17 Best Sailing Books [2020 Reviews]

By Mike Sellers •  Updated: 06/30/20 •  12 min read

In search of a list of the best sailing books? Then you’re in the right place.

I reached out to over 1,000 leaders in the field to find the most essential books every sailor should have on their shelf.

I reviewed every suggestion, and broke them into categories below.

I’ll keep adding to this list as I find new books that deserve to be on here.

If there’s one I missed let me know.

Okay, here’s the list:


Instructional Sailing Books


Sailing Made Easy

By The American Sailing Association 

Sailing made easy is a comprehensive and easy to follow guide for anyone who is learning to sail. It contains a ton of colored pictures and diagrams of important sailing concepts.  Every chapter ends with a short quiz, so you can test what you’ve learned. 

The book has a strong emphasis on safety and fundamentals – perhaps the most important parts of sailing. The back of the book has a great glossary of sailing terms to help you master nautical vocabulary.  

This is definitely one of the better introduction to sailing manuals available. Unlike similar textbooks, it’s not just a list of necessary skills. The book starts with the basics, but introduces more advanced concepts in later chapters. If you’re new to sailing, get yourself a copy. 


Basic Keelboat and Basic Cruising

By US Sailing

Okay…Maybe these won’t be the most exciting books you’ll ever pick up. But Basic Keelboat and Basic Cruising are must-haves if you want to get certified by US Sailing.  

These are two separate manuals written for beginners earning their sailing certification. A lot of sailing schools and courses use them for teaching students. 

Basic Keelboat focuses on safe and efficient keelboat sailing during the day, in well-known waters. You’ll learn about safety, navigation, system and boat operation, emergency procedures and more. 


Basic Cruising shows future sailors how to sail safely during daytime, in the visual range of land, during light or moderate wind and sea conditions. It will teach you how to check all the systems and operate an auxiliary powered cruising sailboat. 


Sailing Fundamentals

By Gary Jobson

Gary Jobson’s Sailing Fundamentals is another authoritative manual used in sailing schools and other institutions across the United States. It breaks down everything from knot tying, to sail raising, to anchoring. This is a step-by-step primer that any new sailor can benefit from.

Jobson is a world-class sailing instructor and winner of multiple international races. He covers all the basic sailing principles and situations that a beginner will encounter. 


The Complete Sailor

By David Seidman 

The complete sailor is a book written for any sailor, no matter the experience level. For beginners, it offers a variety of information useful for learning sailing techniques, but for experienced sailors it has in-depth explanations and racing techniques for you. Numerous illustrations are a part of this book to ensure better understanding of the content. 

In the chapters, you’ll find information about winds, boats, sails, ropes, anchoring, emergency situations, navigation and much more. 

This book is not just a typical handbook. It is written in a way to turn a reader into being a real sailor. 

I’d recommend this to any passionate beginner or want to get into racing your boat. 


The Complete Sailing Manual, 4th Edition

By Steve Sleight

This is truly a damn good sailing reference. You’ll want to keep this handy in your boat bag or on your bookshelf.  

This is a good book even if you’re a pretty experienced sailor. Each section gives you a solid overview of how to solve a different sailing problem. Steve Sleight was a coach and instructor at the UK’s National Sailing Centre – he knew what he was talking about. 

He covers the basics here, but also shares his knowledge about long distance sailing, high speeds, navigation equipment and pretty much anything you can think of. There’s even chapters about boat maintenance and boat design. 

If you want to master the different aspects of sailing this one is highly recommended. 

It also has some great pictures, which makes this a beautiful coffee table book too!


Best Sailing Adventure Books, Narratives, Memoirs


Sailing Alone Around the World

by Joshua Scolum

This book is a thrilling adventure about Joshua Scolum’s sailing trip around the world. He was a first person who single-handedly accomplished such a great venture. 

This book is written in a way to keep the reader interested and engaged until the end. While reading it, a person can truly imagine how it was like for the author to withstand every good and bad thing on a three-year journey. Joshua writes about navigation, loneliness, fatigue, endless ocean, and about adventures near the coast, including near collisions, pirates and unknown lands. 

The first edition of this book was published more than 100 years ago, and it is still equally popular and fun among the readers. It contains original illustrations which impersonates original character of the book. 

Sailing alone around the world is a must-read for every passionate sailor and adventure lover. 


Maiden Voyage 

by Tania Aebi

Maiden Voyage is a story about a woman who single-handedly sailed across the world. It was a life-changing experience for this previously not so adventurous lady. For two and a half years she was isolated from people she knew, except her cat, who was her companion during the voyage. 

On her eventful journey she enjoyed the beauty of Great Barrier Reef, she had a life threatening situation when colliding with a tanker, and she survived harsh thunderstorms. Physical voyage soon became spiritual. 

Written in a way that it keeps the reader engaged and interested, this book is for anyone who desires to run away for everyday life and go on a great adventure. 


The Long Way 

by Bernard Moitessier

Bernard Moitessier was a participant in a first ever race around the globe. The interesting part about this race is that it was non-stop and participants were not allowed to spend time on land. After seven months he almost reached the finish line, but then he turned around and kept on sailing other way around until reaching Tahiti. He did not touch the ground at all during this long journey. 

This incredible voyage had a big influence on his spirit. He writes about his loneliness, tiredness and all the problems he experienced. 

Reading this book can truly engage the reader and give him a close impression of what it was like to circumnavigate the world. 


A Voyage for Madmen 

By Peter Nichols

This book is about nine sailors participating in one of the most grueling sailing races of all time. In 1968, they single-handedly raced around the world, non-stop. Author describes their individual challenges, craziness of the voyage, during time when technology we use today did not exist. Nine individuals faced loneliness, madness, horrific weather and fear, driven by desire to accomplish something that has never been done before. 

Almost a year later, just one man succeeded. This story about fame, prize, adventure and death will keep a reader engaged until the last page. Anyone who is longing for extraordinary adventures, or just wants to know about one of the toughest races ever, should read this book. 


The Annapolis Book of Seamanship 

by John Rousmaniere

This book is a guide for anyone interested in sailing. It contains useful information about safety, gear, skills and techniques necessary, in order to sail efficiently and safely. First chapters explain the basics, and as the reader moves on, more complicated things are explained. 

This new edition includes updated facts about rules, safety and navigation. There is a lot of new text and new pictures. Everything is showed in full-color in order to be as clear and useful as possible. 

There are parts about health and seasickness. For the author, that is very important part of sailing, often neglected in other textbooks. Scientific approach is used for writing and real boating accidents were analyzed in other to show how to recognize potentially dangerous situations and avoid them. 


Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual

By Don Casey

This extensive manual contains more than 2500 pictures that guide you through every aspect of sailboat maintenance. It includes in-depth explanations of every boat system, from engines, to electrical systems, to sails and trimming. 

This book is really 6 books in one, with sections for different boat systems. Pick up a copy. It’s a must-have for anyone sailboat owner. 


The Voyager’s Handbook: The Essential Guide to Blue Water Cruising

By Beth Leonard

This is a useful manual if you’re planning to undertake a long journey on board a sailboat. Beth Leonard will guide you through every aspect of planning and carrying out the journey. 

This may be the best book out there for helping you make decisions of what boat to use, what equipment to bring, and preparing for everything you’ll run into along the way.

Leonard includes examples of three different composite couples who are on different budgets for their journeys. You may find this a useful tool to compare against when planning for your own trips.

The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew

By Lin Pardey

This interesting handbook was written by a couple with extensive sailing knowledge and experience. They offer practical advice and wisdom for planning a sailing journey. 

Pardy provides information about fresh food, buying supplies, getting alcohol in foreign countries, wearing proper clothes, and even how to choose the right underwear. A lot of these aspects are often ignored by inexperienced sailors planning their first long distance journey. 

This wonderful handbook talks about on-board materials for food storage and even about boat parts that easily fail. It is a complete and wide handbook full of tips about everything a person can encounter while sailing. 

This is probably a must-read if you’re trying to live aboard or travel long distances on their sailboat.



By Onne van der Wal

Yes this is an expensive picture book, but damn it’s beautiful. 

Onne van der Wal is an experienced sailor and passionate photographer. He created this book to introduce the reader to the exciting world of sailing. It has a short introduction and over 200 gorgeous pictures in full color.

This book is an ode to sailing and it celebrates the lifestyle appealing to many, that only the lucky few can experience. Whether you’re a world-class skipper or you’ve never sailed before, this book will amaze you. These stunning photographs of sailing races and expeditions will make you want to buy a boat and sail around the world. 

If you’re struggling to find a gift for that sailor who has everything, get them this. They will love it.


Physics of Sailing 

By John Kimball

Sure ailing is fun and adventurous. But it all comes down to science, from boat construction to weather. 

This book covers the basics of fluid mechanics, physics and the scientific principles behind them. You may get lost at some point, but this should be easy to follow even for sailors with no scientific background. 

Physics of sailing describes the processes that influence a sailboat and how you can use them them to your advantage. 

You will find comparisons of different boat shapes and explanations of how they are influenced by drag, wind turbulence, waves and more. 

It has a very good glossary of nautical terms and contains illustrations that show how concepts work in practice. 

If you’re curious about sailing physics, you should read this book.


How to Read a Nautical Chart, 2nd Edition

By Nigel Calder

The ability to read a nautical chart is an important skill every sailor must have. 

This book covers almost every aspect from beginner to advanced. If you’re new to this area, you may feel like you’re in over your head in the early chapters. But if you want to become a serious sailor you will be glad you studied this material at some point down the road.

Calder explains both paper and electronic charts, and how to get as much information from them as possible. He covers common mistakes that sailors can make when reading charts. This second edition dives into modern navigation systems, radars, 3D weather models, and even open-source/wiki data. 

Every sailor should study this book. That goes double for anyone preparing for long-distance or open water sailing.

The Book of Sailing Knots 

By Peter Owen

Thanks to modern technology, sailing is easier and more accessible than ever. But knot tying is still something that every sailor must do with their own hands. This handbook contains more than 50 illustrations with in-depth, step-by-step instructions for how to tie the most commonly used knots. 

Owen also explains when and why to use each of these knots, so you’ll never be confused. Loops, hitches, bends and stopper knots are well explained so that every beginner can practice at home, before setting out to the sea. 


What are the Top Sailing Books on Your List?

I hope you got something out of this list. But I really want this page to be a resource that helps other sailors find the right book for them.

So what are we missing?

What are the top sailing books on your list?

What are the must-read books for new (and old) sailors?

What manuals and guidebooks should be required reading for boat owners?

Send me an email and let me know! I’d love to add your book to this list.

Mike Sellers

Hey there, my name is Mike Sellers. I’m the guy behind this website. I've been sailing for over a decade and I'm going to show you everything I know about how to sail better, cheaper, and smarter.