Although it's not the image of sailing you get from Horatio Hornblower or watching the America's Cup, when we're on passage there's a lot of time where there's really not much going on. The vast majority of the time at sea is mostly hanging on and trying to be comfortable rather than hauling lines or dodging rocks. So we read. A lot.
On night watch, reading paper or ebooks is kind of a non-starter, so we both listen to podcasts, mostly fiction podcasts. There are several excellent ones: Escape Pod, the Drabblecast and Decoder Ring Theatre come to mind.
There are also excellent long form stories available for free download at podiobooks.com (disclosure: I have two novels available there, but I was a user before I was an author on the site). I've listened to a lot of novels available there, and highly recommend a good poke through the site. You'll find something you like, I guarantee it.
The particular stories that really kept us sane crossing the Pacific, from Ecuador through to New Zealand were what is officially called the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series by Nathan Lowell, but which we call Coffee Share*.
The series starts with Quarter Share, wherein unlikely hero Ishmael Horatio Wang signs on as essentially a deckhand on an interstellar cargo ship. The series traces his rise up the ranks with a decidedly nautical flair while remaining solidly in the space opera genre.
What makes Coffee Share so great on passage is that for the most part everyone is very nice. There's enough excitement and derring-do to keep the stories entertaining, but you like pretty much all the characters. If the ride is rolly, the squalls are coming through regularly and it's not entirely fun all the time, listening to Nathan's soothing voice tell stories of genuinely likeable people in a kind of similar but different enough to be escapist situation is just what the doctor ordered.
We've passed on the audio files to a lot of our cruiser friends, but you don't need to be nautical to enjoy these books. You can listen to them all for free via podiobooks.com -- start with Quarter Share, then work your way up with Half Share, Full Share, Double Share and Captain's Share. And coming soon, much to our excitement, Owner's Share. If you're not an audiobook listener, you can buy Quarter Share in print now and the others will be released in the coming months.
*We call the series Coffee Share, because Ishmael is a coffee nut and there's a LOT of coffee talk in the series. This is particularly notable to us, since coffee is highly rationed on Scream, so all the descriptions of many, many cups of good coffee were both enjoyable and maddening.