Every ocean sailor's favorite book, and #1 on my list!
At the Mercy of the Sea, John Kretschmer
The book that my dad was almost in - only a day behind the ill-fated Carl Wake, the main character of this here story, my dad was on another deliver that nearly sent them into Hurricane Lenny. It didn't but the storm didn't spare Carl, John's friend, and this is the true story. A very sad one at that.
Wind, Sand & Stars, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
From the guy who wrote the 'Little Prince.' He was a mail pilot in the early days of airplanes, flying the mail route over the Sahara. This book directly relates to sailing in the philosophies behind it, and a beautiful read.
Alone Through the Roaring Forties, Vito Dumas
Influenced Moitessier, and one of the great voyages in small boat sailing history. Dumas was known for always keeping some sail up, no matter the weather!
Sailing a Serious Ocean, John Kretschmer
John sailed around Cape Horn literally the day I was born - January 25, 1984 - and he's recently been a mentor of mine. All of his books are on this list, but this is a good technical one mixed with storytelling like only he can, to get you started.
Shadow Divers, Robert Kurson
The true-life tale of two competing dive clubs on the coast of New Jersey that discovered a previously unidentified German U-Boat wreck, and the subsequent quest to be the first to identify it. Even if you're not a diver - but especially if you are - it's a great read.
Two on a Big Ocean, Hal Roth
If we ever take Isbjorn to the Pacific, this will be the route we re-trace! Great storytelling on a boat very similar to Arcturus.
Cape Horn: The Logical Route, Bernard Moitessier
Another Moitessier classic! This one famously describes his storm tactics, later dubbed in 'Heavy Weather Sailing' the 'Moitessier Method', though he actually borrowed the technique from Vito Dumas', another on our books list!
Ice Bird, David Lewis
David Lewis is one of the unsung single-handers of the 1960s and 1970s - unless of course you've heard of him! This is a survival story as much as it is a sailing story, chronicling his circumnavigation of Antarctica. David Lewis previously had a ketch called 'Isbjorn', a big part of the inspiration for our own Isbjorn.
The Quotable Sailor, Christopher Caswell
Recommended by reader David C.: "On Sailing. On the Sea. On Sailors. On Boats. On Weather. On Engines. On Racing. On Philosophy."
Wanderer, Sterling Hayden
"Any long voyage should start on a foundation of financial unrest." Well said, sir. If this doesn't inspire you to go, and go now, nothing will.
Cape Horn to Starboard, John Kretschmer
John rounded the Horn on January 25, 1984, literally the day I was born, on the classic Contessa 32 'Gigi.' This is his incredible account of that voyage, and the book that introduced me to him in the first place. John would later teach me celestial and has become a mentor to me in my sailing career.
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Eric Newby
Eric Newby wrote 'The Great Grain Race,' and spent time on tall ships. But he was also known as one of the UK's best travel writers in his day, and this is one of those books. If you like adventure, check it out.
1Q84, Haruki Murakami
I was never into fiction until I was introduced to the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. Orwell's '1984' is my all-time favorite fiction book, and this title caught my eye for it's reference. It's impossible to explain - Murakami is a master at the surreal - but it's a fantastic work of art suitable for any long night watches! It'll draw you right in and introduce you to another world...
Close to the Wind, Pete Goss
Pete Goss sailed 100 miles upwind in hurricane force to rescue a fellow Vendee Globe racer. This is the story.
Deep, James Nestor
The book that got me into freediving, and a fascinating look at the ocean. Tangentially related to sailing, but one that all sailors should read.
The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst
The craziest story from the fabled Golden Globe Race of 1968, and probably the saddest. Crowhurst build the 'Teignmouth Electron' trimaran for the race, and never made it out of the Atlantic...the boat today is washed ashore somewhere in the Virgin Islands.
'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' begins my all-time favorite fiction series. The Swedish cultural references are what is so cool to me, and they are super accurate! I've read this or listened to it on audiobook over half a dozen times, most on long offshore passages...
The Finely Fitted Yacht, Ferenc Mate
An awesome technical book for ideas to fiddle with the boat, but also a great rainy-day read, as Mate is hilarious in his descriptions! One that permanently occupies bookshelf space on our boat.
The Rigger's Apprentice, Brion Toss
This is another that occupies permanent space onboard. Brion Toss, master rigger (and podcast guest!), put together this two-parter on rig design and practical rigging solutions. Need to learn a splice? It's probably in here. We re-designed Arcturus' rig based on ideas from this book. A must-have for any sailor.
The Sailmaker's Apprentice
Yet another in the permanent onboard library. A traditional manual on all-things sails, from design and construction to proper repairs. Fascinating read!
Celestial Navigation in a Nutshell, Hewitt Schlereth
The book I learned celestial from in one of John Kretschmer's workshops, and the book I now teach my own workshops from! The easiest way to learn celestial, bar none, and a great reference to keep onboard the boat.
The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, John Rousmaniere
John Rousmaniere is a legend in the sailing world (and another podcast guest!), and his book, in it's 4th edition, is one I recommend most to new sailors and old hands looking to improve their technical skills.
The Travel Book, Lonely Planet
My favorite coffee table book (too big to keep on the boat!), and a Christmas present from Mia a few years back. Every country in the world has a full two-page spread with awesome little tidbits of information and beautiful photographs.
Kon Tiki, Thor Heyerdahl
The classic adventure story of Thor and his crazy Norwegian friends who set out from South America on a balsa wood raft to prove that the South Pacific could have been populated by South American's. The museum in Oslo is equally fascinating!
Endurance, FA Worsley
From Outside Magazine: "By now, most people know this story down to the last dog and cat, but the immediacy of Worsley's account revitalizes it. If you don't feel his sorrow in losing his ship to the ice pack, share his delirium glissading down to the South Georgia whaling station that would be their salvation (a scene to which Shackleton, ever careful not to seem whimsical, gives only a cursory line in South), or tear up when the two men return to their friends on Elephant Island 128 days after they set out, you don't love adventure."
Alone, Admiral Richard Byrd
The incredible log of Admiral Richard Byrd who spent a long, dark winter alone in Antarctica, basically just to see if he could do it!
North to the Night, Alvah Simon
Alvah Simon heads north in his iconic boat, the 'Roger Henry,' and gets frozen in for a long winter of spiritual inspiration. He nearly dies when his diesel heater basically suffocates him with carbon monoxide. One of several books that has me drawn to the Arctic...
Brave or Stupid
Recommended by the author himself, Yanne Larsson, but also on my own list! The fantastic and hilarious tale of two Swedes - Yanne and Carl - who set out to circumnavigate the globe on a handshake agreement with zero previous sailing experience. There will be more to come from me on this title, so stay tuned...
MIa's first pick for the website, recommended by the voice of the podcast, Anna Vinnars! "A powerful, tender story of race and identity by the award-winning author of 'Half of a Yellow Sun'."
Longitude, Dava Sobel
The incredible story of of when whole countries fought for the high seas, and finding accurate time - the ingredient needed to get longitude with celestial navigation - was the scientific challenge of the day.
Nautical Almanac, Commercial Edition
The publication I use for celestial navigation. Buy from mdnautical.com, an awesome little commercial shipping store in the port of Baltimore and very worth a visit. Obviously buy the correct year!
Sight Reduction Tables for Air Navigation (HO 249)
You'll need all three volumes, but these are the easiest and fastest way to reduce celestial sights, and what is referenced in the 'Nutshell' book featured on this page. You can download these free from the government here, but they're much easier to use in paperback format.
Down and Out in Paris & London
Recommended by my very good friend Clint Wells. Orwell's true story of being penniless on the streets. He's the best.
1984, George Orwell
Until I discovered Murakami, this was my all-time favorite novel. It's still top 2. Nobody writes quite like Orwell, and what a freaking cool story.
There Be No Dragons
"Reese Palley, who passed away last year, wrote this great read about sailing experiences and overcoming fears. Great insights and well written." -Don P.
Trekka Round the World
Recommended by Sven Finnis: "Author John Guzzwell sailing a home built 20ft boat around the world. Great book and shows that anyone can sail around the world if they really want to."
Modern Marine Weather
Recommended by Gary Finn: "The definitive guide to understanding weather. Not only does it cover theory and basics, it delves into the latest weather forecasting technologies relevant to sailors everywhere. A must for planning cruises and passage making."
A Voyage for Madmen, Peter Nichols
As recommended by Rory Finneran: "A riveting account of the 1968 Golden Globe race."
Shackleton's Forgotten Men, Lennard Bickel
Recommended by Jim Burns: "They were stranded on the other side of Antarctica with the goal of establishing depots for Shackleton's trip. Once their ship disappeared from the anchorage, how would they survive the coming winter? Would they consume Shackleton's supplies or establish the depots?"
Woman Alone: Sailing Solo Across the Atlantic, by Clare Francis
Recommended by Bruce McClellan: "Clare Francis is an interesting woman. She was trained as a ballet dancer and economist, but took to sailing and crossed the Atlantic solo in 1973. She then embarked on an ocean racing career which led to being the first woman to skipper a boat in the Whitbread Race (1977-78), finishing in fifth place in her Swan 65 ADC 'Accutrac'."
The Way of a Ship, by Alan Villiers
Recommended by Bruce McClellan: "A very detailed book about commercial square-rigged ships. Includes information on topics ranging from design, rigging, life on board, commercial considerations, record passages, record daily runs, and much, much more."
Godforsaken Sea, by Derek Lundy
Thanks to Lance Garms for reminding me of this one! "Godforsaken Sea is the hair-raising account of the world's most demanding, dangerous, and deadly sailing race. Around the world, one sailor, one boat, no stops, no assistance. Author Derek Lundy's vivid book follows the field of the 1996 - 1997 Vendee Globe through the race's grueling four-month circumnavigation of the globe, most of it through the terror of the Southern Ocean."
The Peking Battles Cape Horn, by Irving Johnson
Recommended by Bruce McClellan: "Account of life aboard one of the last full rigged commercial ships."
Vinland Voyage, by JR Anderson
Our friend Micah gave this to us before the trans-Atlantic on 'Arcturus.' I read it on the way across. It's a story of some guys in a wooden boat who re-traced the Vikings voyage westabout across the Atlantic. Vinland was rumored to be Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, or even New England. Equal parts history book and really cool voyaging tale. -Andy
All Sail Set, by Armstrong Sperry
Recommended by Bruce McLellan: "A "gripping and authentic" story of a race around Cape Horn aboard the clipper Flying Cloud."
Gypsy Moth Circles to World, by Sir Francis Chichester
This one was recommended by Bruce M., but I'm also including it in my list, as it's an all-time classic that I had forgotten about! The first real attempt to solo circumnavigate, with one stop in Australia. Set off a lot of future solo voyages.
Boat Owner's Mechanical & Electrical Manual, by Nigel Calder
Thanks to Nelson Pidgeon for reminding me that this should be on everyone's boat! I think I have three copies - one on the boat, one in Sweden and one in Annapolis!
African Ocean Blues, by Carlo Auriemma & Elisabetta Eordegh
Recommended by Hugh Miller: "Awesome and inspiring sailing adventure into a an area where few cruisers have been. This couple have also circumnavigated, equally good book called 'Under the Endless Sky.'"
Seaworthy, TR Pearson
Pearson covers William Willis' exploits during the golden age of rafting. It is quick read and inspiring example of the human spirit and ingenuity.
Recommended by Scott Shipman
Looking for a Ship
I just discovered this one after reading about Andy Chase, whose writing I love. This is a wonderful account of what it’s like working in the American Merchant Marine onboard ships! -Andy