Press barons, sailing, 21st-century life, and more; Sailing as personal growth; A Forgiving Wind, by Fred Powledge. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. 220 pp. $ 12.95.

There is a difference between learning to sail and becoming a sailor. Learning to sail means mastering a body of technical knowledge. Becoming a sailor involves all the experiences, challenges, and dreams that go into the learning process - some intensely individual, some universal.

It is this latter aspect of sailing that Fred Powledge addresses in ''A Forgiving Wind.'' He is aware that there are as many reasons to sail as there are sailors. Thus, he focuses on sailing as a mechanism for personal growth, using his own experiences as an example.

While introducing some of the basics of boating, Powledge recounts the story of how his initial disinterest in boats gave way to deepening appreciation of a different world. In unpretentious, conversational language he discusses how boating has changed his mental outlook and has increased his awareness of wind and sky. Eventually Powledge realized there is no such thing as ''knowing how to sail'': ''It is an endless, ongoing process, with always an abundance of new things to learn, new places to discover, new adventures to have.''

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