Review: Bahamas Cruising Guide
by Mathew Wilson
Reviewed by David Kester
I used the first edition of this guide on my trip to the Abacos and Exuma Cays in March 1999 and March 2000 respectively. The first edition was a good overall planning guide and the second edition is much improved. I also purchased guides specific to the areas I cruised. I can imagine several audiences will find the new guide delightful, including the charterer, the cruiser, and the dreamer. For the charterer and cruiser I would still recommend purchasing guides written specifically for the area of interest.
This is a very ambitious undertaking and the only guide covering all the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos. Major sections include: I. Introduction - here you find a planning guide, a sample itinerary, weather and water depth guides and info on crossing the Gulf Stream; II. Northern Cruising Grounds - includes the Abacos and Grand Bahama Island; III. The Central Cruising Grounds - includes Bimini, Great Bahama Bank, Berry Islands, Nassau, Eleuthera, and Andros; IV. The Southern Cruising Grounds - includes the Exumas, Out Islands and Long Island; V. Far Horizons - includes Crooked, Acklins, Mayaguana, Samana, the Planas, and routes south to the Turks and Caicos; VII. The Turks and Caicos; VII Reference Sections - history, wildlife, government etc.; VIII. Appendices - planning guide, waypoint catalog, weather information via VHF, SSB, and Fax. Chapters II through VII, describing the islands/cays are divided into two sections, navigation information and Yellow Pages.
I like the format and layout of The Bahamas Guide better than all the other Bahamas guides. First of all it is spiral bound, which allows it to be easily used in the cockpit. Second, the waypoints are visible on all the charts, organized into area-of-interest tables and finally an appendix of all the waypoints is given. Third, the routing information that covers the area from Florida to the Turks and Caicos, is superior. Fourth, the navigation information is clean; it doesn't contain any commercial information, history, or rumor. This is important when you are using the guide in real-time to navigate a difficult passage. And finally, I think that the harbor photographs are superior to any that I have seen.
The second edition is a great improvement over the first; however, there is one "disimprovement" that I think will be corrected in the third edition due out (probably late) 2001. The first edition had sketch charts with a few depths and features and the desired course drawn on them. The second edition uses actual chart segments, usually smaller in size, and sometimes without the desired course drawn in. Also, fewer anchorages are shown. Apparently at the time of publication there were copyright restrictions on the size of chart that could be used that have since been dropped. It should be pointed out that the excellent harbor photographs make up for the too small sketch charts.
Captain Dave recommends that, if possible, you always buy two guidebooks for any area. That you then compare information for your intended destination and plot any waypoints (both sources) on a chart. If there are large discrepancies in routing or waypoints, pick the more logical and proceed with caution. If the risks are greater than a simple grounding, a call on the VHF just might save the day.
Dave is a half-time live-aboard (on three months, off three months) currently based in the Florida and the Bahamas. He's planning a trip down island to Trinidad in March 2001.