The shipwrecked sailor is a familiar figure, but what of the woman lighthouse keeper who rescued him? Readers of sea lore know the pirate Calico Jack, but what about his mistress Anne Bonny and her lover, Mary Read? An Oxford-trained maritime museum curator, Cordingly (Under the Black Flag) writes back into naval history these and other women who went to sea with their lovers, either as wives or as cross-dressing ""cabin boys."" Although he sometimes wanders away from his primary subject to describe great moments in maritime history only distantly connected to women, his tales are so compelling it's hard to begrudge him the digressions. And while many of his anecdotes are quite titillating, his understated British voice keeps readers from feeling embarrassed for keyhole peeping. For instance, his sangfroid account of how a cross-dressing woman sailor's testimony led to a male sailor's execution for the crime of sodomy allows readers to draw their own conclusions. The only shortcoming to this delightful volume is its lack of illustrations. (Mar. 2) Forecast: Published in conjunction with a companion exhibit in Newport News, Va., and the author's tour of maritime museums, this book will find solid sales among female adventure fans and the many devoted readers of Patrick O'Brian's seafaring sagas.