Winter days are short above 60° north. Really, really, depressingly short! But there’s one positive consequence: the evenings are very long! And if you like reading as much as I do, a long evening spent with a good book will make everything brighter! As we are planning to cast the lines and begin our big sailing adventure next summer, I have lately focused almost exclusively on sailing books. To be honest, I have also focused on browsing the web, but I can defend myself – it’s all been sailing related!
Staring at the tube
Fun and relaxation in the tropics
When we first started dreaming about a big sailing voyage, we stumbled upon some sailing videos on Youtube. The first we started watching, I believe, were the today’s “classics” s/v Delos and Sailing La Vagabonde. The Delos crew has held it’s charm longer, although I wish they would invent some new expressions to replace awesome, epic and amazing. All the same, watching tropical landscapes and incredible underwater worlds is a great way to unwind after a long week at work.
Sweaty projects – and then fun and relaxation in the tropics
Having dug deeper into this demanding research, one day my husband told me about some very skilled young lady, who apparently could weld and grind metal and repair a diesel engine, as well as singlehand her boat. She was, of course, Nike from Untie the Lines. Her boat projects were gruelling just to watch, but finally she got the boat ready and went sailing around the western Caribbean. Another Youtube channel that started around boat projects is Sailing Uma. The young couple have succeeded in some more exotic efforts such as installing an electric drive on their sailboat – and then sailing around the Caribbean.
Too many fish in the sea
A couple of years ago Youtube got very saturated with all sorts of sailing channels, some of them trying to stand out from the crowd by rather questionable means. As a result, we are much pickier about what we like to watch these days.
One of the fairly recent youtubers, Ran Sailing with a nice, young Swedish couple have a very well produced program. Another really cute Swedish couple can be found on Ocean Around.
As a counterbalance to all the bikini babes I was delighted to find a few men, too – these lonesome riders of the seas. One of the funniest is a Swiss guy Alex on his Winded Voyage, and an Englishman called Barry the Old Seadog. And, we mustn’t forget Dylan Winter of Keep Turning Left – magnificent films about sailing counterclockwise around his home kingdom.
Heavy metal sailing
The Norwegian Erik has produced some of the best videos on Youtube, in my opinion. He sails the unmerciful North Sea in wintertime, and the name of his channel, No Bullshit Just Sailing, is not exaggerated. Then there was a crew of three men and a dog sailing in the Caribbean. They made a series of really great films called Sea Change and then disappeared without a trace.
The most touching story of all is by Elizabeth Tyler. Widowed, she took the helm of her own sailboat in the Mediterranean – Sailing on, Single Handed – and paints wonderful watercolours inspired by the beautiful sea.
Blogs and logs
Before we started sailing I had never really followed any blogs. But now I felt like a sponge absorbing any information I could find about sailing, and I couldn’t believe how much cool stuff there was to be found!
A lot of the blogs I first started reading were in Finnish, but some are in English or bilingual. There is the Meretniemi family on their circumnavigation writing a blog called Sail for Good, a Finnish couple sailing along the European coasts on their boat s/y Suwena, another couple who have sailed extensively in Scandinavian waters on s/y Dolphin Dance, and a more recent find, s/y Liberta whos crew is planning a big voyage in the future.
My international favourites include Sailing Totem, a family who have nearly completed their circumnavigation, and The Cynical Sailor and His Salty Sidekick, particularly the hilarious tales of learning to sail a small boat – it was easy to identify with the stories as we had just started sailing on our first sailboat.
These and many others inspired me to start a blog of our own. I didn’t think I would find a huge audience with my little stories about sailing a small boat in a small sea (and I was right!) but I wanted to document our journey from the beginning – from land lubbers to, well, hopefully people who might be able to call themselves sailors in some distant future. We had the idea of a big voyage we would embark on, one day, but it seemed light years away. It’s much closer now, and getting here has been much more fun than I expected. We have plenty of favourite spots in the Baltic Sea now, which we’ll be leaving behind for others to find – in Estonia (2016), Åland Island and the Archipelago Sea (2017).
I hear voices
I had been commuting a long way to work for a dozen years or so, before I had a lightbulb moment and realised I can actually listen to anything I like while driving! I don’t know why it took so long to figure – but it was the last time I ever listened to the empty chit chat of a morning radio.
First I tried some audio books, but it was difficult to keep track of all the different characters in the story and still manage to pay some attention to the traffic around me. But podcast interviews were just the right shape and size! And what’s more, I found podcasts about sailing!
My first find was The Sailing Podcast by an Australian guy – he hasn’t produced anything in ages but the old episodes can still be found.
The best and a very active one is On the Wind – 59° North by Andy Schell who seems to be some sort of a jack-of-all-things sailing. Amongst his interviewees are big names such as Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Lin and Larry Pardey, John and Amanda Neal, Paul and Sheryl Shard, and arctic and antarctic adventurers Skip Novak, Matt Rutherford, John Harries, and Bob Shepton – along with a number of Youtubers I mentioned earlier.
Some interesting stories occasionally appear on the Boat Radio channel.
So much to learn
My favourite source of information – and it has a lot! – is a website called Attainable Adventure Cruising. It’s not free, but it costs a lot less than Netflix. There’s a wealth of articles about long distance and offshore sailing and cruising, boats, gear and whatnot.
The Boat Galley – as the boat’s kitchen is called – has a lot of tips and tricks about living on a boat, way beyond cooking and provisioning.
A lot of knowledge can be found on different forums where sailors hang out. One of the busiest is the Cruisers Forum. There are others, like Sailnet and Cruising Anarchy. My latest discovery, after I finally swallowed the bitter pill and joined Facebook, were the many different groups for sailing people, best of all one dedicated to sailing women with the liveliest and friendliest conversation I’ve seen in a long time.
Every long distance sailor’s bible is undoubtedly World Cruising Routes by Jimmy Cornell. It lists all the routes in the whole world, with information about weather systems and best seasons for each route.
Blogs, magazines and podcasts are a great way of finding good reading tips. That’s how I found Lin and Larry Pardey, who have written the most legendary guides for a shoestring sailor – The Cost Conscious Cruiser and many, many more.
Rick Page and Jasna Tuta’s Get Real, Get Gone is a more recent variation of the same theme. It’s a concept outlined by many other downshifting manuals – instead of craving for bigger and fancier things we should keep things simple, and that way we can keep living the good life for longer. Well, we are obviously going to be another pair of lab rats to test this theory with our modest budget as we start cruising. I hope to write a report on this in a couple of year’s time!
As far as sailing adventure stories go, Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way was a haunting story about what it’s like to be all alone in the ocean, with incredible experiences and visions. Moitessier took part in the famous Golden Globe Race, but instead of finishing he continued on for another half a lap around the world.
For more inspiration, I might take up some more of this serious adventure reading, such as Ernst Shackleton’s Antarctic adventure on Endurance, or Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki – I remember reading about those adventures as a child and they made a lasting impression on me. I’m sure they would still be as exciting!
What’s your favourite sailing book?
What sort of interesting and useful sailing related things have you found online?
I love to read comments and respond – so please don’t hesitate to comment!