If the weather outside is frightful, curl up with a new book



On the water Even in winter, one can dream about sailing. And as the temperature drops, perhaps the most comfortable way to do this is by a fire, with a blanket and a book.

A Cats: A Century of Tradition (Nomad Press, $49.95) is Annapolis-based sailor Gary Jobson's latest volume. It tells the history of the A Cat fleet and catboat racing on Barnegat Bay in New Jersey, where Jobson grew up. An A Cat is a rare type of catboat - distinguished by its single sail and mast at the very front of the boat.

The volume abounds in colorful photos and amusing stories that just about anyone who has raced can appreciate. A favorite describes a four-boat pileup at the leeward mark.

Jobson, an ESPN sailing commentator and former America's Cup tactician, worked with Roy Wilkins to publish the 154-page book, even as Jobson was recovering from treatment for lymphoma.

We chatted with Jobson:

The A Cat seems like a very difficult boat to sail.

They are a handful.

They are heavy and they have a gigantic sail so they are not that balanced and you have to tug on the tiller.

You need a crew of five or six people to race. It takes two people to trim the sail.

There are back stays. There is the center board. Everyone seems to have a job.

And the boom is so low - two of the crew have to walk around the front of the boat when you tack.

Tell me a bit about the broader appeal of the book.

It is a small version of the way sailing is done in America. People put a lot of time into racing and competing in these boats.

It is the kind of book that I would hope people would want to have in their library. The events and the history of the sailing on the Jersey shore reflect the sport.

We'll see how it goes. It is a new book. I've had copies for about a week. I'll see what kind of feedback I get.

Why did you write it?

I bumped into [A Cat sailor] Peter Kellogg at a cocktail party in New Jersey and he suggested writing a book about A Cats. Two weeks later, he called me at my office and said, "How's the book coming?"

He owns one of the boats, and he's trying to further sailing and further wood-boat building. He's a sailing zealot.

We need a book like this one for the Chesapeake.

What did you find interesting about this particular fleet?

One of the cool things about A Cats is you always talk about the boat and not who owns it. You are really a caretaker of the boat.

Tell me about the process of writing the book.

It is my 15th [book]. The first thing is to get an idea of what to write about. The next is the outline. That's a lot of work.

With the A Cat book, it meant interviewing all of the key players and collecting as much information about the yacht clubs in the area. And I had to go sail them last summer to get my impression of them. You have to boil it down to some readable format by editing like crazy. And of my 15 books, this is my fastest.

I might have done interviews with 40 people. You take about 10 percent of their interview. We were limited to 160 pages.

The photographs are stunning. How did you get them?

What is unique is that there is color on almost every page. You don't see that many books with that much color.

We ended up with about 3,000 photographs to choose from. About 500 were from people's collections.

We focused on the boats more than the people because it is more about the boats.

And every photographer, every artist, everybody donated their stuff.

My royalties I donated back to the Ocean County College, a New Jersey community college with a very active sailing program. Peter [Kellogg] paid for the whole printing, so every dollar goes to the sailing team.

In other news

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will join local and national sailing pooh-bahs at 1 p.m. today at City Dock in Annapolis to "make a major announcement about the National Sailing Hall of Fame," according to a news advisory sent to reporters Monday.

One location often discussed for a sailing hall of fame is the cute Department of Natural Resources building at the end of City Dock.

NOAA charts

Last week I wrote about electronic charts that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is making available for free on its Web site for the first time. Several of you asked for the Web site address, and we strive to be responsive, so here you are: chartmaker.ncd.noaa. gov/mcd/Raster/Index.htm.


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