Using hand drawings that are clearer than any photograph, THE MARLINSPIKE SAILOR (c.1960) by Hervey Garrett Smith illustrated in a 131 page soft cover book a collection of the best detailed renditions of basic knot tying and ropework any beginner can learn to start his ropework career, or for an old hand to refresh his memory. There is no waste as only essential rope skills are shown in clear etchings, line drawings, and pencil sketches, which will make the wooden sail boat owner self-sufficient from a lot of expensive, store-bought textile gear. In a written text accompanying each excellent drawing, Hervey Garrett Smith explained the purpose of each rope related product; such as: knob knots used for drawer handles, baggy wrinkle for chafe gear, coach whipping for stanchion rails, rope shackles for your storage chest, sewing skills to make gear bags and sail mending, netmaking for storage, and rope fenders for hull protection. The author included no superfluous skills or fancy work (MacNamara's Lace as we called it in the Navy). There is more than a hint of Yankee frugality pervading THE MARLINSPIKE SAILOR as Hervey Garrett Smith promotes self-sufficiency through recycling old rope and canvas, or anything else that can be salvaged and made useable. THE MARLINSPIKE SAILOR is an important and useful book for the beginner to teach themselves the fundamental skills necessary to quickly make oneself a useful member of any traditional sailboat crew. This book should be read in conjunction with both THE ASHLEY BOOK OF KNOTS and SEAMANSHIP IN THE AGE OF SAIL.
As live-aboard cruisers, we have frequent uses for knots, bends and hitches. We have several instructional books on knotting and splicing, and the best remains "The Marlinspike Sailor" by Hervey Garrett Smith, published in 1956. Smith's explanations and illustrations stand the test of time. They are the clearest and easiest to follow of any instructions we've found. Invariably, we always pull out "The Marlinespike Sailor" when we're at loose ends!
In a category with few other references, The Marlinespike Sailor is the go-to guide when you have time for fancy work projects. The step-by-step illustrations are nicely rendered and the descriptions and lore are amusing. Any REAL Bosun's Mate should have a copy in his possession. Its one of those things you don't pull out too often, but when you or a friend need a good "how-to" for making a coachwhipping or a plaited sennit, its priceless.
As a US Navy First Class Bos'n Mate, this book is a fantastic text for keeping our arts alive and accessible to the novice. This will be my second copy as the first was 'pinched' by a colleague. I have completed at least four of the projects with great results(yeah, yeah, tooting my own horn. I know). H.G. Smith helps define beauty in simplicity, form truly follows function.
Marlinspike Sailor is a "must" for anyone interested in making all the little extras that finish off a traditional wooden boat (rope ladders, fenders, baggywrinkle, etc.). The directions for each project are clear and well-illustrated; the end result is usually very nice!
This is essential reading for anyone who wants to work with laid line. It's a collection of articles first published in The Rudder in the 1950s, so synthetic and braided line are treated as afterthoughts, if at all.