The story goes that during World War II the men who succumbed to hypothermia in open-ocean lifeboats were not the old timers, out of shape and middle aged, but the young men in the prime of their lives, the 18- to 25-year-olds who were otherwise healthy and strong. What happened? How could an overweight 50-year-old outlive a strapping youth while clinging to the underside of a lifeboat in the North Sea?
The answer, according to Kurt Hahn, who went on to found the organization Outward Bound on this premise, lay in the ability of more mature people, those hardened by war, training or the stress of the workplace, to care for others and in the process sustain themselves through unimaginable hardship. While the above has nothing expressly to do with the book at hand, it has everything to do with the spirit of the book and the idea that seasoned mariners have an important message to convey to those with less gravitas: experience counts.
One can either gain experience by the school of hard knocks, taking chances along the way, or it can be manufactured through the sort of engagement this book suggests, which is a familiarization with the sea, basic lifesaving techniques and equipment, and human physiology. This is an important, serious book written (and recently revised) by a seasoned mariner with much to offer fellow seafarers. Cornell Maritime Press; 237 pages; $35.