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New U.S. publisher offers select maritime titles

Jan 1, 2003

For nautical history buffs, the arrival of Arcadia Publishing of Charleston, S.C., will mean a more steady feeding of a healthy addiction in the form of numerous volumes of niche-oriented nautical arcana. Arcadia, an imprint of the U.K.-based Tempus, has released a fine collection, a sample of which follows."RYS Wanderer, From Aristocrat to Tramp," by A.B. Demaus, follows the construction, circumnavigation and ultimate demise of one of the most celebrated sail/steam yachts of the late 19th century. Wanderer, 175 feet long, 705 tons burthen, and flying 18,000 square feet of canvas from three masts, was built for the British copper magnate Charles Joseph Lambert and his family. Filthy rich from exploiting South American copper mines, the Lambert family built the vessel using cutting edge technology and the finest craftsmanship. It included a new Perkins steam engine (a disaster that nearly burned the ship to its waterline during sea trials). The vessel was dismasted during the same disastrous first shakedown voyage off the English coast and the Bay of Biscay; yet, following a rebuild, she did indeed sail for South America and on around the globe. The book is a patchwork of letters, between the family mostly, with a few comments from the author to piece together a narrative of sorts. Nonetheless, it is a glimpse of the life of ships in a brief era -- the transition from sail to steam -- and how an all-powerful aristocracy made use of the available technology for their amusement. "Guiding Lights: The Design & Development of the British Lightvessel from 1732," details the implementation of the floating navigational aid in its earliest form: the floating lightship. Included are some wonderful paintings and photos of these ships, which are now almost entirely gone, not to mention obsolete in actual use. The book describes the construction of wooden lightships in the early 18th century and explains the nature of the maritime industry at the time, which had a desperate need for such a development, since so many ships were lost to dark, ill-marked coasts. The vessels were unpowered, and life aboard the ships must have been miserable, at best. Yet the book is a delightful and exhaustively written account of the intricacies of this life of dedication to the higher power of seagoing commerce.RMS Queen Elizabeth was built to sail the Atlantic filled with the nobles of Great Britain and barons of the States. Launched months ahead of schedule by the venerable yard John Brown Shipbuilders on the Clyde in Glasgow, the Cunarder's first trip was fully booked by well-heeled passengers even before she was constructed. Yet, with the advent of WWII, Queen Elizabeth was immediately demoted to troopship shortly after she was launched. Not until after the war did the vessel see its intended glorious service. Not until 1946 was she allowed to serve her intended purpose. But this trans-Atlantic trade was soon eclipsed with the advent of the commercial airplane. But the book is full of attractive pictures and charming anecdotes about the Queen's varied life from 1938 to her demise in 1972 in Hong Kong. (Arcadia has also just published a book on Queen Mary, the first of the Queens.)For more information: www.arcadiapublishing.com.


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