Some of our Favourite Authors’ Favourite Books
I realize that this is cheating, but my favourite nautical book is the entire Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. A 17-volume compendium of complete marine happiness, with brilliant characters, exquisite—sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious—detail, and spot-on seafaring. The series has been described as a roman fleuve and compared to Proust. The first, yes, certainly. The second, well, all right, but much, much more interesting, and saturated with salty goodness.
I was born in the Isles of Scilly, 30 miles west of England’s Land’s End, and I’ve spent plenty of time on and beside the sea all over the world. Nowadays I sail off the west coast of Scotland, which is not only beautiful but infested with characters who are doing the best they can in a hostile world. These are the kind of people who turn up in my seagoing crime novels.
Lin and Larry Pardey are rightly known as “America’s first couple of cruising.” Catch up with them at pardeytime.blogspot.com.
One of my definite favourites is Alan Watts’ Instant Weather Forecasting. I have worn out two copies of this book, thumbing through it at sea and comparing it to the clouds around me. My reason for choosing this book? With the help of its photos, the description of what they tell about the weather, I have come to understand what changes to expect. The more I used it, the more I became interested in the science of forecasting.
I have spent the past two years voyaging on a 40-foot Van de Stadt cutter. Using what I learned from this new adventure, I recently updated Self Sufficient Sailor and added almost 40% new material for this 3rd edition. The book was written with my partner Larry, with whom I’ve sailed more than 210,000 miles, including east- and west-about circumnavigations on engine-free boats that Larry and I built for ourselves. Due to Parkinson’s disease and the ensuing dementia, Larry had to stop sailing after 47 years and he has been in care for the past four.
Amanda Swan Neal
Her latest publication is Marine Diesel Essentials: A Learning and Coloring Book, a learning and colouring book. Learn more about Amanda at www.mahina.com.
I recommend Fatal Passage: The Untold Story of John Rae. As a co-leader of sail-training expeditions to both the Arctic and Antarctic, I immensely enjoyed this book and its portrayal of how little was known of the Arctic in the 19th-century. John Rae’s preparation—learning about arctic survival from the Inuit and First Nations—is fascinating, but his ability as a leader, seaman and documentarian are truly enlightening. I enjoyed reading about humorous early onboard antics and was hooked, to the end, by the crew’s determination in presenting their discoveries to the world.
I’m a passionate sailor formerly a sailmaker, rigger and world racer (sailing on Maiden in the 1989 Whitbread Race). The story of Maiden is now a major film by Sony Pictures. Currently I’m a seminar presenter and sail-training expedition leader. My focus, when I’m not adding to my 350,000 sea miles by reaching for blue horizons, is to demystify life at sea through books.
Her compelling new memoir, Ready to Come About, relates an improbable, often perilous adventure on the high seas. A Globe and Mail recommended read, it’s been on the publisher’s bestselling list for several months. Find out more about Sue at lotsofwaystolivealife.net
My all-time favourite nautical book is The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst, by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall. In 1968, Crowhurst entered the famous solo, non-stop, round-the-world sailing race, the Golden Globe. His boat wasn’t ready and its design was unproven. His electronic inventions on board were new and untested. His sailing experience was limited; his motivation for going, flawed. Shortly after his departure, things began to go wrong. Instead of admitting defeat, he concocted an elaborate scheme to deceive everyone back home. Eight months later his boat was found intact, adrift in the mid-Atlantic, with no one on board.
Through logbooks, articles and interviews with key people, Tomalin and Hall pieced together a convincing account of Crowhurst’s troubled life and his final days. This book is a gripping portrayal of the power of hubris and despair, and of one man’s tragic journey into madness. I couldn’t put it down.
Shop dog, the real brains behind the operation has yet to be published.