"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney
By Marcin Wojtyczka
12 minutes read
The best and favourite sailing books on our shelf.
RYA Competent Crew Skills - RYA Competent Crew Skills is the official companion for the RYA’s popular Competent Crew Course. It is also a good resource for non-English sailors that have experience but want to grasp the English sailing nomenclature.
Reeds Crew Handbook - Invaluable primer for new the crew before going to sea, and a handy pocket-sized aide-memoire to brush up knowledge.
Reeds Skippers's Handbook - A brilliant pocket-size guide for beginners and an excellent refresher for more advanced skippers.
The Complete Yachtmaster - Bestseller since first publication that has established itself as the standard reference for Yachtmaster students as well as skippers of all levels of experience.
Yachtmaster for Sail and Power - a highly respected and practical study guide covering the whole syllabus of RYA Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster Offshore, illustrated with colour photographs, charts and examples. Similar in content to “The Complete Yachtmaster” book.
Sail and Rig Tuning - This beautifully illustrated and well-organised book shows how to trim sails and rig for maximum performance.
Expert Sailing Skills: No Nonsense Advice That Really Works - A selection of the best practical articles from the pages of Yachting Monthly magazine that can help sailors at every level. Each chapter deals with a specific skill and is highly illustrated with step-by-step photos, ranging from dropping anchor to planning a passage.
The Atlantic Crossing Guide - well established as the standard reference for anyone planning an Atlantic voyage. Packed with advice on preparation and passage planning for ocean passages.
The Pacific Crossing Guide - well established as the standard reference for anyone planning a Pacific voyage. Packed with advice on preparation and passage planning for ocean passages.
The Voyager's Handbook - Inspirational and comprehensive handbook that leads step by step through choosing, planning and following the voyager’s life. In parts, it is outdated now but still provides invaluable knowledge for those planning life on board.
Heavy Weather Sailing - For 50 years Heavy Weather Sailing has been regarded as the ultimate international authority on surviving storms at sea aboard sailing and motor vessels. The book is not easy to read as it is very technical, but it contains a collection of relevant stories that the reader can learn from.
Storm Tactics - One of very few classic heavy weather tactics books for small boats.
RYA VHF Handbook - It details everything that sailors need to know about using VHF radios including how they work, the rules and regulations which govern it and the procedures that must be followed.
RYA Introduction to Radar - This book is suitable for anyone requiring a working knowledge of radar. It provides a very easy-read introduction to radar on small boats and the text and accompanying illustrations are clear and unambiguous.
GMDSS: A User's Handbook - Explains the operation of the GMDSS system and clearly outlines the procedures required to get help quickly, as well as covering the syllabus of the General Operator’s Certificate (GOC), the Long Range Certificate (LRC) and the Restricted Operator’s Certificate (ROC).
RYA First Aid Manual - Easy to follow and understand with lots of pictures and diagrams for common incidents. Provided as part of RYA First Aid courses.
The Ship Captain's Medical Guide - Intended primarily for use on vessels where there is no medical professional, such as a doctor, on board. It provides assistance and direction for crew members when it becomes necessary for them to assess and treat trauma and medical illness.
Where There Is No Doctor (pdf) - The most widely-used health care manual for health workers, educators, and others involved in primary health care and health promotion around the world.
Mariner's Weather Handbook - Of all the things required to get ready to cruise, nothing is more important than understanding the weather and the tactics required to make it work for you. This book provides a complete and exhaustive guide to every aspect of weather you are likely to meet when cruising.
Modern Marine Weather - A comprehensive book on how to take weather into account for the planning and navigation of voyages, local or global, using the latest technologies as well as the time-honoured skills of maritime tradition.
Reading the clouds - Practical book full of photographs. With this book, you can “read” the sky and better predict what the weather will do.
Reeds Weather Handbook: For Sail and Power - Pocket-sized guide with all the necessary tools to predict and deal with local and distant weather conditions, whether on a day trip or a longer cruise, along the coast or further offshore.
World Cruising Routes - Long established as the bible for long-distance cruisers and a bestseller for more than 25 years. It is a great planning guide to nearly 1000 sailing routes covering all the oceans of the world. It is a good alternative to the “Ocean Passages for the World” which was written with the merchant navy in mind.
Yachting pilot guides and cruising companions - Huge amount of pilot guides and cruising handbooks to cover almost every corner of the world. It gives a much better feeling for a place and useful information for recreational sailors than Admiralty guides. The Royal Cruising Club Pilotage Foundation (RCC) pilot books published by Imray are excellent, but there are many others.
Reeds Nautical Almanac - Indispensable trusted annual compendium of navigational data including tide tables for yachtsmen and motorboaters, and provides all the information required to navigate European waters. It is quite a bulky position, so we usually cut out only the relevant pages for a trip.
Routing/Pilot Charts - Very useful charts for passage planning for long-distance voyages. It includes routes and distances between major ports, ocean currents, ice limits, load lines and wind roses, and expected meteorological and oceanographic conditions for each month of the year.
Cornell's Ocean Atlass - Pilot charts of all oceans for the world showing wind speed and direction, current speed and direction, approximate extent of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, the most common tracks of tropical storms, and the mean location of high pressure cells for each hemisphere.
Noonsite - Ultimate Cruisers Planning Tool - Free internet site for cruisers either preparing for a voyage or already underway, where they can get comprehensive up-to-the global information on everything from weather to visa requirements to marine services in every country.
Reeds Almanac digests a lot of publications and reproduces them in a single and concise volume. But once you are beyond the limits of Reeds you might need to replace it with separate publications:
Ocean Passages for the Worlds - Bible for ocean sailing that supports the planning of deep-sea voyages on most major routes, with details of weather, currents, ice hazards, distances between major ports and a lot more. Its downside is that it is written with the merchant navy and professional seafarers in mind, so it is a bit overwhelming for ordinary sailors.
Mariner's Handbook - Contains a lot of reference information regarding maritime navigation, sea and ice conditions, meteorology and regulations.
Admirality Sailing Directions - Pilotage books that provide essential information to support port entry and coastal navigation. Among other things like weather conditions and visibility for each place, it contains valuable aerial photographs which are essential once you are off the beaten track where cruising guides do not exist.
Admirality Tide Tables - Tide tables for the world. It works similarly to Reeds Almanac, but there are fewer standard ports, so you will need to do more secondary port calculations.
Admirality List of Lights and Fog Signals - Provides a list of every single navigational mark and light characteristic within a given area, coverage of structures including lighthouses, lightships, lit floating marks and fog signals. It can be used to cross-check against charts but only if you keep it up to date!
Admirality List of Radio Signals - Provides information on all aspects of Maritime Radio Communications. There are 6 volumes but only volumes 3 (Maritime Safety Information Services) and 5 (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) are relevant for yachts.
COLREGs - The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.
Learn the Nautical Rules of the Road - This is the ideal book to improve your understanding of International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) whether you need to pass an exam or require an onboard reference.
MGN 280 (M) Small Commercial Vessel and Pilot Boat Code - A code of practice for the construction, machinery, equipment, stability, operation, manning, examination, certification and maintenance of UK vessels up to 24 metres load line length which is in commercial use for sport or pleasure, as a workboat or pilot boat.
The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition - This is one of the most wonderful tales of adventure and hardship among many during the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration. We are fascinated by this expedition and the way Shackleton kept his crew motivated and psychologically healthy through an astonishingly harrowing time of privation and doubt.
The Voyage of the Liberdade (online) - Captain Joshua Slocum was the first to sail around the world alone without any stopover. The Voyage with Liberdade was a sensation when first published in 1890. Still one of the best books about bluewater sailing.
Cockpit cards - Cards that can be kept in the cockpit for quick reference of basic information like navigation lights.
Flip cards - A pack of cards (sometimes pictorial) on one side and the answers on the other. A great way to learn learn lights and shapes, and rule of road.
MAIB Reports - The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) investigates marine accidents involving UK vessels worldwide and all vessels in UK territorial waters and publishes reports. It is a perfect way to learn from other’s mistakes.
Crash Test Boat - Yachting Monthly’s video series of crash tests (Fire, Hole, Jury Rig, Dismasting etc.).