Books / Sunfish

“Second Wind” a Sunfish Sailor’s Review

Did you sail a Sunfish? Second Wind Book
Do you still?
Race one?
Want to?


If you answered yes to any of these then Second Wind by Nathaniel Philbrick is a story written for you.

The Sunfish in this story is no minor character. This Sunfish (we find out much later was mirthfully named Rosebud) is the silent supporting character carrying the plot and the author from the rising action to the dénouement. And, if you are familiar with other writings by Nathaniel Philbrick you will recognize the Man vs. Nature theme in this autobiographical work. I don’t believe it was just by chance that Captain Ahab and an aging Piquod seemed to playing in the back of my mind as I read this book.

The subtitle gives us clues to the story:
A Sunfish Sailor, an Island, and the Voyage that Brought a Family Together.

The Sunfish sailor is author Nathaniel Philbrick in 1992, longing for halcyon days of 1978 when he was Brown University’s first Intercollegiate All-American sailor, the same year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, RI.

His plan:

With the help of his wife and two young children, delivering him to ponds on Nantucket Island, he will practice sailing his weathered 1978 Sunfish throughout the entire year in an attempt race in the 1993 Sunfish North Americans in Springfield, IL. This alone is an amazing story, however Philbrick will pepper these pond-hopping exploits with memories and insights of Sunfish sailing and other notable escapades.

During his story telling, Philbrick describes the Sunfish sailboat to a tee:

The Sunfish’s untraditional rig, while it may look strange, is efficient and adaptable enough to allow lighter-weight
women and children to remain competitive, even in high winds. There is no other sailboat as inexpensive and light
as the Sunfish that can be effectively raced by such a wide range of people.


If you are like me, you will want to Google the names of racers that Nathaniel Philbrick drops throughout the story. And, if you are like me, you will be taken back to the long summer days of Sunfish sailing in your youth and wonder… what if?

Available on Nathaniel Philbrick’s webpage


Other books by Nathaniel Philbrick:


  • Yaahting: A Parody. 1984.
  • The Passionate Sailor. Contemporary Press, 1987.


  • Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People, 1602-1890. Penguin, 1993. Abram’s Eyes: The Native American Legacy of Nantucket Island. Mill Hill Press, 1998.
  • In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Penguin, 1999.
  • Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery: the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842. New York: Viking, 2001.
  • Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex. Putnam Juvenile, 2002.
  • Mayflower: a Story of Courage, Community, and War. New York: Viking, 2006.
  • The Mayflower and the Pilgrims’ New World: The Story of Plymouth Colony for Young Readers. Putnam Juvenile, 2006.
  • The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. New York: Viking, 2010.
  • Bunker Hill: a City, a Siege, a Revolution. New York: Viking, 2013.
  • The First Thanksgiving. 2013.
  • Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution New York: Viking, 2016.
  • In the Hurricane’s Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown, 2018.[12]


  • Why Read Moby Dick? New York: Viking, 2010.