If, for example, you are interested in cruising the Bahamas and/or The Leeward Islands and The Windward Islands, there are three books that I would recommend you begin with. Read and re-read them before, and as, you travel southward. The first and foremost is The Gentlemen’s Guide to Passages South, The Thornless Path to Windward by Bruce Van Sant. Van Sant really started it all by writing this book as a guide and inspiration to all of us “armchair sailors.”
Once you do that, you may want to continue southward at some point. Chris Doyle has written two of the most used books: Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands and Sailors’ Guide to the Windward Islands. These three books are invaluable to all level of cruisers.
Also check out Tricks of the Trade by Bruce Van Sant and Guide to the Abacos and Bahamasby Steve Dodge, as well as Pavlidas’ books on the Abacos and Exumas. Check these out on-line at Amazon or at West Marine Store. There are many other guide books available as well as personal accounts. If you are interested in cruising south, Michener’s book Caribbean is a must for the background and history of the area you will be visiting.
You should be aware of some the information that you need to add to your early planning. This includes the weather conditions in the areas you plan to visit. Gather as much seasonal weather information about the areas you will be cruising around before you go so you know what you could expect. Have a guide book on interpreting weather maps and what it all means to you and where you are headed. David Jones’ book Concise Guide to Caribbean Weather is most useful for understanding the tropical weather systems. The more diverse your reading is,the more you will know and enjoy. We even have a book solely about The Rums of the Eastern Caribbean by Edward Hamilton.
These books are contemporary books that deal with current situations. There are many older books that are well worth reading. A classic is Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum. Other more modern classics are Hal Roth’s books, including Chasing the Wind. Tanya Aebi’s Maiden Voyage and By the Grace of the Sea by Pat Henry are both stories of a woman’s triumphant, solo, circumnavigation over the sea. These are not “how to” books, rather they are inspirational, informative, and full of general knowledge of life at sea. Add them to your sailing library. If you don’t have a sailing library, now is the time to start one so that when you are ready to sail away you will be prepared. If you prefer to stay on dry land, these books make for a very exciting, vicarious lifestyle.