• UPDATED INFORMATION & ADVICE - PLEASE READ NOW

    'I didn't know/I wasn't told' will not be a valid defence if you fail to comply and lose your access to the off-topic area, core topic areas, or the entire YBW forum as a result. Full details can be found here, please read before you proceed.

My ten favourite sailing books!

bikedaft

Well-known member
Joined
16 Dec 2008
Messages
3,312
Location
tayvallich
Good list.

But where is Tilman? :)

South sea vagabonds is one of the best sailing books i have read, tho most of the fun/best writing seemed to be in the building of the boat rather than the sailing.

Last grain race

Ice bird

Voyage of the challenger

Working on the edge, spike walker

Silver darlings, neil gunn

You can argue about tristan jones, but a good read.

Sailing to freedom, verdam and wall

Ice bears and kotick

Blue latitudes, horowitz

Two years before the mast

Teatime islands, fogle

Oops, more than 10, sorry
 

Sidedrum

Member
Joined
14 May 2011
Messages
121
Location
Boat - North West Scotland. Me - coastless West Y
Your website labels these novels, which none of them are. Really nice selection of non-fiction though.

My favourite on your list is Miles Smeeton's 'Once is Enough', which I read for the first time one wild night in the Outer Hebrides, waiting for the anchor to drag - which it did, but kindly not until 10 the next morning. By then I knew that whatever happened to me in an insufficiently secure anchorage on Harris in a storm 10 was going to be nothing to worry about compared to pitchpoling in the Southern Ocean in a hurricane. I've also read Smeeton's sequel, 'Because the Horn is There', and I recently found but haven't yet read 'The Sea Was Our Village', an account of how he and Beryl first bought Tzu Hang, the yacht of the other two books. I'm saving it for an anchor watch ....

I'd add to your list:
in a similar vein to the Smeetons, 20 years on, Hal Roth's 'Two Against the Horn' (the Roths come across as very much in the same ilk as the Smeetons);
Miles Clark's excellent biography of the Smeetons, 'High Endeavours';
and because sailing is not normally, and so should not always be portrayed as, high adrenalin stuff, Arthur Ransome's 'Racundra's First Cruise'.

Which leads nicely to the start of a fiction list: all 12 of Ransome's children's books.Then to get the adrenalin pumping, move on to Hammond Innes. I've just started his 'Blue Ice', which features attempted murder by "accidental" jibe.
 

youngkath

New member
Joined
12 Jun 2018
Messages
15
Good list! I would agree with most of them. I would definitely add ‘Voyage for Madmen’, which includes a number of the sailors in your list. I would also include Dame Naomi James and her account of sailing solo around the world (via Cape Horn). She was a hairdresser my trade, had never sailed before, which makes her story pretty special I think. Thanks for the list though, a couple on there I haven’t read so will order for sure!

Kath
s/v Caladh
www.thesailingnomads.com
 

Old Bumbulum

Well-known member
Joined
11 May 2018
Messages
1,113
Poetry;

Other Men's Flowers, a compendium of his favourites, most of which he knew by heart - by Gen. Sir Archie Wavell.

If only one item comes into the liferaft with me after the grab-bag it'll be this.
 

mattonthesea

Active member
Joined
28 Nov 2009
Messages
824
Location
Bristol
I'm feeling, rightfully, relegated to the backpage. I'm not in anyone's list :(

I have just recovered the Arthur Ransome stories (what set me off in sailing) - currently on Swallowdale. I didn't realise how well they were written when I read them as a seven year old
 

doug748

Well-known member
Joined
1 Oct 2002
Messages
10,964
Location
UK. South West.
Here are a few of my faves:

Isabel and the Sea - George Millar. From UK to Greece, post war.

Messing about in Boats - John Muir. Memories of sailing from the early years of 20th c.

Mischief in Patagonia - H W Tilman. Or anything else by the great man really.

The Unlikely Voyage of Jack De Crow - A J Mackinnon. From Wales to the Black Sea in a Mirror Dinghy.

Gotty and the Guv'nor - A E Copping. Sailing in the early years, out of Essex.
 

bikedaft

Well-known member
Joined
16 Dec 2008
Messages
3,312
Location
tayvallich
Sailing the Dream: McGrady
500 Days; Serge Testa
My Old Man and the Sea: Hays & Hays
Sailing Promise: Alayne Main
The First Voyage of the Joshua: Moitessier
Sailing to the Reefs: Moitessier
Three Years in a 12-Foot Boat: Stephen Ladd
Maiden Voyage: Tania Aebi
Alone Against the Atlantic: Gerry Spiess
Tinkerbelle: Robert Manry
Cruising as a Way of Life: Tom Colvin
Sea Gypsy: Tangvald
Gipsy Moth Circles the World: Chichester
Some good books there, thanks
 

LittleSister

Well-known member
Joined
12 Nov 2007
Messages
13,439
Location
Me Norwich - Boat Orwell & Southwold
I read it an awful long time ago, and before I had much sailing experience, but at that time I found Chichester a real bore. My recollection of it is just a sequence of 'wind got up, reduced sail; wind down, increased sail; self steering broke, fixed it, wind got up. . .' I did find his 'round the world' (?) flying book interesting, though.
 

Kukri

Well-known member
Joined
23 Jul 2008
Messages
14,537
Location
East coast UK. Mostly. Sometimes the Philippines
1. “We didn’t mean to go to sea”, if I am not allowed all the Ransomes as one book!
2. “Down Channel” - RT McMullen. Yacht cruising starts here!
3. “Yacht Cruising” - Claud Worth.
4. “Sailing Seamanship and Yacht Construction” - Uffa Fox
5. “Cruising under Sail” - Eric Hiscock
6. HW Tilman - The sailing books (omnibus edition).
7. HB Cooke Cruising (Dick Wynne’s omnibus edition).
8. Admiralty Manual of Seamanship 1937 edition
9. LF Herreshoff - “The Compleat Cruiser”
10. Cheat - all the first editions of the Mariners Library!
 

Leopard01

New member
Joined
20 Jul 2020
Messages
1
The sinking of the Whaleship Essex is a good read for a Moby Dick fan. Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea: Steven Callahan is good (If you like the man v. nature stories). I like the Master and Commander series, but they are more British navy than just sailing which are already mentioned (Patrick O'Brian Aubrey/Maturin)
 

Wansworth

Well-known member
Joined
8 May 2003
Messages
18,450
Location
SPAIN,Galicia
Small craft Advisory......Louis D.Rubin,Jnr........about building a boat and other stuff

Magic of the Swatchways

sopranino........

The wind calls the tune
 

mikegunn

Active member
Joined
20 Aug 2007
Messages
375
Do try “The Southseaman” by Weston Martyr. An absorbing description of two friends who have a yacht built in Nova Scotia. Not much sailing in it until the later part of the book, but wonderfully descriptive of the design and build process of a cruising yacht being constructed by a yard more steeped in traditional fishing boats.
Mike
 

Wansworth

Well-known member
Joined
8 May 2003
Messages
18,450
Location
SPAIN,Galicia
He drew up plans for the Tahitian a sort of slightly enlarged John Hanna design,the Tahiti ketch which I always dreamed of,anyway I wrote him back in 1984 and his wife replies with a nice letter and plan.......
.
 

steve350

Active member
Joined
23 Feb 2006
Messages
606
Location
south west
I'd have to say The Bird of Dawning by John Masefield is a tremendous read. There's an atmosphere created here that I've not found elsewhere. A wonderful work of art. I believe Masefield was appointed Poet Laureate in the '30's, a large portion of his work consisting of poetry and plays.
 
Joined
22 Sep 2012
Messages
2,566
Poetry;

Other Men's Flowers, a compendium of his favourites, most of which he knew by heart - by Gen. Sir Archie Wavell.

If only one item comes into the liferaft with me after the grab-bag it'll be this.
I received my gift of that book from a friend. He landed at D Day and was injured during operation Goodwood. Lost part of his foot and one eye in a Sherman. Owned a Nicholson 42 or 41 and was that sort of old fashioned Gentleman who we have sort of lost for ever. I used to sail with him...happy days. My most valuable book apart form the Bible.
 
Joined
22 Sep 2012
Messages
2,566
Sea Peace by Lord Alderley is a lovely gentle read of sailing mostly before the war.
 

Slowboat35

Well-known member
Joined
4 Apr 2020
Messages
1,179
The Voyage of the Cap Pilar; Adrian Seligman. How - on a whim - he buys and teaches himself to sail & voyage a full sized square rigger.
No Stars to Guide, Seligman. A WW2 novel (but is it?) of smuggling a coastal tanker out of the Dardanelles and geting it to Egypt. A particular delight to anyone who knows the Turkish and esp. the Carian coast & Marmaris area well it's almost too realistic not to be at least semi true.
War In The Islands; Seligman again. Compendium of true covert SBS operations supporting the Greeks in sailing caiques in the Dodecanese in WW2. Real life swashbuckling stuff.
More Seligman, The Song of the Sirens. His Sirens were the 17 boats that he owned and adored, or in some cases owned him.
The Last Great Grain Race; Eric Newby
The Cruise of the Kate; E E Middleton. A mid-Victorian solo round Britain voyage.
The Master Mariner; Nicholas Monserrat. His Masterpiece; seldom has the life of a sailor been described with such accuracy and detail, all wrapped up in a most imaginative and unusual format. There are few better Sea books than this.
Monserrat again, The Cruel Sea. About the most classical of the classic sea-books.
Follow that with Walker RN to learn the true story of Capt FJ 'Johnnie' Walker, sub-killer and leader extraordinaire upon whose dazzling exploits the above is based.
And of course Tristam Jones produced a number of beautifully written tales though sadly some seem to like criticising him for publishing faction that they had imagined was biographical. Most of them are a damn fine read.
 
Last edited:

steve350

Active member
Joined
23 Feb 2006
Messages
606
Location
south west
The Voyage of the Cap Pilar; Adrian Seligman. How - on a whim - he buys and teaches himself to sail & voyage a full sized square rigger.
No Stars to Guide, Seligman. A WW2 novel (but is it?) of smuggling a coastal tanker out of the Dardanelles and geting it to Egypt. A particular delight to anyone who knows the Turkish and esp. the Carian coast & Marmaris area well and almost too realistic not to be at least semi true.
War In The Islands; Seligman again. Compendium of true covert operations supporting the Greeks in sailing caiques in the Dodecanese in WW2. Real life swashbuckling stuff.
The Last Great Grain Race; Eric Newby
The Cruise of the Kate; E E Middleton. A mid-Victorian solo round Britain voyage.
The Master Mariner; Nicholas Monserrat. His Masterpiece; seldom has the life of a sailor been described with such accuracy and detail, all wrapped up in a most imaginative and unusual format. There are few better Sea books than this.
And of course Tristam Jones wrote a number of beautifully written tales though sadly some seem to like criticising him for publishing faction that they had imagined was biographical.
I would second your inclusion of Eric Newby's, The Last Grain Race. It's such an evocative and compelling account of the last days of commercial sail. There's a particular passage where he describes how he was initiated into the ships crew. The climbing of the rigging to reach the Royal Yard Arm and then shinning up the Royal Mast to reach the cap at the top. The ships mate bellowing from down below. A cracking read.
 
Top