This time of year, with the boats packed up and the waters iced over, we often become armchair sailors by default. There’s no better time to delve into that list of sailing books you've been dying to read. Start with these suggestions from SAIL editors and readers, and send us a few of your own. Get cozy – reading season has only just begun.
Rounding the Horn: Being the Story of Williwaws and Windjammers, Drake, Darwin, Murdered Missionaries and Naked Natives--a Deck's-eye View of Cape Horn
384 pages, $16.95
For centuries, the small stretch of water between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula was the only gateway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It’s a place where the storms are bigger, the winds stronger, and the seas rougher than anywhere else on earth. In Rounding the Horn he undertakes the ultimate maritime rite of passage, and brings the reader along for a thrilling, exuberant tour. Weaving together stories of his own nautical adventures with long-lost tales of those who braved the Cape before him—from Spanish missionaries to Captain Cook—and interspersing them with breathtaking descriptions of the surrounding wilderness, Murphy has crafted an immensely enjoyable read.
Once is Enough
224 pages, $12.95
When Tzu Hang, a 46-foot ketch, set sail from Melbourne, Australia, in December 1956 bound for England, Miles Smeeton had little concept of the challenges or terrors that awaited him. At that time very few small sailboats had successfully rounded Cape Horn, and none had sailed as far south as Tzu Hang--just north of the Antarctic iceberg limit. When it was first published in 1959, Once Is Enough electrified the sailing world. But what keeps it fresh and captivating is not just Smeeton's vivid re-creation of the sea's fury. His eloquent descriptions of ordinary life at sea make Once Is Enough timeless reading for sailors and armchair adventurers alike.
Richard Henry Dana
Two Years Before the Mast: A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea
576 pages, $15
Dana’s account of his passage as a common seaman from Boston around Cape Horn to California, and back, is a remarkable portrait of the seagoing life. Bringing to the public’s attention for the first time the plight of the most exploited segment of the American working class, he forever changed readers’ romanticized perceptions of life at sea.
A Voyage for Madmen
336 pages, $14.99
In 1968, nine sailors set off on the most daring race ever held: to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe nonstop in a feat that would forever change the face of sailing. Ten months later, only one of the nine men would cross the finish line and earn fame, wealth, and glory. For the others, the reward was madness, failure, and death. A Voyage for Madmen is a tale of sailors driven by their own dreams and demons, of horrific storms in the Southern Ocean, and of those riveting moments when a split-second decision means the difference between life and death.
324 pages, $14.95
Stranded in Panama after WWII and desperate to get to his bride in Australia, Caldwell buys a small boat and heads across the Pacific, battling storms and near-starvation. A gripping read.
The Incredible Voyage
A lot of Jones's writing requires a willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader, but just about any of his many books makes for great fireside reading.
410 pages, $19.95
The Boat Who Wouldn't Float
Hilarious tale of an unfortunate encounter with a characterful boat in Newfoundland.
256 pages, $5.99
Mischief in Patagonia
Mountain climbing and high-latitude voyaging in a leaky boat. A seafaring classic.
960 pages, $45