797.1 Woo (c1997/2012)

Sarah P’s comments:  This book was originally released in 1977, way before Stuart Woods became a bestselling author. In fact, he was supposed to be writing his first novel when about a hundred pages into the book, he discovered sailing, and “everything went to hell. All I did was sail.”

The book was re-released in 2012 and suddenly all sorts of non-sailors were calling it a rip-roaring read. Well, sort of. It’s really a fairly standard sailing book of the era but what does make is interesting is that Stuart has a sense of humor and how he goes from dinghy sailing to crossing an ocean does make for interesting reading.

YouTube Video Review of the Book


‘...it is all too easy to bandy about a few technical terms and give someone the impression that you know more than you do. This is done every day in yacht club bars.’

‘Many human beings need adventure, real adventure, personal adventure and sometimes, as in my case, solitary adventure.’

‘Some men and women have always needed [adventure], finding their own physical limits without the aids of bearers and sherpa guides, searching out their own emotional and spiritual boundaries in places where there is no one to answer to but God. As our society grows and our environment shrinks, there will be more and more little men [and women] who will wish to deny us that…they must be ignored.’

Reading while underway…


797.1 Fac (c2018)


Sarah P’s comments: I’m back from the deep and yes, it’s because of a book. I fell away from writing this blog not because of time or disinterest but because I stopped believing in myself. I saw no way forward to the place where I want to be: sailing and cruising and a life on the water. Feeling this way, it was too upsetting to read my normal sailing books and instead I wandered around the fiction section of the library feeling lost. I was definitely washed up on a ledge and feeling pounded to pieces.

I drifted into summer. The boat swung on the mooring, every day sunny with a perfect breeze. I would row out, clean, polish, and lie on the settee, feeling sad. Why didn’t I go sailing? Because I can’t take the boat out myself. What if something happened? It would not be ‘prudent’ to take this risk. I needed to wait for the return of my always-away merchant marine husband who was also making noises about buying a tractor and becoming a dirt dweller.

Then, in that mysteriously serendipitous internet way, a magazine called SisterShip appeared in one of my searches. Intrigued by the name, I bought an online copy and began reading about women sailors of all types. I flipped a page and there appeared the cover of the book: Facing Fear Head On. And I knew, exactly in that moment, the answer to my problem. I was afraid to take the boat out alone.

Well, duh. But it had been hidden from me because I wasn’t a new sailor who would expect to be afraid. Get this…I grew up sailing, worked on a windjammer (as a cook), have sailed to Canada, down to Florida and back. We have owned our catamaran for seven years and I am the Captain (my husband is the Chief Engineer). I know, I know…how could I possibly be afraid? But I was.

I ordered the book. I rowed out to the boat, lay on the settee, and read every story in it. And thought of the quote from Chicken Run, one of my all-time favorite movies, “Fowler, you have to fly it. You’re always talking about back in your day, well, TODAY is your day!”

I decided I could do it. Then I decided I would do it; take the boat out alone…

Now if that isn’t a good review for a book, I don’t know what is. I’m not saying it’s deep literature but the stories are real, written by real women sailors, and I’m sharing this title because it helped get me off my mooring and I hope it will get you off yours too.



912 Jen (c2011)

Sarah P’s comments:  It is deep winter so I am deviating from my usual water path. While in my favorite 910.4 section, my eye wandered to the 912’s and fell upon this odd book. Everything you wanted to know (or not) about maps and people who love looking at them. I admit I am one. It’s a strangely fascinating read from a strangely fascinating guy who also happens to be a good writer. The only negative is he never mentions charts! I will have to write him…how can you write a whole book about maps and never discuss maps of water???

Maps give us a sense of place and stability and origin that we otherwise lack.’

‘Falling in love with places is just like falling in love with people; it can happen more than once, but never quite like your first time.’

Almost every map…will show us two kinds of places: places where we’ve been and places we’ve never been…We can understand, at a glance, our place in the universe, our potential to go and see new things, and the way to get back home afterward.’


917.14 Hol (c1939)

Northern Lights coverSarah P’ s comments:  Since I seem to be on a kick of writing about northern sailing, here is another classic I discovered last year. Not quite Rockwell Kent but a good read nonetheless. The author does not name the year he sailed to Labrador but, from clues in the text, I would say it’s sometime in the 1920’s.

Google Books Link

WorldCat Link


I write that the coexistence of abysmal terror and God-like elation is responsible for much seafaring, especially the small-boat kind.

And thus, in the unpainted cabin of this schooner…did we three fatuous asses bray that the luck which is God’s mercy to fools was nothing more nor less than our sterling seamanship.’

For boats, even the uglier ones, are among the loveliest creations of man’s hands, and though owning them brings a train of debts, hangnails, bruises, bad frights, and all kinds of worries not experienced by those who content themselves with the more practical vices, the relation between a man and his boat is as personal and intimate as the relation between husband and wife.’


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918.2 Ken (c1924)

Voyaging South Cover

Sarah P’s comments: I thought sailing to Greenland was Kent’s greatest adventure and then I discovered that six years earlier, he’d sailed to an even more remote place: Tierra del Fuego. No matter what edition you can find, this book is worth reading, however the Internet Archive has made a scanned copy of the original available which is the best way to view Kent’s woodcuts.

Voyaging Southward Internet Archive




Only the voyager perceives the poignant loveliness of life, for he alone has tasted of its contrasts. He has experienced the immense and wild expansion of the spirit outward bound, and the contracted heartburn of the homecoming. He has explored the two infinities – the external universe – and himself.

All things look good from far away and it is man’s eternally persistent childlike faith in the reality of that illusion that has made him the triumphant restless being he is.

In quietness the soul expands.
(This quote is from ‘Wilderness, A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska‘, another of Kent’s books but I like it so much I had to include it. )


Voyaging Pic


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919.82 Ken (c1930)

N by E Cover

Sarah P’s comments:  As an artist, Rockwell Kent does not need an introduction but for many years I wasn’t aware he was a writer as well. Two of his books are sailing stories and over the years I would see N by E mentioned here or there as, in Maine, it’s touted as a ‘classic’.

Finally, one sailing summer, I read Kent’s story of cruising north to Greenland in 1929 on his 33′ cutter. The illustrations, the descriptions, the subsequent shipwreck…all make for a riveting read. In fact I liked it so much I hunted up his other sailing story which was even better…and which I will write about next…


N by E quote

N by E quote 2




N by East Illus


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910.4 (c1988)

Always a Distant AnchorageSarah P’s comments: I can’t go further with this blog about sailing stories without paying homage to sailors Hal and Margaret Roth. Although, he wrote the books, she was every bit an equal sailing partner. Together, they sailed over 250,000 miles over three decades and Hal’s books are sailing adventure classics.

Hal Roth, in fact, is the guy who sparked the dream for me…In my mid-20’s I was working in a library in Maine and feeling directionless. One day I walked by a new book on display: Always a Distant Anchorage (Hal’s 5th book). From the first line, I was hooked (see quotes below)…

Wikipedia article: more about his life an travels as well as a list of all his books.


First line from ‘Always a Distant Anchorage’: It was a cool day in late July when Margaret and I sailed from Somes Sound in Maine towards Bermuda.

We sailed on a wonderful magic carpet named Whisper

The Chileans have a saying: The wind always blows from the bow of the ship.


a picture from Two Against Cape Horn






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910.4 Pay (c1980)

Sarah P’s comments:  Humor in sailing books is not all that common. Most tales tend to the deep or the disastrous…so Herb Payson’s story is refreshing. When I first this book it was fairly new, now I read it and think egads they had an alcohol stove and a sextant?! However, this ‘get-away-from-it-all story is timeless. For description, I am going to defer to words from The Boat Galley blog:

Blown-Away cover with commentary

SAIL magazine article about Herb Payson (2015)


‘Sunday dawned dull and dreary…but before long the sun came out bright and warm, the wind freshened, we raised sail and experienced that amazing sleight-of-mind that happens when a beautiful day on the water blots out all thoughts or previous discomfort.’

‘To depend on luck is to court disaster; to sail without it is to do the same. From this delicate balance is a sailor’s superstition born.’

‘Life is a series of lessons with no chance to practice. Second only to foresight, a sailor’s best insurance is his ability to improvise. It’s an ability that depends upon attitude, an art that can improve with experience.’

‘I loved cruising the coast of Maine. For one thing, it helped me conquer my fear of fog. Not that I have learned to feel secure in the fog, but at least I have learned how to grope without panic.’ 

payson's boat

Sea Foam: Herb & Nancy Payson’s boat

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910.4 Moi (c1973)

The Long Way Cover

Sarah P’s comments:  Another contender in the infamous first Golden Globe Race of 1969 was Bernard Moitessier. I’d heard of him but never read his books until I read A Voyage for Madmen.  When I learned that he could have won but chose to keep sailing instead, I immediately checked out The Long Way, his story about the race. This is a classic from a classic sailor…

Video about Moitessier including interviews


‘And go on deck more often, regardless of weather. Many things are cured by wind and sea, if you stay on deck with them long enough.’

‘I think all those that go to sea prefer the moon to the sun.’

‘To have the time…to have the choice…not knowing what you are heading for and just going there anyway…’

‘It is here, in the immense desert of the Southern Ocean, that I feel most strongly how much man is both atom and God.’

Moitessier on Deck

Moitessier on board ‘Joshua’

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797.14 Nic (c2001)*

A Voyage for MadmenSarah P’s comments: This book is a gripping account of the 1968 first ever Golden Globe Race in which nine sailors set off to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe nonstop. It had never been done and 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.

How’s that for a plotline? A fascinating read even for those not interested in sailing books. This story has risen to the top of my list of blog posts because just this year they released a movie about one of the sailors in it.

British businessman, Donald Crowhurst entered the race with little funding and even less sailing knowledge. His start was difficult and things went downhill from there. The movie is aptly (in my opinion) named The Mercy and stars Colin Firth, which fact alone is enough to make me want to view it.

However, I would encourage you to read the book because A Voyage for Madmen tells the story of all the racers, the two which I found most fascinating being; Robin Knox-Johnston and the infamous Bernard Moitessier. In fact, it was reading the details of Moitessier’s race, that led me to deciding I had to read his books…

In the next few blog posts, I will share the books that these sailors have written.


They can’t answer the question why. They can’t make people who couldn’t do what they do – understand.

*I completely disagree with this cataloguing choice. This is adventure of the tallest order which is 910.4 not 797.14 (boating)!WaterBug letters