BOOK REVIEW | Working Boats: An Inside Look at Ten Amazing Watercraft


When I was a young boy, I had a big book of ships that included cut-away images of some of the vessels. The British Atlantic passenger ship Queen Mary was one. I was fascinated to see not only the luxury salons, but the engine room and propeller shafts. I still find such representation of vessels uniquely fascinating.

As a youngster, I was also something of a wharf rat and occasionally talked my way onto fishing boats and tugs to see their inner workings. Now, thanks to seine-boat skipper and illustrator extraordinaire Tom Crestodina, I can indulge my fascination to my heart’s content in the pages of this recently published book.

Captain Crestodina has been known amongst the Alaska fishing fleet for his often humorous representation of trawlers, seiners, tenders, and others. Many of his framed prints grace fishermen’s homes and those of appreciative collectors. Tom’s booth at the annual Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle is an ever-popular hangout.

It isn’t only fishing boats that get the Crestodina treatment. Most of the vessel types, from ferries to fire boats, familiar to the people who work the waters from Puget Sound to Alaska, are represented in the book. Two big beefy Caterpillar-powered tugs inspired by the Western Towboat company fleet are shown. Graphic descriptions of their Z-drive propulsion and a container barge are provided along with the workings of a diesel engine.

Five types of west coast fishing boats are illustrated with cutaways showing great detail. Three of these – trawler, seiner, and Bristol Bay gillnetter – fish for salmon, and Crestodina provides knowledgeable detailed drawings of the workings of each gear type. He gives similarly detailed illustrations and text for a Bering Sea king crabber and a classic Norwegian style wooden halibut longline schooner.

If a photo illustration is worth a thousand words, Crestodina’s cut-away drawings give us more like five thousand words each. This has allowed him to squeeze more information into 56 pages than can be seen anywhere, except for a technical paper for heart surgeons. Where a cutaway view of the boat’s profile isn’t enough, additional drawings and text are employed to provide information on navigation, safety at sea, and the dangers of icing up in winter storms.

The largest vessels included are a car ferry and an NOAA research ship. A coast guard cutter is paired with illustrations of their role in rescues at sea. As with the other boats, the author/artist doesn’t stop with a simple profile but illustrates and explains the role and function of each vessel through additional drawings as required.

It is no cliché to say that, for the mariner inclined, from eight to eighty, this is the one book that does it all.

Author: Tom Crestodina

Available for pre-order from

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Alan Haig-Brown

Alan Roderick Haig-Brown is a Canadian novelist and non-fiction writer. He specialises in commercial marine and commercial fishing writing and photography. He is a regular contributor to a number of marine publications.