Books for Cruisers

Ch6_11- tablets for reading

Here’s a rundown of the books we know, use, and love. Jump to:

Planning | References | Weather | Medical | Provisioning | Inspiration | Field Guides | Fishing | Regional: MexicoRegional: South Pacific | Regional: Southeast AsiaRegional: Indian Ocean

Planning for Cruising

  • The Voyager’s Handbook – Beth Leonard. There are a lot of options for a general cruising guidebook, and Beth’s is the gold standard: in my opinion, nothing else even comes close.
  • Cornell’s Ocean Atlas – Jimmy Cornell, Ivan Cornell. Pilot charts for most of the world in a succinct format, this could be the only route planning resource you have on board to lay out a circumnavigation…or indefinite paths to wander the world. It’s based on satellite data for the last 20 years, making it a better reference than classic pilot charts for changing climactic conditions.
  • World Cruising Routes—Jimmy Cornell. This is really only a shortcut to doing your own homework with pilot charts, but it’s a good place to start, and it’s enough for many.
  • The Cruising Woman’s Advisor: How to Prepare for the Voyaging Life – Diana Jessie. I’m biased: Diana was my cruising mentor. She, and her husband Jim, are the reason that our family is cruising today. But this is an important book, I think, for any woman looking to get a gender specific view (and one that doesn’t assume she’s being dragged along). Diana doesn’t just bring her own voice in here, but shares that of more than a dozen other cruising women with tens (hundreds?) of thousands of cruising miles between them, to answer with unflinching realism the questions women will have about what it’s really like to go cruising.
  • …and of course: Voyaging with Kids – Behan Gifford, Sara Johnson, Michael Robertson. This is the book I desperately wanted when Jamie and I were anticipating cruising as a family…but didn’t exist!

On-board references

Weather

  • Storm Tactics—Larry & Lin Pardey. This is about more than just STORMS. It is surprising how many sailors we meet don’t know how to heave-to; a skill that’s useful in far more than just riding out bad weather!
  • The Sailor’s Weather Guide—Jeff Markell. A helpful reference with good visuals.

Jump to: Planning | References | Weather | Medical | Provisioning | Inspiration | Field Guides | Fishing | Regional: MexicoRegional: South Pacific | Regional: Southeast AsiaRegional: Indian Ocean

Medical

  • Where there Is No Doctor. We have a LOT of medical references on board; this practical volume is typically the most helpful of the bunch.
  • AMA Guide to your family’s symptoms— I really like the simple, decision-tree format for diagnosis in this book. Unfortunately… it’s out of print! If you know of a current book with a similar approach, I’d love to know.

Provisioning

  • The Boat Galley Cookbook – Carolyn Shearlock, Jan Irons. Clean organization, a broad spectrum of recipes, and extremely practical information to help cruisers eat well make this book the new standard for every gally.
  • Essential Galley Companion, Amanda Swan-Neal. A lifetime of experience cruising comes through this book. These recipes align well with how I cook, and reflect Amanda’s far flung cruising adventures.
  • Care & Feeding of Sailing Crew—Lin Pardey & Larry Pardey. This book is so much more than just feeding the crew! Provisioning tips, cruising lessons, and a collection of recipes are shared through the authors’ passage across the North Pacific.

Inspiration / Cruising Life

  • Blue Horizons – Beth Leonard. Yep, if Beth writes it, I’m a fan. This book collects reflective essays she wrote over the years. It’s a beautifully written, sometimes profound peek into the cruising life
  • Neither Motion of the Ocean (Janna Cawrse Esarey) or Love with a Chance of Drowning (Torre DeRoche) – are specifically about cruising, but they’re great personal stories about relationships and intertwined in the context of each woman’s cruise across the Pacific…and, really good reads.

Classic voyages:

  • Sailing Alone Around the World – Joshua Slocum. The book that made me fall in love with cruising: Traveling in the late 1800s, Joshua Slocum is arguably the world’s first cruiser, sailing for the sake of exploring the world by boat. Prior link is if you want to buy a copy on Amazon- it’s also available in ebook form for FREE! (thanks for the tip, Nico!) Find the files on Project Gutenberg; it also has Voyage of the Liberdade, about the boat Slocum built to sail home from Brazil after being stranded there with his family.
  • Dove – Robin Lee Graham. A teenager circumnavigates in the 70s: this is the book that started it all for Jamie. He gave me his battered copy to read after we’d been dating about a week…relationship level setting! I only dated sailors, anyway.
  • The Long Way – Bernard Moitessier. Not for everyone, but a fascinating exploration of his own shift in thinking over the course of a voyage (the first Golden Globe Race, a solo, non-stop circumnavigation rounding the three great Capes), and ultimate departure from a high-profile event.
  • The classic cruiser logs: Always a Distant Anchorage – Hal Roth; Blown Away – Herb Payson (with a new edition that includes excellent additional content, reflecting with hindsight); Once is Enough – Miles Smeeton; and Trekka Round the World – John Guzzwell.

Jump to: Planning | References | Weather | Medical | Provisioning | Inspiration | Field Guides | Fishing | Regional: MexicoRegional: South Pacific | Regional: Southeast AsiaRegional: Indian Ocean

General Field Guides

For a discussion of our favorite field guides on board, see What Are The Best Field Guides for Cruisers?

  • Seabirds of the World
  • Shells (Smithsonian handbooks; Golden Guide; we have both. Smithsonian has better images, but info included in the Golden Guide is quite good)
  • Guide to Marine Mammals of the World (National Audubon Society)
  • Simon & Schusters Guide to Rocks & Minerals: especially for up in the Sea, where you look at a lot of massive rocks.

Fishing

  • The Baja Catch (Kelly & Kira)- if you’re serious about fishing in MX, this is a great book.
  • Sport Fish of the Pacific- reasonably good ID of what you’ll catch.
  • Fishes of the Pacific Coast- because sometimes it had fish teh other books didn’t, plus, more info on behavior
  • Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing, Scott Bannerot & Wendy Bannerot. This is the definitive book for cruisers who will fish- probably more than you need to know, but full of good information (ever wondered how to throw a casting net?).

Jump to: Planning | References | Weather | Medical | Provisioning | Inspiration | Field Guides | Fishing | Regional: MexicoRegional: South Pacific | Regional: Southeast AsiaRegional: Indian Ocean

Regional Guides

Honestly? We don’t use them much anymore, and tend to lean instead on references like Wikipedia (or Kiwix, offline) or online sites more than a physical guidebook. But sometimes it’s handy, and a well-researched introduction section- cultural, historical, political overviews- can be worth the cover price. My preferred orientation is to dig up a bunch of both fiction and non-fiction about the country, and ideally by authors from the country, that we will be visiting. Here’s a list of books we’ve found helpful in specific countries or regions along the way.

Mexico

  • The Baja Catch (Kelly & Kira). Troll for used copy of this out-of-date gem. If you’ll spend time in Mexico and want to go fishing, it can’t be beat.
  • Sea of Cortez Marine Animals (Gotshall)- although the title says SOC, it’s useful well south from Baja. This was our go-to for critter identification when snorkeling in the Sea.
  • Sport Fish of the Pacific. Imminently useful becuase it’s one of the only guides that rates the eating quality of a fish, instead of just how to identify the species!
  • Fishes of the Pacific Coast. Oldie but goodie; not for the volume of fish covered, but for the depth of information about their geography and habits.
  • Log from the Sea of Cortez – John Steinbeck. It’s obligatory for anyone spending time in the SOC. Remarkable for what’s the same (landscape) and what’s different (depletion of marine life)
  • The Pearl – John Steinbeck. Obligatory for Mexico-bound cruisers.
  • Gathering the Desert – if you’ll spend a season in the Sea of Cortez, this book covers a selection of wild food you can forage for, with a side helping of local culture and knowledge. Very interesting if you’re into that kind of thing. I loved this book.
  • Karl Franz’ People’s Guide to Mexico- Lat 38 raves, I’d give it more of an “it’s OK,” but helpful if you’re totally unfamiliar with the culture.

South Pacific

  • Reef Fish Identification (Allen/Steene/Humann/Deloach)
  • The Happy Isles of Oceania and Paddling the Pacific, Paul Theroux
  • Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, Tony Horowitz
  • An Island to Oneself, Tom Neale. Neale’s life on Suwarrow atoll in the Cook Islands is a classic.
  • Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific – excerpts from the journals of Captain Cook. you’re almost certainly sailing in Cook’s wake in the South Pacific: his journals are readable history that will transport you back to see them through his eyes
  • Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft, by Thor Heyerdahl. Although his ideas about cultural/biological evidence that Polynesians originated in the Americas are long discredited, it’s still a very cool look at the Tuamotus in the mid 20th century. 
  •  Typee, by Herman Melville. Set in Nuku Hiva, it’s pure magic to read while you’re anchored off those jagged mountains of the Marquesas.
  • Tahitians, Mind and Experience in the Society Islands by Robert Levy. A fascinating peek into Tahitian culture and one of my favorite reads for the whole South Pacific. This is a classic ethnography that looks at the lives of two Tahitian communities in the early 1960s; and compares the lives of people on Huahine with those who had resettled from Huahine to Papeete. Academic.
  • Check out the list Mike Litzow wrote up on his blog– we double up on several, but he’s read more and has some really good looking selections.

Southeast Asia

  • Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Guide, Allen/Steene. In the Coral Triangle, we were generally well-served by our South Pacific marine field guides (Allen/Steene are contributors). But the massive jump in biodiversity for non-fishy critters underwater in PNG and Indonesia made guides like this with additional detail on corals, invertebrates and more really useful.

Indian Ocean

  • Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Guide, Allen/Steene. In the Coral Triangle, we were generally well-served by our South Pacific marine field guides (Allen/Steene are contributors). But the massive jump in biodiversity for non-fishy critters underwater in PNG and Indonesia made guides like this with additional detail on corals, invertebrates and more really useful.

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