The 14 Best Sailing Adventure Books on my Shelf

I live on a sailboat and in a campervan, so naturally, some of my favorite books to read are sailing books. These can be fiction,…

Woman on the bow of her sailboat

I live on a sailboat and in a campervan, so naturally, some of my favorite books to read are sailing books. These can be fiction, memoir, non-fiction or survival stories. I even love a good romance novel with a sailing element in it.

Sailing adventure books can be inspiring, death-defying and gratifying to read, especially if you’re someone who wants to sail to far-flung destinations. They are also great for the armchair traveler to catch a glimpse of what the sailing lifestyle is like.

Here are some of the best sailing adventure books I’ve found so far.

What would you add to this list?

  1. Plunge: One Woman's Pursuit of a Life Less Ordinary

    I just loved my friend Liesbet Collaert's book about her nomadic lifestyle. From RVing through Mexico and Central America, to sailing to the South Pacific in her catamaran Irie, this is a brutally honest and moving tale about a woman's journey living an alternative lifestyle. I couldn't put this book down and love Liesbet's adventurous spirit and stories. A super fun read!

    Buy on Amazon.com
  2. The Hitchhiker in Panama

    If you love sailing adventure books that also include an element of romance, you might want to check out Liz Alden's Love and Wanderlust series. Liz is a friend of mine who has sailied around the world on her catamaran, and uses her experience to write delightful romance novels. A Hitchhiker in Panama was the first book of hers I read, and I loved the characters, story, and of course, the sailing!

    Buy on Amazon.com
  3. Float Plan

    This is a "summer read" type book about a solo female sailor determined to make her sailing dreams a reality despite the death of her former partner. Anna sails by herself from Florida to the Caribbean, and after a horrible night sail, decides to hire someone to help. Fun to read about Caribbean island hopping, which I hope to do someday in my sailboat.

    Buy on Amazon.com
  4. And the Sea Will Tell

    I heard about this book from fellow sailors in the Sea of Cortez who actually visited the island where the disappearance of two sailors occurred. The first part of this book is riveting, and covers a true-crime saga on a tiny Pacific atoll. The second part is an in-depth look of the court cases, where the author goes a little bit "too" in-depth, but still interesting to read. A tragic and fascinating story - one of the best sailing adventures books I've read.

    Buy on Amazon.com
  5. Escape from the Ordinary

    This best sailing adventure book is about a couple who retired early and bought an Amel sailboat to pursue their dreams of sailing around the world. Julie Bradley's writing is vivid and exciting - covering everything from getting caught in a Force 10 storm right off the bat, to clawing their way out of underwater caverns in the South Pacific, to island hopping in the Carribean. This is one of TWO books by Julie covering their around-the-world sailing trip, and I definitely recommend both.

    Buy on Amazon.com
  6. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

    Some of the best sailing adventure books are from the 1800s, and the Essex is one of the best known of all time. This book is about the whaleship Essex, which was struck and damaged by a very large sperm whale. Not only will you learn about whaling, but about how the sailors survived on life rafts at sea. A riveting book that I really enjoyed, except for the whaling parts.

    Buy on Amazon.com
  7. Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro

    While this isn't technically about a sailboat, the sinking of the El Faro container ship in 2015 is a tragedy worth reading about. Not only did I learn a lot about the shipping industry, but I was also riveted by the author's interviews and first-hand accounts of what happened aboard El Faro. It's hard to believe a vessel with such advanced technology could sink in the Caribbean in this day and age.

    Buy on Amazon.com
  8. Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea

    This is one of the best sailing adventure books I've read, about a horrible tragedy at sea that left a woman on her own in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Tami Oldham Ashcraft was doing a delivery from the South Pacific to California with her boyfriend when a huge storm hit, sending him overboard. Her story about surviving on her own out there is incredible, and was the inspiration for the movie, "Adrift."

    Buy on Amazon.com
  9. Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea

    This is a fascinating sailing adventure book about a man who capsized at sea, and made it all the way to the Carribean in a life raft. Steve Callahan survived for over a month alone, fishing off the life raft and making his own water. This is an inspiring survival story set on the Atlantic ocean. I just wish I could remember all the survival techniques he talked about!

    Buy on Amazon.com
  10. The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman's Search for the Meaning of Wife

    I love reading sailing adventure books about real people's trials and tribulations while living the sea-faring lifestyle. It's definitely not all fun and games! Janna Cawrse's writing is witty and entertaining - she holds nothing back about what it was like leaving a land-lubbing life to live on a small sailboat with one other person. The two sailed all the way from the West Coast of the U.S. to the South Pacific, and learned many hard and valuable lessons along the way.

    Buy on Amazon.com
  11. Sea Wife: A novel

    This sailing book received many accolades for its writing and story. While I enjoyed reading this novel, it did have a more somber and depressing tone than other sailing adventure books I've read. The story is about a woman named Juliet, her husband Michael and their two children, who set off for a sailing trip from Panama. I loved reading Amity's descriptions of sailing and the islands, even though she's never owned her own sailboat before. This is really a story about marriage and family, rather than about sailing in particular.

    Buy on Amazon.com
  12. Love with a Chance of Drowning

    This is another sailing memoir I enjoyed about a young woman swept off her feet by a dashing sailor. Author Torre DeRoche meets a handsome Argentinian man in San Francisco, who convinces her to join him on a sailing adventure from California to the remote islands of Oceana. There's plenty of emotional and at-sea drama in this sailing adventure book.

    Buy on Amazon.com
  13. Self Sufficient Sailor: Completely Revised and Expanded

    I just had to include one of Lin and Larry Pardey's books on my list of best sailing adventure books. This book is a combination of memoir and how-to, and I'm always impressed on how this couple sailed the world on a very small boat with no engine. Many cruisers look up to the Pardey's, which have countless books on the sailing lifestyle. Lots of practical sailing tips in this one!

    Buy on Amazon.com
  14. Survive the Savage Sea

    While I haven't personally read this sailing book yet, it is definitely on my list. This memoir is about a family who had to survive in a liferaft on the Pacific ocean after several orca whales sunk their 43-foot sailing boat. They had to survive for 37 days at sea, battling huge waves, lack of food and water and exhaustion. Seems like an incredible story.

    Buy on Amazon.com

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4 Comments

  1. A fabulous collection of sailing-related books, Kristin! Thank you for mentioning Plunge. It’s my favorite book in the list – to write! 🙂

  2. Check out “Sailing Alone Around The World” by Joshua Slocum. It’s an older book but it is an amazing true story.

    1. Kristin Hanes says:

      Thanks Nate! Just added this to my list!

  3. Another great sailing read is “The Last Grain Race: Around the Horn on a Four-Master in the Last Days of the Age of Sail” by Eric Newby. Right before WWII, Newby crewed aboard a Swedish owned sailing freighter. Its a vivid account of unfurling huge canvas sails in gales, loading (and unloading) rice manually from the hold, eating, living, and surviving. Honestly a fascinating read.

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