Guiding Star bookshop

Would you like to find out more about the history of fishing boats such as Guiding Star, or the age of sail more generally? Here are some of the books which I’ve found most inspiring. Click on the links to buy from Amazon.

Once Aboard a Cornish Lugger

Paul Greenwood went to sea as a teenager on the Looe lugger I.R.I.S. in the 1960s. She had engines rather than sails, but otherwise her six crew faced the same tough work and rough living conditions as fishermen in the age of sail. Paul describes the seasickness, backbreaking labour and danger with wit and deep knowledge.

Hand, Reef and Steer 2nd edition: Traditional Sailing Skills for Classic Boats

Tom Cunliffe has spent his life on traditional boats since running away to sea after studying law more than 40 years ago. This book is a clear, beautifully-illustrated guide to rigging and sailing a gaff-rigged boat, fascinating to read even if you don’t intend to sail one yourself.

The Barefoot Navigator: Navigating with the Skills of the Ancients

How did the Pacific Islanders find islands across thousands of miles of ocean? How did the Vikings, the ancient Egyptians, the Arabs and the Chinese navigate without modern instruments? Jack Lagan reveals techniques which are still vital for sailors today.

Two Years Before The Mast

A vivid account of serving as an ordinary seaman on sailing ships trading hides with ranchers in California in 1834-1836. Dana describes the brutality of unaccountable captains, the mateship of young crew working aloft in snow and gales and the excitement of a new frontier.

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Dana Sobel’s best-selling story of how John Harrison, an 18th century watchmaker, built the first chronometer accurate enough to determine longitude at sea. A great tale but read Sextant as well to understand the importance of the simultaneous work to compile tables of the movements of sun, moon and stars.

A World of My Own: The First Ever Non-stop Solo Round the World Voyage

Robin Knox-Johnston’s matter-of-fact but astonishing account of the first non-stop solo voyage around the world in 1969. Robin’s courage, adaptability and stamina shine through his writing.

James Cook: The Journals (Penguin Classics)

Captain Cook’s three expeditions across the Pacific between 1768 and 1779 were as much voyages into the unknown, beyond reach of help, as a journey to Mars would be today. Cook’s seamanship, keeping ship together and crew alive, was extraordinary.

Hevva!: Account of the Cornish Fishing Industry in the Days of Sail

Keith Harris draws together a fascinating mixture of information about how boats such as Guiding Star were used, illustrated with delightful line drawings. My favourite is the page showing the semaphore system used to direct seine-net boats to surround shoals of pilchards.

The Hen Who Sailed Around the World: A True Story

Young Bréton sailor Guirec Soudée’s delightful story of sailing 45,000 miles around the world alone except for his hen Monique.

Sail on a 1907 Cornish fishing boat

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