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We know sailing! In association with Amazon.com, we'll give you our opinions of the sailing books that we've read.

Sailing Survival Stories - Non-Fiction
Why does someone have to die (or nearly die) to sell sailing books?

Sailing Narratives - Non-Fiction
For those who understand survival is not just a physical challenge

Sailing Advice and How-to Books
For those busy trying to make it happen

Sailing and Travel Guides
For those doing it

Human Dynamics and Relationships
For those doing it, who want to understand what is happening

Sailing Survival Stories - Non-Fiction

Red Sky in Mourning by Tami Oldham Ashcraft
This is a survival story of a young woman who wakes to find herself injured and alone in the Pacific Ocean after a hurricane. Her fiancé is lost overboard. She has no rig, no electronics and low water supply, yet she manages to keep her wits together and navigate herself to Hawaii in 41 days. Her story is inspiring, and gripped me from the first page - I couldn't put this book down. Tami carries the reader through all her emotions while alone, as well as bringing us back to the wonderful South Pacific cruising she shared with her fiancé before this fatal storm. Her situation seemed desperate, but her positive attitude and inner strength displayed a remarkable "mind over matter" battle with her circumstances. Rather than portraying herself as a hero or frightening people away from cruising, she leaves you with the feeling that with the right skills and mind-set, we could all find the courage to overcome even the most dire of situations. Alayne

Untamed Seas by Deborah Scaling Kiley
This story was first presented to me a "cruising myth" - similar to "urban legends", these are gruesome stories that circle by word of mouth (now e-mail) that typically have some moral or lesson attached to them. That is how I first heard about the perils of drinking seawater and sharing a life raft. When I read Albatross (the original title), this myth turned true. This story is real because it is strangely depressing look into a situation you hope to never find yourself in. Definitely a twist on other accounts that are typically solo victories over adversity. Alec

In the Heart of the Sea: Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
Similar to "Untamed Seas", this provides insight into the dynamics of a group of men adrift at sea and desperate to survive.  Rewind 200 years to the true account of the whaling ship Essex. The story that inspired "Moby Dick", the Essex was rammed by a sperm whale in the Pacific. Although this story has been told countless times, this is a very well researched and insightful account. Not only is the insight to whaling lives fascinating, but so is the analysis of the series of poorly informed decisions that leads to cannibalism and death of most of the crew. Guaranteed to give you appreciation for sailing in this century. Alec

Survive the Savage Sea by Dougal Robertson
A sailing classic, this story tells the true tale of a boat sunk by whales sailing from Panama to the Galapagos. The husband, wife, three children and crew member survive for 37 days in a liferaft before being rescued by a Japanese freighter. The story was made into a movie and was the first liferaft survival story. Amazingly there are two other stories about boats being holed by whales on this same passage (different years), and Alayne refers to this in her book, as her fear builds as we start our voyage across the South Pacific. Dougal and his wife, Lyn, have both passed away, but their children maintain an interesting website dedicated to the book. Alec

Godforsaken Sea by Derek Lundy
An interesting and eye-opening account of the lives of single-handed ocean racers, this book tells the story of the 1996-1997 Vendee Globe Challenge.  I feel I now understand much more what these sailors experience before, during and after a race – they truly are a rare breed – and show incredible courage, and power over their minds.  I wasn’t initially drawn into the story, because I don’t have a passion for racing, but in the second half, Lundy increasingly reveals his insights into the characters, and into issues around racing - his analyses were thought-provoking. Overall, it was a good read. Alayne

Close to the Wind by Pete Goss
A fascinating story of Pete Goss' build-up to and participation in the 1996 Vendee Globe Challenge. A personal account - compared to Derek Lundy's overall assessment - that climaxes with Goss' heroic rescue of Frenchman Raphael Dinelli from a life raft after his boat sank in a Southern Ocean hurricane. Goss bravely beat 180 miles to windward in the storm to reach Dinelli - an act that awarded him France's Légion d'Honneur. It takes a while for the story to get going even though Goss glosses over much of his earlier extreme sailing. His positive attitude and ambition is remarkable - to the point that I found it annoying and unbelievable. The prose cliché-filled and contradictory at times, but never-the-less the book is very easy to read and with such a compelling story, it is hard to not enjoy it. Alec

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
This is a well-written, fast-paced yarn that explains the meteorological details behind the sinking of a sword fishing boat in the North Atlantic. This book has won wide-spread praise, but after the first 150 pages I found the hyperbole too much. Sure, statistically certain things occur, but Junger falls into the trap of describing a situation by the worst that happens (or could happen). It's like typifying a winter snow storm by a 20-car pile-up, when you know that thousands of cars were on the road at the same time. Never-the-less the window into these North Atlantic fishermen's bleak lives is fascinating and if you ever wonder how bad it can really get, then this is a must read. Anyone considering going offshore should read it, but if Junger was a sailor I would think his intent was to keep the oceans for himself. (It did finally explain the glow sticks that we sailed over in the South Pacific - they are used to attract swordfish.) Alec
A semi-true story profiling the plight of a sword fishing boat lost in a terrible storm at sea in 1991, this book tells of what it must have been like for those fishermen out there, while also giving accounts of other boats, including a pleasure sailboat that was rescued.  I found the story jumped around a bit, and Junger was repetitive in describing the waves and the bad weather, but I gained a better understanding of what a tough job it is to be a fisherman on the high seas. Alayne

Rescue in the Pacific by Tony Farrington
Here's true insight into how different people react to storms at sea. This is the true life recounting of the "Queen's Birthday Storm" that clobbered cruising sailboats making the annual pilgrimage north from New Zealand's winter to the South Pacific isles. Seven boats were rescued and one boat lost with all lives. Interestingly two catamarans compared to six monohulls, with all the monohulls rolled and dismasted, and the multihulls unscathed (one was recovered after the storm). Some boats were rescued simply because help was available and this storm arguably initiated the recently repealed NZ foreign yacht check-out law that was hated by cruisers and caused so much controversy. The untold story is those boats that sailed through the storm, but didn't call mayday. Good solid writing, and a fascinating story with much to learn from. Alec

Cape Horn: One Man's Dream, One Woman's Nightmare by Reanne Hemingway-Douglass
Written 20 years after the fact, by a woman driven to tell her tale, this book tells a remarkable story of a husband and wife that suffer a knockdown in a storm en route to Cape Horn. Reanne had a very tough time in the aftermath, and it has parallels to Alayne's story in that it is difficult to honestly recount such an emotional tale. I recommend it, although at times it gets a bit too detailed. Alec

Sailing Narratives - Non-Fiction

Spindrift: True Tales from Scattered Parts of the Planet by Brian Hancock
Brian is something else - if I was scared while sailing with Alec, I would've been horrified sailing with him! It's amazing that he's still alive after some of the things he's done! But his short stories are not all "seat of your pants" adventures - he shares deep feelings and personal insights along with the thrills and spills. A great read, his book makes you want to get out there and live life to the fullest. Alayne

Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi
This is the book that inspired Alayne to write. Tania's book is one of the few emotional sailing tales written from a woman's perspective, as she became the youngest woman to sail around the world solo. Although she met her future husband on the trip, the story isn't about their falling in love, as much as it is about her struggle to understand her childhood and her unique family (her mother dies during the trip). A well-told story with the help of the then editor of Cruising World, Bernadette Brennan Bernon, who chronicled her story from the start when she set sail at only eighteen. Alec

Following Seas by Beth Leonard 
Silk crossed the Pacific a month ahead of us in 1993. We didn't cross paths in Auckland, and for the rest of Beth's circumnavigation she was far ahead, taking the South African route. Her writing is dramatic and her use of words is impressive as she draws elaborate pictures of the scenes before her. She covers the history of each island in the traditional format, comparing herself directly to the likes of Columbus and Cook. Her book shares some of her philosophical change, but she reveals almost nothing about her relationship with Evans, vaguely skipping over that element, especially when she leaves for two weeks to sail on another guy's boat! The book is beautifully presented however, with all color pictures - cool map on the inside cover. A nice book with impressive prose. Alayne

My Old Man And The Sea: A Father And Son Sail Around Cape Horn by David and Daniel Hays
Jointly written by a father and son as they sail around Cape Horn together, it is unique in that it delves into their father-son relationship. The number of sailing men who wish they had the same father/son relationship, may explain why it became a New York Times bestseller. This book is a bit thin, a bit artsy and David waxes on about his son, while also going into tremendous detail about their boat. When it comes to the actual sailing, they gloss over it. Still a good read. Alec

Coming About: A Family Passage at Sea by Susan Hitchcock
This recent addition focuses on the troubled relationship of the writer and her husband on a trip through the Caribbean with their two kids onboard. Although a similar genre to Alayne's book, I wouldn't recommend it. Poorly written and crass, the writer comes across as a whiner, without ever resolving anything. The scope of the trip is less than Alayne's and so is her analysis of her situation. Alec
This book about a family’s two-year Caribbean cruise, as told from the woman’s perspective, kept me reading as I waited in hope for something to happen. The story, which starts out as revealing, continues on as a travelogue, describing places and experiences in flowery phrases.  I was looking for more resolution between the characters, as the author had promised, but anyone who has been or will travel to the Caribbean will enjoy the destinations they sail to. Alayne

Sailing Advice and How-to Books

Dragged Aboard by Don Casey
Interestingly, this book of cruising information for women, is written by a man.  He writes well, with a sprinkling of humor, while he explains what women, and men, will benefit from knowing before going cruising.  I started this book with the plan of reading it cover to cover, but found it to be more of a resource book.  There are pearls of wisdom interspersed with basic information. Alayne

The Essential Galley Companion by Amanda Swan-Neal
I wish there would've been a cookbook like this when I was cruising! It's great that it's written by a real cruiser, who knows exactly what your limitations and improvisations will be while shopping and cooking aboard and at sea. Not only are there 375 interesting international recipes, but she shares great tips on provisioning in foreign ports, catching and preparing fish, water and waste management and there is even an entire chapter on seasickness. I love her short stories and can't wait to try some of her recipes aboard Madeline II! Alayne

Human Dynamics and Relationships

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray
I was attracted to this book because so many people had mentioned that my book displayed the “Mar and Venus effect”, and I wanted to know what this was.  Indeed, there are some clear, stereotypical character traits in Alec and I that are also described by John Gray.  However, it is not fair to lump all women together into one form of behavior and all men into another.  There are too many cases of where the opposite occurs, or where both share a trait.  Having said this, I think his book has some very interesting and valid points, and is extremely helpful if you do fall into his categories.  I learned something, and even though some may use it simply as a resource book, I found it valuable to take the time to go through the whole book. Alayne

It's A Jungle Out There, Jane: Understanding the Male Animal by Dr. Joy Browne
Dr. Joy Browne is a clinical psychologist who has a syndicated radio talk show - I completely respect her opinions regarding human interactions. She makes sense. I picked up this book in my quest to understand my three-year-old son's newly aggressive behavior. (I'm from a family of five girls and males are still somewhat foreign to me!) I learned about Derek, but I learned more about Alec, and even myself. Dr. Joy's theory is that we have certain instinctual behaviors that have evolved with our species, and these reflex behaviors can explain our tendencies. But our instincts can't be used as an excuse - we can train ourselves to be otherwise, because we are intelligent humans. For example, a man may prefer to think through a problem quietly and alone, but his female partner may need him to talk with her about it. He can learn to do this. She needn't get angry or take it personally when he follows his instincts. She should just state her needs, and see if a compromise can be made. A very worthwhile book - I read it through to the end, and then wanted more! Alayne

The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian
This book is very clear on what boys need to develop into exceptional men and effective adults. It answered many of my questions, and confirmed some of my suspicions. For example, the author says that boys have a natural aggressive tendency (which doesn't equal violence), and they are naturally competitive. He explains that these tendencies shouldn't (and can't) be stifled - they should be encouraged and channeled appropriately. Boys need to achieve competitively for their sense of self worth, and most often this is done through sport. The explanations are somewhat lengthy and it is a little bit detailed, so it's not a quick, easy read. But worthwhile if you want a clearer understanding of these complex little creatures. Alayne

The Girlfriends' Guide to Toddlers by Vicki Iovine
You would think I have oodles of free time, judging by the number of self-help parenting books I read, but they help me in my work as a family doctor as much as they do in my work as an effective mother. I've read all the books by this author and she touches my heart every time - pulling out this book is like having a visit with a good friend.  Subtitled, "a survival manual for the terrible twos (and ones and threes) from the first step, the first potty and the first word ("no") to the last blankie", I laughed and giggled out loud, and often got teary-eyed, at her humorous and off-the-wall descriptions of this crazy time in our lives. She has four young children of her own, so has her own anecdotes, but she adds to her experiences with several of those of her girlfriends. She sums up many problems with a consensus from "the girlfriends" - I do well with this - it helps me to feel "normal" and more confident if I know everyone else is feeling the same. Often young parents just need a reference point (which extended family doesn't provide) - this book is that - it's almost a survival manual! Alayne