Recommended Reading

Books I studied before I bought Tarka

People often ask what books I used to learn about sailing, maintenance, and the general cruising lifestyle. It’s a good question, because before I moved aboard Tarka, I had almost no sailing experience to speak of, zero experience with maintaining a boat, and had never lived in such a small space with so few resources. So before I bought and moved aboard Tarka, these are the two books that were most helpful:

The Voyager’s Handbook

The Voyager’s Handbook is one of the most complete books in terms of preparing for an offshore voyage, the liveaboard lifestyle, and provides real-world examples of financial and lifestyle expectations.

Though it doesn’t go into a lot of detail on any single topic, it’s a good first stop, and a good pre-departure read.

Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual

If you’re doing any sort of boat repairs or improvement work, then this book should be your first stop. It provides general guides with illustrations on fiberglass work, deck and hull hardware installation, painting, rigging, and just about everything else

There’s also a nice section on sewing in the back with guides on how to complete a variety of canvas projects and sail repair.

Books that have made me a better sailor

I knew the basics of sailing, but had very little practical experience, and certainly no offshore experience. Thus, I learned a lot by trial and error, and by burying my nose in a few books that I’ve included here.

RYA Sail Trim Handbook for Cruisers

This is probably the book I refer to the most, especially while sailing. Without a sailing background, I’ve spent a lot of time looking between the images in this book and up at my sails to figure out what I’m doing wrong, or how I could squeeze an extra knot out of my sails.

The book covers all points of sail, the use of different kinds of spinnakers, and how sails should be trimmed for different conditions. There’s also an overview of the physics of sailing, which goes a long way to support the “why” and not just the “what” of what to do when things aren’t working quite right.

The Handbook of Sailing


I picked up a copy of this book at a book exchange in Grenada, and it has been invaluable. It repeats some of the content covered in The Voyagers Handbook and the RYA’s Sail Trim Book, but it also has much more, and is heavy on the illustrations.

This book covers everything from the rules of the sea, anchoring, improvising steering, lashings, rig types, and just about everything sailing-related.

The book that made me a better mechanic

I’ve done some DIY projects on cars I’ve owned, and tinkered with plenty of electronics in my day, but diesel engines were wholly new to me, and marine electronics and systems require special care. Luckily, Tarka had the following book onboard when I bought her.

Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual

If my engine is making a new sound that I haven’t heard before, this is the book I turn to. Actually, this is the book I turn to for just about everything system-related on the boat. Everything is covered from seacocks to rigging. One of the most useful features though is that the book contains troubleshooting flowcharts, which have helped me resolve numerous issues with the engine.

Even after the boat flooded with seawater, and this book was soaked, I was reluctant to part with it (and still haven’t) as it’s too valuable to part ways with. It has saved me money by helping me identify potentially expensive mistakes and rectifying them before it was too late.

Every self-sufficient sailor needs this book. Period.

The book that I hope I hope I never need

It’s one thing to know how to sail on a calm summer’s day on flat water in force 4, and another to ride out a strong gale and breaking seas threatening to roll the boat. The latter is a situation I hope never to encounter, and with proper passage-planning, and smart decision-making, it’s unlikely we ever will. However, if we ever do, it’s important to at least have an idea of how to react, what to expect, and what gear might aid in keeping everything upright.

Storm Tactics

Lin and Larry are legends in the cruising world. Having completed several circumnavigations, one on a 24-foot boat they built themselves, as well passages in both low and high latitudes (including around the horn), they have the credentials to write this book.

The book covers various aspects of being prepared for a storm at a sea. Some of this is mental preparedness, and much of it is practical advice. Spoiler alert: their tried and trusted strategy is to heave-to, and they are fans of para-anchors deployed off the bow.

Sailing Adventures

There’s a long list of stories, both modern and classic, by sailors young and old, that have helped inspire Tarka’s adventures. A few of my favorite are the following.

  1. Maiden Voyage – Taina Aebi’s circumnavigation (at 18-years-old) in 26-foot boat
  2. Berserk – An Albin Vega classic of an inexperienced crew and their voyage to Antartica
  3. The Long Way – Bernard Moitissier, the great French sailing legend, and his famous circumnavigation (plus some) as part of the first Golden Globe Race.