Interesting and Useful Boating Books

Here are a few books from my library that I refer to on a regular basis or have found very interesting.  They are listed in no particular order.  This list is not intended to be all inclusive or safety only.  I assume everyone has Chapman’s, The Annapolis Book of Seamanship and the other “Major Reference Books.”  Some of the books are below the radar so to speak, but worth a second look.  Good books all and recommended.

Good luck and happy reading.

In my original list I had “assumed” that everyone had the “Major Reference Books,” not such a good idea as it was pointed out to me last night during a beginning Boat Crew Class I was teaching.  Some people are starting with no boating books in their library or are looking for the “Major Reference Books,” so I am adding for lack of a better title a “Major Reference Books” section.

Major Reference Books:

A note of caution on some books in this section.  They can be very intimidating to a beginner, or even an experienced boater.  Some are designed to cover almost every problem and skill needed on the water no matter what or where in the world the boater is in.  So if you never plan on sailing during hurricane season you can skip that section.  Pick sections relevant to your boating interest and area.  DO NOT try and digest the whole book in one setting.  Ask boating friends about areas you might not fully understand for help, be aware that they also might not understand all sections of all books.

Chapman Piloting, Seamanship & Boat Handling,  / Hearst Marine Books.

Considered “The Bible” by many.  This is a very comprehensive reference, for both sail and power boats.  Covers from Boating Basics, The Art of Seamanship, Weather, Piloting and Navigation and more.   First published in 1917 and is updated on a regular basis currently the 66th edition.

The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, by John Rousmainier. / Simon & Schuster.

A very comprehensive book targeted for sailors.  It starts with what how to select a boat and basic Seamanship Skills, “This is a Boat” section, Getting Underway, Sail Trim, Weather, Navigation, Piloting and many many more subjects.  Highly recommended for sailors of all skill levels.


The Practical Mariner’s Book of Knowledge, 420 Sea-Tested Rules of Thumb for Almost Every Boating Situation. By John Vigor.  softcover, International Marine / McGraw-Hill Books.

An assortment of odd but very useful and hard to find pieces of boating information in one place.  Very entertaining as well as useful.

Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Sailing, By John Vigor.  softcover, Sheridan House

200 more pieces of valuable information for all sailors and sailboat owners.


Federal Requirements & Safety Tips for Recreational Boaters, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety. FREE at most places marine supplies are sold.

Everyone should read this at least once in their boating career AND keep one on your boat.  Covers the Federal requirements for safe boating as well as many many safety tips.  Works WITH the State booklet, very little overlap.

Adventures in Boating WASHINGTON Handbook, Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.  FREE at most places marine supplies are sold.  If you don’t boat in Washington State then get a copy or your own state’s regulations and read them.

Everyone should read this at least once in their boating career AND keep one on your boat.  Covers the Federal requirements for safe boating as well as many many safety tips.  Works WITH the Federal booklet, very little overlap.

NAVIGATION RULES, International – Inland, United States Coast Guard, published by several companies.

Also referred to as COLREGS (Collision Regulations) The book that you self certify to the Coast Guard and Harbor Patrol that you completely understand every time you leave your slip.  Another book that everyone should read at least once in their boating career.  These are the “Rules of the Road.”  The rules cover how not to hit the other boat.

How to Read a Nautical Chart, A Complete Guide to the Symbols, Abreviations, and Data Displayed on Nautical Charts by Nigel Calder.   (Includes Chart No. 1)

Comprehensive and easy to read.  The section on chart accuracy and GPS (or why land is not always where the chart says it is) are worth way more than the cost of the book.  Why some chart makers make narrow channels narrower or wider than they actually are.  Why some rocks are moved from the actual position.  A must read for anyone that navigates outside of the marina.

Farwell’s Rules of the Nautical Road, Craig H. Allen.  Naval Institute Press

The legal cases behind the rules of the road.  A valuable reference for mariners and students of navigation.  Explains and analyzes why the rules are what they are today.  Why three 20 degree turns do not always equal one 60 degree turn.  Critical for all watchstanders and instructors.


Chapman’s Knots For Boaters, “A Chapman`s Nautical Guide” by Brion Toss.  softcover

A small very inclusive reference for knots and line handling that is well written and easy to understand.  Very good drawings along with why a particular knot should or should not be used.  My favorite knots reference.



1421 The Year China Discovered America, Gavin Menzies

March 8, 1421, China sent out the largest fleet ever assembled on a 2 1/2 year expedition of world discovery.  Parts of the fleet were to circumnavigate the world and map most of the earth.  The largest of the ships were 480 feet long with 9 masts and carry over 2,000 tons of cargo.  This is the fleet’s story, long lost.  The largest ships in Europe at this time were only 150 feet long.   Some of the charts produced by this fleet eventually ended up in Europe and appear to have been used by European explorers to “discover” the new world.  Ever wonder why Magellan sailed straight to The Straights of Magellan?


Last Run by Todd Lewan    Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Pub. Date: June 2005 ISBN-13: 9780060956233 available in paperback.

True story of a January 1998 Coast Guard rescue in the Gulf of Alaska.  Sunk boat, crew in 38 degree water, 140 mph wind gusts, 10 story waves, helicopters operating at the edge of their range, weather envelope and at night.  A rescue that should not have been possible.  A riveting story of the last frontier and some of the people that are drawn to Alaska, and the Coast Guard personnel that help keep all mariners safe.

Heart of Glass, Fiberglass Boats and the Men Who Made Them by Daniel Spurr

Starting with a handful of builders right after WWII this book this book covers the trials and tribulations of the fiberglass boat building industry.  Covers the boats, designers and builders.  A very well written and easy to read book. 200 photographs and many interviews with the people that were there.  Easy to read and hard to put down.

Sailing Alone Around the World, Captain Joshua Slocum, Dover Press

Slocum was the first person to sail solo around the world. He set out in April 1895 and 46,000 miles and almost three years later the trip was completed. A remarkable narrative of his adventures. My copy was an unabridged version with the original illustrations of the trip and the lines of Spray, his 34 ft sloop. An easy to read, fast paced, colorful, just the facts style by a master of making friends.

Captain “Hell Roaring” Mike Healy, From American Slave to Arctic Hero, by Dennis L. Nobel and Truman R. Strobridge / University Press of Florida

Michael Healy, born in 1839 to an Irish Catholic father and a Georgia slave, he and his siblings were half black in the day of “one drop of blood” and you were considered a slave.  Sent north to escape slavery at 11 Michael was to never see his mother again.  The Healy children were fair skinned and their slave mother background was hidden for many years.  Mike and his siblings were schooled in the north by a series of people and schools arranged by their father.  The arrangements by their father in a time when people with slave blood could not inherit is major in itself.  Hell Roaring Mike Healy rose by “coming up through the hawse pipe” after running away to sea at 15 to command the Cutter Bear in Alaska in the late 1800’s.  Captain Healy was the law of Alaska for many years.  The Coast Guard’s largest Ice Breaker is named in his honor, both a fitting honor and at the same time an under appreciation of his contribution to Alaska, the U.S. and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, the forerunner of the modern Coast Guard.  An amazing and little known story of a great man.




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5 Responses to Interesting and Useful Boating Books

  1. Kim Aemmer says:

    Love your website. Great pictures. Finished you SSYC sailing class on Wednesday. Not once did I hear you speak the ultimate answer of 42. Did we not ask the right questions. 😉
    So long and thanks for all the fish! (movie not book)
    Seriously, Thank You – Kim

  2. Hey there matey, nice collection of boating books. I’ve read several of them.
    Thanks for the list, will have to check out some of the other ones.
    Smooth sailing to you.

  3. Pingback: Sailing Crew Class Resources–Fall 2011 | Boating Safety Tips, Tricks & Thoughts from Captnmike

  4. Thanks for the list. We have some of these books and are reading them. Slowly but surely we are getting ready for the big blue water. Thanks!

    • captnmike says:

      Glad you found the list useful – good luck on your trip – some friends are trying to get out of Seattle and are finding out just how much work there is on a boat to do – even one they have cruised quite a bit on.

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