Review of “The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South”
By Bruce Van Sant

Reviewed by David Kester

The intent of this guide is to make the “thorny path” from Florida to Trinidad a smoother one. The “Gentleman” in the guide’s title is a sly reference to the old maxim that “gentlemen don’t sail to weather” and unfortunately in the passage from Florida to at least St. Martin there is a lot of sailing to weather. Van Sant can’t alter this fact but he gives a lot of advise on how to make an easier passage. I would call this a route-planning guide for those intending to sail from Florida to Trinidad or some portion of this route. It has very good coverage for the North Shore of Haiti and the Dominican Republic (DR) and the East, West, and South shores of Puerto Rico (PR). For the Bahamas, Windwards and Leewards I would buy additional guides.

Basically, Bruce recommends that “Gentlemen” make their Easting

1. During weather windows with more favorable winds (e.g. wait for winds of 15 K or less)

2. At night or early morning hours, close to land, when the Trade Winds are lessened by the “land effects”
There is a good description of how to ride cold fronts through the Bahamas.

Probably his most useful chapter to me so far is the chapter on weather: land effects, picking weather windows, and how to get and understand National Weather Service broadcasts. This chapter would make a good book by itself.

POSITIVES: Good format, spiral bound, somewhat weatherproof, thorough coverage where it’s needed (DP and PR), very little advertising, and no text devoted to caging free meals from local restaurants.

NEGATIVES: Too much space devoted to auxiliary chapters (e.g. anchoring, using the radio, culture shock, fishing). To be fair almost all guides do this. 

I found one possible problem area. When I was in Georgetown, Exumas I motored around the recommended eastern exit at Fowl Cay. I didn’t like the look of it, too much coral, and finally took the standard exit.

David Kester is a half-time live-aboard (on three months, off three months) currently on a cruise (surprise!) from Florida to Trinidad.