The Sailing Books that Inspire Us

Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 02:40AM - Comments: (10)

July 8, 2013

The Kon-Tiki Museum welcomes visitors from around the world.

This year's family vacation finds us in Norway, where my wife Theresa and I are quickly mortgaging our children’s future in small bites (one pizza and two beers = $45), but I’m hoping the experience may leave the boys with memories that will someday prove meaningful.

It has already been so for me. One of our first stops was The Fram Museum, home of Roald Amundsen’s famous polar exploring ship, Fram. Fram is perhaps one of the most famous ships designed by Colin Archer, whose renowned rescue ships engendered our own Tosca (a William Atkin Thistle design). But it was the museum across the road that I found most moving: the Kon-Tiki Museum. In terms of human achievement, Thor Heyerdahl’s drift across the Pacific in a sturdy balsa raft doesn’t compare to Amundsen’s. Personally, I’m more impressed by Argentine adventurer Alberto Torroba’s reckless crossing of the Pacific in a dugout, but the “Kon-Tiki holds a special place in my heart because it was Heyerdahl’s written account of the voyage, first published in 1948, that first captured my imagination as a boy, and no doubt eventually drew me to the Pacific.

The Heyerdahl Museum has recently reconstructed the actual raft that the Norwegian adventurer and his six-man crew sailed across the Pacific. Although Heyerdahl’s theory regarding human migration across the Pacific has been discounted, “Kon-Tiki” and his Oscar-award winning documentary (1951) is responsible for inspiring more than a few dreams of cruising the Pacific. I find it interesting that when American sailors followed Heyerdahl’s path across the Pacific in the 1960s and 1970s, they often did so in Colin Archer type boats like John G. Hanna’s Tahiti ketch—and later, the Westsail 32, itself a variation on Atkin’s Thistle. It is as if all roads to Tahiti first passed through Oslo.

All of this got me thinking about what other stories may have drawn our readers to sailing, for I do not think I am the only one. Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad, of course come to mind, but what about Jack London, E.B. White, or Langston Hughes, or more recently, Jonathan Raban? I imagine more than a few readers have found inspiration in Joshua Slocum’s “Sailing Alone Around the World” or Francis Chichester’s amazing stories of Gypsy Moth IV. What book might I want to add to my shelf to inspire the next voyage?

Comments (8)

Great reads, all! I'm sure there are more, a friend recently told me about his connection with "The Boy, Me, and the Cat" about Henry Plummer's East Coast cruise with his son in 1912-13 -- in a catboat, of course. Interesting look at American waterfront life pre-WW I.

Posted by: Darrell | November 9, 2013 3:15 PM    Report this comment

Blown Away by herb payson.

Posted by: Unknown | November 9, 2013 1:53 PM    Report this comment

I love all the disaster books like "Fastnet Force 10" and "Pacific Rescue" as well as Bernard Moitessier's "A Sea Vagabond's World" - sailing.musem.com.au

Posted by: nickj69 | August 14, 2013 9:33 PM    Report this comment

Tristan Jones...A good story is a good story true or not.

Posted by: Joseph H | July 14, 2013 4:35 PM    Report this comment

Don't forget "Dove", Robin Lee Graham's story. He is only two years older than I am, but following his sail in National Geographic made him seem like he was light years wiser.

Posted by: TRIP V | July 11, 2013 7:01 AM    Report this comment

For young readers, " Carry on Mr. Bowditch". Influenced our son's aspirations and achievement as a USCG career officer.

Posted by: Unknown | July 11, 2013 3:10 AM    Report this comment

Also two excellent books by Sterling Hayden, Wanderer and Voyage

Posted by: Carlos N | July 10, 2013 1:15 PM    Report this comment

Hal Roth's "Two On A Big Ocean" Eric and Susan Hiscock's books Ross Norgrove "The Cruising Life" Lynn and Larry Pardey's books, especially "Cruising in Seraffyn" Payson's "You Can't Blow Home Again" and many others. From their publication dates, you can tell when we started cruising.

Posted by: Paul M | July 10, 2013 10:21 AM    Report this comment


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