This year’s winter book shelf has a number of intriguing volumes piled up plus some other gear. Normally, I choose maritime titles to promote for the gift giving season but with arthritis and the advancing years nipping at all of our heels it seems sensible to broaden the options to include other interests. This year you will find titles about knitting, cooking, islands, wood working and, yes, a few titles about boats.

And although fiction is not officially on the list, I suggest a return to Treasure Island or Robinson Crusoe, especially if you have grandkids.

First in line for the reviews is one of my favorite maritime publications: The Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book. The original Eldridge charts were the result of the work that George Eldridge of Chatham did back in 1854 while observing the waters of “Vineyard Sound and Monomoy Shoals.”

In the 1870s father and son George worked out the currents (and tides) for both the Vineyard Sound and other locations and in 1875 the first Tide Table was published. It has gone from strength to strength and even now in the digital age most professional mariners and many recreational sailors carry what became (back in the 1800’s and 1900’s) an indispensable book. Priced at a very modest price of $16.95, an enormous amount of valuable information, wisdom and data, as well as historical anecdotes and illustrations, is packed into just under 300 pages. Members of the Eldridge/White family still produce and publish this book, which should qualify it for some kind of award, and some in the White family still live on the Vinyard.

Holding Ground is a compilation of articles chosen as the best of those published in the annual Island Journals between 1984 and 2004 by the Island Institute in Rockland, Me. The editors, Philip Conkling and David Platt, along with Peter Ralston as art director and a group of very talented writers and artists did a wonderful job selecting material that highlights the Maine Coast and Islands. Published 15 years ago, this is still an outstanding selection of stories, poems, articles, photos, paintings and all sorts of pieces. It is about time for a second volume.

Complicated Simplicity: Island Life in the Pacific Northwest by Joy Davis is a practical and personal story published by Heritage House Publishing in 2019. Ms. Davis grew up on one small island and now lives on another one in southern British Columbia. This is a book to dip into and read in sections leaving time to ponder and ruminate over what you have read. It also helps explain why we sense such a strong connection to other islands, and to the waters which surround us. If only we could introduce (force feed, if necessary) some of the wisdom in this book to each and every Islander and Island visitor.

A new book titled Sterling Hayden’s Wars meticulously details the life and times of this movie actor who played in a few good movies, some awful movies and a lot in between. He was also a very experienced and skilled mariner who went fishing out of Gloucester, raced during the Fishermen’s Races (as the mast head man aloft on the Gertrude L. Thebaud) and sailed on Wanderbird with Warwick Tompkins and the Tompkins family.

Written by Lee Mandel and published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2018, this fine biography provides all sorts of insights into Hayden’s life. He was fascinating and very talented, but also a seriously conflicted man.

As an obsessive reader I always have several books “on the go” including one that is a dipper — that is a book into which one can dip for short periods of time or for short stand-alone pieces. E. B. White is arguably one of the finest American writers ever and his essays are clear favorites, particularly those about boats, sailing and his saltwater farm on the coast of Maine.

On Democracy, published this year, is a collection of his essays, letters and poetry dating as far back as the early 1930s and into the mid 1970s. It was edited by his granddaughter Martha, who also edited a compilation of his letters. If you buy only one book mentioned in this list, I would recommend that this be the one.

Our summers can be so chaotic that cooking is not a priority. Winter, however, is a time for contemplative endeavors, like sharpening up the knives, putting on aprons and poring over cookbooks. In this regard, The New England Catch, A Seafood Cookbook by Martha Watson Murphy published by Globe Press in 2017 is a very useful cookbook with an abundance of historical photos. It is written from the perspective of a commercial fisherman’s wife and includes a lot of practical information. My only reservation is the clam chowder. Mrs. Murphy shows it cooked in a cast iron pot when I would have used a stainless steel one. Further, it has that suspicious appearance of a chowder that is based on a roux of some sort or thickened (gasp) with cornstarch. It definitely isn’t my kind of chowder as I feel a quahaug chowder should consist of either quahaugs or fish accompanied by a bit of celery, potatoes, perhaps some onion and a lot of broth.

Women Engravers by Patricia Jaffe published in 1990 by Virago Press is a lovely book which is well worth searching out. I admire wood engravings and according to this book (admittedly mostly about British artists) they did not receive much attention or encouragement, particularly those by women, until the rise of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Vanishing Fleece by Clara Parkes of Maine was published by Abrams Press. The book is based on an idea provided by a lovely gentleman named Eugene who had a spare 676-pound bale of Saxon Merino wool which Ms. Parkes acquired and then “dealt with.” Her book records the life of a bale of wool from the sheep to the sweater. This is another book to savor over time.

I will end by noting that winter is not just a time for reading and cooking and some of you may be faced with some winter wood working projects — rebuilding a hatch, building a boarding ladder or new shelves for a galley locker. You will need wood and you will need screws. Depending upon the spot on the boat (or in your house) and whether the piece will be painted or varnished, you will select the wood based on the location (on deck or down below or even a piece of living room furniture) and you may choose to fasten it with bronze screws rather than sheet rock screws or something inferior. Goulet Fasteners in Winstead, Conn. can supply American made wood screws or other fasteners in a variety of sizes and at competitive prices. If you only need a few you can stop in at one of the local boatyards to purchase a box or a handful of bronze wood screws. But if you need a few thousand (for refastening the bottom of a boat for instance) and you want American-made, call Goulet Fasteners at 860-379-5419 to discuss what you need.

Also, closer to home, Myles Thurlow at Sand Pit Boatyard in North Tisbury has been making bronze strapped, bronze sheaved, wooden shell blocks with cheeks of garapa (very dense hardwood) which are truly lovely and beautifully made. You can reach him at 774-563-0166 if you need standing rigging, spars or a suite of blocks.

Tell him Ginny sent you.

That is all for this year’s list. Happy reading, cooking, knitting and woodworking.