‘Adventures Afloat’ Launched After 12 Years on the Ways

Sheer insanity may sound like a clever name for a sleek but impractical racing sloop, but to Ernest Toy, sailor and historian, the two words better describe a book--his book.

It’s called “Adventurers Afloat,” an exhaustive, 5,600-title, two-volume nautical bibliography that Toy spent 12 years compiling.

“Actually, sheer insanity is a gross understatement of what was involved,” says Toy, who originally thought the project would take about six months.

Now, a dozen years and three computers later, Toy’s book, published by Scarecrow Press Inc. of Metuchen, N.J., is finally in print. Intended as a reference book for libraries catering to patrons with an interest in boating, “Adventurers Afloat” includes titles and descriptions of books about everything from canoeing to water skiing.

In a lengthy subtitle, Toy describes his book as: “A comprehensive guide to books in English recounting the adventures of amateur sailors upon the waters of the world in yachts, boats and other devices and including works on the arts and sciences of cruising, racing, seamanship, navigation, design, building, etc. from the earliest writings through 1986.”


“I started it about 1976,” says Toy, now retired but then a history professor and library director at Cal State Fullerton. “I finished it in 1988, 20 minutes before midnight--the day before it was due at the publisher’s.”

Toy, a sailor who spent much of his childhood surfing and boating in Laguna Beach, says he wrote the book because he got tired of waiting for “someone (else) to write a book about books on yachting and related subjects.” When he finally decided to do it himself, he thought the job could be done quickly and easily. But by the time he had accumulated enough titles to choke his first computer, he realized he was wrong. After that computer collapsed, he bought another and “it collapsed, too. I’m on my third computer now,” he says.

In order to finish the book, Toy had to rely on the help of his wife, Beverly, a retired librarian from UC Irvine. Using a desktop publishing system, she typeset the book’s 1,193 pages and helped proof and edit the Gargantuan manuscript.

Once the project was completed, Toy had no problem finding a publisher from among those that specialize in reference books and bibliographies. The two-volume set, which sells for $89.50, hit the market last January. So far, reviews have been good. A library publication that reviews reference books called it “a useful evaluative bibliography that will help sailors, even those who never leave their armchairs, navigate the English-language boating literature.”

In the process of writing the book, Toy examined more than 8,000 titles, eliminating more than 2,000. Those he opted to include in the book are narratives, histories and novels on such subjects as cruising, racing, rowing, kayaking, ice boating, navigation, surfing, rigging and even etiquette. Toy not only includes the title of a book in his extensive list, but includes a brief description designed to help the reader judge the value of a particular book. In addition, he has provided an author and title index, as well as a ship and boat index.

“Nobody had ever tried to put anything together like this,” Toy says. “For example, if someone wanted to look up something about disasters or emergencies at sea, they can find it here. The descriptions are intended to help you decide if you want the book--without having to chase it down.”

Before his book, he says, it was hard for researchers to tell if they had all the available information about a subject. Now they can pick, for example, “deep water cruises in the Pacific Ocean,” and find Toy’s listing of 71 books on the subject.

Toy says he has actually read “the majority, but not all” of the books he included in his bibliography. In fact, in his Orange home he has nearly 300 nautical books neatly arranged by author and title on floor-to-ceiling shelves.

Like the books on his shelves, Toy says the books listed in his two-volume bibliography are “structured so that you can browse through them.” The books are arranged the same way they would be displayed on the shelves of a specialized boating library, such as the Cruising Assn. library in London, England, where Toy did much of his research. Since retiring from Cal State Fullerton six years ago, Toy, who still teaches a British history class at the university, spends two months in England each year working on research projects.

Now that the bibliography is completed, Toy, whose specialty is the British navy, is working on a historical article on a British naval midshipman, based upon four years of logs from the late 1800s. And recently, he and his wife went sailing on their 35-foot multihull, which Toy says has sat at the dock for most of the past three years while he finished the book.

Toy built the boat himself 25 years ago. It took him six years to construct it--only half the time it has taken him to create the book. Both, however, were labors of love.

Shipyard sold--Larson’s Shipyard, a Newport Beach landmark since 1948, did not change hands for more than 40 years, but during the past six months it has been bought and sold twice.

Six months ago, the yard’s original owner, Al Larson, 77, retired and sold the yard to two Swedish businessmen, who continued to run the yard under the Larson name. This month the yard was purchased by Marshall Steele and Larry Morgan, both of Newport Beach.

Steele, a wooden boat specialist, is a former manager of South Coast Boat Yard, and Morgan, a former yacht broker, was owner of Morgan Rigging. According to Steele, the Swedish owners had some logistical problems trying to run the Newport Beach yard while still running their marine business in Sweden.

Steele and Morgan, who have renamed the yard Blue Moon Marine, will continue to run the business as a full-service boatyard.

Shearlean Duke is a regular contributor to Orange County Life. On the Waterfront appears each Saturday, covering boating life styles as well as ocean-related activities along the county’s 42-mile coastline. Send information about boating-related events to: On the Waterfront, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Deadline is two weeks before publication. Story ideas are also welcome.