The Book: Sid Stapleton, CHAPMAN'S NAUTICAL GUIDES: EMERGENCIES AT SEA. Hearst Marine Books, 1991 (first U.S. edition). Trade paperback, fine book with torn half-jacket.
First read: 1992
Owned since: 1992
You might think that someone's bookshelves would be a good guide to that person's character, interests, hobbies, etc. That's not true for me. A stranger looking over my bookshelves would see not the reality of my life, but any number of fantasies about possible lives I might be living in parallel universes.
In this life, I am a cranky, overweight middle-aged woman living in a small town in central Maine. In some parallel universe, I am sailing single-handedly around the globe, and this book is essential equipment. I bought it cheap from a remainder bin -- probably in front of Chapters -- where I assume it landed because the cover was torn. It was 1992, and I was writing newsletters and testimony and press releases on the policy implications of nationwide banking, but this book almost jumped into my hands. You never know, I said.
It's why I've kept this book, although my only time on a boat in the last three years was a day trip last summer to look at seals. You never know. If someone goes overboard, I know what to do. I know that the rule for rescuing a drowning person is "Throw, tow, row, and only then go," meaning that you should never risk your own life until you've exhausted all other options. I know that you don't throw water on an alcohol fire, and that you always have to turn off propane at its source.
Knowing these things, even though I may never have reason to use the knowledge, gives me the illusion of competence. That's worth a lot more than the two dollars I paid for this book.