum with the Old Dartmouth Historical Society as a partner. Some of you will know of Ray Hunt as the principle designer (with Waldo Howland) of the Concordia yawls. Others will know of Ray Hunt as the originator of the revolutionary deep V-hull as well as the Boston Whaler.

The other book is the first volume of Roger Taylor’s long awaited biography, L. Francis Herreshoff: Yacht Designer published by Mystic Seaport Museum. This volume covers his life until 1930 and includes many of his racing, cruising and power designs.

These titles cover the lives, times and work of three of American’s best yacht designers from the early part of the 20th century. Starling Burgess, Raymond Hunt and Francis Herreshoff have received, I believe, only a fraction of the accolades and acclaim that have surrounded more recent designers. I should point out that purchasing the three titles will set you back over $200. It used to be said that if you had to ask the price of a boat you couldn’t afford it. Now it seems that if you have to ask the price of a book, you probably can’t afford it.

Changing gears from scholarly biographies, we have In the Wake of Heroes by Tom Cunliffe, published in September by Bloomsbury Press. This is a compilation of excerpts from some notable cruising and racing books. The book had its origins many years ago when the then editor of Yachting World, Andrew Bray, asked Mr. Cunliffe to write a regular column composed from excerpts of nautical literature.

Originally planned to include “exceptional feats of seamanship” it expanded quickly to include “passages selected as much for their literary value as for the more obvious attractions of 40-foot seas, mutiny and tumbling spars.”

Tom’s wife Ros has had a habit of cruising through old book stores and flea market stalls looking for maritime books and picking up long forgotten but fabulous books. With the impetus of a frequent column to compose, Tom and Ros discovered in those books (and others) some corking good stories for the column.

The range of pieces in this book is broad, and the selections have been divided into eight different themes: Classic Yachting, Emergency, High Latitudes, Long-Distance Cruising and Racing, Small Craft, Voyages Under Duress, Women Writers and Working Boats.

Because there are so many different books excerpted (each with a lengthy commentary from Tom pointing out why it was selected, or highlighting some feature of notable seamanship) the pieces are necessarily brief but choice. For some this could be a short coming but in fact, so many different (and often neglected or forgotten) books are included that the list of books to find and read at length leaps exponentially. While I’ve found several old favorites ( Duffers on the Deep by Winifred Brown, Uffa Fox and Rockwell Kent’s N BY E) I’m enjoying many new pieces which have pointed the way to more books.

Over the past year or two many of us have heard the occasional but unmistakable hoot — the three tones long and drawn out — of a steam whistle, when one of the Island ferries is leaving the slip. Through the efforts (and kindness) of several steam boat aficionados, some of the ferries have steam whistles from vessels long gone. The sound is a poignant reminder of the lovely and graceful steamers which used to travel back and forth carrying passengers, automobiles and freight. Last spring Arcadia Publishing issued Steamboats to Martha’s Vineyard by William H. Ewen, jr with a foreword by Tom Dunlop.

Mr. Ewen is a maritime historian, an artist, a photographer and writer, and the book is a ”visual trip back to look at many of the different steamboats and companies that became lifelines to the islands.”

As part of the Images of America series, the book documents a part of history which could easily have slipped away (as the steamers did) into oblivion. It should be on the shelf next to a copy of Island Steamers by Morris and Morin.

A new book about the Ernestina/Effie M. Morrissey, now known as the Erniestina-Morrisey, documents her importance as one of the very last of the Gloucester fishing vessels. Ernestina by Chester Brigham contains a well written narrative and lots of photos. Copies may be purchased directly from Mr. Brigham. You can find the details on the Ernestina website and while you are at it, a donation to help assure her future would make a wonderful gift.

Mystic Seaport is a frequent topic in these reviews and this year is no exception. This fall they published the biography of L Francis Herreshoff which is described above. Also recently made available is a compilation of movie excerpts from the seven circumnavigations by Irving and Electa Johnson on two different schooners named Yankee.

Narrated by Gary Jobson, the DVD, Unfurling the Word is “a thrilling and inspiring story about the extraordinary Johnsons, who sailed seven times around the world, exploring remote islands and meeting exotic cultures along the way.”

Sailing between 1933 and 1956, Irving and Electa Johnson sailed with young, inexperienced sailors, including their own two sons who grew up on board. Although they prepared the vessels carefully and carried navigational equipment of the time, their gear was by current standards rudimentary, and, in the Pacific, war was brewing. The Johnsons had their share of minor mishaps of course, but returned from each voyage with every crew member and the schooner in great condition, a tribute and testimony to their expert seamanship and skills.

The DVD includes, along with footage from the various voyages, interviews with surviving crew members. You can purchase the DVD from the Mystic Museum (perhaps during a visit) or it is available at my shop along with a DVD of Peking, Rounding Cape Horn Under Sail , a documentary with vintage footage shot by Irving Johnson almost a century ago.

My selection this year for kids (or adults) was written by a young man by the name of E C Healy, who wrote a book titled Martha’s Vineyard Ferries as a research and writing project. The book is 36 pages, and has extensive graphics of various vessels, along with factual information and narratives about the Nobska, Nauson, Islander, Governor and Uncatena. It would make an admirable companion to the Ewen book.

In the interest of full disclosure, E C Healy is Everett, my 13-year-old grandson. He has always been interested in the Island steamers. He and his younger brother Kent have enjoyed traveling along the Mystic River on the SS Sabino.

Contact me if you wish to buy copies. It is a great stocking stuffer.

One last note is Pioneer Houses of Martha’s Vineyard written by Jonathan Scott. It has nothing to do with boats, but it is a monumental work, and is for sale at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum in Edgartown. Mr. Scott wrote the initial draft for his doctoral thesis 30 years ago. The book is expensive but worth every penny, and sales help support the museum.

Bon voyage for this year.

Virginia Crowell Jones can be reached at Foxfire Marine Consulting — 508-693-6397 or