The Best Books for Learning About Sailing History
The Best Books for Learning About Sailing History

Explore the rich and captivating history of sailing through these top books, from the brave pioneers of old to modern-day adventurers, and discover the lessons and inspiration that lie within.

The Best Books for Learning About Sailing History

Ahoy, fellow sailing enthusiasts! As you embark on your own sailing adventures, it’s essential to learn about the rich history of sailing and the brave souls who have navigated the open seas before us. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best books that delve into sailing history, from the early explorers to modern-day adventurers. These books will not only entertain and inspire you but also provide valuable insights and lessons that you can apply to your own sailing journey.

Early Explorers and Navigators

1. The Age of Exploration: A Brief History with Documents by Bedford/St. Martin’s

This comprehensive book provides an overview of the Age of Exploration, a period from the 15th to the 17th century when European explorers set sail to discover new lands and trade routes. The book includes primary source documents, such as letters, journals, and maps, which provide a firsthand account of the explorers’ experiences. This is an excellent resource for understanding the motivations, challenges, and achievements of these early sailors.

2. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel

Longitude tells the fascinating story of John Harrison, an 18th-century clockmaker who invented the marine chronometer, a device that enabled sailors to accurately determine their longitude at sea. This invention revolutionized navigation and greatly improved the safety of long-distance sailing. The book is a captivating blend of history, science, and biography, making it an engaging read for anyone interested in sailing history.

3. The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself by Daniel J. Boorstin

This sweeping history of human discovery covers a wide range of topics, including the early navigators who charted the oceans. The book delves into the lives and accomplishments of famous explorers like Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, and James Cook, as well as lesser-known figures who made significant contributions to our understanding of the world. The Discoverers is a fascinating and informative read that will inspire you to continue exploring the world around you.

Classic Sailing Adventures

4. Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum

In 1895, Joshua Slocum set out on a solo voyage around the world aboard his sloop, the Spray. His incredible journey took him over 46,000 miles and three years to complete, making him the first person to circumnavigate the globe alone. Slocum’s memoir is a captivating account of his adventures, from battling storms and pirates to encountering friendly natives and fellow sailors. This classic tale of courage and determination is a must-read for anyone with a passion for sailing.

5. Two Years Before the Mast: A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea by Richard Henry Dana Jr.

This memoir by Richard Henry Dana Jr. recounts his two-year voyage from Boston to California as a common sailor aboard a merchant ship in the 1830s. The book provides a vivid and detailed account of life at sea during this time, including the hardships, camaraderie, and daily routines of sailors. Two Years Before the Mast is an engaging and informative read that offers a unique glimpse into the world of 19th-century sailing.

6. The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

Before he became famous for his theory of evolution, Charles Darwin was a young naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle on a five-year voyage around the world. The Voyage of the Beagle is Darwin’s journal of his experiences and observations during this journey, which took him to places like the Galapagos Islands, Australia, and South America. This book is not only an important piece of scientific history but also a fascinating account of adventure and discovery at sea.

Modern Sailing Stories

7. A World of My Own: The First Ever Non-stop Solo Round the World Voyage by Robin Knox-Johnston

In 1969, Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to sail solo and non-stop around the world. His incredible journey aboard his 32-foot yacht, Suhaili, took him 312 days to complete and earned him a place in sailing history. A World of My Own is Knox-Johnston’s account of his voyage, filled with thrilling moments, personal reflections, and insights into the challenges of solo sailing. This inspiring book is a testament to the human spirit and the allure of the open sea.

8. Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi

At the age of 18, Tania Aebi set out to sail around the world alone aboard her 26-foot sloop, Varuna. Her two-and-a-half-year journey took her across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, and into the Pacific, where she faced storms, equipment failures, and loneliness. Maiden Voyage is Aebi’s memoir of her incredible adventure, which made her the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe solo. This inspiring and empowering book is a must-read for aspiring sailors and adventurers.

9. The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier

The Long Way is the memoir of legendary French sailor Bernard Moitessier, who participated in the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first-ever solo, non-stop, round-the-world sailing race. Instead of completing the race and claiming victory, Moitessier decided to continue sailing around the world, eventually covering 37,455 miles in a single voyage. His book is a philosophical and poetic account of his journey, exploring the beauty of the sea and the challenges of solitude.


These books offer a wealth of knowledge and inspiration for anyone interested in sailing history. From the early explorers who charted the oceans to the modern-day adventurers who have pushed the boundaries of solo sailing, these stories will captivate and inspire you as you embark on your own sailing journey. So, hoist the sails, grab a good book, and set a course for adventure!