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Technical Marine Books

Serious mariners, particularly those who are preparing to voyage for the first time, should, in my view, have the most appropriate of these books on hand. I do not necessarily endorse every viewpoint in these technical books, and in many cases, I find some conclusions a bit oversimplified. As an example, many texts recommend a particular storm tactic, but few discuss how one should consider such things as proximity of land or currents and how they can affect sea state, or how basic characteristics of a boat suit different tactics. Surely, a large, high-performance boat capable of going upwind efficiently in 50 knots of wind has a different personality and capabilities from a motorsailer or cruising catamaran. Overall, however, I find each of these books to be excellent references with the most well-rounded and thorough perspectives. I consider almost every one of these books essential to any serious mariner.

First Aid AfloatAdvanced First Aid Afloat by Peter F. Eastman: When you are offshore, or close to it, medical help can be hours or even weeks away. Eastman tackles in very logical and easy-to-understand fashion how to meet health challenges from the basics to the relatively complex. There have been many texts on first aid, but for sailors, I believe this remains the best out there. Find out more and Buy.


Ashley Book of KnotsThe Ashley Book of Knots by Clifford Ashley: Famed sailor Gary Jobson has been quoted as saying, "If you can't tie a good knot, tie a lot of them." I highly disagree, primarily because I have long cursed those who followed that advice, leaving me to pry their knots apart. Every sailor will rely on knots for his or her safety, not to mention convenience, and Ashley's book has, quite simply, been the bible of knotography ever since I can remember. Get it and practice! Find out more and Buy.

Best of Sail TrimThe Best of Sail Trim by Charles Mason: I've long maintained that a sailor who doesn't care about sail trim is like a driver who doesn't care if his engine has leaky valves and a frozen piston. Bad trim adds significant wear on sails and is simply a waste of horsepower. Better to reef and set a sail properly than let it flog about or keep it overtrimmed. Mason adeptly covers all the issues. Find out more and Buy.


Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical ManualBoatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual by Nigel Calder: While living aboard, I would routinely drag out this book to help me sort things out. Being a virtual idiot about electrical issues aboard, and not the best mechanic either, I rely on Calder when it comes to the many complex systems now routinely found on boats. Calder's well-illustrated and accessible texts keeps things running. See also his Marine Diesel Engines. Find out more and Buy.

Complete Book of Anchoring and MooringThe Complete Book of Anchoring and Mooring by Earl Hinz: Just as the title says, this book covers quite well all the basic issues of anchoring, from how to deal with crowded hidden holes to how to deploy sea anchors in the open ocean. I suggest Lin and Larry Pardey's Storm Tactics as a companion book, because their method of using a sea anchor is, in my view, highly effective; but remember that carrying adequate ground tackle and using it properly is a voyager's best insurance by far. Find out more and Buy.

Heavy Weather SailingHeavy Weather Sailing by Adlard Coles: There's good reason why this book has been around for many decades. It is one of the best overviews ever written about heavy weather and how to deal with it. The case histories are not only highly instructive but also great reads in their own right. Importantly, they reveal the variables and nuances of handling a particular boat in a particular blow, how boat types, sea states, proximity of land, and other factors must all be considered. Find out more and Buy.

Instant Weather ForecastingInstant Weather Forecasting by Alan Watts: This is a wonderful, quick reference for anyone. It's great to navigate in a glance or two and figure out what is likely to happen. Find out more and Buy.

Marine Diesel EnginesMarine Diesel Engines by Nigel Calder: As with his Boat Owner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual, Nigel Calder's book on marine diesels should be on every cruising boat, unless you happen to be a mechanic. It has helped me numerous times to take the mystery out of the Detroit Spinnaker and not only solve problems but also set up systems to prevent them to begin with. Find out more and Buy.


Marlinespike SailorThe Marlinspike Sailor by Hervey Garrett Smith: I find this book a wonderful companion to The Ashley Book of Knots. It goes beyond Ashley in some respects with reference to fancy rope work, which can really dress up a boat and give it that salty feel, and it is much more portable, making it more easily carried aboard smaller craft. Find out more and Buy.


Navigation Rules of the RoadNavigation Rules of the Road by the U.S. Coast Guard: Ever wondered what lights harken on yonder horizon? Is it a ship, submarine, or tug towing a barge more than 200 meters long? You might regret it if you don't know. The rules of the road outline exactly what you will see out there, from buoys to vessels, and what your responsibilities are, among other things. This standard reference should be on every boat, period. Find out more and Buy.

Oceanography and SeamanshipOceanography and Seamanship by William G. Van Dorn: This is simply the best primer about oceanography I have ever found, and one of the most essential books about the ocean environment. Anyone serious about sailing should be familiar with how the world works, including what generates and controls weather, currents, and waves. This book covers all that and much more. Find out more and Buy.


Sailmaker's ApprenticeSailmaker's Apprentice by Emilio Marino: This beautifully illustrated volume will take you through the entire process of sail making. In this modern era of molded plastic sails and other high technologies, the Sailmaker's Apprentice may appear a little dated, but for a serious cruiser who still employs conventionally stitched Dacron and often must repair it or go without, I think having such a book aboard is highly valuable if not essential. Find out more and Buy.

Self Sufficient SailorSelf Sufficient Sailor by Lin Pardey: When you are off cruising, don't count on anyone rescuing you from the fix into which you've gotten yourself. Self-sufficiency afloat is truly next to Godliness, and Lin and Larry Pardey have oodles of experience with this blessed approach. You'll find from these consummate cruisers vital information about everything from food to ground tackle. If you don't take it with you, at least read it before you go. Find out more and Buy.

This Old BoatThis Old Boat by Dan Casey: Some sailors like to work on their boats as much as sail them. Almost all sailors end up tackling jobs to make their craft more workable, or at least customize them to suit individual needs. This book not only provides guidance on how to accomplish commonly needed refits, but it also outlines projects that make life aboard that much easier. When not offering a specific solution, This Old Boat will at least inspire and provide techniques that can be applied to your own dreams. Find out more and Buy.

World Cruising RoutesWorld Cruising Routes by Jimmy Cornell: Jimmy Cornell has been rounding the world more frequently and longer than just about anyone I can think of. He's the consummate voyager. Along the way, he's amassed an incredible knowledge about where to go, when to go there, how to enter various countries, what resources are available in what ports—all the nuts and bolts every long-range cruiser needs to find out. This compendium of knowledge is an absolute must for any such sailor. Find out more and Buy.

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