The Best Books On Sailing For Beginners

sailing books for beginners

If you’re thinking of taking up sailing then you’re going to want to seek out the best books on sailing for beginners. The trouble is, there are so many great sailing books that it’s hard to know which are worth reading.

When we first decided we wanted to learn to sail we bought a selection of guide books on all things sailing, and to be honest I ended up feeling pretty overwhelmed. I’m definitely someone who learns by doing, so I just couldn’t wrap my head around all the different terms, the different parts and the many, many theories.

Then someone gave me a sailing autobiography book for Christmas and I realised I had learnt more from reading it than from all the information books I’d tried before that. And I actually enjoyed reading it!

a sailboat in a best book on sailing for beginners
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Adam on the other hand devours information and found the informative books on sailing the most helpful. He knew all the different terms for everything before we even bought a boat.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the best sailing books for beginners depend completely on what your learning style is like, and what kind of books you prefer to read. I’ve put together a list of the books Adam and I found most helpful so that whatever your learning style there’ll be a helpful sailing book for you!

Information Sailing Books For Beginners

a pretty sunset from a sailboat
The best information books on sailing for beginners

Sailing For Dummies

This is a classic and it’s easy to see why. Sailing for dummies is easy to understand, informative and funny. There’s a reason it’s one of the most popular sailing books for beginners! If you learn well from information books then this is a great book for beginner sailors and once you’ve devoured this one then it might be time to delve into something even more technical, like the one listed below!

The Complete Sailing Manual

This is a beast of a book. It goes into so much depth about all you need to know about the technicalities of sailing and it’s very, very informative. As I said before, this wasn’t a great book for me as it was a little overwhelming. Adam loved this and

The Knot Tying Bible

I guess this doesn’t need much explaining! It’s a book about knots! This is the sort of information book I can get on board with (pun intended!) I love trying to work out different knots, and love it even more when they come in handy. Knots are every sailors life saver, so this book really is a sound investment.

Get Real, Get Gone – Our Favourite Book On Sailing For Beginners

If you’re planning on living on your sailboat then this book really does have it all. It will guide you through buying a boat, the technicalities of living aboard and even covers things like how to cope with relationships on a sailboat. This sailing book for beginners was probably mine and Adam’s favourite, because although it was informative it’s also written by a couple with personal experience of living at sea, so it has a more human touch – not just all facts!

RYA Sailing Guides

The RYA have produced some serious useful if slightly dated handbooks for getting into sailing all the way to more serious sailing qualifications. I loved being able to go through the book and check my knowledge base so I could see that I had all the skills needed to pass my day skipper qualifications.

I also found it one of the easier to use information books around, even if it’s a little old fashioned. Adam preferred some of the more technical books though, so it might be worth trying one of each!

Autobiographical Sailing Books For Beginners

a couple on a sailboat reading the best books on sailing for beginners
The best autobiographical books on sailing for beginners

A Voyage For Madmen

The true story of the famous 1968 Golden Globe sailing race: the first single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the world.  A wonderfully told story that covers all sorts of the emotions felt from being at sea, and what it can ultimately drive men to do.

I guess for me one of the biggest challenges of sailing and living a life at sea has been the emotional side, and this really delves into that. Sailing is only part physical – the rest is how you cope under pressure, how you handle relationships and how much you’re willing to change and grow.


Sir Ernest Shackleton and a crew of 27 men set sail for the South Atlantic on board a ship called the Endurance, with the goal of crossing the Antarctic over land.  The ship was trapped, then crushed in ice, where Shackleton and his men became castaways on one of the most savage regions of the world. 

This is a really gripping true story and made me thankful I was just sailing the well known cruising grounds of the Med! There’s a lot of lessons to take away from it though and it’s a great read.

Something A Bit Different

These books on sailing were super useful for us beginner sailors, but not necessarily for actually learning sailing skills. If you’re moving on board your sailboat or planning on spending lots of time on the water then you might want to think about delving into a few of these sailing books for beginners!

For Better, For Worse

This book tells the story of a family who have a bit of a midlife crisis, leave their jobs and home and move onto a sailboat on the French canals.  It’s told from both the husbands and wife’s perspectives, and is hilarious.

It’s also a really good read to prepare you for what relationships can be like on a sailboat! If you want something light hearted and fun then this is a great read!

The Boat Cookbook

This is a great cookbook for cooking on board. It’s got lots of creative recipes that are easy to make while sailing or at anchor, and some top tips about things to store in your galley too. We’ve made most of the recipes in this book now (all of the vegetarian and fish based ones!) and they’re all delicious! It’s a great book to keep in the galley.

World Cruising Routes

This seems to be the bible where long term cruisers are concerned. If you’re planning on setting off on adventures further afield then this is the book for you! If you’re a beginner sailor then remember to start small and build confidence before tackling some of these ocean crossings! It also details typical cruising routes around smaller areas, such as routes around parts of the Mediterranean. Although this isn’t a book I use all the time, it has come in handy when planning!

Marine Diesel Engines

I wish you didn’t have to become a marine engineer to become a sailor, but I’m afraid if you own a boat then you’ll have to roll your sleeves up at some point. This book is great to have on board for any emergencies.

Incredible Fishing Tips

If you’re going sailing then there’ll come a time when you decide to give fishing a try. Unless you’re an experienced fisherman you’re going to want some tips. Don’t just throw money at lures until something sticks (exactly what we tried and failed to do!)

insurance for sailing
sinking boat
making your sailboat a home

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