Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Nonfiction
This is a truly magnificent book. First, the lavish production of the cover and book itself is wonderful. The wealth of photographs come in all different sizes and provide visual details that help you better experience the text. The way the writer weaves the tale of the ship’s origins, design and construction, her many voyages and career, preservation, and current renovated state flow seamlessly through the book. Aside from being a cherished monument representing all Clipper ships that sailed the world, Cutty Sark participated in the Great Tea Races from China, and although she set most of her sailing records transporting wool from Australia to the docks of England. As you read this book you learn every detail of her career, visit exotic ports around the world, and feast your eyes on black-and-white pictures and many two-page, full-color spreads. It’s hard to get past the fold-out plans of Sails, Masts and Rigging, Deck-plans, and Stowage in the hull without studying them first! These fold-outs give a wonderful and complete view of this complex sailing vessel.
There are no footnotes or chapter notes. Rather, the more detailed information the author refers to is generally found in the many tables presented throughout. There are several appendices, which are interesting in and of themselves, including the original specifications for Cutty Sark, crew wages, and plotted positions on voyages. A rather scant bibliography is provided, while the index is extensive. The many picture sources and credits take almost a full page as well.
I was most impressed with, and informed by, the various insets that detail the Clyde Shipyards, the Triumph of Steam, Robert Burns’ poem “Tam O’Shanter”, Tea From China (describing both the cultivation process of making tea and its availability to foreign markets), and Sailing Cutty Sark (detailing sail arrangements and usages, and still more).
When you read the full Scots version of Burns’ poem, it’s easy to see why Mr. Willis, the owner, chose the name “Cutty Sark” from the condition Tam was in and his encounter with the haven of witches he stumbles upon, to his climactic, swift flight through the woods to escape the youthful witch in her cutty sark night gown. Everything about the chase was about speed – the kind Willis hoped to get from his new clipper. This was never the case in any of the many clipper ship books I’ve read, where they merely explain Cutty Sark’s name with one sentence about the flight through the woods, the witch in her night gown, and her attempt to imprison him. Best of all was Kentley’s added explanation of how the figurehead needed a new head in the 1950s – the much less attractive face now seen under the bowsprit.
The details of voyage highlights, statistics, ports, and cargo are most informative. The inset on the ship’s various Masters and their success or lack thereof put names to the voyages, faces to the names, and shows how these men fared after captaining Cutty Sark.
One such personality, whose various pursuits while onboard included amateur photography, was Captain Woodgett. His shots include the ship in port and at sea, and detail life onboard. His diary description of sailing among huge icebergs is fascinating reading.
The photographs, new and old, in this tribute to a great ship tell her story and include many pictures that have never been published before. The newest ones depict the full glory of this vessel in her renovated, ready-for-display state.
Cutty Sark is everything the author intended as an amazing tribute to an amazing vessel, and is one I will always cherish as part of my maritime book collection.
Review Copyrighted ©2015 Irwin Bryan
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