If you’ve done any reading on Florida frontier life, you’ve likely read Patrick D. Smith’s Florida classic, “A Land Remembered”. Considered a must read by anyone interested in and familiar with Florida pioneer history, “A Land Remembered” traces the path of several generations of the MacIvey family scratching out a living in the desolate and harsh wilderness of pioneer Florida.
Photojournalist Jeff Weakley gives advice on selecting, outfitting and transporting fishing kayaks, along with technique-specific instruction for catching all kinds of fish, from largemouth bass to striped marlin in this new book from publisher Florida Sportsman.
Ok, I admit it: I’m a sucker for any books that deal with golden era of sailing–the three centuries leading up to steam-powered vessels–particularly if they have a good story behind them. If you haven’t delved, here are a couple of tips for getting started.
First, pick up C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series, which pretty much started anyone who loves sailing adventures on their journey. The Hornblower tales began with the 1937 novel The Happy Return (U.S. title Beat to Quarters) with the appearance of a junior Royal Navy captain on independent duty on a secret mission to Central America, though later stories would fill out his earlier years, starting with an unpromising beginning as a seasick midshipman.
Second–or first if you are in the mood for a slightly more modern perspective–start Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. It’s a sequence of nautical historical novels—20 completed and one unfinished—by Patrick O’Brian, set during the Napoleonic Wars and centring on the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and his ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin, who is also a physician, natural philosopher, and secret agent. The first novel, Master and Commander, was published in 1969 and made into a movie starring Russell Crowe in 2003. (Summaries courtesy of Wikipedia.)
But if you find the idea of a series daunting, I highly recommend Richard Zacks’s recent The Pirate Hunter : The True Story of Captain Kidd. Zacks’s 2003 nonfiction work sets the record straight on one of the most flamboyant and misunderstood characters of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. And it reads much like a novel, thanks to the author’s extraordinary writing talent and obvious love of tales of the sea.
It wasn’t the picture of the Colt-Browning machine gun on the deck of Arethusa, a Prohibition-era smuggling vessel that ran between Nassau and Rum Row, a floating dept off the U.S. coast, that piqued my interest. It was the history of Bill McCoy and his dangerous work under sail and in high-powered skiffs. Charles J. Doan writes for Sail Feed about McCoy–whose teetotalling ways and insistence on being an “honorable” smuggler gave rise to the phrase “The Real McCoy.”
Sloan’s article is focused on a newly republished book, The Real McCoy by Frederic F. Van de Water, which “recounts the career of a rather personable and flamboyant Rum Row pioneer.”
Here’s an excerpt: “Only seamen could have brought them out through the weather they often encountered. Wind and waves never stopped them. In storms there were always two men aboard them, one to steer, the other to pump and keep her afloat. Any other breed but these Jersey lads would have added a third to holler for help, but they were reckless and seamen to the backbone. They always came out full speed ahead, and you could hear the old wagons smacking along over the waves a mile away. Their exhausts were under water, and when running slowly, no one could hear them.”
Ex-fishing-guide, novelist and restaurateur Randy Wayne White introduces a new character in his next book, Gone, due out September 4. She is “Hannah Smith: a tall, strong, formidable Florida woman, the descendant of generations of strong Florida women. She makes her living as a fishing guide, but her friends, neighbors, and clients also know her as an uncommonly resourceful woman with a keen sense of justice—someone who can’t be bullied—and they have taken to coming to her with their problems.”