Boats, Sailing, and Good Books

By: Sailing Books, Sailing Fun, Sailing Story

One of the great pleasures in the life of a sailor is the ability to sit in a quiet cove on the deck of your boat, alone with your thoughts and a good book.  Add a hot cup of coffee on a cool morning, and things cannot get any better.  Flipping pages and listening to the sounds of the ocean are a sailor’s reward for finding the time to stop and lose oneself in the pages of a book about the life we love. 

Have you read a good book lately? These books are all about boats, the ocean, adventure, and sailing in one form or another.  Each of these books below will captivate your imagination if you spend any time on the water or if you just enjoy fiddling around on boats.

Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost by Paul Hendrickson

Hendrickson explores the life of Ernest Hemingway through the lens of the famous author’s beloved boat, Pilar. The book delves into Hemingway’s complex personality, focusing on his passions, relationships, and struggles. Pilar, a 38-foot fishing boat, played a significant role in Hemingway’s life, serving as a symbol of his love for the sea and adventure. Hendrickson uses the boat as a metaphorical anchor, connecting various aspects of Hemingway’s life, including his writing career, his tumultuous marriages, his friendships, and his battle with mental health.

Tranquility: A Memoir of an American Sailor by Billy Sparrow

“Tranquility” recounts the real-life adventure of Billy Sparrow, a 24-year-old man, who sets sail on a 29-foot wooden sloop called Tranquility, built in 1938 in Puget Sound. Originally planning a three-week voyage from Seattle to the Channel Islands near Santa Barbara, California, Billy encounters unexpected challenges. Early in the journey, the boat’s engine fails, it catches fire, and Billy falls in love. Despite these setbacks, Billy persists, rebuilding Tranquility multiple times. He meticulously chronicles his experiences in a log, capturing both the highs and lows of his journey. After enduring five years of trials and tribulations, Billy eventually reaches Santa Barbara. “Tranquility” stands as a testament to resilience, determination, and the enduring affection boat owners hold for their vessels. The story highlights the obstacles and victories inherent in sailing, offering profound lessons learned along the way.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Published in 2001, the story weaves together elements of adventure, spirituality, and philosophical inquiry. It revolves around Piscine Molitor Patel, also known as Pi, a young Indian boy from Pondicherry who survives a shipwreck in the Pacific Ocean. Stranded on a lifeboat, he shares this precarious space with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, alongside a zebra, a hyena, and an orangutan. As the solitary human survivor on the lifeboat, Pi forms an improbable bond with Richard Parker, uniting in the struggle for survival amidst the vast and unforgiving ocean.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

“Moby-Dick,” first published in 1851, is a literary masterpiece narrated by Ishmael, a young sailor on the whaling ship Pequod, led by the vengeful Captain Ahab. Ahab’s singular focus is seeking revenge against Moby Dick, a giant white whale that took his leg. This obsession drives the crew on a dangerous journey across the seas. The novel explores themes of obsession, revenge, and human complexity. It delves into topics like good and evil, the power of nature, and human behavior. Melville provides immersive details about whaling, marine life, and whale anatomy, offering readers a vivid glimpse into the 19th-century whaling industry.

Tightwads on the Loose by Wendy Hinman

The book chronicles the real-life adventures of Wendy and her husband, Garth, as they embark on a seven-year journey sailing around the world aboard their 31-foot boat, Velella, in 2000. The title, “Tightwads on the Loose,” reflects the couple’s frugal approach to travel, navigating on a shoestring budget while seeking extraordinary experiences. Throughout their journey, they face a series of challenges, including encounters with pirates, storms, and various mechanical failures. Despite the hardships, the couple’s determination and resourcefulness enable them to continue their voyage, making unexpected friendships and discovering the kindness of strangers along the way.

Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Written by Ernest Hemingway and published in 1952, the book is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novella that tells the story of an aging fisherman named Santiago. Set in Cuba, the novella explores themes of courage, determination, and the struggle for meaning in life. Santiago, an old and experienced fisherman, has gone 84 days without catching a fish. He sets out alone into the Gulf Stream, hoping to end his unlucky streak. The adventure that unfolds is storytelling at its best.

Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum

This classic adventure book, first published in 1900, chronicles Slocum’s remarkable journey as he became the first person to sail single-handedly around the world. In 1895, Slocum, an experienced sailor and captain, set out on his small sloop, the Spray, from Boston. Over the course of three years and more than 46,000 miles, he navigated the treacherous waters of the world’s oceans, facing storms, treacherous seas, and encounters with various people and cultures. Slocum’s voyage took him through the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans and around the treacherous Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America.

The Ocean: The Ultimate Handbook of Nautical Knowledge by Chris Dixon & Jeremey K Spencer

The writing effortlessly transitions between educational, humorous, insightful, and relatable tones. Imagine yourself on a ship’s deck surrounded by fellow sailors; they’ll pass the time sharing tales of wisdom and adventures. The vast ocean unites surfers, divers, scientists, scholars, athletes, heroes, and heroines aboard boats. The narratives and knowledge are shared not as dry textbook material but as engaging anecdotes. Picture yourself at a dinner table with a rescue swimmer, a big wave surfer, and an oceanographer — engaging in conversations with the kind of people you’d love to call your close friends.

The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck & Edward F. Ricketts

The book combines scientific observation, philosophical musings, and travel narrative. It chronicles Steinbeck and Ricketts’ 1940 marine specimen-collecting expedition in the Gulf of California, known as the Sea of Cortez, aboard the Western Flyer, a sardine boat exploring Baja California, Mexico’s coastline. Throughout the narrative, Steinbeck and Ricketts not only document the region’s diverse marine life but also engage in philosophical and ecological discussions. They explore the interconnectedness of living organisms and contemplate the intricate complexities of the natural world. 

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