The best sailing memoirs written by women

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always enjoyed reading memoirs that pull me in, take me on a unique journey, and entertain me with real-life drama. Nonfiction can be better than fiction, when the experiences and a compelling voice are present. I have been a writer and a nomad since 2003 and, during my thirties, sailed throughout the Caribbean and South Pacific for eight years with a partner and two dogs. When publishing my own account of this journey, I merged the present tense with enticing elements of fiction writing, like flashbacks, foreshadowing, and cliffhangers. Using correct grammar and eliminating typos are important to me as well, which is why I am a picky reader.

I wrote...

Plunge: One Woman's Pursuit of a Life Less Ordinary

By Liesbet Collaert,

Book cover of Plunge: One Woman's Pursuit of a Life Less Ordinary

What is my book about?

Tropical waters turn tumultuous in this travel memoir as a free-spirited woman jumps headfirst into a sailing adventure with a new man and his two dogs. Join Liesbet as she faces a decision that sends her into a whirlwind of love, loss, and living in the moment. When she swaps life as she knows it for an uncertain future on a sailboat, she succumbs to seasickness and a growing desire to be alone. Guided by impulsiveness and the joys of an alternative lifestyle, she must navigate personal storms, trouble with US immigration, adverse weather conditions, and doubts about her newfound love.

 Does Liesbet find happiness? Will the dogs outlast the man? Or is this just another reality check on a dream to live at sea?

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman's Search for the Meaning of Wife

Liesbet Collaert Why did I love this book?

The Motion of the Ocean has been a longtime favorite sailing memoir of mine, not in the least because I read it during my own sailing years and felt connected to the author.

I appreciate her humorous, honest, conversational, and compelling writing style and love the title of the book, which inspired me to keep adventuring by sailboat and even to write my own memoir.

The narrative focuses on Janna and her husband’s relationship on a small boat in a remote area of the world. It’s a story not unlike mine in regards to relationship idiosyncrasies, the Pacific territory, the couple’s ages, and some of their experiences.

Janna was a teacher in a previous life as well and shares my love for travel and writing. This is an entertaining, well-written book.

By Janna Cawrse Esarey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Motion of the Ocean as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The humorous true story of a woman who abandons her tidy life to honeymoon across the Pacific on a leaky, old boat—only to find that sailing 17,000 miles is easier than keeping her relationship off the rocks.

“Somewhere fifty miles off the coast of oregon i realize the skipper of this very small ship is an asshole. he also happens to be my husband.”

While most thirty-somethings are climbing the corporate ladder or popping out babies, Janna Cawrse and her boyfriend Graeme take a different tack: they quit their jobs, tie the knot, and embark on a most unusual honeymoon…

Book cover of Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey

Liesbet Collaert Why did I love this book?

Tightwads on the Loose is another honest and well-written account of a couple’s ups and downs, in this case while cruising in the Pacific for seven years; only one year less than my husband and I traveled on our sailboat.

This enticing story also has a lot of parallels with my life: the couple’s age, their sense of adventure, their frugal means, their full-time commitment to their boat for many years, their need to make money, and some of the geographical and cultural experiences. Recognizing experiences and personality traits while reading this book made me enjoy it better.

Luckily, Wendy and her partner did not have to endure numerous dramatic life-altering events. Tightwads on the Loose is an easy-to-read sailing memoir that I highly recommend. 

By Wendy Hinman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tightwads on the Loose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everyone dreams of tropical escape. But what happens when you escape for too long? Imagine spending 24 hours a day with your spouse in 31 not-so-square feet . . . for years; crossing the Pacific Ocean on two gallons of fuel; and tossing spaghetti marinara around your living room, then cleaning it up while bouncing like ice in a martini shaker. Tightwads on the Loose tells the story of Wendy and Garth, lured to sea by the promise of adventure. They buy a 31-foot boat that fits their budget better than it fits Garth's large frame and set sail for…

Book cover of Love with a Chance of Drowning

Liesbet Collaert Why did I love this book?

Love with a Chance of Drowning had been recommended to me for a while, but I only recently dove in.

One of the reasons was the high price for the eBook, undoubtedly because this is a traditionally published memoir. And, what can I say? I adored this well-crafted love story set on a small sailboat crossing the Pacific Ocean, sprinkled with fearful and heartfelt incidents.

Torre is a fabulous writer, who pulls you into the narrative. She is witty, sarcastic, smart, straightforward, and doesn’t shy away from sharing personal insights, flaws, and brutal honesty, a touted aspect of my book as well.

The author used the present tense to impart a sense of urgency (it’s a wonderful tool to keep you turning the pages) and focused on the connection, strength, and commitment that is needed to rescue her relationship. This is one of the most skillfully written and compelling memoirs I’ve ever read.

By Torre DeRoche,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Love with a Chance of Drowning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New love. Exotic destinations.

A once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

What could go wrong?

City girl Torre DeRoche isn't looking for love, but a chance encounter in a San Francisco bar sparks an instant connection with a soulful Argentinean man who unexpectedly sweeps her off her feet. The problem? He's just about to cast the dock lines and voyage around the world on his small sailboat, and Torre is terrified of deep water. However, lovesick Torre determines that to keep the man of her dreams, she must embark on the voyage of her nightmares, so she waves good-bye to dry land and braces…

Book cover of Of Foreign Build

Liesbet Collaert Why did I love this book?

This book entertained me from the beginning until the end.

I applaud the author’s learning curve, increased happiness, and sense of belonging as the story progresses. Her circumnavigation brought back memories and made me feel like a kindred spirit, because her personality traits, passions, priorities, and thought processes are similar to mine. My favorite parts were her wildlife encounters. 

I also recognized myself in Jackie’s experiences and musings – from being in a mixed-culture relationship, learning to sail from our partner, leaving our home country for good, departing our adopted country after becoming a resident, needing our own challenges and jobs, getting seasick, and not spending money on ourselves to her statement that life is not about luck but about choices.

We both take our readers on a journey of courage and discovery that is inspiring, thrilling, and thought-provoking.

By Jackie Sarah Parry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Of Foreign Build as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After suffering an emotionally-brutal bereavement and against her counsellor's advice, Jackie ran away. Suddenly within a new culture, with a new husband, and no friends, she was living in the obscure world of cruising with zero knowledge of boats.
Crashing within the first twenty-four hours, Jackie realised life would never be the same again; a floating home with no fridge or hot water, and with a dinghy instead of a car. Suffering self doubts, she became fearful of her new world. The first off-shore voyage took Jackie into a ferocious storm, which battered her physically and mentally. Amid the raging…

Book cover of One Girl One Dream

Liesbet Collaert Why did I love this book?

While I enjoyed reading One Girl One Dream and have unconventional ideas like the author, I’m torn about a child sailing the world instead of going to school.

Laura sailed single-handedly around the world when she was 14, finishing at 16. This fascinating achievement made her the youngest circumnavigator in the world. 

The first chapter is a page turner; the subsequent ones are written like a diary. I am usually not a fan of this style, but because her story remains an exciting and courageous feat from beginning to end, it kept me wanting to learn more. It was also fun to read Dutch words and traditions, because I grew up in Belgium. 

I wouldn’t call Laura’s memoir a high-quality narrative or good writing, but it held my attention and that means something for this picky reader.

By Laura Dekker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Girl One Dream as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The amazing autobiographical account of the youngest ever solo circumnavigation of the Earth. First time in English! If you want to see the other side of the world, you can do two things: turn the world upside down, or travel there yourself. In 2012, at the age of just 16, Laura Dekker became the youngest sailor ever to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe. In realising her long-held dream, she had not only braved the wild oceans and long weeks of solitude at sea, but also the doubts and sometimes hostile resistance of officials. In this remarkable account of her incredible journey…

You might also like...

The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

By Sammy Stein,

Book cover of The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

Sammy Stein Author Of Fabulous Female Musicians

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been passionate about music for almost my entire life. Jazz music in particular speaks to me but not just jazz. I love music, full stop. I really discovered jazz when I attended a jazz club workshop in London and there, I had to join in or leave. I chose to join in and since then I have never looked back. I was introduced to more jazz musicians and now write about music for three major columns as well as Readers’ Digest. My Women In Jazz book won several awards. I have been International Editor for the Jazz Journalist Association and had my work commissioned by the Library of Congress. 

Sammy's book list on female musicians

What is my book about?

With input from over 100 musicians, the book discusses what exactly jazz is, and how you know you are listening to it. Do we truly know when and how jazz first originated? Who was the first jazz musician? How does jazz link to other genres? What about women in jazz? And writers and journalists? Do reviews make any difference? 

This book is a deep dive into jazz's history, impact, and future. It discusses jazz's social, cultural, and political influence and reveals areas where jazz has had an impact we may not even realize.Its influences on hip hop, the connection to…

The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

By Sammy Stein,

What is this book about?

This book is very different from other, more general jazz books. It is packed with information, advice, well researched and includes experiences from jazz musicians who gleefully add their rich voices to Sammy's in-depth research. All genres, from hard bop to be-bop, vocal jazz, must instrumental, free jazz, and everything between is covered in one way or another and given Sammy's forensic eye. There is social commentary and discussions of careers in jazz music. The musical background of those in the book is rich and diverse.
Critics comment:
"This new book by Sammy Stein is a highly individual take on…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in romantic love, circumnavigation, and sailing?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about romantic love, circumnavigation, and sailing.

Romantic Love Explore 892 books about romantic love
Circumnavigation Explore 22 books about circumnavigation
Sailing Explore 18 books about sailing