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Great Books for Beginners

New and old hands are likely to find instructional tips and techniques to make them better sailors in this list of suggested readings. Click on the titles for ordering and pricing information.

Basic Keelboat
US Sailing Association.
The basic book in the US Sailing's Certification Series. Instructs in all basic sailing maneuvers through clear illustrations and spare text. Offers excellent, reassuring instruction in basic sailboat handling and sailing seamanship. Paperback, 96 pages.
Colgate's Basic Sailing
By Steve Colgate
Colgate's Basic Sailing has been developed over 35 years of teaching sailing. It is the textbook for Offshore Sailing School's highly regarded Learn to Sail course. The text makes an orderly, clear progression from the pure basics to the intermediate level including chapters on spinnaker handling and heavy weather.
Paperback, 136 pages, 1991.
Complete Sailor: Learning the Art of Sailing
By David Seidman
Truly a first-class book which goes beyond other basic sailing texts. Each illustrated, two-page spread covers a topic fully. The book is a great introduction for those just starting out and a guide to new horizons for those who already sail. Also contains additional material on navigation, design, seamanship, anchoring, ropework, rigging, weather, rules of the road, tailoring, and working the winds.
Paperback, 208 pages, 600 illustrations, 1995.
Essential Sailing: A Beginner's Guide
By Roger Marshall
A thorough, fully illustrated handbook offering basic instruction for the novice sailor with photos and drawings throughout. The author also provides further instruction on the rules of the road, and on how to navigate, how to read charts, and how to purchase a boat. Roger Marshall is a veteran sailor of 40 years as well as a sailboat designer, award-winning magazine writer, and publisher of the newsletter Marshall's Maritime Review. 244 pages, 2000 Edition.
Essential Sailor
By Jim Saltonstall.
Tighly focused on sailboat handling in various conditions in smaller centerboard boats, this book illustrates every maneuver and situation with full color photos.
Hardcover, 152 pages, 1996.
Fundamentals of Sailing, Cruising, & Racing
By Steve Colgate
Founder and CEO of Offshore Sailing School, considered to be the most prestigious sailing school in the US, author Steve Colgate has distilled the essential principles from his 35 years of teaching and reduced seemingly complicated techniques of sailing to basic, simple principles in the revised and expanded edition of this acclaimed primer on sailing, cruising and racing. For novice and experienced alike, the book addresses the latest techniques, equipment, racing rules as well as demystifies the sport for the beginner. Hardcover, 380 pages, 1996.
Introduction to Sailing
By Peter Blake.
Peter Blake, now head of the Cousteau Society, tells you all you need to know about the basics of sailing. He covers how to choose a boat to suit you and offers advice on buying secondhand, building your own, sailing dinghies, cruising yachts, racing, maintenance, navigation, weather and safety, as well as using the wind to drive your boat. The basics and the enjoyment of sailing, presented in a practical but enthusiastic manner with numerous color photos and diagrams. Paperback, 128 pages, 1993.
Learn to Sail in a Weekend
By John Driscoll.
Practical and easy to use, Driscoll's step-by-step tutorial is visually sharp with hundreds of color photos and detailed diagrams. Excellent, proven instruction to master the fundamental skills of sailing in one weekend.
Paperback, 96 pages, 1998.
Learning to Sail
By Diane Goodman & Ian Brodie.
The Annapolis Sailing School guide for basic sailing instruction featuring proven, encouraging techniques geared primarily to young sailors ages 10 and up. Every lesson has been tested and refined by thousands of students. The lessons are clear, simple, and easy to understand.
Paperback, 208 pages, 1994.
Let's Go Sailing
By Peter Isler.
Devoted to the beginning sailor. Encouraging, simple text covers beginning through intermediate techniques with review questions at the end of each chapter. Clearly written with detailed illustrations and diagrams.
Paperback, 96 pages, 1993.
Royce's Sailing Illustrated
By Patrick M. Royce
First published more than 40 years ago, this pocket-sized book is designed for quick reference while you're underway, and it's survived the test of time in endless sailing worlds. Sails, sail-handling, hull basics, mono-hulls, multi-hulls, tall ships, spinnakers, heavy weather sailing, anchoring, docking, marlinspike, tides, currrents, weather, rules, equipment, and more. If you sail a yacht under 50 feet or want to do so, this book can help you do it!
Paperback, 254 pages, 1994.
Sailing for Kids
By Gary & Steve Kibble
Aimed at young sailors just getting started. Simple text with many photos of Optimist dinghies in action.
Paperback, 48 pages, 1992.
Sailing Fundamentals
Revised ed. by Gary Jobson.
The new edition of this best-selling learn-to-sail manual by the former sailing coach of the US Naval Academy combines the training programs of the American Sailing Association and the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. The book teaches every aspect of basic sailing and coastal cruising with clear, reassuring text and more than 100 photos. Sailing Fundamentals has been extensively pre-tested by ASA professional instructors to ensure that it offers the fastest, easiest, most systematic way to learn basic sailing and basic coastal cruising.
Paperback, 224 pages.
Sailing: A Woman's Guide
By Doris Colgate.
A primer for the woman beginning in sailing by one of the top woman instructors. Provides basic instruction and anecdotal material in a voice designed to address the needs and concerns particular to women. Doris Colgate uses her considerable experience to encourage, excite, and educate women in sailing and to show them how their inherent female qualities are those which sailors need. Written in clear, but accessible, language, Colgate's book will help women to start sailing or to hone the skills they already have.
Paperback, 160 pages, 1999.
Sailor's Start-Up
By Doug Werner.
A light, straight-forward introduction to small boat sailing, this manual covers gear, techniques, safety, and conditions for both monohull and catamarans. Over 100 photos. Very beginner friendly.
Paperback, 144 pages, 1994.
Start Sailing Right!
By US Sailing.
Jointly adopted by the American Red Cross and the US Sailing Association, this booklet teaches the principles of safe, successful sailing more clearly and faster. Lots of easy-to-grasp illustrations take the beginner through the basics. Self-test is included. Paperback, 112 pages, 1997.
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