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Monday, October 11, 2010

"Fyddeye Guide to America's Maritime History"-- new book should matter to all of us

      One day in 1999, Joe Follansbee stepped aboard the decaying, three-masted 1897 schooner Wawona and fell in love, too late. Time was already running out for the old ship, but Follansbee, a Seattle journalist and author, joined the effort to save Wawona. He put his substantial writing talents to work in the attempt to convince people that this important piece of Northwest maritime history should be preserved.
       Follansbee wrote a fascinating book, Shipbuilders, Sea Captains, and Fishermen: The Story of the Schooner Wawona, plus a number of articles. But if you have never seen Wawona, you never will. In spite of the efforts of many people, this piece of history was demolished.
      The sad fate of Wawona affected Follansbee deeply and caused him to adjust the rudder on his writing career. Before discovering his fascination with the doomed schooner, he probably never expected to write even one book on maritime history, and now, in addition to the story of Wawona, he has edited and published a second book: "The Fyddeye Guide to America's Maritime History- 2000 + Tall Ships, Lighthouses, Historic Ships, Maritime Museums, & More." 
        One motivation Follansbee cites in the preface, is the fact that he became "aware of the fragility of our maritime past." That was also one of the reasons he created his website called Fyddeye, an online source of information about all things related to America's maritime history. It's also a gathering place for enthusiasts to share comments, updates on preservation issues, and photos. The site drew such a strong response that the book was a natural next step.
       Between its glossy covers, this impressive work contains everything a person could want in the way of information about our country's historic maritime treasures, as well as some interesting articles. Whether you are doing research of a scholarly nature, or simply planning a vacation, the well-organized format (indexed by city) makes it easy to find not only heritage vessels and sites, but also organizations, educational resources, and more. In the "Museums" chapter, I was happy to see a large entry on the Foss Waterway Seaport here in Tacoma, but the book also contains the most obscure listings imaginable. Follansbee recognizes the importance of every single one.
        I can't even imagine how much time it took to put all of this together. At $24.95, I would call it a bargain. Chapter headings include:
  • Ships
  • Shipwrecks
  • Museums
  • Research Libraries
  • Lighthouses & Lightships
  • Lifesaving Stations
  • Education
  • Districts
  • Structures and Sites
  • Markers and Monuments
  • Organizations
  • and "Other"            
      "Perhaps if people understand the breadth and scope of our heritage by presenting it in one place,"  he wrote in the book's introduction, "they might recognize that keeping our history is part of what keeps our country whole."

Sometimes the efforts of one individual add significantly to that history. This is one of those times, and I am among those who appreciate what Joe Follansbee has done. You will too.




Joy Murray said...

Thanks for the wonderful review. I am up to my eyeballs in books to read, but I'm making a place on the list for this. There's something very compelling and metaphorical about maritime stories -- I'm glad those of us who will probably remain land locked get the chance to read these accounts.

Whidbey Woman said...

Hi... visiting your blog again after being away awhile. Your posts are always so interesting!
Hope you have a great week.