Preview: Good Reads: Recommendations by Ellen Massey Leonard asked our guides to share their favorite books that should be in every boater’s library…

Note from OCH: Here are the top four essential boat books recommended by Ellen Massey Leonard.

Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual by Nigel Calder

This is a must for anyone planning a voyage, near or far, on his or her own yacht.  Repairs and maintenance are a fact of life afloat, and Nigel Calder smoothes the learning curve with his detailed, highly technical, but also very readable guide to everything from building your own refrigeration system to troubleshooting yur diesel engine.

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8 Responses So Far to “Good Reads: Recommendations by Ellen Massey Leonard

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    Captain Nemo says:


    I think your recommendations are excellent. (I’m especially pleased that you recommend Moby Dick, but then as a Melville scholar in college, I’m admittedly biased!)

    I would also recommend two other books for the list: The first was written by Arctic historian and Anthropologist John Bockstoce, and is titled “Arctic Passages – A Unique Small-Boat Journey Through The Great Northern Waterway”. It is about his multi-year effort to take a 32-foot long, outboard-powered Umiak around North America from the Bering and Chukchi seas, all the way round to Greenland and beyond. It’s a fascinating look at a way of life which is essentially gone, as well as a thoroughly interesting glimpse into the strengths and weaknesses of the Eskimo Umiak – a whale bone and skin-covered craft whose light weight and flexibility is paramount in its success in that extremely harsh environment.

    The second is the great Captain Joshua Slocum’s “Sailing Alone Around the World” – the account of his epic 1895 to 1898 journey around the world in his 37-foot Sloop “Spray”. There is little to say about this utterly fascinating book, but that anyone interested in sailing, small boat journeys in wooden boats, and the indominable human spirit will simply love it.

    Greg Mactye

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      Ellen Massey Leonard says:

      Hi Greg,
      I’m sorry it’s taken me nearly a year to see this comment! I wholeheartedly agree with both your recommendations – thank you! I’ve read Slocum’s book so many times that its cover is falling off, but I didn’t mention it because I think another Guide did.

      As for John Bockstoce’s book – I have to tell you this story! When Seth and I were in Nome with CELESTE in 2015, we met a wonderful couple called Pat and Sue Hahn. We got to be friends and learned that Pat had been John’s First Mate on that umiak voyage! I can’t tell you how fascinating it was to hear about first hand – sitting at the feet of a master! The pair of them are truly in a league with the Arctic explorers of the past. We also met several Inupiat elders on the North Slope who still hunt bowhead whale from umiaks, propelled by paddles – just imagine the bravery!

      So, thank you for the comment and happy reading!
      All the best,

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    karenlsullivan says:

    A little practicality, a little history, a little literature–these are excellent choices, and your library must be a good one. I had the extreme pleasure of reading Typee while anchored at TaipiVai, the actual setting for the novel. I’m enjoying your blog, too.

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      Ellen Massey Leonard says:

      Thanks! I loved Typee as well, although I only discovered it once ashore again.

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    Ken Strangward says:

    Nigel Calders book is one of the most thorough books I have come across, as I do or try to do most repairs it’s been invaluable. Great recommendation.


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      Ellen Massey Leonard says:

      Thanks, Ken. I think Nigel Calder’s were the most thumbed-through books on our voyage. For readers not yet familiar with Calder, Marine Diesel Engines goes into particular depth on that subject, and he writes excellent articles for Ocean Navigator magazine and SAIL.

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    Eric Blake says:

    Ellen , your books are spot on. It is so nice having books suggested by someone having spent as much time sailing around the globe as you have. Thanks so much!

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      Ellen Massey Leonard says:

      Thanks for your comment, Eric. I’m glad to have a chance to share these books with the Off Center members. And it’s been great to expand my reading list with all that the Guides have been recommending.