This page is a list of only the cruising or sailing books I wholeheartedly recommend to other voyagers or anyone thinking about voyaging. I included my own short description with each. To learn more about any book, click the picture to go to the Amazon page.
Cruising Reference Books
Culture Books for Cruisers
Cruising Reference Books
Marine Diesel Engines, Nigel Calder
I bought my copy of this book in the early 1990s from Calder himself, after a talk he gave about diesel engines for cruising sailors. It is the clearest guide on the care, operation, and diagnosis of a diesel engine I have ever seen. It is not a long book (195 pages) and about every page is filled with pictures and drawings. There is a section on transmission and an appendix on tools. For me, the key is that Calder doesn't just tell you how to do something, he explains why. My copy is an older second edition, but I imagine it has improved, though it is difficult to see how it could have.
The Complete Rigger's Apprentice, Brion Toss
This book was a gift and it's proven to have been a good one. Want to learn to splice line? Want to do some fancy macramé around your ship's wheel? Want to do anything rigging related? This is an excellent resource. It's also a fun read, not at all technical, with great stories interspersed and interesting illustrations. This is the updated edition for 2016.
| ||Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual, Nigel Calder |
|This Old Boat, Don Casey |
|The Voyager's Handbook, Beth Leonard |
|Voyaging with Kids: A guide to family life afloat, Behan Gifford, |
Sara Dawn Johnson, Michael Robertson
It's hard to write about a book you co-authored, and the title is pretty self-explanatory. But check out the editorial and reader reviews on Amazon. I'm pretty proud of this one.
|World Cruising Routes, Jimmy Cornell |
|The Cost Conscious Cruiser, Lin and Larry Pardey |
|Sailpower, Peter Nielsen |
|Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines (and other niche mags), Michael Robertson |
Again, hard to sing the praises of a book I wrote, but I love this little volume and I think it will be of great use to anyone wanting to sell their writing to the boating magazines--or any special interest magazine. Again, check out the editorial and reader reviews on Amazon and decide whether it's for you.
|Reef Fish Identification: Tropical Pacific, Gerald Allen, Roger Steene, Paul Humann, Ned DeLoach |
My friend Behan Gifford on Totem turned us on to this book. It is the ONE. Forget all other fish ID books. The photos are great, the organization is intuitive, and the information is comprehensive and well-organized. If you cruise the Tropics, you'll be in the water a lot and once you start identifying what you're seeing, you'll be hooked. Following Totem's lead, the Del Viento copy is marked up with highlighting and notes indicating what we've seen and where.
|Reef Creature Identification: Tropical Pacific, Paul Humann, Ned DeLoach |
See the description above. If you plan to snorkel or dive while you cruise the Tropical Pacific, you will want this book too. They look the same, but this one covers the non-fish critters you'll see.
|Guide to Marine Mammals of the World, |
Do you have any idea how many different types of dolphin there are? Do you realize you will see many different types? Rather then just retreat to the cockpit thinking, "They looked different than Flipper," have this book aboard so you can identify what you see. There are lots of similar books; we like this one a lot.
The Water in Between: A Journey at Sea, Kevin Patterson
Want to read a really good memoir? Interested in the South Pacific? This book contains so many passages with keen insights that most of my well-worn copy is highlighted and the pages are dog-eared. Patterson is a writer of the highest caliber and this is his best.
Into the Light: A family's epic journey, Dave and Jaja Martin
Passage to Juneau: A sea and its meanings, Jonathan Raban
Even if you never get up to the Pacific Northwest or take any interest in the Salish Sea and the Inside Passage and all the wonder and splendor to be found up there, read this book. Raban needs no introduction. He is a travel writer who has on his mantle just about every writing award worth winning. His prose is not just beautiful, but paints images and characterizations you cannot turn away from. This is a modern classic.
South from Alaska: Sailing to Australia with a Baby for Crew, Mike Litzow
All In the Same Boat, Tom Neale
The Cruising Life: A Commonsense Guide for the Would-Be Voyager, Jim Trefethen
The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst, Nicholas Tomalin/Ron Hall
This is one hell of a book describing one hell of a riveting story. If you do not already know it, I envy you, because you still get to experience it for the first time. Take a look too at the movie I profile below, Deep Water, same story.
Dove, Robin Lee Graham
Blown Away, Herb Payson
In the annals of cruising literature, there are many who are serious and sacrosanct about life under sail, there are few who get the lighter side and relate it so well. The late Herb Payson is a master storyteller. This book, written about a voyage from decades ago, is timeless, reading like a trip completed last year. He was a nightclub piano player, she was a cocktail waitress, they both drank too much, they had 4 kids, they had no money, they went cruising on a tiny boat. It's so good.
Chasing the Horizon, Fatty Goodlander
North to the Night: A Spiritual Odyssey in the Arctic, Alvah Simon
Adrift, Steven Callahan
Fastnet, Force 10, John Rousmannerie
Fatal Storm: The 54th Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, Rob Mundle
The 1998 Sydney-Hobart race was one of the great sailing tragedies, probably second to the 1979 Fastnet race. Besides how well-told this account is (and it's riveting because you feel like you are aboard some of the boats that struggle the most), it's fascinating because all the participants of this race are well-schooled in the details and lessons of the infamous Fastnet race. So the decisions that were made were influenced by that knowledge. Unfortunately, many still perished. Even if you're not into racing (I'm not), this is a great read.
Sailing Grace, John Otterbacher
I saw Otterbacher speak at the Annapolis boat show the year this memoir was published. He's a great speaker, but an even more impressive writer. Surprisingly, there is little sailing in this book, yet it is all about cruising, about the will to go cruising, about a will that probably saved the author's life. He was a year or so away from selling up and casting off with his family when heart disease overcame him. He was a non-smoking jogger with really bad genes. His tale of what he endured is harrowing and the resilience he displayed is inspiring. This is one of those page turners that keeps you up all night long.
Culture Books for Cruisers
The People’s Guide to Mexico, Carl Franz
Mañana Forever?: Mexico and the Mexicans, Jorge Casteñeda
I've spent quite a bit of time in Mexico since the early 1980s--weeks, months, and years at a time. I love the country and the more I get to know it, the more Spanish I learn, the more I'm confounded. If you want to get a deeper, academic insight into Mexican culture, this book is a good place to start. Casteñeda was a foreign minister under the Fox administration and he studied at an Ivy League school in the U.S.