Katy Stickland chooses her pick of the latest sailing books that will keep sailors entertained

Product Overview


Sailing books: best new releases to read

Sailing books are an ideal gift for the sailor in your life. I read dozens of sailing books every year, but these are the ones that stood out.

Here is my list of the best books for sailors to read. I hope you enjoy them!

The Half Bird by Susan Smillie

The Half Bird by Susan Smillie

From the moment I picked up The Half Bird, I couldn’t put it down and found I had to ration myself, reading a few chapters a day so I could really savour every word.

Susan Smillie’s writing captivated me (few books do that), as she shared her odyssey, sailing her Nicholson 26, Isean from the UK to Greece.

With little solo experience, she initially planned to sail around Britain, but instead, chose to turn left at Land’s End and sail to France, down the Atlantic coast of Europe and into the Mediterranean.

Most of her voyage is solo, and as she sails further south, she develops an affinity for life at sea, one that many sailors will recognise.

Her words knit a narrative of adventure, loss, joy, and, ultimately, freedom and a richer life.

It is a love story between a woman and her boat, and how Susan finds strength and courage through sailing.

Sam Smillie (Susan’s dad) comments that coming to the end of a book can be like “losing a friend”, and while reading the last few pages of The Half Bird, I was reminded of this, so absorbing and subtly life-affirming were the words on the page.

Once I finished it, I wanted to start reading it all over again.

Buy The Half Bird at Amazon

Buy The Half Bird at Waterstones

Buy The Half Bird at Foyles

Buy The Half Bird at Audible

Buy The Half Bird at Google Play


The Proa: The outrigger boat from past to present by Othmar Karschulin and Manfred Meier

The Proa: The outrigger boat from past to present by Othmar Karschulin and Manfred Meier

Although multihulls have been around for centuries, it was only relatively recently that they became commonplace outside of the Pacific, thanks to the likes of James Wharram.

But one, the proa, with its asymmetrical main hull and outrigger, numerous rig variants and high speeds, still falls into the niche category and draws praise and suspicion from sailors alike (I hadn’t realised that the design is banned by the World Sailing Federation, which is why you never see this unique multihull on the start line of any mainstream yacht race).

Othmar Karschulin and Manfred Meier’s new book is very much a manifesto for the proa, recording the fascinating history of this ancient outrigger craft, explaining the shunting process (how the boat sails), discussing the development of the design, with details on stability, the rudder system, and water ballast, and dispelling the misconceptions of the Pacific proa, most notably that there is a danger of capsize.

The testaments from proa builders and sailors are informative, with easy-to-read technical information on each design, details of the build, changes and improvements made along the way and sailing behaviour and optimisation.

A must-read for anyone interested in boat design.

Buy The Proa: The outrigger boat from past to present at Amazon


My Way Around the World by Saša Fegić

My Way Around the World by Saša Fegić


“The only way to really learn how to sail is to go out and do it,” writes Saša Fegić.

And that is exactly what this remarkable Croatian sailor has done throughout his life, culminating in sailing around the world via the three Great Capes.

My Way Around the World is the story of a boy who falls in love with sailing and spends decades honing his skills in seamanship and boat craft by working as a paid deckhand, charter and delivery skipper, sailing school operator and boatbuilder.

He then buys his dream boat, HIR 3, which he spends months renovating, before sailing her along the route of the great Clipper ships.

It is a voyage many of us are not brave enough to do, but Saša’s desire to see the Southern Royal Albatross, experience the Roaring Forties, visit Yacht Club Micalvi in Chile and round Cape Horn pushes him at every turn, and the result is a compelling story of adventure and determination.

My Way Around the World is reminiscent of the records of sailing voyages penned by the likes of Sir Francis Chichester and Naomi James; engaging, well written and rich with knowledge, Saša draws the reader in at every word. Highly recommended.

Buy My Way Around the World at Amazon


Knowledge 2.0 – Staying Afloat in the Information Age by Mark Chisnell

Book jacket of Knowledge 2.0 - Staying Afloat in the Information Age by Mark Chisnell

What can yacht racing and sailing teach us about ourselves and the way we react and think?

Mark Chisnell’s fascinating book uses racing and sailing triumphs and tragedies – such as the 1979 Fastnet Race, Beryl and Miles Smeeton’s infamous rounding of Cape Horn, the 2017-18 Ocean Race, the 2000–2001 Vendée Globe, and Sir Ben Ainslie’s fourth gold medal win – to analyse human behaviour, decision making and problem solving, offering insight into the best way we can use the knowledge we have to react to a given situation.

Chisnell’s background is in sailing and more recently, America’s Cup racing, and he believes yacht racing is “a perfect microcosm” for how we process and deal with knowledge.

Chisnell’s skill is in dissecting each of these incidents, drawing out the truths, and then analysing these truths from different perspectives, giving us lessons that can be applied to how we process knowledge in our everyday lives.

An insightful read for sailors and non-sailors alike.

Knowledge 2.0 – Staying Afloat in the Information Age is published by Rhyme and Reason Books.

Buy Knowledge 2.0 from Amazon


Cargo of Hope by Shane Granger

Book jacket of Cargo of Hope by Shane Granger

This is a heartwarming and humbling read.

Vega is a 130-year-old 55-ton wooden commercial sailing vessel owned by seasoned sailor Shane Granger and his partner, Meggi.

They and Vega’s volunteer crew spend their lives delivering medical and educational supplies to remote communities in eastern Indonesia and East Timor.

The book is made up of tales of their voyages and their captivating, beautifully descriptive experiences living alongside the communities they help, intermingled with the Nordic history of Vega, and how the devastating 2004 tsunami in South East Asia led to the ship becoming a beacon of hope for so many through their now annual Mission of Mercy voyage, to deliver aid.

Many PBO readers will be interested in how Shane and Meggi maintain the ship on a ‘microscopic budget’ as well as Shane’s views on seamanship, but ultimately, this is a tale of human endeavour and high seas adventure for the benefit of others.

Cargo of Hope is published by Lyons Press.

Buy Cargo of Hope at Amazon

Buy Cargo of Hope at Foyles (UK)

Buy Cargo of Hope at Waterstones (UK)


A Voyage Around Britain In A Small Yacht by Mark Evans


Book jacket for A Voyage Around Britain In A Small Yacht by Mark Evans

Mark Evans wanted what many sailors want; time to explore new cruising grounds.

He had to wait for retirement until he could achieve his aim of sailing around Britain clockwise, via Cape Wrath in his Twister 28.

He wanted to sail as much as possible, to feel like a ‘real sailor’, and in fact, 66% of the voyage was under sail alone.

This slim but informative volume is a tale of falling in love with sailing again, about becoming ‘one’ with your boat; it is also packed with useful tips, from passage planning to boat preparation, and appendixes listing his route and useful charts and pilot books.

Throughout his 114-day voyage, Mark learns to accept the vagaries of the weather and to enjoy a slower pace of life.

He shares the struggles and frustrations of living in such a small space, with his fiancée, Katrina, who had only just started sailing.

He is also refreshingly honest about his errors, like running aground off Pwllheli, and it is this honesty that makes Mark’s book so engaging.

Essential reading for anyone planning a similar voyage.

A Voyage Around Britain In A Small Yacht is printed by Amazon Kindle Publishing

Buy A Voyage Around Britain In A Small Yacht at Amazon


Antarctic Sketchbook by Claudia Myatt

Antarctic Sketchbook book jacket

Most of us will never experience the delights and wonder of cruising in Antarctic waters but Claudia Myatt’s Antarctic Sketchbook paints such an evocative picture that you can almost smell the ice and feel the wind of this desolate but beautifully alive landscape.

Myatt’s work is based on her time as Artist in Residence for the Friends of Scott Polar Research Institute, where she spent time on the icebreaker HMS Protector visiting the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, South Orkney Islands, the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands.

The charming sketches and paintings throughout the book are complemented by Myatt’s narrative and diary entries.

These are both factual, covering the history, geography and effects of climate change, and colourfully descriptive; her use of language is almost as vivid as the palette of her paintbox.

Must read for those like me who have always yearned to visit the remote regions of the earth.

Antarctic Sketchbook is published by Golden Duck.

Buy Antarctic Sketchbook at Amazon

Buy Antarctic Sketchbook at Golden Duck

Buy Antarctic Sketchbook at Waterstones (UK)

Buy Antarctic Sketchbook at Foyles (UK)


My Ship is So Small by Ann Davison

Book jacket for My Ship is So Small by Ann Davison

For years, Ann Davison’s classic book about her groundbreaking transatlantic voyage has only been available to those who searched in the depths of second-hand outlets.

Now, Golden Duck has re-published it to mark the 70th anniversary of Davison’s achievement and shine a light on the first woman to sail solo across the Atlantic.

It’s a real treat as Davison is a gifted author and writes poetically, candidly, and humorously about the highs and lows of her 18-month voyage aboard her 23ft Bermudan rig sloop, Felicity Ann.

It is a story of determination, courage, and the fulfilment of a promise Davison made to herself after surviving the shipwreck which killed her husband.

They’d set out to make an Atlantic crossing on their yacht Reliance which was wrecked on rocks at Portland Bill; Davison had to continue this dream alone.

My Ship is So Small shows that you are never too old to take a risk and have an adventure.

It is important that Davison’s story is made available to a wider audience, and Golden Duck should be applauded for raising her profile.

This edition also continues Felicity Ann’s story in the afterword by Captain Wayne Chimenti of the Community Boat Project in Port Townsend which now owns the boat.

Davison sold Felicity Ann five years after her trans-Atlantic voyage; the boat moved around America before it was discovered, abandoned in 2008 in Haines, Alaska.

Thankfully, a local magistrate recognised the boat’s importance and she was eventually rebuilt to her former glory; she still sails today.

My Ship is So Small is published by Golden Duck Publishing

Buy My Ship is So Small at Amazon

Buy My Ship is So Small at Golden Duck

Buy My Ship is So Small at Waterstones (UK)

Buy My Ship is So Small at Foyles (UK)


The Voyage of the Aegre by Nicholas Grainger

Sailing books for christmas - the voyage of the Aegre

This well-written tale charts a young couple’s voyage to becoming small boat offshore adventures, akin to Roger D Taylor.

In the 1970s Julie and Nicholas Grainger sailed their 21ft wooden Shetland fishing boat from Scotland to Pago, Pago in American Samoa.

This was before modern instruments and GPS, and although the story of their time afloat, including their capsize off Tahiti which left the boat dismasted, is a gripping read about survival at sea, it is the details of the preparation of the boat that many Practical Boat Owner readers will find the most fascinating.

Nicholas and Julie both worked for John Ridgeway at his adventure school in Ardmore before leaving Scotland and based their concept of simple sailing – no electrics, toilet, shower, engine, and built-in buoyancy to make the Aegre unsinkable – on Ridgeway’s 20ft open dory, English Rose 3, which he rowed across the Atlantic with Sir Chay Blyth.

These meticulous preparations ultimately saved the Graingers’ lives.

The Voyage of the Aegre has all the hallmarks of a sailing adventure classic. Storytelling at its finest.

The Voyage of the Aegre published by Vinycomb Press.

Buy The Voyage of the Aegre at Amazon (UK)

Buy The Voyage of the Aegre at Amazon (US)

Buy The Voyage of the Aegre at Waterstones (UK)

Buy The Voyage of the Aegre at Foyles (UK)


Sailing Alone: A History by Richard J. King

The book jacket of Sailing Alone

What motivates a person to sail alone?

Richard King sets out to answer that question after his own transatlantic solo crossing in a 28.5ft Pearson Triton left him ‘paralytically rattled’, proud of his achievement and questioning why he set out in the first place (he sold the boat and has never sailed alone since).

By examining the voyages of a diverse range of sailors, including Ann Davison, Florentino Das, Sharon Sites Adams and the more well-known Ellen MacArthur, Bernard Moitessier and Joshua Slocum, and examining what they saw, King, with an academic’s skill, lays out the history and the philosophy of the men and women who broke the mould and set out to explore the seas to find what many of us crave: the meaning of existence.

Ultimately, he concludes with Ann Davison’s philosophy, that courage is to accept our lives for what they are, without resignation; each small hurdle overcome is a triumph.

Brilliantly written, I have been drawn back to Sailing Alone again and again; each new reading brings a different perspective, and has also introduced me to remarkable sailors I really should have known about.

Sailing Alone: A History is published by Particular Books.

Buy Sailing Alone at Amazon (UK)

Buy Sailing Alone at Amazon (US)

Buy Sailing Alone at Foyles (UK)

Buy Sailing Alone at Waterstones (UK)

Buy Sailing Alone at Audible

Buy Sailing Alone at Google Play


We Fought Them in Gunboats by Robert Hichens

We Fought Them in Gunboats by Robert Hichens is published by Golden Duck Ltd, priced £14.99. It is also available on Kindle, www.golden-duck.co.uk.

The war memoir that the British authorities censored, We Fought Them in Gunboats is a warts-and-all tale about the gunboats and their crew who played a vital role in World War II.

This was a new kind of warfare, where the tactical use of the MGBs and MTBs and their high speed engines were critical in defending the convoy routes.

A dinghy and racing sailor, Robert Hichens was the first volunteer officer to command a gunboat.

He also had a love of high speed engines and didn’t hold back his criticism of the poorly trained gunboat maintenance staff, or indeed the decisions of his commanding officers.

Hichens’s own engineering knowledge helped evolve the design of the motor gunboat.

Originally published in 1944 heavily redacted due to wartime censorship, this new edition is Hichens’s words in full.

A rare breed of war diary.

We Fought Them in Gunboats is published by Golden Duck Publishing.

Buy We Fought Them in Gunboats at Amazon (UK)

Buy We Fought Them in Gunboats at Amazon (US)

Buy We Fought Them in Gunboats at Golden Duck Publishing (UK)

Buy We Fought Them in Gunboats at Waterstones (UK)

Buy We Fought Them in Gunboats at Foyles (UK)

Continues below…


Cornells’ Ocean Atlas: Pilot charts for all oceans of the world by Jimmy and Ivan Cornell

The fron cover of the Cornells' ocean atlas of the world

For anyone planning to sail offshore, this third edition of Cornells’ Ocean Atlas is vital reading.

Fully revised, all of the charts – of the most popular cruising routes – now reflect the latest understanding of how climate change is affecting the world’s oceans – such as the decrease in the reliability of the trade winds, as witnessed by the 2022 Golden Globe Race skippers, and the increased intensity of tropical cyclones, giving sailors a valuable safety tool when planning, preparing and sailing their passage plan.

This new edition also features monthly charts that plot the areas affected by tropical storms in every ocean.

Based on the recorded tracks of such storms over the last ten years, it clearly indicates the areas to avoid and the time of year to avoid them.

A must-have book onboard if you plan to sail any ocean.

Cornells’ Ocean Atlas is published by Cornell Sailing

Buy Cornells’ Ocean Atlas at Amazon (UK)

Buy Cornells’ Ocean Atlas at Amazon (US)


The Marine Quarterly, edited by Sam Llewellyn

The Marine quarterly

The Marine Quarterly never fails to thrill when it lands on my doormat, with its eclectic stories about everything to do with the sea.

Published four times a year, each 112-page edition is brimming with insightful articles such as near misses at sea, traditional boat building, heritage craft, pioneering (and often forgotten) voyages, Naval adventure and seagoing life.

Each story has a charm all of its own, helped by the woodcut or black ink line drawings that adorn the top of each opening page and the fact the words are printed on thick, cream paper; it is a treat to hold and savour.

For those like me who consume sailing books, there is also a regular books section, where classic seafaring tales are reviewed, whetting the appetite for further reading.

Editor Sam Llewellyn, a prolific writer and Practical Boat Owner columnist, also shares his own reading recommendations, which have often led me down a rather wonderful path of nautical discovery.

The Marine Quarterly really is the gift that keeps on giving throughout the year.

Annual subscription rate £50 (UK), £64 (Europe and the rest of the world), themarinequarterly.com.

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence.

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