Sailing a Serious Ocean - If you aspire to cross oceans, you'll want to read this book

"Those of us who sail aboard her are the lucky ones, the quixotic ones, the knights-errant of the sea." - John Kretschmer from Sailing a Serious Ocean

I write as much as I can, most of it here on But when I’ve got free time (not often enough!), I’ll also spend time reading. Sometimes I read for motivation when I’ve got writer’s block. Sometimes it’s when I’m trying to research and learn. And occasionally, I get a chance to read for pleasure. John Kretschmer’s latest book, Sailing a Serious Ocean, was a rare find that combined all three occasions.

What more could you ask for in a book than to be motivated, educated and entertained?

I've read Kretschmer’s other books and found them to generally be worth the time, but his latest is a real crown jewel. John (or his editors) found a great balance between personal sailing stories, technical offshore sailing advice, and honest assessments of specific sailboats and gear. At first glance, the contents of the book seemed a little choppy and unable to flow together, but once I was into my first hour of reading I realized that the rhythm of sea stories punctuated by boat profiles and practical advice just works.

I knew John had done a lot of offshore sailing, but I didn’t realize just how much heavy weather he has endured and often sought out. Most of his stories from the book are focused on his sailing experience in the Atlantic - yacht deliveries, training passages and at least 20 crossings. After reading about all of his storm encounters, I’ve got to admit that I’m a little afraid of the Atlantic now. When the book title refers to a serious ocean, I'm confident the reference is specifically aimed at the Atlantic. 

The good news is that John offers readers tons of easy to understand practical advice about everything from sail selection and must-have offshore gear to crew psychology and storm tactics. Readers learn intimately about how John honed the advice he gives and are often offered a look at what not to do, based on John’s own humble mistakes. For example, he makes it clear on several pages and through multiple stories that forereaching is one of his go-to tactics for surviving monstrous conditions that would have most of us scrambling for the EPIRB. If I had to go to sea tomorrow and sail through a Force 13 storm (yes, I said 13 – beyond the 74mph winds of hurricane force 12!), I’d want John along. And not just for his experience, but also for his story telling and seemingly calm and focused seamanship.

I think it’s easy for many of us in this age of modern sailboat designs and mass production coastal cruisers to place writing sailors from bygone eras, such as Slocum and Chichester, on a mast above the rest. But if you do, make sure you leave room for today’s sailors like Kretschmer who’s 300,000+ open ocean miles and 6+ books are beginning to leave their own wake in history.

No, John didn't pay me to write such a glowing review. In fact, I've never met the man, though I've seen him a couple of times at Strictly Sail. I just happen to think this book is a very informative, concise look into the world of offshore sailing. While not as in depth as Beth Leonard's Voyager's Handbook, John's latest effort is every bit as practical and fair bit more entertaining and personal too.

But hey, if you're reading this John, feel free to offer me a complimentary bunk aboard Quetzel for one of your crossings! 

Sailing a Serious Ocean closes with these words: "We'll stand our watches, keep an eye out for squalls, muscle the wheel to keep her squarely before trade wind-driven seas, and feel the thrill when we surf down a wave, leaving a trail of bioluminescence. There will be dirty nights, no doubt, and we'll be cold, wet and miserable. But there's one thing I know for sure. None of us would trade places with anyone ashore."

Want to read the rest of the book that precedes these words? Get it here:


  1. One of the storms in this book happened right before we sailed with John on his Bahamas Bash trip in 2010. We sailed without solar panels, dodger, etc, all which had been washed off the boat. He has become a dear friend over the years and I highly recommend his training voyages to anyone who thinks they want to sail away. It will be the best money you ever spent.

    S/V Kintala

    1. I've read your blog posts about sailing with John. I'd love to pick his brain and do a passage or two with him too. Thanks for sharing.


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