Sailors Reading List for 2019

Winter reading list spans the globe and explores all genres.


Few pleasures can compare to the warm comfort of curling up with a good book while another winter front blows through. Whether youre holing up in the Bahamas waiting for the wind to clock, or tucked beside the woodburning cabin stove in Puget Sound, here are some recent publications to help you dream and scheme your way to your next adventure.


Sailor for the Wild: On Maine, Conservation and Boats by Ben Emory (2017, Seapoint Books). Ben Emory follows his passion for sailing and a love of nature to Maine, where he eventually takes the helm one of the states most important conservation groups, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. His first job as a young grad? Sailing around to various yacht clubs to promote the mission of the American Littoral Society. Older sailors will relish Emorys paean to classic boats, Maine waters, and the camaraderie among people drawn to the sea. Young sailors will be inspired by the notion, that yes, you can combine your two great passions into a job that does lasting good.

The Next Distant Sea by James Baldwin (2018, James Baldwin). Baldwins third book recounting his adventures sailing around the world in his 28-foot Pearson Triton picks up in Hong Kong, amidst the unusual cast of characters one finds living aboard in far-flung ports. Weaving together engaging character profiles, philosophical reflections on the vagabond sailors life, and bittersweet romance, Distant Sea is classic Baldwin, the final nudge the wannabe cruiser needs to finally compel them to sever the dock lines-ready or not.

Where the Magic Happens by Caspar Craven (2018, Adlard Coles). You find yourself in the middle of a promising career, with three kids, a mortgage, and another 30 years of work ahead before retirement, and the questions inevitably arise-is this all there is? And if there is more, how the heck do we get off this train? Craven combines an around the world travelogue with an insightful how-to guide for a family hoping to escape the gravity of the normal life. A great read for the young family needing concrete advice and a frank account highs and lows of the family cruising.


Jimi and Isaac 2a: Keystone Species by Phil Rink (2014, Phil Rink). The second book in a five-book series that aims at engaging middle-school readers, Keystone Species follows Jimi and Isaac on a sailing adventure and mystery that draws the two boys into the complex web of life in the marine world. Rink, who cruised with his wife and two boys, brings a sailors insight into this fast-paced tale.

A Sea Voyage by Gerard Lo Monaco (Thames and Hudson, 2016). A beautifully rendered pop-up book that portrays a variety of ships at sea in exquisite detail, Sea Voyage is more a work of art than a book. Featuring famous vessels from the past, including the last Dundee pilot boat Madeliene-Jeanne, the clipper ship Sea Witch, and the ocean liner SS Normandie the book makes an uncommon gift for the sailor or child who has an affinity for pop-up books.

Sailors Reading List for 2019


Fiberglass Boat Restoration: The Project Planning Guide, by Captain Wayne Canning (Skyhorse, 2018) While other books on boat restoration focus on the nuts and bolts of making repairs, Canning looks at it from a logistical and economical standpoint. Where will you restore your boat, and what is going to cost? A guide that doesn’t gloss over the realities of a boat restoration project, Cannings 147-page guide will help the shoestring sailor avoid the pitfalls that sink so many ill-planned escapes.


Wooden Ships and Deadly Seas, by Wes Oleszewski (2017, Avery Color Studios). There is no shortager of sea drama on the Great Lakes and few writers have explored the regions shipping history as thoroughly as Oleszewski, who despite a clear desire to stick to just the facts can’t help but be drawn into the romance of the days of sail. Some of the most poignant, gripping, and almost unbelievable stories from the Great Lakes are rendered here with great zest. Relying almost entirely on historical eyewitness accounts, Deadly Seas places the reader on board with the captain and crews as they battle the elements.

Barons of the Sea: And their race to build the worlds fastest clipper ship by Steven Ujifusa (Simon and Schuster, 2018). Ujifusa tells the story of the cutthroat competition to build the worlds fastest clipper ships. Deeply researched, fast paced, and engaging from start to finish, Barons is the book for sailors who can’t drive past a maritime museum without stopping in to look at polished binnacles. Armchair tall-ship sailors will also appreciate the exploration of the personalities and economic forces that gave rise to the likes of Flying Cloud.

Sailing into History: Great Lakes bulk carriers of the twentieth century and the crews who sailed them, by Frank Boles (2017, University Press). In this meticulously researched historical account of the bulk carrier trade on the Great Lakes, Boles dives into the nitty gritty details of the life aboard the great bulk carriers, and the transformation that occurred over the past two centuries. Once numbering more than 300, and now virtually extinct, the bulk carriers of the Great Lakes now have a fitting epitaph.


Plumbelly, by Gary S. Maynard (Flat Hammock Press, 2018). Gary Maynard sailed around the world as a child, and later took a Caribbean hiatus with his wife and two children. More recently, hes been building houses and boats and writing for boating magazines…and writing Plumbelly. A spell-binding coming of age-story set in the South Pacific, Plumbelly follows in the tradition of Robb Whites The Lions Paw and M.H. Herlongs Great Wide Sea-throw three rudderless kids together on a boat and see where they make landfall. Maynards lyricism and quick-cut style mirrors the building tension of the trios great escape.


Harborless, poems by Cindy Hunter Morgan (Wayne State University Press, 2017). What happens when a gifted poet with an ear for the language reimagines the historical accounts of Oleszewski and other Great Lakes maritime historians? Morgan, an award-winning poet and creative writing professor at Michigan State University, delivers a powerful rendering of the lives and ships lost beneath the waves on the Great Lakes.

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him at