What are the best sailing books?

Jessica Watson
Posted September 27 2015

Compiling a list of the best sailing books is a difficult exercise with so many great tales to choose from. However, these are the books that consistently inspire us to “go down to the seas again”, as the great poet John Masefield said. 

A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols

The incredible true tale of nine yachtsmen who set out to be the first to sail solo, non-stop around the world. In the days before satellite communications, the sailors suffered from madness and incredible pressures to succeed. One sailor was never seen again, while another loved the sea life so much that he abandoned the race and continued on another lap around the world. Only one sailor finished the race! 

The Long Route by Bernard Moitessier

Bernard Moitessier is one of the yachtsmen featured in A Voyage for Madmen. The Long Route is an insightful account of his decision to continue on another lap of the world, rather than returning home to claim victory.

Sailing Alone around the World by Joshua Slocum

Joshua Slocum’s account of the first ever solo voyage around the world is one of the ultimate classics.

Taking on the World by Ellen MacArthur

Ellen’s story shows how dreams can be achieved with incredible hard work. Years of dedication saw Ellen become the youngest ever competitor in the solo round-the-world race, Vendée Globe, and achieve an around-the-world speed record.

World Cruising Routes by Jimmy Cornell

World Cruising Routes is a guide rather than a novel, but this book is guaranteed to inspire your own adventures. Jimmy Cornell has also put together Cornell's Ocean Atlas, a fantastic collection of pilot charts (maps that detail prevailing weather conditions).

Fastnet, Force 10: The Deadliest Storm in the History of Modern Sailing by John Rousmaniere

The story of the greatest yachting disaster in modern history. John Rousmaniere gives a firsthand account of the storm that swept across a fleet of race boats at an unprecedented speed, causing terrible destruction.

Fatal Storm by Rob Mundell

Another gripping story of the 54th Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, told by one of Australia’s great sailing authors.

Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea by Tami Oldham Ashcraft

This is a tragic yet moving story of romance and the will to survive – you won’t believe it’s non-fiction.

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

Kon-Tiki is the fascinating story of a voyage by raft across the Pacific Ocean to prove a theory that early settlers migrated this way.

Dove by Robin Lee Graham and Derek Gill

Young Robin Lee Graham’s voyage around the world is the ultimate adventure, sailing to exotic ports and falling in love along the way.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

The first in a series, Swallows and Amazons captures the spirit of adventure of a group of kids who explore a lake in a sailing dinghy.

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