Monday, March 2, 2015

Top Ten Instructional Books on Sailing

Want to acquire an exciting new skill that will last a lifetime? Try sailing. 

Sailing can look daunting to people who look up and see all those ropes and poles, and sails. Sailing also suffers from the perception of it being expensive, and it can be, but it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of people who have boats and need crew and plenty of boats in people's back yards just looking for a new friend to take to sea.  So if you yearn for your own boat to mess around in, take the plunge and learn what it will take to acquire a good one and learn how to sail it.  If you'd rather not deal with the hassle of owning a boat, go down to your local sailing club and ask about learn to sail programs or crewing opportunities.  Chances are, you won't even have to know much to get started. But of course if you can show enthusiasm, pleasant personality, eagerness and some attempt at acquiring the skills, you will be in high demand.  

So here are a few basic instructional manuals to help you get started.  I've organized them from basic to more advanced skills that will help get you from beginner to offshore sailor.  

Sailing for Dummies by JJ and Peter Isler, 2nd Edition 2006

In the ever popular instructional series, Sailing for Dummies is a great place to start.  Written by JJ and Peter Isler, Olympic and America's Cup champion athletes, this simply written and richly illustrated manual will get you through the basics. It teaches you everything you need to know before you leave the dock.

The Complete Sailing Manual by Steve Sleight, 3rd Edition 2011

In the DK Publishing series of beautiful instructional books, The Complete Sailing Manual, kicks it up a notch providing a useful reference for both budding sailors and instructors.  From the basics to navigation and boat care, this edition includes the latest developments in equipment and safety, and reflects the current rules, regulations, and best practices.

Fast Track to Sailing: Learn to Sail in Three Days by Steve and Doris Colgate

The learn-to-sail book for when you are in a hurry to get out and about. Colgates have taught more than 100,000 adults how to sail at the Offshore Sailing School. Now they have made their proven instructional methods available in print so you can fulfill your sailing dreams in little time. Though designed around three days of intensive instruction, the book adapts easily to any learning pace.

The Annapolis Book of Seamanship by John Rousmaniere, 4th Edition, 2014

The bible for seamanship under sail, John Rousmaniere created this valuable resource in 1983.  Its goal is to instruct sailors on the skills, gear and behavior that ensure safety and enjoyment on the water under all reasonable circumstances, "and some unreasonable ones, too". It is a very readable book as John is not only a great sailor but also a very skilled writer. By building what John calls a "Seamanship Ethos", something which is sadly lacking too frequently at sea these days, he helps sailors to establish a truly self-reliant mindset that takes into account caution, respect, and responsibility. The 4th Edition contains a wealth of practical information including traditional seamanship (anchoring, weather, emergencies) as well as modern methods (DSC, electronics, best practices), providing insights from on the water tests and lessons from accidents. This is the book we go to often to look things up while underway.

Chapman Piloting & Seamanship, 67th Edition 2013

The most comprehensive guide to boating on US waters under sail or power. For nearly a century, Chapman's has provided detailed instruction on traditional piloting and navigation (weather, tides, charts, compass, ATONs) and has been updated over time to provide cutting edge coverage of essential new material, including how-to maintenance for outboard, sterndrive, and inboard diesel and gasoline engines; electronic navigation; sailing theory and sail handling systems, man overboard rescue techniques, and the latest on anchoring and communications. It also covers explanations of the laws, regulations, fees, and equipment requirements governing America's waterways.

The Voyager's Handbook. The essential guide to bluewater cruising. by Beth Leonard 2006

When you start thinking about heading offshore, don't do anything until you've had a chance to study Beth Leonard's amazingly valuable resource. Written with the analytical skills of a management consultant and the experience of a bluewater sailor with thousands of miles of distance cruising on multiple boats with her husband Evans Starzinger. Using three example boats representing three cruising lifestyles — Simplicity, Moderation, and Highlife — Beth has created the ultimate tool for understanding what's available and reaching your own conclusions about the choices that will ultimately suit you. This inspirational and comprehensive manual leads you step by step through every aspect of choosing, planning, and following the voyager’s life. Beth covers the practical aspects of what you need to set up before you leave, and what you'll need to know to handle a boat at sea with a small crew once you cut the lines, including weather forecasting, passage planning, watchkeeping, heavy weather sailing, emergency management and midocean repairs. Beth was my inspiration to head off -- she made me realize that if she could do it, I could too.

Sailing a Serious Ocean: Sailboats, Storms, Stories and Lessons Learned from 30 Years at Sea by John Kretschtmer  2013

Long-term delivery skipper John Kretschmer has logged more than 300,000 sea miles on more boats than we could ever dream of sailing. He has written several entertaining books, and his lectures and offshore training passages sell out well in advance. Having sailed in all of the world's oceans under all kinds of conditions, he has plenty of stories and hard-earned advice to share. He's also got a great sense of humour and a genuine style. John will guide you through the whole process of choosing the right boat, outfitting with the right gear, planning your route, navigating the ocean, and understanding the nuances of life at sea.

The Art of Seamanship: Evolving Skills, Exploring Oceans, and Handling Wind, Waves, and Weather by Ralph Naranjo 2014

This book is new to the sailing scene but the author Ralph Naranjo is no novice. Technical expert, ocean racer, around-the-world sailor, and former Vanderstar Chair at the U.S. Naval Academy, Ralph delivers a useful reference for how to deal with just about anything that comes up while on the water. Naranjo shares real-life examples of sailing mishaps, sample itineraries, illustrative photos, as well as first-hand accounts and sidebars from top sailors and marine experts. Seamanship is a dynamic art, demanding full attention from the sailor amidst a constant flow of information and knowledge. In his words, "This blending of pre-voyage preparedness with effective on-the-water response is learned rather than inherent--together they define the art of seamanship."

Seamanship Secrets by John Jamieson 2009

Now for something completely different. In the night, wind, rain, fog, big seas, strong currents, or congested waters, when the worst always seems to happen, what you need are shortcuts and techniques that work quickly and reliably every time. John gives you those quick short concise tips and tricks to apply when there is little time for anything but action. I really appreciate this book because the format is totally different from everything else. I keep it in the loo and we spend several times a day learning something valuable. John Jamieson served 23 years in the U.S. Coast Guard as a navigator, instructor, search-and-rescue coxswain, and ship’s conning officer. He has taught seamanship and navigation for the coast guard and navy and helped coordinate search-and-rescue missions out to 1,000 miles offshore along the US west coast. A nationally certified sailing instructor, he has sailed singlehanded for 13 years and has delivered sailing vessels long the US east coast. He holds master and mate licenses for power and sail and directed the seamanship and chart navigation department of the internationally renowned Charles F. Chapman School of Seamanship in Stuart, Florida. Visit his website at

Singlehanded Sailing: Thoughts, Tips, Techniques and Tactics by Andrew Evans 2nd Edition 2014

Although this book targets the specific issues of singlehanded sailing, it has a lot of good ideas for anyone who sails short-handed like couples often do. Not only does Andrew pull information from his own experience, accident reports and published studies, he shares the valuable experience of many other solo sailors. He offers tips and advice on managing the power consumption aboard a boat to feed the autopilot, setting and gybing a spinnaker, finding time to sleep, and dealing with heavy weather. 

The American Practical Navigator - Bowditch - 2002

This tome is an American classic. Written first in 1802, it is an enduring reference for navigation. This is the most recent update of Bowditch. THERE IS NO MORE RECENT EDITION OF BOWDITCH. THIS EDITION WAS PRINTED IN 2014, BUT IS THE 2002 EDITION. During the last two centuries, more than 75 editions and almost 1,000,000 copies have been published by the US Government. This edition includes the latest advances in electronic navigation and digital charting technology. It also covers nonelectronic navigation such as celestial, plotting and dead reckoning. Bowditch is carried on the bridge of every U.S. Navy ship. Paradise Cay and Celestaire's present this commercial print edition of Bowditch which is a complete copy of the latest Government edition. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105)

Bowditch is available as free downloads online:

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