Stepping aboard a tall ship for the first time, a person cannot help but wonder and be amazed at the myriad lines, going this way and that, up, down, across, back and forth. Some to lift sails, some to maneuver large sticks that the sails are tied to. How anyone could understand the workings of all those lines, not to mention setting them up so they work properly is yet another mystery.

Then you might notice the crew, who seem nonplussed by the whole shebang. Stand clear and watch as the crew starts to ready sail, and you will hear all sorts of commands coming from the mate. “Stand by the huggy buggy!” High aloft you will hear a strange reply: “All fast on the hoten toten!”

You have wandered into a strange land, a land whose people speak a foreign tongue and engage in strange dangerous pursuits. Curiosity piqued, you wonder is there anyone who could help you come to understand it all.

As it turns out there is such a person. First-time author Dominick Zachorne offers us Slop Chest, a compendium of the arts, science, and at times the lore of rigging a tall ship. The ship he writes about is Shenandoah, the long-reigning queen of Vineyard Haven Harbor. Mr. Zachorne has long been associated with the schooner and its captain and builder, Robert S. Douglas. He rose from mere galley boy some 30 years ago and doggedly climbed the ranks to become captain. Eventually he was given the helm of The Shenandoah’s sister ship, the Alabama.

Zachorne explains that the impetus for his book came from Captain Bob himself, who suggested he take notes on all the preparation and setup of the rig on the Shenandoah and compile them so new crew members would have a resource to guide them when it came time to complete the complex task that is the rigging of a tall ship.

In Slop Chest, he has made the grade in Bristol Fashion. The interesting title generally refers to a chest on a ship where items are kept for sale to sailors as they plied the sea. Perhaps socks, needles and thread, tobacco etc. There is no mention of these things, but the cover illustration might be a clue to the title. It pictures a handle made of rope and twine, perhaps one of the finest representations of a sailor’s handiwork, the art of turning knots into practical, useful items. I suspect it was Dominick himself who made that handle. And I suspect it is a handle for a slop chest.

Though he is dealing with a complicated subject, setting up, working, and then taking down the rig of the Shenandoah, his explanations are clear and are clearly designed for the budding sailor, but they also have value for anyone with an interest in tall ships. He slacks the lines for us often enough, peppering the more technical subjects with his own stories of growing up on a sailboat, his times of trial as mate on the Shenandoah — and perhaps as interesting as anything — his close relationship with Captain Douglas. Captains are often seen as enigmas, unapproachable. Dominick gives us a clear-eyed view of a much-loved man who has touched many a soul on the Island and beyond., He shows us that Captain Bob is just a guy who loves ice cream and tall ships, his family — and yes, dogs.

When you go sailing onboard a tall ship for the first time, after marveling at the complexity of the surroundings, you settle in and slowly it dawns on you that you are traveling on a magnificent machine. After reading Slop Chest, chances are you’ll be more amazed than ever.