Books reviewed by Paul Talbot

Heavy Weather Powerboating by Hugo Montgomery-SwanHeavy Weather Powerboating

by Hugo Montgomery-Swan
published in hard cover by
Adlard Coles Nautical
RRP $59.99 (256pp; 255mm x 180mm)

Hugo Montgomery-Swan is the Editor of RIB International Magazine and has collaborated with a number of contributors whose backgrounds range from Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) coxswains to powerboat instructors and record holders. The author’s leaning to rigid inflatable boats is apparent in the book.
RIB’s YouTube site has a short promotional video clip for the book that is well worth watching. Perhaps it is the images of the stormy North Sea, but taking in the spectacular vision might just cure you of ever going to sea.
It is always tempting to “do it yourself” when it comes to taking on a new adventure, but our author is adamant that down this road lies potential disaster. His book sets out to provide the word of caution that he would like you to hear before putting to sea in haste or filled with excitement. So Heavy Weather Powerboating attempts to share the expertise of the aforementioned mariners, who probably got to learn the hard way but lived to tell the tale.
Heavy Weather Powerboating starts with a chapter designed to set the baseline for a cautious view of the sea. It is a harrowing story of a coxswain and his RNLI crew that takes to sea to undertake a rescue, which demonstrates his years of experience and the quality of the vessel designed to meet the task. This introduction is only a few pages long but leaves the reader exhausted from the tension of the crew’s task. And this is only the first of the book’s nail biting dramas.
In fact it is something of a comic relief to reach the 3rd chapter of Section One of the book where the contributing author and the editor explore the reasons for and cures of seasickness. Chillingly the author predicts that everyone, no matter his or her experience, will succumb at some stage.
Usefully, Montgomery-Swan spends a little time to summarise each chapter and draws some lessons or conclusions from them. While sometimes these seem statements of the bleeding obvious, at others the conclusions draw together the strands of experience and knowledge to assist the would-be mariner to prepare both Plan A and Plan B.
Early chapters of the book focus on the elements of rogue seas, freak waves, “black holes” and weather forecasting. Taking a necessary look at design and construction of offshore vessels and their performance in adverse sea conditions, together with the dangers of operating in coastal environments all seem topics equally applicable to southern oceans as North Sea conditions.
Finally, the author lets us in on the secrets and motivations of the competitive world of offshore racing, record breaking passages and high-speed racing techniques. But while these chapters do allow that there is some beautiful cruising in the sunshine to encourage us out there in the first place, they provide pause to the wary.
Hugo Montgomery-Swan’s purpose is not to leave his readers with a rosy glow. The author takes his business too seriously for that. But, it also isn’t to scare the pants off them; although the picture sequence of the capsize of a US Coast Guard 47-foot motor lifeboat might argue otherwise.
Rather he wants to make sure that sailors do not venture out lightly and under-prepared. If the author has done his job, his reader will have developed a healthy respect for this beautiful but terrible mistress.
Heavy Weather Powerboating is not cheap at $59.99; it could be that it can be secured on-line for less. But either way, this book is one at which those who wish to expand their knowledge and understanding of the sea should take a close look.