This is Harry Gratwick’s fourth book on Maine topics, and like its predecessors, it is well illustrated and a good read. It is not exhaustive in its coverage—no one book could be—but it provides representative glimpses of coastal life, past and present.

Divided into four parts, the first is devoted to skippers: the Lane family of Vinalhaven, Henry Lufkin of Deer Isle, Edward Nichols of Searsport and Francis McAdoo, a seasonal resident of Vinalhaven. The first three relate to the classic era of sail, but the latter takes us away from Maine to World War II and PT boats in the Pacific. That said, it is a fascinating account.

Part II, Steamboats and Smithy Boats, starts with an account of the famous Penobscot Bay steamboat wars. Smithy boats were new to me, so I was intrigued with this account. I have, however, had some experience with the “one lunger” engines that powered many of them. As a kid, it was a major triumph when I could crank over (by hand) the flywheel of my father’s one cylinder Mianus. No one was more surprised than me when it started.

Part III, Sloops and Schooners, introduces Peter Sellers of Doylestown, Penn., and Mount Desert Island, who spent 10 years building his own friendship sloop. Several anecdotes follow about Rhoads 19 racing sloops before we return to the classic era of sail. Here we learn about the gigantic schooner Wyoming (only the Thomas W. Lawson had more masts), followed by an affectionate account of the Bowdoin, focusing on the people who sailed her.

Part IV, Storms and Shipwrecks, starts with an inventory of hurricanes that have hit the Maine coast, then concentrates on those of the 20th century. The shipwrecks return us to steamboats, specifically the Royal Tar and the Castine. Both met their ends off Vinalhaven. Finally, we hear of Gratwick’s own boat’s encounter with lightning.

There’s something here for everyone. For old-timers like me, it brings back memories. I remember riding the Vinal Haven, North Haven and W. S. White, three of the steamers in Gratwick’s stories. I remember hearing about our neighbor on Deer Isle who was captain of Hiram Manville’s steam yacht, the Hi Esmaro, one of the largest at the time. Berthed in New London, as the 1938 hurricane came up the coast, he took her out into Long Island Sound, where he rode out the storm. Thus, she escaped the damage suffered by vessels that remained in port. I remember vividly the hurricanes of 1954, which I experienced with a friend in a small shack by the shore we had built with boards from an abandoned schooner. My father’s boat, the Cormorant, then 4 years old, rode out Carol and Edna on her mooring, fully exposed to the southwest winds. It was not the mooring that held her, but a Danforth anchor we had put out. I still have that boat; she rode out Hurricane Bob on a more substantial mooring.

For newcomers to the coast, the more contemporary stories will appeal, while the older ones will give them an idea of the way things used to be before the advent of what Gratwick’s neighbors on Vinalhaven call “Tupperware boats” (or, on Deer Isle, “Clorox bottles”).

William A. Haviland is an anthropologist who lives on Deer Isle and author of At the Place of the Lobsters and Crabs.