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Witch in the Wind: The True Story of the Legendary Bluenose Hardcover – Apr 28 2007

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Allen Publishers; 1 edition (April 28 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887622240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887622243
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.3 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #326,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


Witch in the Wind sometimes reads like a celebrity tell-all: myths are debunked; the true characters of the famous boat’s owners, skipper, and crew are revealed; and her fierce competition with American ships is exposed in all its ugly glory. De Villiers has done an excellent job of outlining the context behind the building of the Bluenose and her racing success, and has produced a story that is far more interesting than the conventional tale about a magical boat that never lost a race. Boat enthusiasts and landlubbers alike will appreciate de Villiers’ thorough, yet accessible, research.
(Quill & Quire)

Witch in the Wind demonstrates that the Bluenose was a late flowering in schooner design, a high point of sorts, yet, even when brand spanking new, already an exercise in nostalgia and romance, a last remnant of a lost world of wood and wind and canvas an speed...Witch in the Wind boasts fishing scenes worthy of Melville." (Canadian Geographic)

Poignant and often profound, Witch in the Wind shows the tone and texture of a seasoned journalist, peppered with distinct Maritime flavour... (Globe & Mail)

This is not just a book about a pretty legend, a ship-on-a-dime. Instead, it is the story of tough men in a tough trade who put to sea in search of fish, sailing ships that often carried far too much canvas, endangering and often extinguishing the lives of those who crewed them...If you read only one book about the Bluenose, make it this one. (Owen Sound Sun Times)

De Villiers... is a gifted writer with the research skills and authority of a professional historian and the storytelling strengths of an inspired journalist. (Atlantic Books Today)

The story of the Bluenose, on waves and land, is... a wonderful story of ingenuity and intrigue and inspiration. (Halifax Herald)

About the Author

Born in South Africa, Marq de Villiers is a veteran Canadian journalist and the author of thirteen books on exploration, history, politics, and travel. He has worked as a foreign correspondent in Moscow and through Eastern Europe and spent many years as Editor and then Publisher of Toronto Life magazine. Most recently he was Editorial Director of WHERE Magazines International.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Over time, legends and their icons tend to grow, enhanced by successive elaborations. One of Canada's best-known icons is the fishing schooner "Bluenose". Known by some as "the boat on the dime", many Canadians have lost sight of just what made her worth putting there. Something about racing, racing against the Yanks and winning, right? Partly correct, but the whole story involves more than beating lesser boats and crews. The Bluenose was the apex of a long-running industry of fine ship-building challenged by the rising power of motor-driven vessels. In this excellent recounting of the Bluenost legend, de Villiers applies his fine journalistic skills to survey the context of the industry in a rapidly-shifting environment.

Framing his narrative in a roughly chronological order, de Villiers opens with the final race. Bluenose had been specially conceived from a challenge to hold races between fishing schooners crewed by fishermen. In fact, the contenders, even in new boats, had to engage in at least one fishing season to qualify for entry. Prompted by the cancellation of a yacht race due to "excessive winds", William Dennis of the Halifax Herald scorned the Yanks of New England for scrubbing a race due to weather that was ideal operating conditions for Atlantic fishers. The challenge was taken up and the North Atlantic Fishermen's International Competition was formed. Dennis' challenge wasn't the first suggestion for such an event, but the timing was fortuitous. The search for contenders caught up fisher Angus Walters, already in the process of building a new schooner.

Angus' long career as skipper of the Bluenose rightly dominates this tale. Among other things, he posed a late design suggestion to William Roue revising the form of the bow.
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Format: Paperback
Once I started this book I couldn't put it down--it details the shipbuilding industry, how the schooner was built (practically peg by peg), the fishing industry--including the hazardous back-breaking labor of the dorymen--the races and how they started, the races the Bluenose DIDN'T win (but none that counted), the times when she surged ahead, a witch in the wind (perfect title)... and the government's indifference to the fate of the original. De Villiers' writing style really grabs you--I had my heart in my throat and tears in my eyes through much of it. I read this first as a library book but I knew immediately it was a keeper; I had to buy my own copy to pass around among friends and reread in the future. I've been on the Bluenose II for a two-hour cruise out of Lunenburg harbour and I fully intend to go out again, with a much greater appreciation of the experience.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x99b5abe8) out of 5 stars 1 review
HASH(0x99f3160c) out of 5 stars A compelling documentation of the end of the Age of Sail. Amazing read! May 19 2016
By Peter Brackett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As a former Canadian and Nova Scotian from a strong Maritime heritage I am always drawn to the sea and to sailors. Me? I can't stay away from the sea. Today I still sail almost weekly. My ancestors hail from fishing outports in Newfoundland (Glovertown) and Nova Scotia (Herring Cove) and many of them lived in the age of "Wooden Boats and Iron Men" and fished the North Atlantic on saltbankers. Several of my ancestors were lost at sea from sailing vessels. As such I have read many sea yarns from novels such as "Two Years Before the Mast" by Dana, and "Moby Dick" by Melville, to short stories such as "Uncle Jeff's Last Haul" by Oz Brackett. All this said, It will be noted that I am a sucker for a sea yarn. "Witch in the Wind" is neither a novel or a short story about the sea, rather it is a documentary or history of a special era in the waning years of the age of sail! It is however as full of the adventure and saga as any novel or story. It makes the lives of those amazing men who worked the North Atlantic fishery in the age of sail come alive. de Villiers had done a first class job of telling this story of the hardy Bostonians, Gloucestermen, Lunnenburgers, and Halligonians, who lived through the end of the Age of Sail. An amazing read!