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A Unit of Water, a Unit of Time


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About the Author

Douglas Whynott is the author of Following the Bloom and Giant Bluefin. He has worked as a piano tuner, apiary inspector, blues pianist, and dolphin trainer. His writing has appeared in Outside, the Boston Globe, Reader's Digest, and many other publications. He lives in New Hampshire.


Even readers with no special interest in boats are likely to be caught up in this elegant homage to Maine boatbuilder Joel White (son of E.B. White), who pursued his obsession with the time-honored craft of designing wooden boats while battling cancer. Whynott (Giant Bluefin) made 17 trips to the Brooklin Boat Yard in Maine, where the meticulous Joel, his son Steve and a yard crew spent two years designing and building the W-76, a grand and graceful racing yacht. While Steve runs the yard, JoelÄwith a section of his lung removed and walking on crutches after a bone graftÄundergoes chemotherapy and learns to walk again, enduring metastatic lung cancer with stoic fortitude. Whynott, who traces his own love of boats back to his Pilgrim ancestors, indelibly captures such laconic New England types as boat painter Raymond Eaton, who, whenever asked how a job came out, always replied, "It could be better." Old-timers mingle with boat-loving transplants from Wall Street, Oregon and England. With understated grace, the author evokes a sense of maritime community as well as a fierce devotion to boats and a love of the sea, which emerges as an almost mystical form of communion with nature and the cosmos. His father, who sailed a 30-foot cutter, instilled in Joel not only his love of sailing but also, according to Whynott, a clarity of line and economy of style that resonated in Joel's boat designs and in his essays for WoodenBoat magazine. Joel's death in 1997, months before the launch of the W-76, is heartbreaking. E.B. White would have approved of this quietly profound book: it's a real beauty. (Mar.)

San Francisco Chronicle Whynott's attention transcends his obstensible until it becomes a profound look at the human condition.
The New Yorker The book is cheerful in its portraits of men engaged in a work that satisfies in its difficulty, elegant details, and infallibly stirring results.
The San Diego Union-Tribune This discreet account of Joel White's final year is as spare and elegant as his vessels.
Boston Magazine This is a book about the value of work, about the beauty of craftsmanship, and about a group of people whose ritual days help keep a vanishing world alive.
Kirkus Reviews An affectionate, affirmative, yet lighter-than-air look at the life and work of Joel White.
Bill McKibben author of Maybe One A Unit of Water, a Unit of Time is as lovingly constructed as the boat it describes, and offers its readers the chance for a calm but vivid voyage.
Publisbers Weekly With understated grace, the author evokes a sense of maritime community as well as a fierce devotion to boats and a love of the sea, which emerges as an almost mystical form of communion with nature and the cosmos...E.B. White would have approved of this quietly profound book; it's a real beauty.
Tracy Kidder author of Home Town This is a charming and moving depiction of a contemporary genius at work, one who happens to be engaged in the ancient art of making boats. It is a necessary book for anyone afflicted with the passion for messing around with boats.
Library Journal Whynott skillfully weaves a story that speaks both of the love of his craft and the art of writing.

For this heartfelt tribute to boatbuilder Joel White, son of writer E.B. White, Whynott (Giant Bluefin, LJ 5/1/95) spent a year in Brooklin, ME, watching and writing about the building of wooden boats. During that time, Joel White was diagnosed with cancer and began to build his last boat, the W-76, a wooden racing yacht that would incorporate a lifetime's experience in his art. Alternating among the lives of E.B. White; Joel; his son, Steve; and the building of boats, Whynott skillfully weaves a story that speaks both of the love of these craft and the art of writing. Local color is provided by descriptions of Brooklin and its inhabitants, and examples of Maine humor and the hard work involved in building these boats are interspersed throughout. Technical detail regarding the design and construction of boats and the aesthetic pride in seeing an idea come to fruition are also apparent. Still, while highly evocative of the age-old art of wooden boatbuilding, this book will appeal to a limited audience of boating aficionados and "down-east" residents.ÄHarold N. Boyer, Florence-Darlington Technical Coll., SC Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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