Book Review: "The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon"

Though intended for kids, this guide will help sailors of any age have more fun on the water.

Sailing World


David Seidman and Jeff Hemmel's "The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon: And 101 Other Things for Young Mariners to Build, Try & Do on the Water" is both a waterman's bucket list and a crash course in seamanship.Courtesy McGraw-Hill

If you spend all your time on the water trying to win sailboat races, you're missing out on much of the fun to be had. That's what I took from David Seidman and Jeff Hemmel's new book, "The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon: And 101 Other Things for Young Mariners to Build, Try & Do on the Water." The 250-page guide serves as both a waterman's bucket list and a refresher course in basic seamanship. On every page, you'll find a fun idea try on a boat or at the beach, a nautical-themed factoid (Did you know Dr. Alexander Graham Bell designed the first boat to hit 70 mph?), or a kernel of know-how you lost along the way.

Targeting the book at children and their parents, Seidman and Hemmel give the quick and dirty on all sorts of water-based pastimes—not just sailing, but fishing, canoeing, kayaking, rowing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, crabbing, clamming, etc. They explain how to host a proper beach clambake (don't forget the layer of seaweed), how to clean and filet a fish, how to waterski barefoot. As someone who's muddled along for too long with only the most basic seamanship skills, I appreciated the passages on how to eye splice a line and how to mend a sail with the herringbone stitch.

If you have kids, a boat, or a beach house, "The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon" is an invaluable resource for staving off boredom towards the end of vacation week. Even if you don't have any of those things, this book has something for you. The passage on skipping stones will make you a champion on your next camping trip. The tutorial on how to fend off a shark might save your bacon someday. Shooting off the titular potato cannon—PVC + hair spray = heavy artillery!—could land you in jail in some states, but the spectacle is probably worth the consequences. Just tell the judge you were doing it for the kids.