Whether you’re looking to do some armchair sailing during the off-season or stocking up your floating library for summer cruising, these are our favourite inspirational sailing books.
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This is the book that inspired us to buy a boat and go sailing! Bernard Moitessier was a French sailor who raced in the 1968 Golden Globe, the first single-handed around the world race. He sails from England alone for several months and when it seems he is just about to win…(well, I won’t spoil it for you!). His account is a great adventure story and also a deep meditation on zen philosophy.
The story of a single mother in the 1920s with 3 children and a dog, exploring Vancouver Island’s inside passage. In 1926 Muriel “Capi” Wylie Blanchet, a Vancouver Island resident, tragically lost her husband Geoffrey when he took their 25 ft cabin cruiser “Caprice” out on a solo camping trip and never returned. Rather than sell the boat, she took her 3 young children and dog on summer sojourns exploring the pristine BC coast with nothing but her wits to rely on. She documents her many adventures: piloting through whirlpools, run-ins with bears and cougars, climbing thousand-foot cliffs, and exploring abandoned First Nations villages. Her account is both inspiring and a reminder to slow down, appreciate the beauty of nature, and be present with those you love.
Robin Knox-Johnston’s account of his non-stop solo-circumnavigation of the world. He presents a vivid and surprisingly vulnerable portrait of a sailor attempting to accomplish what most thought impossible. It’s a testament to the ability of the human mind to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and heartening for fellow sailors who will encounter situations that put their own courage to the test. It’s one of the most incredible feats in the modern era and is worth the read.
Raban sails from Seattle to Juneau in a small boat, deftly describing the history of First Nations, Captain Vancouver, and life at sea as he travels up the coast. More than just a travelogue, Raban recounts personal challenges: his relationship with his father, and being a good dad to his young daughter Julia. The history on the Pacific North West is absolutely fascinating and Raban is a deep and thoughtful soul who you can’t help but empathize with.
Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World is a really interesting account of the first solo-circumnavigation. It would be an interesting account even if it were written today, but is especially so due to the fact that the events he recounts take place prior to the 20th century. In many ways, Slocum was the first cruiser and the trouble he gets himself into, the people he meets and the places he go are things to which we can all relate.
Lin and Larry Pardey are living proof that you don’t need to be wealthy to see the world. They’ve traveled for 26 years (covering the equivalent of 5 circumnavigations) in their home-built cutters, Seraffyn and Taleisin. In Seraffyn’s European Adventure the young couple journey in their 24ft boat to the Baltic, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany. Without engine, electronics, or gadgetry these scrappy sailors accomplish remarkable things through shear endurance and resourcefulness. Their stories are as salty as it gets and their message is freedom: “Go small, go simple, go now.”
Kon-Tiki was the first book about sailing that I ever read. And really it is more about adventuring than sailing. The shear foolhardiness of building a balsa wood raft and sailing it 4000 miles from Peru to Tahiti is enough to peak the interest of any adventurous soul. What really interested me was the various ways that the four men on the raft handled the, at times, boring, stressful, exciting and survival situations in which they were placed.
An account of the six-week scientific expedition made by John Steinbeck in 1940 with marine biologist Ed Ricketts, collecting marine specimens as they travel through the Sea of Cortez. The book recounts bizarre sea creatures, funny anecdotes on the eccentric crew, and Steinbeck/Ricketts’ life philosophies. A good read if you’re planning to visit Mexico.
A staggering survival story written by Steven Callahan about 76 days spent in an inflatable life raft in the Atlantic Ocean.
A real-life thriller, this book is likely to scare you out of ever leaving land, but it will also give you an appreciation of the sheer power of weather in the Atlantic Ocean.Junger tells the story of the Perfect Storm, a record topping storm that hit the east coast of North America in the fall of 1991. It follows the accounts of the crews of the fishing boat, a sailbloat, and U.S. Coast Guard as they battle to survive the severe conditions
Do you have any suggestions for other inspirational sailing books? We’d love to get your recommendations – please leave them in the comment box below.