7 Great Reads for Summer Sailing

These seven stories vetted by our staff will lift your spirits, fill your sails, and help you set an inspired course to summer cruising.
woman relaxing and reading a book on a sailboat
For many cruisers, reading a captivating book on the deck of a sailboat underway is the epitome of serene joy and adventure. Marko-Cvetkovic/AdobeStock

The arrival of spring has us thinking about new adventures and distant horizons—and, along with that, the long to-do list we need to tackle to enable those ambitions. Why not take some time for yourself during this spring commissioning season to refuel your cruising passion with a great book?

Whether your literary taste leans toward adventure, mystery, romance or food, we’ve got you covered. Need a veterinarian’s advice for sailing with your furry friends, or inspiration for a circumnavigation that won’t break the bank? We’ve got that too.

Here are our top-seven picks for stories we guarantee will lift your spirits, fill your sails, and help you set an inspired course to summer cruising.

Addicted To More Adventure: Risk Is Good, Enjoy It
By Bob Shepton

Addicted To More Adventure
Addicted To More Adventure: Risk Is Good, Enjoy It By Bob Shepton (Published by Reverend Bob Shepton; 2021)

Warning: Don’t pick up a copy of the Reverend Bob Shepton’s latest book, Addicted To More Adventure, if you’re susceptible to temptation and thrill-seeking. By the time you’ve finished the final chapter on his travels through Antarctica, you’ll be typing “expedition-ready sailboat” into your browser. Shepton, born in Scotland and a former officer in the Royal Marines, was one of the first people to organize and lead sailing expeditions for school-aged kids. He sailed round the world in his Westerly 33-foot via Antarctica and Cape Horn with “school leavers,” a journey that he dubbed the “first school group to sail round the world.” Shepton, 89, is well-known for leading several Bill Tilman-type sail-climbing expeditions to Greenland and Arctic Canada, where Shepton and his crew completed numerous first-ascent climbs. In his approximately 150,000 miles of sailing, he’s crossed the Atlantic 15 times and made 13 visits to the Arctic. His expeditions have made close to 60 first ascents of mountains and rock faces in Greenland and Arctic Canada. Aboard the 33-foot sloop Dodo’s Delight, he transited the Northwest Passage east to west (2012) and then west to east (2013). This adventure is recalled in the opening chapter of the book. He’s been awarded the Blue Water Medal, the Tilman Medal (twice), the Goldsmith Medal for Exploration, the Ocean Cruising Club’s Barton Cup (twice), the OCC’s Vasey Vase (three times), and the Vice Commodore’s Medal (three times). He was voted Yachtsman of the Year (UK) in 2013 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020. He has barely missed a beat since CW published his profile in 2020, although the book’s postscript mentions the passing of his beloved wife and the sale of Dodo’s Delight. Shepton has two previous books, Addicted to Adventure and High Latitude Sailing.

By David Kushner

Capsize book cover
Capsize By David Kushner (KDP Direct Publishing; 2021)

A naked corpse with a cracked skull is discovered by the Swedish police at sunrise in a cemetery next to a stolen schooner, aground along the seawall. The medical examiner determines that the dead man had been exposed to enough plutonium to build a nuclear bomb. Blue-eyed Bengt Linder, a marine insurance fraud expert, and police inspector Anya Wallin, a tall, blond Swede, are assigned to the case. The body count builds, followed by a shootout with a corrupt superyacht owner and a wild chase through Corsica, Cyprus, Lebanon and the south of France. The action in Capsize catches you like a strong breeze on a tight reach and propels you toward a high-stakes finish—a perfect read for a long, rainy weekend while waiting for weather.

Holding Fast: A Memoir of Sailing, Love and Loss
By Susan Cole

Holding Fast book cover
Holding Fast A Memoir of Sailing, Love and Loss By Susan Cole (White Bird Publications; 2021)

Susan Cole spent 30 years on and around boats, and her poignant memoir, Holding Fast, captures her complicated, decades-long relationship with the sea. The adventure begins when her partner, John, talks her into buying a leaky, 1903 48-foot Fire Island Ferryboat. After 10 years on board, a fire destroys their home and all of their possessions. Several sailboats follow, as does a three-year sail through the Caribbean with their young daughter, Kate. Through a layered narrative, Cole exposes her growth from hesitant sailor to empowered cruiser, culminating in her experience of riding out Hurricane Mitch alone, upriver in the Rio Dulce. Seasoned sailors will appreciate Cole’s origin story; new sailors will enjoy her honesty. In the end, her book is an adventure story wrapped in a love letter to her husband John, who loses his battle to cancer. Cole earned a Bachelor of Arts at Barnard College and a Masters in Psychology from Columbia University.

Where There Is No Pet Doctor: A Manual for Cruisers, RVers and Backcountry Travelers, Fourth Edition
By David W. LaVigne DVM

Where There Is No Pet Doctor book cover
Where There Is No Pet Doctor: A Manual for Cruisers, RVers and Backcountry Travelers; Fourth Edition By David W. LaVigne DVM (Published by Dr. David W. LaVigne, DVM; 2021)

Dr. David LaVigne has practiced veterinary medicine for more than 40 years and was a longtime liveaboard cruiser and a rear commodore in the Seven Seas Cruising Association. He has presented numerous lectures on pets and written dozens of articles about our furry friends’ lives on board. His website includes links to a list of webinars and classes on cruising with pets. This is the fourth edition of LaVigne’s resourceful guide on traveling with pets. The updated edition includes global pet quarantine and entry requirements, common health issues, medications, skin care, eye care and ear care. A rating system is included to rate procedures according to degree of difficulty and possible risk to the pet. While suturing a pet’s injury might be four stars (****Not Recommended), removing sutures or treating a soft-tissue injury rates one star (*Little Risk). He includes information on general first aid, fractures, medications, systemic problems, and diet. Sadly, the geriatric care section is followed by information on euthanasia and body care.

Hooked On the Horizon: Sailing Blue Eye Around the World
By Tom Dymond

Hooked On the Horizon book ocover
Hooked On the Horizon: Sailing Blue Eye Around the World By Tom Dymond (Hardstone House; 2021)

In this entertaining and addictively honest memoir, two school friends cast off from England on a Nicholson 32, with dreams of sailing around the world. Though neither the boat nor the crew are ready, “sooner or later you have to jump,” Dymond writes. Their first jump out of Portsmouth takes them across the English Channel south to Morocco, on to the Canary Islands, and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. The big jump follows: Panama, the Galapagos Islands, the South Pacific and New Zealand. Through Indonesia, the Suez Canal, and the Mediterranean, battle scars harden the crew and boat, and they push on to a final path through the French canals and back to England, their circumnavigation complete and the “entire journey astern.”

Dymond dispels early in the story any idea that the cruising life is sunshine and rainbows, writing with a dry humor of the challenges that cruisers face while pursuing their dreams—the relentless beat to windward, the bureaucracy in Panama, the unending boat projects, and days spent waiting for weather. He looks back at three years of cruising and examines why, even at anchor among the simplicity and beauty, we are constantly caught up in wondering what lies over the next horizon.

The Hunter and The Gatherer: Cooking and Provisioning for Sailing Adventurers
By Catherine Lawson and David Bristow

The Hunter and The Gatherer
The Hunter and The Gatherer: Cooking and Provisioning for Sailing Adventurers By Catherine Lawson and David Bristow (Exploring Eden Media, 2023)

Aussies Dave Bristow, the hunter, and Catherine Lawson, the gatherer, have spent the past two decades afloat. The couple, joined by their young daughter, Maya, have made conscious choices to live simple, sustainable lives on their 40-foot catamaran, Wild One. The Hunter and The Gatherer is a culmination of their two decades of travel, filled with 60 pages of provisioning advice (cracking coconuts, foraging ashore, growing sprouts) and 160 recipes.

“This is a book for ocean-loving foodies,” Lawson says. “Our food is for tiny galleys, long passages and perfect sunsets.”

The recipes are divided into three sections: Food for Hunters (Spicy Thai Fish Burgers, Baked Prawn and Noodle Rolls, Mussels Bianco), Food for Gatherers (Easy Persian Pilau, Red Lentil Bolognese, Power-Charged Tabbouleh); and Sweet Treats (Papaya Scones, Coconut Cake, Grilled Pistachio Plums).

“We call [all of] these recipes ‘faraway food,’ and create them for people who love to eat well but love to escape even more.”

Boat Girl: A Misadventure
By Elizabeth Foscue

Boat Girl book cover
Boat Girl: A Misadventure By Elizabeth Foscue (Keylight Books; 2023)

Author Elizabeth Foscue, a boat kid who spent a slice of her formative years living aboard in the Caribbean, brings us this laugh-out-loud coming-of-age story about 15-year-old Caitlin Davies, a misfit teenager living on a sailboat with her parents in the British Virgin Islands. Short, scrawny and awkward, Caitlin has somehow managed to beguile Tristan, the cutest guy on the island, and to make a few stray friends. But when former owners of her family’s sailboat show up looking for the left-behind contraband that Caitlin has discovered under the yacht’s floorboards, the tropics really heat up. Funny and charming, Boat Girl reminds us of the angst of being a teenager, and the unexpected adventures of living aboard.