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Sailing Books

This page lists those sailing related books which I have aboard Zanshin; I have an even longer list of paperbacks (mostly old science fiction and action/suspense/thriller novels). I have always been a book person and have never been able to part with any books, even the worst pulp paperback novel stays in my shelves.
While I have a big boat with lots of storage space, I really should take some of the books from the following list ashore and not carry them aboard, but for the time being this is my onboard library:

Picture Author Title Description
Admiralty Maritime Communications (Caribbean including Florida) Government Publication Admiralty Maritime Communications (Caribbean including Florida) This Admiralty publication is a reference book that has been discontinued without replacement since 2009, but I'll still keep my old copy aboard.
The American Practical Navigator Originally Nathaniel Bowditch, LL.D. The American Practical Navigator (2002 Bicentennial edition) The revamped classical navigation book. I've got this as a 41Mb large PDF as a backup copy on this website, it can be downloaded here
The Annapolis Book of Sailing John Rousmaniere The Annapolis Book of Sailing (3rd edition) The American sailing book by which all others are measured. An excellent reference book which every boat should have aboard.
The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual Ward Silver The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual The American textbook covering the subject knowledge areas for the US HAM license test.
(ASA) Basic Keelboat ASA (ASA 101) Basic Keelboat The accompanying ASA textbook for the 101 Basic Keelboat course and certificate.
(ASA) Basic Coastal ASA (ASA 103 ) Basic Coastal Cruising The accompanying ASA textbook for the 103 Basic Coastal Cruising course and certificate.
(ASA) Bareboat Cruising ASA (ASA 104) Bareboat Cruising The accompanying ASA textbook for the 104 Bareboat Cruising course and certificate.
Astro Navigation made Easy François Meyrier Astro Navigation made Easy This does as good a job as is possible to make the complex subject of Astronavigation easy.
No Photo available Alan Watts Basic windcraft: Using the wind for sailing A good starter book on wind and weather.
Blauwassersegeln Bobby Schenk Blauwassersegeln (German) Bobby Schenk is the most well-known and respected German author on blue water sailing and the book goes into detail on all aspects of blue water sailing and world cruising, starting with the appropriate ship and gear selection and finishing with tactics and routing.
Blauwassersegeln Heute Rüdiger Hirche & Gaby Kinsberger Blauwassersegeln Heute (German) The book is filled with anecdotal stories and pictures from these well-known German travelers and lecturers.
Blue Water Sailing Manual: A Handbook for Extended Cruising and Sailing in Extreme Conditions Barry Pickthall Blue Water Sailing Manual: A Handbook for Extended Cruising and Sailing in Extreme Conditions While the title might sound long/winded, the book certainly isn't and I can recommend it for both style and content.
No Photo of Blue Water Racing Cornelis Van Rietschoten & Barry Pickthall Blue Water Racing Written by a 2-time winner of the Round the World races it is a rather dated book first published in 1985 and uses the 1978 Whitbread race as the basis for describing factors in racing. While I'll never race sailboats it does go into detail about crew, material, weather and other issues at sea and the points to consider are also valid for a cruiser and remain as valid today as they were 25 years ago.
Boatowner's Practical and Technical Cruising Manual: The Complete Handbook for Coastal and Offshore Sailors Nigel Calder Boat owner's Practical and Technical Cruising Manual: The Complete Handbook for Coastal and Offshore Sailors Another of Nigel Calder's books which is enjoyable and informative reading.
The Care and Repair of Sails Jeremy Howard-Williams The Care and Repair of Sails While the book is older and doesn't cover very modern sails, it is an excellent reference work for anyone looking into maintaining and repair sails and canvas aboard a sailboat.
The Complete Day Skipper (2nd Edition) Tom Cunliffe The Complete Day Skipper (2nd Edition) This is the standard textbook for the RYA “Day Skipper” qualification
The Complete Rigger's Apprentice Brion Toss The Complete Rigger's Apprentice I purchased this book while I was thinking about replacing my wire standing rigging with modern materials and thought it might help me. It turns out that this book has become one of my favorite technical sailing books. Not only does he cover a wide range of topics related to rigging but his writing style makes the book easy and fun to read. This book should be read by anyone with interest in lines of any type.
Complete Sailing Manual Jeff Toghill Complete Sailing Manual I have to admit that I can't recall the details on this book, and as of this writing I'm far away from the boat library and can't refresh my impressions. I'll do that when I'm back aboard.
The Complete Sailor: Learning the Art of Sailing David Seidman The Complete Sailor: Learning the Art of Sailing I purchased this book off Amazon and was a bit disappointed with the contents. This is not because the book is badly written or incomplete, but it fits into the 'beginner' category and I would d rank it high in that category. It covers all of the major aspects of sailing but due to the breadth of material the details and depth of explanation is limited. A great starting book for sailors, but nothing to keep onboard.
The Complete Yachtmaster: Sailing, Seamanship and Navigation for the Modern Yacht Skipper Tom Cunliffe The Complete Yachtmaster: Sailing, Seamanship and Navigation for the Modern Yacht Skipper (6th edition) This is an excellent manual covering the subject areas for the RYA Yachtmaster examination. It is an excellent reference book for all topics and well-written and easy to understand. This is one book that I frequently refer to and should be aboard any boat.
Cruising - A Skipper's Guide John Mellor Cruising - A Skipper's Guide A thin and concise paperback written for the skipper of a boat with small crew. While not covering subjects in great detail, the author does touch upon the significant factors and does a good job of explaining expectations. Not necessarily a reference work, it is worthwhile reading nonetheless.
Day Skipper Pat Langley-Price & Philip Ouvry Day Skipper : including pilotage and navigation I enjoyed reading this book and, while it is geared to the RYA Day Skipper requirements, it is an educational and worthwhile book.
Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts John Rousmaniere, editor Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts A wonderfully instructive book with articles written by experts on what to look for (and look out for) in yachts intended to go offshore.
Diesel Troubleshooter Don Seddon Diesel Troubleshooter (2nd Edition) This is a valuable addition to the ship library as it goes into nitty-gritty detail on the diesel engine without requiring that one is a dyed-in-the-wool gearhead.
Elements of Yacht Design Norman L. Skene Elements of Yachts Design This is one of the classic books of Yachts design was originally published in 1938; while the book is a new issue with an introduction, the text is the original. Materials and processes for yacht making have changed so much since the book was written that much of the technical information is no longer applicable. Nonetheless the elements of style and use of mathematics for designing many of the parts of boats remain valid today. I enjoyed reading it but found that the information contained in Principles of Yacht Design was much more useful and interesting.
Essential Sailing Destinations: The world's most spectacular cruising areas Adrian Morgan (editor) Essential Sailing Destinations: The world's most spectacular cruising areas A colorful volume ideal for reading at home during cold and rainy winter nights.
Fifty Places to SAIL before you die Chris Santella Fifty Places to SAIL before you die A fun book to read while planning on where to cruise, detailing a number of out-of-the-way destinations which one is unlikely to visit but can always dream about.
The Handbook of Sailing second edition Bob Bond The Handbook of Sailing (2nd Edition) This is another reference book which I find myself constantly using. It covers just about everything in sufficient scope and detail to remain a valuable addition to any shipboard library.
Handling Storms at Sea Hal Roth Handling Storms at Sea (the 5 secrets of heavy weather sailing) An excellent book describing the progression of steps one can take as the weather at sea gets progressively worse. Full of more reference material than opinions it makes fine reading and is very thought-provoking and a book that I would recommend others to read.
Heavy Weather Cruising Tom Cunliffe Heavy Weather Cruising Tom Cunliffe is one of the United Kingdom's most respected and prolific writers. This paperback volume is a great reference work when it comes to thinking about heavy weather sailing and setting the boat up. Tom has many years experience in sailing and this is reflected in the no-nonsense writing in this book, but many of the approaches detailed are limited to the more classic yacht (heavier with full keel) than what I am sailing and thus cannot be used. But apart from those aspects I can recommend this book as a concise and succinct one on storms afloat.
Heavy Weather Sailing Peter Bruce Adlard Coles' Heavy Weather Sailing (6th edition) Adlard Coles (OBE, died 1985) wrote 3 editions of this classic tome and there is not a doubt in my mind that the 6th edition will not be the last. While this book might be somewhat overkill for the dinghy boater, I feel that no sailor should venture far from the docks without having read this book; it is the best book that I've seen on this subject bar none.
How to Sail Around the World: Advice and Ideas for Voyaging Under Sail Hal Roth How to Sail Around the World: Advice and Ideas for Voyaging Under Sail Another worthwhile book where I tended to form different conclusions than the author but only when it comes to matters of taste and preference - his experience is vast and the facts are well presented and overall this is a book which can be re-read several times and where one gleans a bit more knowledge on each pass.
Knots in Use Colin Jarman Knots in Use I have a lot trouble learning and remembering knots, so I have several books on the subject and take a bit from each. This is a small book but with excellent illustrations.
Knoten und Spleissen: Eine audiovisuelle Anleitung Egmont M. Friedl Knoten und Spleißen: Eine audiovisuelle Anleitung (German) At the 2010 Düsseldorf BOOT convention I saw his demonstrate some splicing techniques and decided to purchase this book, both for the methods and the included DVD videos illustrating the various knots, whipping and splicing methods. His videos are excellent and easy to follow.
RYA Knots, Splices and Ropework Handbook Gordon Perry RYA Knots, Splices and Ropework Handbook This is an excellent book for daily use - what more can I say than that I need to buy another copy as I've broken the old one's spine through too frequent use.
The modern Cruising Sailboat Charles J. Doane The modern Cruising Sailboat This big hardcover written in 2010 is a comprehensive guide to modern cruising sailboats, both monohulls and catamarans. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and pretty much devoured in just a couple of sessions; with the exception of the gallery of 40 recommended boats which, as the author predicted might happen, I didn't agree with. This is a book that I can recommend anyone either thinking of cruising or planning on purchasing a boat (either for the first time or upgrading to a new one).
The Nautical Almanac UKHO and US Naval Observatory The Nautical Almanac (2010) Not much for casual reading, but without equal when it comes to the charts and tables used in navigation.
The New Complete Sailing Manual Steve Sleight The New Complete Sailing Manual This is an excellent reference book which, while accessible to novices, covers sailing everything from dinghies to ocean cruisers. This is one of the books that I'll grab out of the shelf first when I have to look something up. I even bought the German translation and enjoyed reading through that, at least until I realized that I had a duplicate book.
Ocean Sailing Tom Cunliffe Ocean Sailing This small paperback is written expressly for those intending on sailing out of sight of land. The majority of the book is filled with information on navigation using classical means on ocean passages, but also touches upon weather and passage planning. I don't quite feel ready to correctly learn how to use my sextant, but when I do I know that I'll be delving into this book again.
Offshore Sailing William Seifert & Daniel Spurr Offshore Sailing An excellent book full of tips that may or may not apply to a given boat but are excellent pointers about things to look into when selecting and outfitting a boat for offshore passage making.
Optimize your Cruising Sailboat John Roberts Optimize your Cruising Sailboat This paperback book was a bit of a disappointment as it covered, on the whole, mainly cosmetic modifications that can be made to production boats and didn't yield much material for thought. The only thing that I thought about after going through the book was putting in an overhead cabinet in the galley in the space over the sink - which, if I end up making such a cabinet will have made the book worthwhile.
The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea I.C.B. Dear (ed.), Peter Kemp (ed.) The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea The only book in my library which I haven't yet cracked open, but it was on board when I got the boat and enjoys the reputation of being a fine reference book.
Pass your Yachtmaster David Fairhall & Mike Peyton Pass your Yachtmaster More of an examination question list with answers than a study guide.
Principles of Yacht Design Lars Larsson & Rolf E. Eliasson Principles of Yacht Design (3rd edition) This is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, my yacht hardware reference tome of choice. The authors present a logical and clear route along the complex paths of yacht design in a manner that both lay people and experts can follow and use. The book is filled to the brim with formulæ but even for those mathematically challenged the textual and graphical illustrations suffice to make each and every aspect of designing a yacht understandable.
Propeller Handbook Dave Gerr Propeller Handbook An excellent reference book as well as textbook for learning what makes the boat go forward when the engine is turned on.
RCC Pilotage Foundation The Atlantic Crossing Anne Hammick & Gavin McLaren RCC Pilotage Foundation The Atlantic Crossing I haven't read this one yet.
Rough Weather Seamanship for Sail and Power: design, gear, and tactics for coastal and offshore waters Roger Marshall Rough Weather Seamanship for Sail and Power: design, gear, and tactics for coastal and offshore waters A comprehensive book covering all aspects of heavy-weather including crew and equipment. I liked the references and citations and the content is very thought-provoking and modern.
RYA Book of Buying your first sailing cruiser Malcolm McKeag RYA Book of Buying your first sailing cruiser The book is geared toward the first-time boat buyer and is a worthwhile read for that purpose.
RYA Book of Caribbean Cruising Jane Gibb RYA Book of Caribbean Cruising While it is very difficult to match the Pavlidis guides, this does add a British view to the cruising the islands that is markedly different from the American one.
RYA Diesel Engine Handbook Andrew Simpson RYA Diesel Engine Handbook Some of the engine parts described have not been installed in years, but the book is a great introduction to the ins- and outs- of marine diesels.
RYA Navigation Handbook Tim Bartlett RYA Navigation Handbook A short guide covering navigation ranging from cartography to GPS via celestial navigation.
RYA Weather Handbook, 2nd ed., northern hemisphere Chris Tibbs RYA Weather Handbook, 2nd ed., northern hemisphere As with other RYA publications the contents are clearly presented in a style that includes numerous diagrams and language that, while concise, are legible and useful to a broad audience ranging from neophyte lake sailors to experienced blue water ones. This is an excellent addition to a shipboard library insofar as it has a small paperback footprint.
Tim Bartlett RYA VHF Handbook A short guide to the information and knowledge necessary to pass the international SRC (Short Range Certificate) examination and worth keeping on board for reference into correct radiotelephony procedures and DSC use.
Sail Trim: Theory and Practice Peter Hahne Sail Trim: Theory and Practice I purchased this book on the spur of the moment from Amazon while ordering other books and it turns out that this little paperback is a true gem and, in my opinion, the best book by far when it comes to explaining practical use and setting of sails along with excellent descriptions of the aerodynamic forces. I found the writing style somewhat terse and styled until I checked the book information and found out that I was reading an English translation from German and suddenly all was clear.
Sailing for Dummies second edition J. J. Isler & Peter Isler Sailing for Dummies (2nd Edition) I was given this book by a friend and shied away from reading it as if it contained a communicable disease that I'd contract if I so much as cracked the cover. But one night I opened up a Carib beer and the book and found that, contrary to my expectations, it was well-written and really did touch upon most subjects. While it is not necessarily a reference book it is worthwhile to get a broad idea of many subjects and terms in sailing.
Sailing Fundamentals Gary Jobson Sailing Fundamentals The initial ASA book from which I learned. A good start and, even after absorbing the contents of more details books, it still manages to be interesting reading.
sails for cruising - Trim to Perfection Mark Chisnell sails for cruising - Trim to Perfection A well-written paperback book sponsored in part by Hyde Sails (they don't advertise in the book or push their sails). I like the different types of analogies they use and the book does a very good job at explaining the dynamics of sail use and contains numerous pictures that help illustrate the different settings and things to look for.
The seaworthy offshore sailboat John Vigor The seaworthy offshore sailboat This is one of the few books which I still keep and re-read despite disagreeing as often as not with the conclusions of the author.
Short-handed Sailing Alastair Buchan Short-handed Sailing A great paperwork well worth re-reading. While the author is mercifully short on personal opinions on specific methods, he goes the distance in listing the various aspects of shorthanded and single hand sailing that are markedly different from sailing with a full crew. The only chapter not worth re-reading is that on berthing - not because of any problems with the chapter but because the techniques remain the same regardless of the number of people aboard the boat. I can heartily recommend this book even for those who sail with a full crew.
Simple Boat Maintenance) Pat Manley Simple Boat Maintenance - DIY for boats and motorboats The illustrations make some of the standard but seemingly complex tasks of maintenance easy to visualize and perform.
Singlehanded Sailing (2nd edition) Richard Henderson Singlehanded Sailing (2nd edition) I enjoyed reading this book and took a lot of information from the contents, although the book was first published in 1992 and much of the technical content is outdated and many modern innovations are not included. Nonetheless I would recommend this to any singlehanded or short-handed sailors.
Sportküstenschifferschein + Sportbootführerschein Axel Bark (German)Sportküstenschifferschein + Sportbootführerschein This is the German textbook for the SSS license, which is the German equivalent of a RYA yachtmaster. Oddly enough, the Germans only have a basic license that is required for pretty much any ship, but after that relatively simple license (which requires almost no practical skills, just a lot of memorization) there is nothing else unless one wishes to become a commercial captain. As with all German textbooks that I've had the misfortune to work with in the past the material, while well-presented, is about as dry as it can be made. Nonetheless this book is chock-full of important information and makes a great reference work.
The 12-Volt Bible for Boats — 2nd Edition Miner Brotherton & Edwin Sherman The 12-Volt Bible for Boats (2nd Edition) This is an excellent guide to 12 volt systems commonly found on boats and is highly recommended.
The Voyager's Handbook: The Essential Guide to Blue Water Cruising Beth A. Leonard The Voyager's Handbook: The Essential Guide to Blue Water Cruising While not a classical reference book, it goes into detail of the human factors of cruising and is a worthwhile read.
Weather at Sea sixth edition David Houghton Weather at Sea (6th Edition) I find the weather to be a fascinating but very complex subject and this book does an excellent job of describing how the weather patterns emerge and how they affect route planning and passage making tactics.
Where there is no Doctor David Werner Where There Is No Doctor, a village health care handbook Perhaps the best book on health care for those times when one is far away from medical care. This is published both in paper form and as a downloadable PDF by the Hesperian Foundation (along with many other fine books), the 8.5Mb large PDF file can be deluded from Hesperian Download or I have a local copy.
World Cruising Essentials Jimmy Cornell World Cruising Routes (6th edition) This book goes through the major (and minor) aspects of going off and cruising and is a great read.
World Cruising Routes (sixth edition) Jimmy Cornell World Cruising Routes (6th edition) Not without reason has this book (first published in 1987) been in print since the first edition. No boat and no sailing dreamer's bookshelf should be without this book, which is nonpareil. I have two copies, one on the boat and one in my bookshelf. I constantly look at the routes and times and play mind games as to when I could sail to which destination; doing a traveling salesman type of plan for those places that I would like to visit.