As time goes on, I’ll put websites and books here that will help you explore the world of sailing and the sea.
While there are many, many, many books on the subject, below are some that have helped me to learn what life at sea was like. I hope they do the same for you. They are listed in no particular order.
- King, Dean. Every Man Will Do His Duty. New York; Henry Holt and Company, 1997. Print.
To build this book, King took the memoirs and captain’s logs of all of the English ships that fought at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1804. While many of the stories are from captains on the quarterdeck, several are from below decks, where the fighting also took place. This is real history.
- Pickford, Nigel. The Atlas of Shipwrecks and Treasure. New York; Dorling Kindersley, 1994. Print.
This is a beautiful coffee-table book. The illustrations, and thumbnail descriptions of great seafaring events, will make you want to take sail yourself. When I’m looking for inspiration, I peruse the maps of this excellent book.
- Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag. New York; Random House. 1994. Print.
Cordingly is masterful in his contrasting modern perception of pirates with their real circumstances. If you thought you knew pirates, this well-researched book will set you straight.
- Pope, Dudley. Life in Nelson’s Navy. Annapolis, Maryland; Naval Institute Press. 1987. Print.
This is a wonderful book. The brilliant Horatio Nelson, arguably England’s most famous sailor, made a dramatic rise from midshipman to Rear Admiral, eventually commanding the Royal Navy fleet against Napoleon’s combined French and Spanish fleet at Trafalgar, where he was killed. This book breathes life into the daily routine of Jack Tars all over the planet, at the height of the Golden Age of Sail.
- Johnson, Captain Charles. A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. London; Conway Maritime Press. 1998. Print.
Captain Johnson may have been a pen name for Daniel Defoe, the author who invented Robinson Crusoe. It may just have likely been written by a real pirate that sailed with some of the rogues he talks about in the book. First written in 1724 and updated with two new editions in 1725 and 1726, this book is full of fresh, crazy stories. The language is a little arcane, because, really, the author was a sailor himself. But give it a little generosity and you’ll find it’s great history.
- Little, Benerson. The Sea Rover’s Practice. Dulles, Virginia; Potomac Books. 2005. Print.
This is a great book, concise, informative, and a great read. It’s packed full of surprising little tidbits you assumed you knew, but didn’t have quite right.
- Smyth, Admiral W. H. Chapman – The Sailor’s Lexicon. New York; Hearst Books. 2005.
Of all the books I own, this is the most frequently visited. From A to Zumbra, if it floated, or had to do with floating, it’s in this book. It is written in plain English, designed for a total novice to use. Best of all, it was first written in 1905, when most of the world’s ships were still under sail. This was a daily go-to for countless sailors the world over.
This is an interesting site. There’s some great information here about the daily lives of pirates – their rules, their roles, and a lot of great stuff about famous pirates.