This page is about books that I have encountered that relate is some way to the theme of small adventures in small boats.  They are listed in alphabetical order by author and where appropriate will include my reviews or comments. In addition to the books noted here the following postings may be of interest:

Four new books from Lodestar Books

Small Boat Sailing books from England 

Bailey, Anthony. The Thousand Dollar Yacht. Seafarer Books 1996. 214p. drawings, maps.

This is the 4th edition of a wonderful little book about building, fitting out and sailing a St. Pierre dory. The book was written in 1968 so the $1000 should be taken with a grain of inflation.  The sailing took place in Long Island Sound and is very much in the tradition of English sailing writing.   The sailing took place in Long Island Sound and is very much in the tradition of English sailing writing with gentle adventures in small boats and small waters. Bailey deals with real people, none larger than life, and all quite interesting.  The book is mostly about sailing however – a kind of sailing that I can relate to with my own small boat. Discovering the delights of small harbours or being caught in fog or simply being on the water becalmed in the early morning.

Bailey, Anthony. The Coast of Summer. Sheridan House 1994. 357p. map.






Coomer, Joe. Sailing in a Spoonful of Water. Picador 1997. 256p. photos.

This is a memoir of four years spend in the company of a vintage motor sailer Yonder.  There is enough sailing to keep it interesting and like many of my favourites it is about modest sailing adventures, in this case along the coast of Maine, and never going too far from home. It is a gentle book with little high drama, well written and enough illustrations to keep it interesting. While not perhaps a book that I will keep on my nautical bookshelf forever it was a decent read.

Froncek, Thomas. A Splendid Madness Sheridan House 2004. 210p. photos

I acquired this book primarily because it is about a Tanzer 22. I have no particular affection for Tanzers and in fact avoided them when I was looking for a larger boat. However there are quite a few of them around my part of the sailing world  and I thought it might give me an insight on why they are so popular – above and beyond the fac that they are available and they are cheap.  Advance  does not appear to have been sailed much beyond a 25 mile radius of a post on the Hudson River. I have not yet had the time to read this volume.  From the contents it appears to be more about the Hudson River Valley than about sailing.

Griffiths, Maurice. Swatchways and Little Ships.  Adalard Coles Nautical 1999. 192p. photos, drawings

Griffiths was for more than thirty years the editor of Yachting Monthly and was also a designer of dozens of sailing craft. This book is an autobiography in boats and in it Griffiths recounts his experiences as a small boat sailor in the swathchways, that tract of shoal depth territory on the east  coast of England., He was an advocate of shallow draft small boats and grew to appreciate the bilge keel design. It is interesting to read these memoirs at the same time as Dylan Winter is sailing the same territory in his Keep Turning Left video series. I’m betting theat Griffiths would have loved the Noridca.

Hedderwick,Mairi. Sea Change The Summer Voyage from East to West Scotland of the Anassa. Canongate 1999 167p. watercolour sketches.




Jones, H. Lewis. Swin, Swale and Swatchway [1892] Lodestar Books 2011. 170p. photos.




Kornblum, William. At Sea in the City. Algonquin Books 2004. 224 p.

This is a book about sailing that I imagine that I could do in my own boat and for that reason is a really good read.  As Kornblum notes four of the five boroughs of New York are located on islands and it seems a logical step to explore the area by boat. In this case it is the Tradition, an ancient   cat boat. This is not a non-stop epic voyage but a series of small steps skirting the edges of New York harbour, up the east River and into Long Island Sound. Along the way one learns a little about sailing and a lot about the history, geography and sociology of New York and how much it was, and still is, a marine city.
Kornblum sets out with a vague goal but the real strength of the book is the freeboard-eye view of the often surprising edges of the city. Like any really-good sailing book it includes maps showing just where the author is talking about. Unless you live in or about New York this is not a book you will read over and over again but it is certainly worth reading once and the approach is transferable to any small boat exploration

      MacKinnon, A.J. The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow. Seafarer Books 2002.  356p. drawings, maps.

Most sailing books are about boats slightly or much bigger than a Nordica 16. This is about an excursion in one slightly smaller. But what an excursion! Starting off in North Wales the author, with little sailing experience, spends over a year sailling (and rowing) through the rivers and canals of  Europe to end up at the mouth of the Danube on the Black Sea. While perhaps not great literature the book holds one’s interest and seems to confirm the English as a race of eccentrics (although the author is actually Australian ) The Mirror dinghy is a 1950’s plywood design which the author describes os the Volkswagen Beetle of boats. Hardly seaworthy, it perhaps one of the last boats one would use to cross the English Channel but, pickling the right day, Mackinnon does just that and once on the continent doesn’t know where to stop. A good – but not a great – read.

Merrick, Elliott. Cruising at Last. Sailing the East Coast. Lyons Press 2003.  250p. drawings.

I don’t often subscribe to the overblown enthusiasm of the blurbs and quotes on a books jackets but in this case its east to agree with the view of Derek Lundy, author of The Way of A Ship who describes Merrick’s book as a “lyrical, humorous, unpretentious and utterly absorbing account.” Cruising At Last is a book about an amateur sailor who is also a professional writer. It is an old fashioned book in the best meaning of the words with a quality to it reflecting the great joys of small accomplishments. Merrick had a remarkable life and on retirement built a 20 foot wooden sloop to the Carinita design. It was a no-nonsense boat designed to be executed by the amateur builder. The building of the boat itself is a throw-away and a mere prelude to the story – this book is about how Merrick and his wife sailed from the boat’s home port at Hilton Head, South Carolina up the coast to the chilly waters of Maine and back again. No heroics, relatively little excitement but a huge measure of simple satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. This man loved his boat and he enjoyed his sailing. The book is not a boast but a story the author has generously shared. The book is not a cruising “how-to” but almost every page has observations and practices which I could apply to my own travels. Merrick and his wife actually made the trip to Maine and back three times and the books is comprised of a series of essays he wrote about the three voyages for Rudder Magazine, Yachting and Cruising World. They have been skillfully threaded together into a narrative of a single voyage. I have given this book my highest rating and really regretted finishing it. A few maps or charts might have been a useful adjunct but the endpaper plans and illustrations of the boat itself add to the pleasure from the book.

O’Brien, Conor. On Going to Sea in Yachts [1933] Lodestar Books 2011. 172p. drawings.




Ransome, Arthur. Racundura’s First Cruise [1923] Fernhurst Books 2015.  255p. maps. charts. photographs.




Sinclair, W.E.  Cruises of the Joan. [1934] Lodestar Books 2011. 246p. photos, maps.


2 thoughts on “Books

  1. Taylor johnson

    Might I suggest the boat that wouldn’t float by Farley mowatt if you haven’t read it. Also this is created I recently acquired “saltza” a tanzer 22 from the yacht club and have been sailing out of brudenell this year. Would love to pick your brain about sailing history here on island some day as I write songs about the very topic often and am always looking for new stories to tell.

    Cheers ,


  2. yhzatc

    Re A Splendid Madness – The Tanzer 22 is a fine boat. Still plenty of them in Nova Scotia and I know there used to be several at Charlottetown YC. Had mine for 29 years and sailed along the coast of Nova Scotia. Best cockpit of most bigger boats. 7 people in there for wine & cheese after sailing. I was an Air Traffic Controller working shifts and I could sail the Tanzer 22 easily solo on weekdays when everyone else was working or when I got off work at midnight and it was a beautiful evening. Do not need a crew but as I said lots of room for crew. They are still racing a fleet of them on Grand Lake outside Halifax. I have two friends at local clubs with much bigger boats for offshore races who keep Tanzer-22s for the pure fun of sailing them. I must say I crewed on larger Tanzers, 7.5s and 26s, and disliked them as the way the freeboard was built up it seemed like you were always hanging on in danger of being pitched overboard when they heeled just a bit. Barrie MacLeod SKYE BOAT


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