Gear List of the Golden Moon Book Review

In 2012, Dick Callahan set out from Juneau, Alaska in an 18-foot dory named Golden Moon. He made his way south down the Inside Passage, eventually reaching Seattle, Washington some 79 days later. Based on his experiences, Callahan recently published a book called Gear List of the Golden Moon and kindly sent me a copy to review. My thoughts on the book follow.

Callahan's collection of distilled wisdom and tips is divided into the following four chapters:

Planning, preparation and headspace - For many people intending to traverse the Inside Passage, planning means figuring out the route, how long the trip is expected to take, and what kind of gear to bring. That’s all well and fine from a logistical standpoint, but if you sit down and talk to an experienced adventurer, he or she will let you in on some of the secrets of the inner game of planning. Callahan is clearly one of these experienced adventurers and zeros in on twelve, concise points; with gems such as lose the straight line, beware of Internet small-boat porn, and be able to let go. There’s some excellent advice on mindset and practical matters in this chapter.

Choosing the boat and all the stuff – With a book titled Gear List of the Golden Moon, you expect a discussion of the stuff Callahan used on his trip. This chapter, which is the meat of the book, doesn’t disappoint. Callahan starts out talking about dories and specific equipment and rigging. (If you’re a kayaker like me, don’t let this turn you off. I knew very little about oarred boats until I read this chapter and found it both interesting and informative; enough to me think about the possibility of perhaps using a rowing craft on a long distance trip.)

Callahan then launches into a discussion of more general, small boat gear (electronics, safety, food, clothing, etc.). He presents some very useful advice and tips; I’ve been paddling for nearly thirty years, and still learned a thing or two. I especially liked Callahan’s thoughts on dividing the Inside Passage into north and south segments. This is often overlooked by many people, yet the climate and population density differences between the two sections can dictate diverse approaches to food, clothing, and safety.

I also appreciated the fact Callahan didn’t pull punches on what gear worked for him and what didn’t; in case you’re thinking of it, skip guitars. As Practical Sailor (the Consumer Reports of the boating world) only occasionally provides reviews of gear used in human-powered, small craft, I tend to pay attention to the opinions of independent, non-sponsored adventurers. Callahan doesn’t let reader down in this regard, and provides sage counsel on essential (and non-essential) gear.

Things to watch out for
- Paddling or rowing the Inside Passage isn’t exactly a Disneyland Jungle Cruise ride. There are a number of hazards on the route that the prudent mariner should be aware of and be prepared for. Callahan pretty much covers them all (without fear mongering); not in fine detail, but enough to let you know what’s out there so you can spend some time further researching the potential perils. My day job involves risk mitigation, and it’s a given if you know that some hazard exists ahead of time, you’ll be better able to deal with it more quickly and efficiently just in case you run into it.

Navigation - The last chapter is some basic information on navigation. Not so much a tutorial, but some navigation-related topics Callahan thought it would be good to share, based on his trip. There are some good recommendations on what charts and atlases to use.

The book concludes with several appendices, including detailed gear and food lists, a glossary, the Rule of 12s (for tides), and small boat emergency gear you need to carry to be legal in Canadian waters.

Gear List of the Golden Moon is not a dry, stodgy cruising guide or a “look at me” travel narrative. Liberal amounts of stories, humor, and Callahan’s philosophies on life color the book (there are even some color photos included) and balance the facts. Altogether it makes for an entertaining yet very informative read.

At 84 pages Gear List of the Golden Moon is a slim volume, but the Alaskan author has packed it full of useful and valuable nuggets. In the Introduction Callahan mentions this book is not meant to be the “Book of Right Answers.” I believe he’s accomplished that goal, writing a work that encourages people to think and make informed decisions. In my opinion, this book is a worthy addition to the library of any rower or paddler contemplating the Inside Passage or some other long distance adventure.

The book is priced at $16 and can be ordered from the Wooden Boat Store ( It sold out shortly after its initial publication and another printing is underway; if you’re having trouble tracking down a copy, drop Callahan an email at: harborsealpress at gmail dot com.

April 7, 2014