Survive 76-Days Lost at Sea?

A short review of three of my favorite books.  See my previous list of books here.

Adrift:  Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan (2002; Mariner Books; $10.68 print, $9.99 Kindle)

Shortly after leaving the Canary Islands in the Atlantic, sailing solo, Steve Callahan’s boat struck an object and sunk from beneath him.  Callahan abandons ship into a life raft and survives for seventy-six days.  He gives rich detail about his struggle to survive and encounters with birds, fish and more frightening sea life.


Longitude by Dava Sobel (2007; Walker Books; $11.34 print, $10.49 Kindle)

If you like history, you’ll love Dava Sobel’s story on longitude.  Long before GPS-enabled smartphones, the oceans were a mysterious, frightening place littered with the bones of ships and mariners alike.  Sailors had to know the time to find where they were.  Problem was: in the 1700s a sloshing, rusty, swaying boat was a very difficult place to accurately tell time.  Sobel takes us through the competitive and sometimes conniving invention of the chronometer.  A fascinating book.


Celestial Navigation for Yachtsmen (revised edition) by Mary Blewitt (1994; International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press; $10.24 print, $7.49 Kindle)

A slim but excellent explanation of celestial navigation (I have many).  Divided into theory and practice sections.  A technical manual that requires intense study, but worth a look if you are interested in how cel nav truly works.  I’ve read this one over and over.


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4 thoughts on “Survive 76-Days Lost at Sea?”

  1. You and I, Steven, have very similar reading tastes. I’ve been fond of the first two for a long time … In fact, I read Callahan first back in the ’80s (were you born yet?) … The third one on celestial nav. I have not read, but will now.

    … But while I was in England (two weeks ago), Mary’s cousin introduced me to what I think is the best book I’ve ever read on celestial navigation, written in the ’50s by an English aviator. He is also a lyrical writer, and one of the most knowledgable authors I’ve ever read.

    Check out “Song of the Sky” and Guy Murchie:


  2. Good to hear from you Russ!

    Isn’t that interesting, how those aviators were big users of cel nav? I recall some of the methods for sight reduction suggest using the aviation tables (I think because they were smaller/less detailed?).

    Great word…lyrical. I feel that way about Dava Sobel. She is fantastic!

    I really like that one about cel nav by Blewitt. I love how the natural world combines with the mathematics to make nav possible.

    Thanks for the tip, I’ll get that one now too!


  3. I also have developed a bookshelf for sea-themed books. I think all of us sailors love to read these types of things.

    In my current collection:
    1) Survivor by Michael Greenwald
    This is the complete how to guide to survival at sea when lost in just a life raft. It often sites Steve Callahan’s “Adrift”.
    2) Total Loss by Jack H Coote. A collection of short stories of the lady with the green eyes, and how she can claim lives.
    3) Ultimate Voyage by William Gilkerson, its a more childish fiction book. Would recommend as a bedtime book for the kids, but still you’re never too old to read this sea themed version of Narnia!
    4) Copious amounts of knot tying, boat maintenance, and piloting books.

    There is a Nautical literature course offered at Texas A&M which I wanted to take, but decided it was for english majors and not my engineering self. The professor Dennis Berthold actually wrote introductory notes in Josh Slocum’s “Sailing Alone Around the World” which is a very famous sailing book. Dennis sent me a whole list of book suggestions once, but I seem to have lost it in my emails. I’ll ask my dad if he has it. Dang, wish I didn’t lose that email.


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