READING THE GLASS: A CAPTAIN’S VIEW OF WEATHER, WATER AND LIFE ON SHIPS by Elliot Rappaport; Dutton, 2023; 323 pages, $30; ISBN 978-0-593-18505-6.


Despite man’s ingenuity and the technology of satellites, aircraft and computer modeling, weather understanding and forecasting remains elusive, and no one knows that better than professional mariners. British Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) said it best: “I cannot command winds and weather.”

Captain Elliot Rappaport’s excellent book, “Reading the Glass,” is a mariner’s view of the weather from the rolling decks of sailing vessels in the Pacific, Atlantic, Mediterranean and Arctic oceans. Thirty years at sea as a mate and captain of sail training ships gives him a unique perspective on the weather, and his ability to vividly describe wind, water and weather at sea makes this book a valuable primer on how weather really works.

Rappaport lives in Maine and is an associate professor of marine transportation at the Maine Maritime Academy when he’s not at sea. He notes that there is “nothing like a sailing ship to help you care about the weather,” and his experiences as captain of tall ships like the “Bowdoin” and the two brigantine sail training ships of the SEA Education Association provide weather expertise to share, using colorful stories of winds, tides, currents, storms, calms, cyclones, trade winds, hot and cold jet streams, and the history of the imperfect science of forecasting.

He tells how storms are created, the special characteristics of extreme weather in different hemispheres, how and why sailors have recorded weather and sea conditions for hundreds of years, and how a barometer works and what it’s really telling you.

Discover “the only country on Earth to occupy all four hemispheres” and learn the rules of maritime traffic, why the doldrums aren’t dull at all, and about the 57 stars of celestial navigation. He also proves the sailor’s life lesson: “You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust the sails.”



About small towns, German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) said: “The nice thing about living in a small town is that when you don’t know what you’re doing, someone else does.” That is

THE RUINS OF WOODMAN’S VILLAGE: AN LT NICHOLS MYSTERY by Albert Waitt; Level Best Books, 2023; 258 pages, $16.95; ISBN 978-1-68512-236-2.

true about the small coastal town tourist town of Laurel, Maine; unfortunately for Police Chief Tim Nichols, people know a lot, but nobody tells him anything and he can’t prevent murder.

“The Ruins of Woodman’s Village” is Kennebunkport author Al Waitt’s excellent mystery of class hatred, criminal conspiracy and cold-blooded murder set in 1986. Waitt has struck gold here with a clever, convincing plot, subtle clues (read carefully), accurate cultural atmosphere and a truly engaging, colorful cast of characters: especially Chief Nichols.

Waitt masterfully draws a disturbing picture of social class enmity between Laurel’s tourist- and business-oriented townspeople and the unwashed residents of Woodman’s Village several miles away — a clannish, inbred mix of three families ruled by a ruthless, hateful bully.  When Nichols learns that two teenage girls from the Village have been missing for five days before being reported, he knows he’s in trouble. He’s in over his head as a small town cop. Divorced, pudgy out of shape, enjoys booze and not the brightest bulb, he’s well-liked by the town and his officers, but nobody helps his investigation.

Stony silence, threats, intimidation, deliberate misdirection, and an assault don’t side-track his determination to be a good cop and find the girls, but only a lucky hunch will produce a stunning result. However, that result will expose an insidious scheme of greed and violence well beyond the shacks and bitterness of Woodman’s Village and Laurel’s smug, tidy downtown.

Gripping suspense, smart plot twists, and exciting action mark this as a marvelous mystery. We can only hope we’ll see more of Chief Nichols.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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