Many Voices: Here’s What I’m Reading

“I have not always chosen the safest path. I’ve made my mistakes, plenty of them. I sometimes jump too soon and fail to appreciate the consequences. But I’ve learned something important along the way: I’ve learned to heed the call of my heart. I’ve learned that the safest path is not always the best path and I’ve learned that the voice of fear is not always to be trusted.”
― Steve Goodier

Two days from landfall in Yap, 2009. A busy skipper communicating via Ham radio. Twitter? What?

Two days from landfall in Yap, 2009. A busy skipper communicating via Ham radio. Twitter? What?

Listening to those around you…

When the idea of living aboard a sailboat first came to me, it was early 2002. The internet was alive, but just beginning to grow. WordPress, as a content engine, wasn’t even on the horizon. “Blogs” were not around, although the first beginnings were present. So where did one turn to for information? The library had some books, mostly written in the days when sextants were the only navigation tool available. Various sailing periodicals were in distribution, but you had to spend $20-40 a year for a subscription, followed by 30-50% of the pages being filled with advertisements.

In the years since, the information revolution washed over all things, including the sailing community. With tools like Blogger, WordPress, and others, everyone now has a voice. Which is great, on the one hand, because the conversation has more depth and breadth. It’s also more challenging to find the “right” answers because it’s a sea of voices, and easy to get overwhelmed with analysis paralysis.

Over the last twelve years I’ve fine tuned my intake stream for information. And many of the books I’ve collected over the years have found varied use; some are well-worn, some only read once through. Below are some of the resources I’ve used at various times, with a piece of context with each. Many are free. Some are available at modest cost (and in the case of print books, maybe a used copy or previous edition would yield most of the same value). If I were starting over again, fresh out of college, looking to live another adventure, I’d consider:


Dove: I read this at age thirteen and knew I’d be living on a sailboat someday. Excellent story of a young man finding his way by sailing around the world. A movie was made later on; not sure of the quality.

Voyaging on a Small Income (Annie Hill): I’ll chock this up to both motivation and technical knowledge. Once I was already living aboard, Annie’s way of conveying information through stories had a profound impact on my life. And the technical knowledge (especially for someone just starting out) was excellent.

Blog of S/V Estrellita 5.10b: Great log of their on-going voyage. There are many (MANY) voyaging blogs of various quality. Some folks are great about sharing their adventures. Some use a blog as a continuous letter home. The content varies. Estrellita is one of the few sailboats I actually keep up with; they have great things to say.

Blog of Webb Chiles: Let’s all hope we’re still sailing with the same vigor as Webb at his age. Excellent lifetime of sailing behind him and more ahead. Many different boats.

YouTube series of Yacht Teleport: If this doesn’t get yo motivated, I don’t know what will. Great to see a pair of professionals using their skills to inform others about the live aboard lifestyle.

Sailing Simplicity: Ben and Teresa have lived (and continue to live) and fantastic adventure, sailing solo (together) and now together-together. Both a source of motivation, great technical content, and for me (at least) a flash-back to ten years ago and the carefree life of simple living. If you are a female reader, I can’t recommend Teresa’s work enough. Excellent.

Technical Knowledge

Cruising Handbook (Nigel Caldwell): As a senior at the Naval Academy I bought this book at the local Barnes and Noble as a way to indoctrinate myself into the idea of living aboard. I knew I wanted to; just needed to find the requisite knowledge to back up my sailing experiences till then. This book has always had a place on my shelf. Not necessarily comprehensive in every subject, but a great broad brush stroke of most all major skills necessary to bring a boat from point A to B.

This Old Boat (Don Casey): Again, one that I’ve always kept on my shelf. One of the greatest gifts living aboard taught me was a wide range of necessary skills to repair goods. There was always an opportunity waiting. Don’s book gives excellent advice on a variety of skills, and each chapter typically includes an example project to hone those skills with. I can’t think of many things you wouldn’t learn enough to started with via this book. Obviously the internets have added a great deal of specific examples of folks doing many repairs/upgrades/improvements. But Don’s book forms a solid basis to begin from.

Attainable Adventures: John and Phyllis have been experimenting with a different model for their information exchange (much of their site is now via paid subscription), but for many the price is well worth it. The group of writers providing content at Attainable Adventures is phenomenal. And for me, the draw (initially) was information about high-latitudes cruising. They provide sound information and experiences for others to consider when cruising in a challenging environment. Recognize they are in a different place than most starting out (relatively expensive, purpose-built sailboats for the cruising envelope they are in), but the information is applicable to most every sailor.

Volkscruiser: At the other end of the spectrum, maybe, is Bob’s purpose-driven site on ideas for minimalist cruising. And I use minimalist in a good way, and maybe because “budget” feels icky. It’s not bad at all; it’s exactly how I started and would continue to advice folks getting into the game to go. Great considerations on boat selection, skills, and general musings. I also read his original blog, BoatBits, which provides some interesting commentary. I love Bob for the fact that he’s one of those folks acting as the thirteenth man: “Everybody is moving in this direction; why? Something may be wrong.”

Pardey’s: What list wouldn’t be complete without something from Lin and Larry Pardey? I have several of their books, mostly used, that are both excellent motivation, great real-world, first-hand information, and timeless. My favorite thus far is The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew. They recently posted a short post on buying a first sailboat; I intend to provide some commentary later.

Great Sea Stories

Voyages of Ming Ming: As a proud down-sizer to a 23 footer, Roger’s travels on Ming Ming (and now Ming Ming II) are phenomenal. Consider this also a technical information website; his upgrades/refits to bring older Corribee designs up to speed for high latitude cruising are amazing.

Atom Voyages: Also a technical information site, but one with significant sea-story vibe. James Baldwin is still living the life.

Keep Turning Left: If you want to while away the time watching YouTube, I can’t recommend Dillan’s video series enough. He is doing a slow, deliberate circumnavigation of Great Britain, in several boats thus far. As a professional, his editing is amazing. And the length of the show lends itself to a good lunch-time break.

Hal Roth’s Seafaring Trilogy: There are other books from Roth that are excellent. I reread this one every few years.

Ideas for Life Style Design

Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Work Week and Four Hour Chef: Not only would 4HC be a great book to have aboard for the cooking lessons, but the idea of deliberately managing time and other resources, and purposeful learning, were great influences on me and my successes. He also has a great podcast with some phenomenal guests.

Zenhabits: If you know Leo Babauta, and take only one thing away which is necessary for living aboard a sailboat: Clutterfree.

Ideas for “Work”

When I was first living aboard it was as a working professional. You can imagine a Naval officer has some commitments to keep, like showing up for work in uniform. So my lifestyle was framed around this aspect of my life. That said, there are many who mold their sailing lifestyle around their work. A few resources that come to mind:

Ramit Sethi: He’s a thought-leader in today’s online economy, but his advice is pretty sound. I can imagine several business ventures working out from a mobile platform like a sailboat, even with connectivity being a challenge to overcome. The guys here provide some great advice on getting online businesses up and going. In my imagination I can see a productive 20-something on his or her Columbia 29, sitting at a laptop, pulling wifi from a shoreside establishment, and working on their business. Completely within the realm of possibility.

And several others. One thing I’ve changed over the years is recommendations for magazines. Frankly, that market has not done well. Most of the big names you’ll see on the shelves at West Marine are becoming more and more… well, worthless. Lots of advertisements, lots of product placement, little of value. The occasional cruising story to give some inspiration, but a lot of it is focused on chartering or buying the latest-greatest production boats on the market. I have enjoyed Good Old Boat and Practical Sailor at various times, but with so much online, I’d rather just save my money.

I know many of you came from some of these blogs, but I hope there’s something to spark some inspiration this week. Or keep the spark going. Or reminiscence about days of old. Or just put a smile on your face.

What are you reading? Give a shout out to your favorite resources in the comments.


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