Resources, Sailing Knowledge

Book Review: Jester Challenge and Beyond

I bought this book by Basil Panakis purely because of its subtitle, “Small Boat Atlantic Crossing On a Budget”. Later when the book arrived and I read about the author and his “60 years of sea experience” I had really high hopes that it would be an informative read. I had expected some expert tips on what to look for when viewing a prospective boat, how to identify where savings could be made, how to maintain your purchase on a tight budget, and ultimately how to take your vessel on a challenging deep-sea voyage.

Photo of the cover of Jester Challenge and Beyond by Basil Panakis. A man wearing a large orange life jacket sails in a small yacht.

I finished this book in one sitting and I am writing this review about 15 minutes after turning the final page. The truth is that I can’t remember a single thing I just read. In the foreword, Roger D. Taylor writes that when reading this book, “… we may as well be sat next to Basil in the pub as he tells his tale”. This is accurate, although Roger fails to mention that these tales are being told well after the 6th round of drinks. The writing style rambles. Pronouns and the indefinite article are dropped from sentences. Tenses shift within a single clause.

I feel horrible for writing this, in part because I know English is Basil’s second language and so many of these errors should have been picked up by a proofreader or editor. I also feel bad because I really should be trying to pull out the pieces of useful sailing information that Basil mentions, but I can’t identify anything. The book is short at only 136 pages, but the actual content starts on page 17, and the image insets in the middle of the book (17 more pages) count towards the page count. In other words, this book, in reality, is only 101 pages long. It truly feels like Basil was just trying to hit a word count at times.

By far and away the most interesting chapter is the last one. Although brief this chapter gives a little bit of insight into Basil’s roots, as his was one of the families who fled from Constantinople in 1964 during the expulsion of the Istanbul Greeks. He mentions some of his childhood friends who also escaped, prints some Facebook messages from them, and lists the titles of books that they have written about their experiences. This chapter is a complete tonal and topical shift from the rest of the book, but was certainly the most engaging and I do intend to seek out some of the books that Basil mentioned.

I am grateful to anyone who is willing to document their knowledge and make it available for others to learn from. So I feel very ungrateful for writing this review as I have. Maybe there’s something in this book that I missed. Maybe my inexperience means that most of the important information went over my head. I don’t know. What I do know is that I am not very much wiser about boats or sailing after reading this. And I’m disappointed because given Basil’s sailing experience and career I feel like this book could have been so much more.


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