In his first book, ex-New York Times man and avid sailor Novitski recounts the modern-day building of a 440-foot, four-masted sailing ship. Novitski opens his story in the Finnish islands of Aland, but quickly moves to Manhattan, where Karl Andren, an Alander emigrant, self-made man, and owner of the Circle Line (N.Y.C. tourships) has just announced his plans to build the sailing vessel Wind Star. Novitski then fluctuates between sailing history and modern shipbuilding. He is at his best when he reinvokes the hard, romantic life of Andren's ancestors, and is almost as skilled in his descriptions of the negotiations that shaped Wind Star's revolutionary design. But he falters halfway through the book as he covers the actual building of the ship in LeHavre, France, and her imperfect maiden voyage to America. Details become flat, and the reality of commercial compromises made for the tourist trade, and sails controlled by computers rather than men, seem to sap the writing. A pleasant enough read for landlocked sailors on a cold winter's day, but Novitski misses the boat in comparison with a recent masterpiece of this type of construction tale, Tracy Kidder's House.