Saturday, June 19, 2010

Book Review: SailorSpeak by Bob Roitblat

"SailorSpeak" by Bob Roiblat

The sport of sailing is just like any activity that you undertake- comes equipped with it's own set of language and terminology that to the newcomer may sound like a 'foreign language'.  In many cases, the learning curve can be steepened just by learning the jargon.   One easy fix is to take a basic keelboat sailing course to learn the basics of boathandling and familiarize oneself with the terminology.  This path is recommended for many reasons: it helps build confidence a 'hands-on' workingn knowledge of the boat.   After that initial class, however there are different "dialects" that are used on boats to signify the basic working parts.  This further complicates things. 

"SAILORSPEAK"  a new book by Bob Roitblat does a good job of summarizing some of the commonly used terms into one easy reference book.  Bob has been racing in the Beneteau First 36.7 fleet aboard Steve Pelke's "Stingray" and has recently undertaken being an author.  "SS" is is first entry into being a writer. 

KYS caught up with Bob to get his thoughts behind why he wrote SS and what his future plans are as an author.  That interview is located below.

The author Bob Roitblat in the 2009 Transpac

KYS-Docktalk: Tell us a little bit about your sailing experience.

BR: I started sailing at 16, but only got into racing about six years ago, somewhat by accident. It was late fall and I was in someone's office who had sailing memorabilia scattered throughout. When I asked him if he sailed, he said no, he raced. I mentioned that I'd like to try it, that racing could be fun. He invited me to join them for a day when racing started up in spring.

My first time out on the race boat was a practice day. It seemed like that day’s agenda was designed to test just how much abuse I was willing to take. I must have passed the test, because I was invited to race the whole season. Since 2008 I’ve primarily raced with Steve Pelke on Stingray, and then on other boats when time permitted.

Since I started racing, I’ve done all the local and Area Three races and several Macs-both flavors. I’ve also competed in other marquee races, such Key West, Manhasset Bay, etc. And last summer, Steve and I competed in the Transpac.

KYS-Docktalk:  What motivated you to write SAILORSPEAK?

BR:Two years ago I was asked to coach a newly formed racing team. In an effort to get everyone concentrating on developing their skills instead of deciphering all the jargon we use, I created a glossary of jargon and slang. That project expanded and mutated until it became a book. 

KYS-Docktalk:  For all the aspiring sailor/writers out there, Tell us about your journey for writing this book. How long did it take you? What did you learn?

BR: It was never my intention to write a reference book. The original glossary took on a life of its own. As I talked with more and more people about their favorite slang terms, the glossary grew. As I researched the jargon used in one part of the Country compared to another, the glossary grew. I interviewed several sailing legends and read everything I could get my hands on and the glossary grew some more. By the fall of 2008 I had so much data that I decided to take a break from another project I was working on and create SAILORSPEAK.

I have probably spent about 1,000 hours researching, writing and editing.

Doing the research and compiling all the data has taught me more about sailing than I ever imagined. I also leaned a lot about the politics and mechanics of the book publishing industry. Maybe somebody should write a book on publishing terms, jargon and slang. I’d buy it.

KYS-Docktalk: What’s next for you? Are you planning any other sailing related books?

BR: When I can, I'll pick up where I left off on my other project: a book that uses the lessons learned from yacht racing and applies them to running a small business. That book lets me mix my avocation with my job.

"SAILORSPEAK" By Bob Roitblat is available on

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