The 10 Best Sailing Books

Updated June 24, 2017 by Chase Brush

10 Best Sailing Books
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We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. If you're contemplating a life on the ocean waves or are already an accomplished sailor looking to improve his or her knowledge and skills, one of these sailing books will both enlighten and encourage you. We've included editions suitable for day sailors looking to brush up on their techniques through to circumnavigation epics to inspire even the most experienced seafarers. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best sailing book on Amazon.

10. "A Sail of Two Idiots

For a bit of inspiration and a lot of fun, check out "A Sail of Two Idiots: 100+ Lessons and Laughs from a Non-Sailor Who Quit the Rat Race, Took the Helm, and Sailed to a New Life in the Caribbean." This enjoyable read will convince you that anyone can master the seas.
  • includes guide to caribbean islands
  • section on ongoing maintenance needs
  • fun but not very informative
Publisher Petrillo, Renee D.
Model n/a
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

9. The Voyager's Handbook

Beth Leonard's The Voyager's Handbook is both an inspirational read and a comprehensive walk-through of everything you will need to account for out on the ocean, from weather forecasting to emergency preparedness and management.
  • easy-to-understand graphs and tables
  • inspired by circumnavigation trips
  • may scare away newcomers
Publisher Leonard, Beth A.
Model n/a
Weight 3.5 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Leap of Faith

Leap of Faith is the true story of a couple who quit their jobs and moved onto their sailboat full time. You'll experience their exciting new lives from your armchair, as the author and his wife turn from worker bees into "carefree boat bums," as they call it.
  • rich commentary on american society
  • perfect for wannabe liveaboards
  • would be served by better editing
Publisher Ed Robinson
Model n/a
Weight 0.6 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Sailing For Dummies

Simply written and easily digestible, Sailing For Dummies shows you that getting on the water isn't all that hard after all. It'll teach you almost everything you need to know before setting sail, from how to tie nautical knots to proper life jacket use.
  • discusses launching techniques
  • good beginner's manual
  • only really suitable for novices
Publisher Isler, J. J.
Model n/a
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. Fast Track to Sailing

Fast Track to Sailing can purportedly help you master the fundamentals of the craft in just three days, or over a leisurely summer of cruising, depending on how fast you soak up the information. It's written by the owners of an actual boating school, so you can trust it.
  • works for any learning pace
  • good accompaniment to sailing class
  • weighted down with technical jargon
Publisher Colgate, Steve
Model n/a
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

5. Onne van der Wal's Sailing

Onne van der Wal's Sailing lives up to its authoritative title by taking readers on a world voyage and by capturing many of the experiences the activity has to offer, from the peace and solitude of the open seas to the stresses and dangers of competition sailing.
  • rich with panoramic images
  • celebrates the nautical lifestyle
  • makes a good coffee table book
Publisher Rizzoli International P
Model n/a
Weight 7.2 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

4. Sailing Alone Around the World

If you're looking for something to inspire you to get out of your house and on to the open water, Sailing Alone Around the World is sure to do the trick. Written in 1889 by a real ship's captain, it's an epic first-hand meditation on life and survival on the high seas.
  • literary and historical merit
  • penned in an exhilarating style
  • font is a little small
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Model n/a
Weight 12 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

3. Sailing Fundamentals

Gary Jobson's Sailing Fundamentals is a fantastic read for beginners, featuring 150 line drawings and photographs that break down complex concepts. Plus, its detailed instructions cover just about every aspect of the basics, from anchoring to hoisting the sails.
  • info meets international standards
  • good for certification preparation
  • contains a terminology guide
Publisher Jobson, Gary
Model n/a
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. The Complete Sailing Manual

The Complete Sailing Manual by Olympic gold medalist Steve Sleight covers both basic and advanced techniques, making it useful for sailors of every skill level. It's one of the most exhaustive guides ever written, which will please dedicated practitioners of the craft.
  • detailed illustrations
  • revised to cover latest standards
  • makes a great gift
Publisher The Complete Sailing Ma
Model n/a
Weight 3.1 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. The Annapolis Book of Seamanship

Many experienced seamen swear by The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, which breaks down the science and art of boat piloting in a broad sense with more care and detail than most other books in its class. First published in 1983, it remains just as relevant today.
  • recently updated edition
  • covers modern technology and safety
  • beautiful hardcover
Publisher Simon Schuster
Model n/a
Weight 3 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Who Benefits From Sailing Books?

For the apprentice sailing student, picking up a sailing book from a reputable sailor has the obvious benefit of teaching the basic concepts of sailing. Books also allow for the concepts to be studied and theoretically mastered before practical application is necessary. This gives new sailors a better level of confidence in their abilities. This may be the safest way to approach learning how to sail, as thousands of injuries and deaths occur each year due to avoidable boating accidents. Removing human error by thoroughly understanding sailing and safety concepts is the best way to avoid these accidents.

Sailing books also cater to different types of learners. While there are a great number of experiential learners in the world who need hands-on application to understand concepts, visual learners and readers often require more theoretical approaches first. Sailing books cater to these needs very well.

The interest in sailing may be for career choices as well. Sailing vessels have been explored for use in oceanography for years, due to their reduced fuel consumption, noise, and impact on the environment.

While sailing books are a relatively niche pick, the pages within often express truths about life which favor any reader. Seeing things from the perspective of a learned author or explorer may bring to light new ways of understanding life an its inherent ebbs and flows.

Examples Of Concepts Covered In Sailing Books

Sailing books offer a large amount of theoretical knowledge which must be learned before any practical knowledge is gained on the water.

Other than the basic parts of a boat, the air flow of a sail is possibly the most important aspect of sailing to understand. As the wind is the sailboat's motor, a general understanding of these aerodynamics is necessary to know why sailing works. In a wind tunnel, researchers note that the wind speed is greater as it moves up the mast. It is also interesting to note that there is little to no wind near the surface of the water. These aerodynamic concepts help sailors understand how a sail is going to act in certain winds, and better prepares them for executing different points of sail.

The points of sail are the terms covered in most sailing books which are used to describe the angles of the sail in relation to the wind. In general, boats are built to be able to sail within 45 degrees of the wind. This means there is a 90 degree zone in which regular sailing is unfavorable or impossible. Different angles of the sale, or points of sail, change as the boat and winds change course, and need constant adjustment to capture the wind efficiently.

Sailing as close to the wind as possible is the close hauled position. As the boat steers away from the wind, the sails ease into a close reach, and then ease further into a beam reach. A beam reach is is where the wind is blowing over the side or beam of the vessel. Still further eased sails will end in a broad reach. Sailing directly away from the wind with sails eased all the way out is called a run. These points of sail scratch the surface of the basic physics of sailing covered in many sailing books.

Tacking; Persistence In Sailing

The basic concept of sailing involves allowing the wind to propel a vessel towards its destination. When the destination lies directly upwind, this is theoretically impossible.

Tacking involves coming about, or turning the bow of the ship into the wind, so that the direction the wind blowing into the sails changes from one side to the other. The combination of tacking and its opposite, jibing, allow for more constant movement at sea, and even enable a vessel to sail without a rudder.

Tacking is an essential maneuver for efficiently sailing a ship, as ideal winds are not always possible. In practice, conventional sailing ships set the sails at 45 degree angles to the wind. The tack is performed for a short distance before is is reversed to tack the other way. A series of these moves performed in a zig-zag pattern is called beating, and allows for vessels to make progress against the wind. While beating, a ship will take a point of sail position called close-hauled. This stems from an aerodynamic concept of sailing as close to the wind as possible while still moving relatively forward.

In reality, the vessel moves diagonally with each tack, keeping the intended direction as it's center. The time between switching the direction of a tack depends greatly on the size of the body of water and the strength of the wind. In a small channel, tacks may be performed every few minutes. On the open ocean, tacks may only be required every few days. Since conditions are always changing, a sailor must always be ready to evaluate each tack to ensure it is still favorable.



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Last updated on June 24, 2017 by Chase Brush

Chase is a freelance journalist with experience working in the areas of politics and public policy. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, he is also a hopeless itinerant continually awaiting his next Great Escape.


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