VCs: Time to Set Sail

Now that Larry Ellison has brought the America’s Cup back to San Francisco, it is only appropriate for the Bay Area’s elite to dust off their interest in sailing.

When the wind blows through the bay, Bill Joy may remember that he owns a sailboat and stop renting it out at 225,000 euros per week. And it’s easy to imagine Tom Perkins looking wistfully to sea from his perch in the penthouse of the Millennium Tower and thinking that he’d like to be back on the water.

There’s so much to do in advance of the season though, from remembering where that boat you bought during the dotcom boom is actually moored to pumping the bilge and scraping the hull.

As you contemplate the complicated joys of boat ownership and its associated expenses, you may want to pick up Chris Stewart’s “Three Ways to Capsize a Boat,” which has made the transatlantic voyage from Great Brittan for its first run in the U.S. It is out from Random House’s Broadway Books division in May 2010.

Stewart writes about his first experiences with sailing, first as an under-qualified charter captain and later as a crew member on a cruise through the North Atlantic. The novice mistakes he makes, capsizing, burning out his engine, getting stuck going against a powerful tide all make for mildly humorous anecdotes.

It’s readable for those who know “port” only as a type of wine or have no clue what a “clew” is, as it eschews much of the convoluted parlance of boating.

Where the book really shines is in its evocative descriptions of the water, wind and its effect on those who seek them.  He writes of a feeling I have often felt being on boats:

“…as the land drops away astern, all the woes and worries that afflicted you on dry land—all the things you out to have done but have left undone, all the drab detritus and clutter of your daily existence—slough away like the old dry skin of a snake. You feel renewed and newly alive. There’s nothing you can do about any of that old stuff, so you forget it and just attend to the business of navigation and survival…”

But for all the romanticism, Stewart does dish up a dose of reality, offering up an extended description of exactly how a man may relieve himself in the middle of a pitching North Atlantic driving storm. I might have opted for certain omissions on this front.

The book does a fair job of painting a true picture of sailing and will likely rekindle interest in those sometimes-sailors. It holds little appeal for those not interested in all things nautical.