Book Review  
by Joseph Ditler - Coronado, California - USA
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The Fleet for the 21st Century
By Photographer Thad Koza
231 pages
Tide-Mark Press

What is a tallship anyway? Is it one word or two? Can it be a replica? Does it have a set number of sails? And where the heck did that term come from anyway?

The term "tallship" has filled us with visions of topsails, squaresails, and every possible configuration of rig and hull. The phrase itself is more often than not attributed to John Masefield's poem, Sea-Fever: "I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."

But was he the first? William Shakespeare wrote in the Merchant of Venice: "The Goodwins I think they call the place-a very dangerous flat, and fatal, where the carcasses of many a tall ship lie buried ...."

The term took a turn for the worse in the 1980s when PR folk in nearly every port began to use "tallship" to describe any sailing vessel coming to town that weekend. The American Sail Training Association brought some clarity to the issue when they devised three classes from A-to-C to describe the majestic vessels - Class A being the largest.

Whatever the definition, there is no denying the beauty and grandeur of a great sailing ship heaving over the horizon, with clouds of canvas spread on yards high. And even the smaller Class C ships are capable of evoking great passion in just about any person, of any age, in any port.

Thad Koza's new book, "Tall Ships: The Fleet for the 21st Century," captures a wide representation of these glorious vessels in living color, under full sail, no matter what their size, shape, age, or number of sails. And it's a grand accumulation.

The fourth edition of his prized coffee table treatise features many new additions to his earlier books, and contains more than 200 vessels in the three categories of "tallship." His vessels include the Coast Guard bark Eagle on one end of the scale, and the little brigantine Black Pearl on the other. There are brigs, barques, and schooners, as well as ketches, cutters, and trawlers.

It's been five years since Koza's last edition of "Tall Ships." Since then there has been a revival, or renaissance of these lovely sailing ships that so elegantly conjures up stories of Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, and Patrick O'Brian.

During those five years much has happened to the fleet. The popularity of traditional sailing ships has grown but the difficulties of maintaining these proud vessels too has evolved. Some have fallen prey to weather, economic downturns, the ravages of time, and a lack of maintenance.

Hollywood's forays into nautical themes have benefited some. The movies Master and Commander and Pirates of the Caribbean (with its two colorful sequels) have employed several vessels in their productions and thus brought monetary stability to the upkeep and maintenance of these fortunate vessels, not to mention popularity.

Some have found homes in museums, others have teamed together to present traveling educational shows with hands-on learning at sea and along coastal waters. And most all the tallships now carry cannons as their audiences demand the sound of roaring guns and the smell of black powder.

Several ships changed owners and ports in the endless pursuit of financial survival. Others just sit at the dock, slowly yielding to a lack of money and endless battles with the sea of a different kind. Wind-waterline erosion and a heap of neglect will spell the downfall of any vessel, particularly one made of wood.

This book is an excellent addition to any library and contains a thorough bibliography, index, and glossary. It also includes an exciting introduction as well as a list of the great maritime museums worldwide. But most importantly, it should be noted this book captures the visuals of the tallship fleet at this very moment in time; visuals that, as we now know, can change dramatically in the course of just a few years.

Author and Photographer Thad Koza writes about marine subjects from his home in Newport, Rhode Island. He supplements his tallship research with first-hand photography and sailing excursions on ships around the world.

For more information on "Tall Ships" visit or call (800) 338-2508.

-- Reviewed by Joe Ditler

Tall Ships, Fourth Edition, by Thad Koza
231 pages, full color
ISBN: 978-1-59490-236-9
Price: $24.95 (US) soft cover; $39.95 (US) hard cover
(Available in UK and Europe by credit card or US bank-drawn check)