Books for Long Winter Nights

From the poetic to the practical, our short list has it all.


Winter is upon us and that means well have a little time to catch up on our reading. Heres a few of the books that caught our eye this year.

A Womans View

It is rare to find entertaining essays examining a womans relationship with the sea, or a work of fiction setting two teenage girls off on a sailing adventure. This year we get both. Writer Charlotte Runcies first novel Salt on Your Tongue (2019, Cannongate, 365 pgs., $24), does a wonderful job of combining the personal essay/memoir genre with a rich exploration of the history and mythology of the sea from a female perspective. Runcie, an award winning poet, lyrically meanders between seafaring legends and her own experiences along the British coast. Her stirring description of the British Isles will move the heart of any Anglophile, and her deep reflections on where she and other women in this seascape will inspire the reader to reflect upon his/her own place at sea.

Trish Doller does a great favor for parents and grandparents of young female sailors in Start Here, (2019, Simon Pulse, 352 pages, $15) a young-adult novel that sends two teeenage girls, Willa and Taylor, on an adventure on the Great Loop from Sandusky, Ohio to Key West. The catch? The trip is fulfilling a deathbed promise they made to their mutual best friend, the true connecting thread between them. As Willa and Taylor sail south and rebuild their already tenuous relationship, each girl also deal with personal dramas that no good coming of age story can do without.

Books for Long Winter Nights

For The Ocean Navigator

Author John Kretschmer brings his reflective voice, long history as a globe-trotting sailor, and tales of sailing adventure back to the bookshelf with Sailing to the Edge of Time, The Promise, the Challenges, and the Freedom of Ocean Voyaging (2018, Adlard Coles, 275 pgs., $28). If you are to buy one book from this list for your favorite shipmate, Kretschmers is the one. Apart from the expected sea stories of interesting people and colorful places, Kretschmer brings wit and wisdom that few voyaging authors can match. His ruminations on technology and seamanship alone are worth the cover price.

Almost every cruising how-to book contains at least some personal accounts from other sailors beside the authors. Paul Heineys broad look at the practicalities of cruising, Ocean Sailing (2019, Adlard Coles, 278 pgs. $35) takes this a step further, with a wealth of practical advice from members of three highly regarded cruising clubs the Royal Cruising Club, the Ocean Cruising Club, and the Cruising Club of America. Heiney presents the range of perspectives, allowing the reader to decide which of the many paths the various club members have charted (with kids, without kids, low budget, no budget, etc.) best suits their style.

Books for Long Winter Nights

Given the spate of accidents involving sailors who are overdependant on technology-even at the highest level of sailing‚ Duncan Wells Stress-free Navigation, Electronic and Traditional, (2019, Adlard Coles, 160 pages, 15 videos, $25) is long overdue. Well illustrated and organized, the book reminds us that old-school piloting skills (and handy shortcuts) are as valid as they ever were. Although the examples are set in the British Isles, this navigation primer is useful to sailors everywhere.


Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. 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