Summer Sailor Reading List

Our summer reading list unlocks the world of the cruising sailor.


Summer Sailor Reading List

Summer Sailor Reading List

Summer Sailor Reading List

Summer Sailor Reading List

Summer Sailor Reading List

The question were often asked as we set out on our summer cruise is, What do you do with all that free time you have? There is a general misconception that cruising sailors do little more than sit around all summer watching ripples on the water and enjoying the spoils of slackerdom. Truth is, there is almost always some work to be done, but theres still time for a good book. If youre still searching for summer reading material, heres Practical Sailors semiannual list for 2017.

Sailor Jim Lynchs humor and spot-on depiction of life in the boatyard and life onboard reflect his sailing experience in the Pacific Northwest. Lynchs newest fictional work Before the Wind (Vintage Books 2016, $10, $12 electronic) takes us to the sailing grounds of Puget Sound where three siblings who grew up sailing together try to heal deep family scars through the grace of the sailing and the boats they love. Sailboats attract the loons and geniuses among us, Lynch writes. Boaters are suckers…don’t get me started on racers who blow thousands to make their sloops go faster so they can finish eighth instead of eleventh. If this strikes a cord, pick up a copy.

Tristan Gooleys How to Read Water: Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea (The Experiment, 2016, $9, $9 electronic) is encyclopedic in its descriptions and details on how to read the clues on ocean surfaces, river rapids, and tidal flows. Gooley teaches the reader how to ascertain water depth, forecast weather and make predictions based on natural signs and sounds. Illustrations and photos throughout the book deepen the readers understanding of natural navigation. Gooley, author of The Natural Navigator and The Natural Explorer, has pioneered a renaissance in the art of natural navigation. His latest book is an excellent addition to any onboard library.

What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of our Underwater Cousins, by Jonathan Balcombe (Scientific American, 2016, $11, $13 electronic) is an eye-opening tour of the lives of fishes and what their experiences might really be like. Balcombe analyses the results of numerous scientific studies and proposes fish feel pain, navigate mazes, maintain memories, hunt cooperatively, and plan ahead. Balcombes Fish portrays a surprisingly complex species of sentient, individual members. The evidence presented may give you pause the next time you cast a rod. Balcombe has speaking events scheduled throughout the summer and fall; a schedule can be found on his web site

Science writer Hugh Aldersey-Williams, in his book The Tide: The Science and Stories Behind the Greatest Force on Earth, (W.W. Norton and Company, 2016, $16, $14 electronic) brings us a rich, sweeping study of one of the most enduring forces on earth. Alderney-Williams history of the tides combines calculations and observations with an eloquent side of tidal lore and literature. Aldersey-Williams eloquently written book takes us from the bore tide in the Bay of Fundy and Alderney-Williams observation of Nova Scotias superlative tidal flow, to the effects of tides on world language and human settlements. He weaves myth (Aristotle was said to have drowned himself when he failed to figure out the Greek tides) and classic literary portrayals of the tide, with mathematics and geography in the search to understand the still-mysterious, still-fascinating ebb and flow.

And Soon I Heard a Roaring Wind: A Natural History of Moving Air, by Bill Streever (Little, Brown and Company, 2016, $12 Hardcover, $14 Kindle) adds the study of wind to our list of science titles (water, fish and the tide.) Streever and his wife cast off from Galveston, TX, heading for Guatemala on their 1965 ketch Rocinante, studying and writing about the winds that built empires and flattened entire cities. Streever leads us from the first official weather forecast in 1861 to modern day computer forecasts, sharing stories of epic storms, ancient astrology, shipwrecks, windmills and wars while he searches for the trade winds on his journey to Central America.

Summer may be the perfect time to kick back and enjoy any of these three books by one of Britains best-known seamanship instructors and writers, Tom Cunliffe. Cunliffes newest title, The Complete Ocean Skipper: Deep-water Voyaging, Navigation and Yacht Management (Adlard Coles, 2016, $27, $15 electronic) details all aspects of planning and preparing for a long-distance cruise, and features chapters on choosing a boat, choosing a rig, engine power, safety equipment and crew preparation. Information on passagemaking includes lessons on ocean weather systems, forecasting, watchkeeping, self-steering, emergencies, and heavy weather techniques.

In Cunliffes second edition of Hand, Reef and Steer: Traditional Sailing Skills for Classic Boats (Adlard Coles, 2016, $18, $17 electronic), Cunliffe looks at the different sailing characteristics of classic craft and shares his grasp of the special skills required to handle them. This is an ideal book for those who have a love of classic boats.

Cunliffes The Complete Day Skipper: Fifth Edition (Adlard Coles, 2016, $17, $13 electronic) is the fully revised and updated edition of Cunliffes classic, perfect for the new skipper and those refreshing their skills for summer sailing.

Sun, Wind and Water: The Essential Guide to the Energy-Efficient Cruising Boat by Bill Morris (Seaworthy Publication, 2016, $30, Kindle $10) is a guide book for solar panels, wind generators, hydro generators, voltage regulators, alternative fuels, and other sources of energy. The book outlines how different types of energy can harnessed and stored, Morris also looks at how stored energy is lost and how this can be prevented.

The Head Mistress Peggy Hall brings readers a long overdue update to her popular 2003 book. Halls The New Get Rid of Boat Odors: A Boat Owners Guide to Marine Sanitation Systems and Other Sources of Aggravation and Odors (Seaworthy Publications, 2016, $15; Kindle $10) addresses the stink in the bilge, the causes, and the ideal courses of action when elimination is the goal. Hall includes information on the legal choices involving the bilge, the best toilet for a boat and the installation of marine heads and holding tanks.

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