Here are three of my favorite sailing tales.
Sailing Alone Around the World – Joshua Slocum
This classic sailing tale by Captain Joshua Slocum has been in print continuously since 1900. In 1895 Slocum left New England aboard his gaff-rigged yawl Spray and returned in 1898 having circumnavigated the globe single-hand. Along the way he meets an array of figures including a shadowy late-night visitor in the cockpit. He fights off thieves with sly methods. He writes of whales, birds and flying fish for breakfast. He is a guest in many homes along the way and even “meets” royalty in Samoa.
It’s a book that belongs in every sailor’s library.
A Voyage for Madmen – Peter Nichols
A book about the world’s first solo around-the-world sailboat race. In 1968 The Sunday Times (London) sponsored the race with a prize of £5,000 (about $51,000 in 2014 US dollars) for the fastest time. It’s a wide-ranging story of adventure, personalities, difficulties and an unusual mid-ocean maneuver by one of the competitors. This 2001 book should get more attention now that a fiftieth anniversary edition of the race was just announced (to be held in 2018).
Endurance – Caroline Alexander
The 1914 story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s mission to be the first to put a man on the South Pole. In the years since I got this book as a gift from my wife, I’ve returned to it many times. It’s hard to decide which I like more: the hundred-year-old black and white photos (by the ship’s photographer, Frank Hurley) or the shipwreck and rescue of the sailors aboard Endurance. After his ship was beset and crushed by ice near the South Pole, Shackleton took a crew of five men 800 miles in a 22-foot boat to search for help. It’s a story that befits the name of the ship – Endurance.