From spy thrillers and historical novels to childhood classics, escape with one of these 10 sailing books. How many have you read? Let us know your recommendations!


Need some inspiration for your summer reading list? Look no further! We have something for everyone…no matter what their age.

Stormchild by Bernard Cornwell

Stormchild by Bernard Cornwell

Tim Blackburn becomes a widower when his wife dies in a yacht explosion in the Channel.

Police discover the yacht was bombed and suspect Tim’s estranged daughter, Nicole, could be behind the bombing.

But Tim has not seen Nicole since she joined the outlawed environmental organisation Genesis.

To prove the police wrong, Blackburn goes in search of his daughter in his yacht Stormchild, on a voyage that will take him from England to the Caribbean and the depths of South America.

If you like Stormchild, you might also want to read Cornwell’s other sailing novels – Crackdown, Scoundrel,  Wildtrack or Sea Lord (published as Killer’s Wake in the US)

Buy Stormchild at Foyles


The Happy Return by C.S. Forester

The Happy Return by CS Forester

The first published novel in the Horatio Hornblower canon, although it is the fifth book in the series, The Happy Return follows Hornblower’s command of the frigate. HMS Lydia.

Hornblower has instructions to form an alliance against the Spanish colonies with a mad and messianic revolutionary, El Supremo; to find a water route across the Central American isthmus; and ‘to take, sink, burn or destroy’ the fifty-gun Spanish ship of the line Natividad – or face court-martial.

And as if that wasn’t hard enough, Hornblower must also contend with the charms of an unwanted passenger.

The Happy Return is available through WH Smiths.


The Master Mariner by Nicholas Monsarrat

The Master Mariner

From the author of the classic World War II naval novel, The Cruel Sea, The Master Mariner follows the story of a young Devon sailor, Lawe, who is cursed after a spectacular act of cowardice to “wander the wild waters till all the seas run dry.”

Written in two volumes, the story covers the history of maritime development, from Sir Francis Drake preparing to fight the Spanish fleet to the 1960 opening of the St Lawrence Seaway.

For more details about buying The Master Mariner, click here.


Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

children's sailing novel

Summer holidays certainly evoke nostalgia and what is more nostalgic than revisiting that childhood classic which got you into sailing in the first place!

Arthur Ransome’s story about the adventures of the Walker children in the Lake District in 1929 is still as entertaining as ever.

Swallows and Amazons was also turned into a film last year.

Buy Swallows and Amazons at Waterstones.


Skeletons for Sadness by Ewen Southby-Tailyour

Skeletons for Sadness

Edward Casement and Heather Cooper are flung together on a charter for the Governor of the Falkland islands.

When the Argentine invasion comes, they find themselves drawn into the ensuing conflict – but who is on which side and who can be trusted?

Written by retired Royal Marine and sailor, Ewen Southby-Tailyour, who extensively chartered the waters around the Falkland Islands while stationed at the British Overseas Territory, and assisted British Forces during the Falklands War, this novel will grip you till the very last page.

Buy Skeletons for Sadness from Marine Store.

Continued below…

5 things in your pocket

5 things in your pocket

Find out what Ellen MacArthur, Helena Lucas and Dee Caffari always have on them! YBW asked professional and amateur sailors…

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

Master and Commander by Patric O'Brian

The first novel in the Aubrey-Maturin epic series, set during the Napoleonic Wars.

Follow the Royal Navy’s Jack Aubrey as he takes command of his first ship, the Sophie, and his first meeting with doctor Stephen Maturin.

Sea battles and and experience as a French prisoner-of-war follow.

If you particularly like the Napoleonic Era, you could try Alexander Kent’s Bolitho series, Dudley Pope’s Ramage or the William Bentley series by Jan Needle.

Click here to buy the Folio edition of Master and Commander.


Great Circle by Sam Llewellyn

Great Circle by Sam Llewellyn

A bestseller when it was first published, the Great Circle is a novel about a yacht race of the same name.

The instructions are simple: sail round the world, leaving the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn to port.

However, finishing the race is not so easy. Participants have to not only content with the challenging weather, but also with their personal demons.

If you enjoy reading Full Circle, pick up one of Llewellyn’s other sailing thrillers, which are set around the fishing village of Pulteney and are, according to the author, designed to “give you all the thrills of yachting with none of the excess moisture, and to keep your heart in your mouth long past your bedtime.”

Try Dead Reckoning, Blood Orange, Blood Knot, Riptide or Maelstrom.

Great Circle is available on Amazon.


This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson

This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson

Packed full of action, vivid characters, ideas and explorations of science and religion, this historical novel was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2005.

1828. Brilliant young naval officer Robert FitzRoy is given command of HMS Beagle, surveying the wilds of Tierra del Fuego.

During the voyage, FitzRoy takes a passenger, the trainee cleric and amateur geologist, Charles Darwin.

This is the story of the friendship between the two men and how, ultimately, it is torn apart.

Visit the Waterstones website to buy This Thing of Darkness.


The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers

Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers

Childers’ classic novel was immensely popular in the years before World War One and is considered the spy novel which established the genre.

Two young sailors notice dubious German naval activities and find themselves in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and intrigue which could soon lead to war.

The novel is noted for its characterisation and richly authentic background of inshore sailing, as well as its vivid evocation of the late 1890s and its prediction of the First World War.

The Riddle of the Sands is available through Amazon.


Challenge by Warwick Collins

Challenge by Warwick Collins

The year is 2000. The US Ambassador in Moscow receives an extraordinary message from the USSR – to challenge for sailing’s most prestigious prize – the America’s Cup.

Each country is determined to win this “war without blood”, and will push all those involved to the limits.

Follow the drama of match racing to its chilling conclusion as the superpowers start to look for new ways to express their status.

Challenge is available through Amazon.

Part of a trilogy, if you love Challenge you’ll love reading the follow ups: New World, which tracks the fortunes of the Estonian America’s Cup helmsman, Ivan Illich, and Death of an Angel, which follows the Estonian America’s Cup team in 2003.