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Starting our Library: Books for Cruisers


Last Updated on September 13, 2023 by Amy

We are both huge readers on Starry Horizons, and we read to entertain and to learn.  Our bookshelf is limited, so we keep it full of the best reference books for cruisers.


We are firm proponents of electronic media.  We both have Kindle Paperwhites that we love.  The ability to have literally thousands of books at our disposal without the equivalent space/weight of hard copies is a pretty amazing perk of modern technology.  That being said, there are a few things that I do not necessarily want to have to try and read on a Kindle or iPad.

Bonus!  The latest Kindle Paperwhites are waterproof!

Reference Manuals

Number one on the “must-have in hardcopy” list is a good book for when something goes wrong.

Modern boats are an extremely complex mix of complex systems.  To be fully independent, Starry Horizons has to wear many hats: power plant (solar and generator), water plant (watermaker), transportation (sails, engines, navigation gear), not to mention her vital function as our home (electricity, head, galley etc).  Part of the attraction of a circumnavigation for me was the fact that we’re going to be reliant on our skills to fix those systems on our boat.  There won’t be anyone there to help us if the head stops working in the middle of the ocean.

That’s where the Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual comes in.  I had come a long way in understanding and fixing problems on our old boat, but Starry Horizons is a very different ball game.  Multiple people have recommended this book to me as a great guide to understanding the additional systems on a boat.  It’s proven very useful when something goes wrong (as it inevitably will).  Even though the book is quite large, it is well worth it’s status as the first book in our library.

Another great reference book is Don Casey’s Sailboat Maintenance Manual.  This one goes much more into the sailing aspects of repair and maintenance, such as fiberglass, rigging, and sails.

Fish Books

Fish to eat, and fish to swim with!  We have two guides to fishing for food on our boat: A Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing and Fishing for Dummies.  Thankfully, with the right equipment for fishing off our cruising boat, we’ve landed some great fish!  Once we land a fish, we usually whip out our Gulf of Mexico Sportfishing Guide.  Although we aren’t in the region, this book has the best graphics to go with each fish species and is well organized.  Pelagic fish are generally the same species throughout the world. This book is no longer in print, but you can find Sport Fish of the Pacific by the same author.

Additionally, we have several sets of books on identification for fish we see while snorkeling or diving.  Right now, we are primarily using the Reef Fish of the Tropical Pacific and Reef Creatures of the Tropical Pacific.  I wish I had Nudibranchs & Sea Slug Identification of the Indo-Pacific.   For those cruising the Caribbean, there’s a Florida, Caribbean and Bahamas three-book bundle

Planning Books

Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes is the bible of route planning.  We pull it out all the time as we do our long-term planning.

Two amazing compendiums on everything you need to know about long-term sailing are Beth Leonard’s The Voyagers Handbook and Hal Roth’s How to Sail Around the World.  Although they are reference books, they are both excellent to sit down and pore over before your voyage starts.

Sailing Basics

Even cruisers like us, with a few years and a lot of miles under our belt, need the occasional reference.  The Complete Sailor is a book we first got when David started to experiment with sailing, and it’s something we have on board for easy explanations of definitions we may not be familiar with or a refresher of best methods.

When things get more complex, you want to have the Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook onboard to reference.


We have two books specifically for cruiser vocabulary in foreign ports:  French for Cruisers and Spanish for Cruisers.  They’re great for bringing to shore to be able to look up technical words; trying to explain the exact boat part you need in a chandlery can be very challenging if you don’t speak the language.

If I had to pick one language to learn for cruising, it would be French.  There are many French territories still in existence in the Caribbean and South Pacific.  However, the Spanish speaking ones are more in Europe or Central America.


Books for cruisers would immediately bring sailing to mind, but after looking after the boat and sightseeing, what is one to do all day?  There are a few activities that almost every cruiser participates in.

While in the kitchen, I do have some of my regular cookbooks (like my dad’s old copy of The Joy of Cooking) or device-specific cookbooks (like Miss Vickie’s Big Book of Pressure Cooker Recipes).  However, the staple I pull out most often is The Boat Galley Cookbook.  It’s got great ideas for no-cook dinners, potluck dishes, and handy guides for substitutions.  Plus, it’s got the recipe for my favorite bread!

Every cruiser is a photographer too.  In this digital day and age, it’s so easy to share your adventure with friends and family on the internet.  We’ve both read Stunning Digital Photography and find it a great starter for photography basics.

While cruising we regularly enjoy the most spectacular stars we’ve ever seen.  A Walk Through The Heavens is a fun guide for stars and constellations, and stargazing is a great way to spend some time during your night watch.

While taking our Emergency Offshore Medicine class, we bought the book Wilderness and Rescue Medicine, which was a prerequisite reading.  It’s a great book to have on hand to refresh what you would do in an emergency.

Since we are both scuba divers and have full dive gear on board, we have the PADI Open Water Diver Manual.  Although our dive watches calculate everything and we keep our dives simple, you never know when you might have a question about diving.  Since there’s risk involved, it’s good to have a resource for answers.

What’s on Your Bookshelf?

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One Comment

  1. Hi Amy and David,
    Thanks for sharing so much useful information. I wanted to ask if you have favorite cruising books you would recommend…. perhaps another blog post topic to explore?
    I’m trying to think ahead and order guides we will want when we head across the Pacific and I bet you have some suggestions.
    I hope all is well with you both,
    Mary Grace

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