Recommended Reading


Duncan Wells recommends the following essential reading

This is the great master writing about his three year circumnavigation. The book is beautifully written and Slocum is a wonderful observer of life. It is an incredible journey. He writes, “I had resolved on a voyage around the world, and as the wind on the morning of April 24, 1895 was fair, at noon I weighed anchor, set sail, and filled away from Boston, where the Spray had been moored snugly all winter. The twelve o’clock whistles were blowing just as the sloop shot ahead under full sail.

A short board was made up the harbor on the port tack, then coming about she stood to seaward, with her boom well off to port, and swung past the ferries with lively heels. A photographer on the outer pier of East Boston got a picture of her as she swept by, her flag at the peak throwing her folds clear. A thrilling pulse beat high in me. My step was light on deck in the crisp air. I felt there could be no turning back, and that I was engaging in an adventure the meaning of which I thoroughly understood.” Arthur Ransome apparently wrote of Slocum’s book, “Boys who do not like this book ought to be drowned at once.”

The Pardeys describe Eric Hiscock as the Dean of cruising. Again he writes wonderfully and the stories of his adventures in Wanderer 2 before the Second World War are breath taking. A sail to the Azores and back in a 24 foot gaff cutter is not the usual way to court a girl but it worked for Eric Hiscock and Susan became his wife and lifelong sailing companion. Three circumnavigations and a host of intrepid voyages are covered in the books about Wanderer’s 3, 4 and 5 in the fifties sixties, seventies and eighties. Hiscock also wrote the cruising bible – Cruising Under Sail. If you want to find out anything about sailing, navigation and handy techniques for cruising this is the place to come to. The stuff of dreams.

Bernard Moitissier - The Long Way

This isn’t the only book that Bernard Moitissier wrote but it is his most famous. He took part in the famous 1968 Sunday Times solo nonstop around the world race. This was the race that saw Donald Crowhurst sail to a point just off Rio de Janeiro and then jill about until the other racers had gone round the world. Once they rounded the Cape Horn and came up the Atlantic he would join in and claim a modest place. Third place was what he had in mind. Robin Knox Johnson led the way up the Atlantic followed by Nigel Tetley.Crowhurst set off for home a little ahead of Tetley, expecting Tetley to overhaul him into second place and for Crowhurst to claim third. Unfortunately Tetley drove his boat so hard to catch Crowhurst that it broke and he had to be rescued. Now certain to be second Crowhurst realised he was unlikely to get away with the deception and stepped off his boat. Meanwhile fast on the heels of the leaders was Bernard Moitissier who had set off well after the leaders and who was making much better time than Robin Knox Johnson. Suddenly in the southern Atlantic Moitissier having crossed his outward track and certain to be the overall winner, turns south to run under the Cape of Good Hope and into the Indian Ocean.He entered the race to win the prize money and by the time he had circumnavigated, realised he had little in common with the society and the newspaper who were offering the prize. It did not stand for what he stood for and so he quit the race. He carried on for a further four months and stopped in Tahiti. Knox Johnson as we know won the race and by his own admission has said that had Motisissier finished he would have won the prize by a country mile. The book is a fascinating journey. Moitissier’s seamanship is absolutely superb and there is much to be learnt from this Eric Cantona of the oceans. As a footnote Knox Johnson, a true gentleman, gave his winning prize money to the widow of Donald Crowhurst. And then Nigel Tetley later committed suicide. All in all a very sad episode.

Voyaging On A Small Income is a remarkable book because while we read it in our comfortable armchair in our comfortable house which is mortgaged to the eyeballs, with the family demanding money for this and that and having to fund a monthly household expenditure that is the equivalent of the national debt, Annie Hill is writing about how she and her partner live on £1850 a year. It gets better; there is a story about the $200 dollar millionaire! And so you start to dream.Could I unshackle myself from this expensive lifestyle and head off into the blue yonder? The result of Annie Hill’s modest income is that when it comes to buying equipment for the boat which is their home, they buy wisely. Whatever they buy it has to last , to be of a high quality and good value. And so this book dishes up invaluable advice about equipment. It also gives us an insight into a fascinating lifestyle. I don’t know if Annie Hill has a VHF radio these days but she never used to.Why would you want to call someone to help you when you had chosen this lifestyle and now happened to be in difficulty? It is a lesson in taking responsibility for one’s actions that much of society could do well to learn. Annie Hill doesn’t have a liferaft on her boat. She will do everything to avoid losing her boat, her home, but if she does lose it she wants a way to save herself and her partner and so their liferaft is a dinghy with sails with which they might be able to reach safety.

Everything you need to know about buying your ideal cruising boat, preparing it and the costs involved in going cruising. Definitely one to read in preparation for the ‘off’.

Both books are very funny and well observed. Blown Away is the better for me, perhaps it is because it was the first book of his that I read and as such it was fresh and different. Good writing about good voyaging.

The story of her circumnavigation. Her father – a keen sailor – in frustration, or perhaps it is with wisdom, at the lack of direction in his rather wayward daughter’s life, buys a Contessa 26 and tells her that if she is not going to university she can sail around the world, one or the other. The story she tells is remarkable and well written.There aren’t many fathers I know who would send their 18 year old daughter off in a 26 foot boat to sail around the world. It says a lot for Tania Aebi that she chose the circumnavigation option.
He wrote a number of books and this is his autobiography. His courage is breathtaking. Flying a Gypsy Moth from New Zealand to Australia, using a sextant to navigate by and fairly certain that the fuel would run out and he would have to ditch into a wild sea. An inspiring book.
The struggle that ocean racers have to go through to get funds for their projects is extraordinary and the effort that goes into getting their dream off the ground is remarkable. That he gave up his chance of winning the 1996 Vendee Globe to go back into the teeth of a storm to save Raphael Dinelli is just heroic.Of course Pete Goss wouldn’t see it that way, he just did the right thing. By the end of the book I felt as though I knew Pete Goss. He kept mentioning the help he got from the Calvin family – Pete Calvin and Dave Calvin. My wife often referred to the Calvins, could these be the same people. They seemed very familiar. Sure enough when I read her a section of the book they were the same family.Although I am not sure that Pete Goss ever knew Dave as ‘Mad Dog’ Dave Calvin but that apparently was his nickname many years ago, according to my wife. Then when I was doing my 9 months in hospital courtesy of the faulty Pains Wessex flare, a friend of mine called Pete Goss and told him how much I admired him and asked him if he might call me in hospital. And he did. He’s a very special man – as is my friend who called him.
Sailing Out of Silence

Sadly Peter Hancock died recently. He and I had corresponded about his Contessa 26 called Kylie. After the death of his wife, the profoundly deaf Peter buys Kylie and sets about preparing himself and her for blue water sailing. Great descriptive writing takes us through the Mediterranean and over to the Caribbean where we meet up with Nigel Calder and his wife Teri.Nigel is the technical contributor to Yachting Monthly and writer of the Boat Owners Mechanical and Electrical Manual – the Bible of everything mechanical and electrical on your boat. My copy is on the bookshelf on Dorothy Lee and is well thumbed. I have often pondered the workings of this or that failed pump and considered for a moment that with Nigel’s helpful advice, descriptions and diagrams, I might actually be able to fix it myself.Until reality smacks me on the head and I understand if this pump is to deliver me a hot shower on the boat again it will require a call to the marine electrical engineers and a bill from them for the equivalent of a fair sized family car. Peter Hancock, a great read.

On the Nose Most funny books about sailing turn out to be not nearly as funny as I imagine they would be. This is an exception. Bob is a brilliant cartoonist and this book contains my favouritist cartoon of all. Very humorous and very well observed.

A biography of the Smeetons – Miles and Beryl. What an extraordinary couple. Their exploits take your breath away. If I had a quarter of the energy, I’d be superhuman. They climb mountains. They up-sticks and move to Canada. They build up a farm. They go sailing round the world. Their yacht Haing-Zu is pitch- poled in the Atlantic and famously they survive, patch her up and sail her into port. It’s really powerful stuff from start to finish. At the end you will need a good lie down – you will be exhausted, even though you never left your armchair.

Well we know that John Ridgway is tough. And it takes a very special wife to partner a tough man and Mari Christine is very special indeed. Then the daughter of a tough man and a special woman is going to be pretty special, too. And Rebecca is a chip off the old block.They sail from their remote home in the far north west of Scotland, the base for their Training School, with the aim of getting to Peru to find the family of their adopted Peruvian daughter – adopted, or rather rescued when they were last in Peru and the Shining Path were laying waste to everything that moved. It is a fascinating insight into a very intrepid family.There is voyaging of course but there is a great deal of sensitivity and we learn a lot about the people and their relationships with each other. And you realise that these people are different from us. Rebecca in her early twenties pops off to the middle of Argentina to catch up with some friends. In the meantime John and Marie Christine in Peru, head off into the mountains to try and find their adopted daughter’s family.Now I wouldn’t guarantee to be able to meet up with any members of my family if we were all travelling round the Circle line but the Ridgways trusted implicitly that Rebecca would find them up in the mountains. She didn’t actually know where they were and there were no mobile phones. But they met up as they expected they would. If she’d turned right instead of left, she would never have found them but she knew she had to turn left. I have read this book many times. Whenever I need inspiration I give it a read.

Sad, sad, sad. A brilliant read. It just goes to show how we cope with adversity when we have to.

Tristan Jones wrote many books, the above are just a few. His writing is very descriptive and he takes you on a journey. Well of course he takes you on a journey as all the books are about passage making, or in one case sailing a boat on the lowest piece of water in the world and then sailing it across oceans and then lugging it across land and then up a mountain to sail on the highest piece of water in the world.

Why? One might ask. Probably because no one had done it before. Jones is a great teller of a story. He’s a character that’s for sure.

Sell Up and Sail Watersteps Round Europe Watersteps Through France Back Door to Byzantium Sell Up And Sail is the definitive book about jacking it all in and taking to the water as a liveabord. The other books whet your appetite for this sort of life as Bill and Laurel sail their very large barge through canals and into the Mediterranean. If you plan to ‘just go one day’, you will need Sell Up And Sail under your belt.

I am often asked, “I have a friend who has a lovely voice, do you think they could become a voice over?” And I reply, “If a small girl from a land locked county can take on the male dominated world of yacht racing and beat them all, then your friend can certainly become a voice over.” And that says it all. Quite remarkable. What an achievement. We have absolutely no idea what it is like to push a 75 foot Trimaran to the limit and fly off waves at 30knots and I don’t suppose we ever will.

Channel Crossing

Across the Channel in a 15′ Wayfarer, that’s the challenge. Great writing, a great build up to the event, packed with information and interest. Then Southern Winds is about living aboard a Contessa 26 with a wife and young daughter in the Mediterranean. One can feel the warmth of the sun on every page.

Heavy Weather Sailing

The authority on heavy weather sailing. What works and what doesn’t. Survival tactics taken from the experiences of those who have been through storms. Analysis of the Fastnet and the Sydney Hobart storms. Vital if you want to have any idea about how to save yourself if you are caught in a storm.

A Guide to the Collision Avoidance Rules

This is for the purists and the RYA Instructors. When any argument about the interpretation of the Colregs crops up this book will give you the answer. Or it will give you the answer the court decided on when the rule was put to the test. A must have for all instructors.

Invaluable advice and tips for single handed sailors. That’s it.

More invaluable advice and tips for the single handed sailors. You can’t have enough tips and advice, especially if you are going out there alone. Well actually you can have enough tips and advice but here’s one more tip. Never mind reading about it all the time just go out there and do it. That’s the only way you will really learn.

The Hungry Ocean

Linda was – may indeed still – the only female skipper of a long line sword fishing boat. She was skippering the Hannah Boden at the time of the Perfect Storm when the Andrea Gail was lost. The Hannah Boden was in the same area at the same time, maybe Linda was lucky. She was always considered one of the best if not the best long line sword fisher.She must be tough. The life is tough. The world is tough. But she doesn’t put herself across as tough in the book. What she does is give us a fabulous insight into this world. It all comes down to a love of the sea, whether you are on it for leisure or for sport or in Linda’s case for work. I seem to have a signed copy. I’ve never met her though. Perhaps that is what American publishers get their authors to do. It gives the book the personal touch.You can actually see Linda Greenlaw on Discovery as they are running a series of programmes about the sword fishing business off the Grand Banks.

Weather at Sea

Very good. Well explained. A weather book worth having.
Symbols and Abbreviations Used on Admiralty Charts No. 5011

The code book for working out what all the chart symbols mean. A copy of 5011 sorts out all those arguments in the pub. What’s the symbol for a minaret?

Living Every Second

Breathtaking and brilliant. What a girl she is. Actually she is probably a nightmare but I really fell in love with her as I read the book. I am sorry to read about her money troubles in recent years. She was a pioneer for the girlz. It’s a great read and very emotional, too.

Oceanography and Seamanship

Well all right this sounds terribly serious but it is not as challenging as all that. In fact as with all good books, it makes the difficult, understandable. The subject of boating is so broad from navigation, to sailing, to maintenance, to weather, to oceanography, to man management, to, well everything really. This book covers weather, currents and gives you very useful information on what’s going on with the world. And if you do take off on a bluewater cruise you might want to know some of this stuff as it will affect your passage.

Lin and Larry Pardey are really now the doyennes of the cruising world. They have taken over from Eric and Susan Hiscock. Their books are packed full of useful information.They even listed the name of an editor for a sailing magazine whom I wanted to pitch and so I banged off my article and it looks as though they are going to take it. Their storm tactics are vital for anyone going out into the ocean.They have written a number of books but these are the ones I have read. The information they give is absolutely spot on. A must for any voyager.

A Seaman’s Guide to the Rule of the Road

Naval ratings get this to read and by the time they have read it three times taken part in all the quizzes as they go through it they will know the Colregs perfectly. Any serious navigator should have a copy.