Book Review

Cruising Rules: Relationships at Sea

Reviewed by Thomas P. Johnson,
Professor of Educational Leadership and
Policy Studies, Florida International University,
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.


Roland Barth’s Cruising Rules is an engaging collection of stories about relationships at sea, culled from the author’s experience with "relentless intimacy" while sailing along the coast of Maine. The book’s nautical journeys and organic axioms become rules for personal behavior in classrooms, schools and districts--and qualify as well as sound rules for sane boatsmanship.

Barth’s truths focus on ways of getting along in a variety of relationships. His tales are symbiotic to the genre of stories that veteran superintendents, principals and teachers fondly share with each other in private. Each story pokes at itself a little. Some are fun. Some are sad. Some are nostalgic. Each is reflective of events shared with others in confined spaces.

Each story is its own metaphor for life in schools and classrooms. What superintendent, principal or teacher has not experienced the pathos of Barth’s Rule 20, where he describes the betrayal of nature through an unexpected mid-journey fog and the resulting self-doubt about coping with it?

Various characters wander in and out of 25 situational anecdotes. These actors share their wisdom, eccentricities and humanity. Just like school districts, schools and classrooms, the closeness of the space, the need for interdependence and the outright back-fence logic of it all is stirring.

Barth’s rules reads like a memoir of one who has experienced the joys, humor and pain of service to a calling and one who has the courage, ability and humility to lay it out for all to see.

Cruising Rules: Relationships at Sea could be a professional guide for educational administrators. It is as near to poetry as a training manual can get. It is a thoughtful piece that deserves a review by those who have set out on their own journeys in public education and who are nearing port. It is also useful for those who are just setting sail on their own journeys.

(Cruising Rules: Relationships at Sea, by Roland S. Barth, Head Tide Press, Alna, Maine 04535, 1998, 110 pp., $12.95 softcover)