March 18, 2014

Favorite sailing books

EVERY NOW AND THEN somebody asks me to name my favorite sailing books. Well, there are so many good sailing books available these days that I find it impossible to nominate a short list. Hiscock and Ransome, Herreshoff and Day, Guzzwell and Roth — they’re all wonderful, inspiring authors, and who can say which of their books, together with many others like them, is better than any other?

However, for sheer convenience I divide my favorite books into those written by Don Casey — and all the others. Don has a rare knack for explaining with clarity and simplicity how to fix anything on a boat. His English is a joy to read and his sense of humor is delightful.

But for sheer drama and adventure afloat I recommend two relatively unknown authors, Frank Wightman and Marcel Bardiaux. Neither is alive today, but their writing lives on with undiminished charm and elegance.

Wightman’s The Wind is Free (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1949) is a classic story of a small, modest man consumed by a burning desire to build his own boat and cross an ocean. Wonderful reading.

Bardiaux’s Four Winds of Adventure (Adlard Coles, London, 1961) is a staggering tale from another man who built his own boat and overcame almost unbelievable difficulties sailing singlehanded across five oceans. An absolute tour de force.

The Wind is Free is readily available on the used-book market but Bardiaux’s book, in English, is less so.  I did find a copy for sale on, though. If you can read French, there are many copies floating around on

Today’s Thought
Books for general reading always smell badly. The odor of common people hangs about them.
— Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

“Do you have any dogs going cheap?”
“No, sir, all our dogs go ‘Woof!’”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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