Sometimes you just need something nice, something easy to digest, something to cheer you up. A book that will take you away and invites you to a journey where there is no hardship, no problems, no seriousness – just plain and easy cruising. I was in need of such a book because Winter time really goes on my nerves, the darkness, the cold (well, it´s not that cold but … anyway, it should be warmer!) and all that depressing stuff that comes with winter. I thought I found this book: If there was one book capable, I thought, it might be this one.

The review was promising. There it says that Chris Stewarts second book was as hilarious as sailing could be, a hair-raising funny tale of a land lubber who stumbles onto a Cornish Crabber and gets the adventure of his life – all written from the perspective of a non-skipper. As the subline said “An Optimist Afloat”. I was so full of joy when the book arrived – as a counterpart to the somewhat very serious Offshore-Certification I am running through right now – that I wasted no time and read it through in a matter of days. Could it take me away and cheer me up? Well … yes. And no.

“Three Ways to Capsize a Boat” by Chris Stewart

This book is Stewart´s second publishing and the first book (which I never read) must have been kind of a block buster so the second one apparently got a load of credit in advance. His writing style is fluent and easy and even as a German I can sense that he might speak with that English accent we all dear so much because it felt like this when reading his words. Most of the time sentence structure is easy and one can run the pages through, sometimes, when there is something to tell that is really important to him, this changes. A break in the flow.

What was clear to me from the first five or so pages was that this book is far from being “hilarious” and “crazy”. And that Chris (or the publishing company) didn´t chose the title very well.  I found that the title in fact had nothing to do with the contents. Chris Stewart never even came close to losing his boat nor even capsizing. He is not the “Captain Ron” of England nor is this book an account of a sappy land lubber sinking boats. It´s just a story of a man having to learn how to sail very quick in order to be ready for a job on a boat. It´s a story of a man who finds his fascination and love for sailing and boats and oceans. A man who falls in love and his metamorphosis from a rookie to a serious sailor. From this perspective, the name of this book and the promise it makes is chosen completely wrong, in my eyes.

What I like and dislike about this book.

I was a bit disappointed over the first 50 or so pages because of this discrepancy. The book is definitely not very funny. There are some jokes in it, but that might just be hilarious for non-sailing people. When for example he sets off to a trip and the engine catches fire and they do not have a bucket aboard. Or when his mate (who really has no clue whatsoever) jumps over board for a MOB practicing without even a life jacket on. Nope, that´s not very funny. I found it annoying to wait for the promised “irresistible humor”. Because there is none. In fact, my mood changed when I reached the middle of the story.

“Three Ways to Capsize a Boat” is in fact a two-parted story. The first one is about Chris who happens to be skipper on a Cornish Crabber and has to sail it from a Greek port to a Greek Island to be master of the boat for a summer and carry around an old lady who pays him. Not very funny, not very thrilling. But then, after this trip, upon returning home to UK, the real book begins – a trip aboard the classy “Hirta”, famous Bristol Channel Cutter skippered by Tom Cunliffe. Here the real story sets in and as dull as the first part has been – as gripping and thrilling this second part gets!

Most enthralling part of this book

Chris Stweart should have written a book solely based on his adventures aboard “Hirta” because this was really worth it. He is part of a crew headed by famous Tom Cunliffe who crossed the North Atlantic on this 100 years old yacht. They fight in raging storms, creek through misty banks of whiteness and fight against growlers, their own fears and the hardship of high latitude sailing. It´s brilliantly written, gets you by the balls and does not let you get away until the story is over. Still not as funny and hilarious as promised (in fact, it´s a serious full-fledged storm story) but man, Chris, this was written so good that I wished there was more!

So in the end my verdict is a divided one. The name of this book is completely misleading and the first half of the story is – at best – diverting. There are indeed books which are hilariously written and can chuckle out a number of heartfull laughs, this book cannot. If Chris Stewart happened to have concentrated on the second part, the Atlantic crossing aboard the Cutter, he could have landed a very serious success: Because this part of the story was so enjoyable, so brilliantly written, so full of heart, of descriptions which were just on point. I really loved the second part!

In the end, it was worth it. But a long way though to realizing it. Oh, by the way, Chris Stewart happend to be the drummer of the famous band Genesis in its original line-up.


Other articles you may like to read about this topic:

All book reviews here

The man over board Code of Practice

What makes a good skipper?