ancestryink fisherman

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Maritime Reading - Best Nautical Bookstore on Cape Cod

Again, Maritime Monday slips into Maritime Tuesday.  It might be well worth the 24 hour wait to discover a somewhat hidden treasure for all you readers of nautical-related books - the Columbia Trading Co. of West Barnstable, Mass.

Columbia Trading Co.  (image: website homepage)

There is no finer destination on a rainy day - or any day - than the Columbia Trading Co. bookstore.  One visit will convince you the small bookstore, in general, is a precious asset we should all go to great lengths to keep alive and thriving.

The bookstore is located in a rather unassuming Cape style house at 1022 Main Street,  near the intersection of Route 6A (Old King's Highway, and across from the really historic West Barnstable Cemetery! ) and Route 149.  Depending on the direction you are coming from, I suggest you take at least part of your journey along Route 6A.  It is beautiful, scenic drive, winding through marshes and rural seaside land and homes.  From the village of Sandwich to the bookstore is particularly wonderful.  Take in "Momo's" for a gourmet-sandwich or their great cafe-style coffees, and sit on their deck overlooking the marsh.

Back to the Columbia Trading Co.  Several spacious rooms include used books, new books of local flavor, maps, artifacts (real, not chotchkies), clocks, and lovely ship models. The layout of the store is so light and comfortable for browsing and reading, you will suddenly find an hour has passed while exploring the shelves.

They are very likely to have that book of maritime interest that you have been unable to find elsewhere.  My particular lucky find was "Live Oaking - Southern Timber for Tall Ships"

which was published in 1981 by Virgina Steele Wood.  I had found this book in the Falmouth Public Library and had slim hopes of locating it elsewhere.  Sounds like a snore?  Not at all!

Wood's (appropriate name) thorough research of using live oak timbers in the construction of ships spans from the early 1600's through as recently as 1960. Her story is enlivened by letters from the shipmasters and tradesmen who set up camps in the South to harvest the majestic live oak.  She shows us the human side: the tribulations of weather, illness, shipwrecks, at times drunknness. And also successes for the magnificent sea-faring families who, as brilliant businessmen, greatly influenced the maritime history of the U.S. The books if full of old news clippings, illustrations, even photos, and Wood's writing style is simple and conversational.  A young adult reader could easily get caught up in the stories.  It is a true story of adventure.

The Swifts of Falmouth are a huge source of  information, and Wood includes letters (1825) between Oliver C. Swift and his father Elijah Swift, and also between the Hiller family (1858) of Mattapoisett.

The Columbia Trading Co. is a  marvelous find, with an unparalleled collection that is obviously widely researched and thoughtful. You might want to call ahead to make absolutely sure they are open.

They have a Facebook presence, and if you 'like' their page, you can keep up with hours, events, and inventory. They also have an online bookstore presence on at least one website that I found -

It is really more fun to go for a visit - rain or shine. Set aside a couple of will have a hard time getting yourself out the door and I doubt you will leave empty-handed.

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