Guides and Pilots
A HISTORY OF GUIDES TO THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN
When I arrived it St. Thomas in the beginning of December l956 there were no cruising guides to the area. The late Carlton Mitchell had cruised thru the entire island chain from Trinadad to St. Thomas and on to the Bahamas. He wrote his cruise up in that wonderful book Islands to Windward, basically the story of a cruise, with about eight pages of cruising information in the back of the book, but when I arrived in the Caribbean the book was long out of print.
There was a small ten page guide to the US and British Virgin island done by Lt Cdr Busby USCG auxiliary.
Needless to say it was not very detailed but did have some information essential for yachtsmen.
He warned yachtsmen that when anchored in Little Harbor , do not throw garbage overboard until will clear of the harbor or as you haul up your mainsail to sail out of the harbour(note in those days boats SAILED in an out of Little Harbor, Sir Brundell Bruce who owned the western end of Peter Island and had his house on the ridge on the north side of the harbour would unlimber his high powered rifle and put a very neat straight(he was a very good shot) line of bullet holes thru your mainsail.
As mentioned elsewhere my father sent me a copy of Sailing Directions to the islands printed l867, which served as my guide to the islands until I wrote my own.
In l959 George Eggelstone then the editor of Readers Digest , chartered Eunice Bordman’s 50’ Alden designed Abeking and Rassmussen Ketch Renegade for a three week cruise thru the Virgins. This resulted in a book The Virgin Islands , story of a cruise not a guide.
In l963 the Late Linton Rigg in his 40 ‘ ketch Island Belle wrote The Alluring Antilles, story of his cruise from Nassau all the way to Grenada, again the story of a cruise not a cruising guide
Having the exploratory instinct, during this time I was collecting notes on my explorations off the beaten track and correcting the various British Admiralty, US and French charts that I had on board in the hope that I would find a publisher for guide from Puerto Rico to Trinadad.(double check this against original guide )
In the summer of l963, Phelps Platt of Dodd Meade who did guides of the east coast of the states agreed to publish the guide.
.That fall Frank Burke a charter broker owner with Al Forbes of Island Yachts asked me to write a guide to the US and British Virgin islands as he felt his new charter skippers were missing some of the best anchorages.
I sold him the VI section of my forthcoming guide Cruising Guide to the Lesser Antilles, on the basis he would privately print it and have no copywright. I was paid the magnificent sum of $l00(remember that was in the days of l0 cent beers).Frank printed out l00 copies on a hand powered mimeograph(eroneo to the british) machine and sold them at $10 each!!!!!! Old story the publisher not the author makes the money.
This leads to a very amuzing story. Carlton Mitchell , at that point the highest paid yachting writer in the world was asked to take Finesterre, the 38’ yawl with which he had won three straight Bermuda races , from Grenada thru the islands to St. Thomas ,retracing the cruise he had done in Carib eighteen years before , and make it into a three section article in National Geographic.
We ran into each other in Grenada Yacht Club (we knew each other from my skippering Ondine which frequently was a competitor to his yawl Carabee, summer of l954 and my being around Nevins yacht yard a lot in summer of 56).
Over beers Mitch picked my brains about the islands. I told him of my privately printed guide to US and BVI . We had a few beers parted ways. I did not run into Mitch until a few years later when he related the following story. Luckily Mitch has a sense of humor.
Seems Mitch went into Frank Burke’s office and asked about the privately printed guide to the US and BVI. Frank handed him a copy, Mitch asked “how much” Frank replied “$10”. Mitch said “ a bit expensive for a small mimeographed guide” to which Frank never at loss for words said” it is well worth it , it is a hell of a lot better than Mitchells Islands to Windward, or Eggelsonts Virgin Islands, or Riggs Aluring Antilles, the kid knows his stuff”.
Mitch pad him the $l0,took the guide. At that point Frank stood up stuck out his hand and said”I’m Frank Burke” Mitch shook his hand and said”I’m Carlton Mitchell “ Frank did not bat an eye , just said “ the book is worth it”. Thank god Mitch had a good sense of humor as we became long term friends.
The guide came out in spring of l966, first copy was hand carried to Ireland where I presented it to my future father in law in exchange for his daughter!
Forty one years later I still have his daughter and we still have the book with the inscription.
This guide is considered by all the old timers as the guide that opened up the Caribbean to the cruising yachtsman and made bare boat chartering possible.
Three years later in l969 Jack van Oast founder of Caribbean Sailing Yachts had his manger Tom Kelly write a guide of CSY called Yachtsmans Guide to the US and British Virgin Islands. It bore an amazing resemblance to my guide. Years later when Tom was no longer working for Jack , at one of the post race parties after a BVI regatta, over many Heinekens Tom confessed his yachtsmans guide was written with the chart infront ofhim, a series of Heinekens, my guide propped up on the chart table and a tape recorder !
In l970 CSY opened up a St. Vincent base and wanted a guide that covered just the area St. Vincent to Grenada so I wrote Yachtsmens Guide to the Grenadines. It seemed to serve the purpose in that it went thru two printings but then Jack evidently wanted his own book and Wilinsky’s Yachtsmans guide to the Leeward Islands ,covering St. Lucia to Grenada appeared on the scene. The book had am amazing resemblance to my Yachtsmans Guide to the Grenadines.
In l974 Sail Magazines fledging book department took over my Cruising Guide to the Lesser Antilles which I re wrote and expanded it.
In the late 70’s rival guides started popping up like mushrooms from a rotten log, in Spanish, French and German. They all seemed to bear a great resemblance to my guide to the point in some cases the charts were lifted out of my guide.
Sailors said why do you not sue them for plagersim” to which I would reply” the only winners in a plagerism suite are the lawyers so forget it”.
My long time friend editor and some time sailing companion the late Eric Swenson senior editor of WW Norton said”hell Don ,plagerism is the highest type of literary praise” my reply “but it does not make money”
At Eric’s behest , WW Norton took over the guides which thru the years were re written up dated and expanded to the point that by the middle nineties they were five volumnes.
Puerto Rico Spanish , US and British Virgin Islands
Anguilla to Dominica
Martinique to Trinadad
Venezula and the ABC islands.
Streets Transatlantic Crossing Guide(miss named Norton had the covers made before they showed them to me the author. It was miss named in that the guide covered not only transatlantic crossing, but also how to get to and from the east coast of the states to the eastern Caribbean, and was also a guide to the atlantic islands.
As is related in the section of this webb site GOOD GUIDES ARE TIMELESS,
These guides went out of print but were reprinted in 200l brought up to date and will be kept up to date via this webb site.
The last two are out of print , try Amazon or exlibris, or .com or second hand book stores.
More about those two books later.
During this period other books continued to pop up like mushrooms from a rotten log. Most of them were flash in the pans, came on the scene then died. The two that have stood the test of time are those of Doyle covering the islands from Anguilla to Tinadad and Tobago(but not Barbadoes) and Venezula west toCuraco
Doyle’s guides ,first one published in are basically written for the bare boater , so with the aid of Streets guides that cover all the anchorages it is possible to get off the beaten track and find quiet anchorages.
The US and British Virgins Islands are covered by Simon and Nancy Scott’s guide basically written for the bare boaters. If Streets is on board there are plenty of quiet anchorages can be found.
VENEZULA and the ABC islands
An interesting story of how this guide came to be and its present status,rather dead try and find via Amazon or other second hand book store.
Back in the late fifties and early sixties very few yachts ventured into Venezulan waters as at that point Venezula was rich prosperous,the Bolivar was pegged at 3.40 to the US $ . The Communist Castro did not like the thriving capatilist Venezula.
To try to over throw the capitalist government out Castro would periodically smuggle in agents via boat.
The ability of the Venezulan coast guard to differentiate between a cruising yacht and a boat smuggling in Cuban agents was none too good. As a result a couple of yachts arrived back ventilated, but luckily no one was killed.
By the late sixties Castro had given up; venezulan yachtsmen that visited Grenada persuaded me to start chartering along the Venezulan coast.
The charts were good. The area had been re surveyed by the USS Hannibal in l938/40. The Hannibal I was told by some US Navy old timers , was a bit of a relic of another age. She was a steam driven coal fired survey ship. If you were a bad boy in the US Navy they would send you down to shovel coal on the Hannibal. Men would say no no please send me to sPortsmouth naval prison but not to the Hannibal.
Dispite the relatively recent survey we still had to be careful as the area was prone to earthquakes which we discovered in places changed the sounding and in others changed the shoreside topography.
Things were different, only one Yacht Club Puerto Azul, fantastic combination Yacht Club , Marina, restarants, hotel, all in one complex and visiting yachts were welcomed with open arms.
Unfortunately over the years sailors who were definitely not yachtsmen ruined it to the point that they closed the doors to ALL visiting yachts.
In Polomar Margarita the only buildings that were taller than two stories were the dome of the Cathederal and the newly built Bella Vista hotel.
In Puerto La Cruz there was nothing that was more than two stories high and no marina or place to tie up a yacht.
Luckily we met the Port Captain of the oil company who invited us to use the Companies small marina.
Iolaire was the first foreign yacht to cruise extensively in venezulan waters. Streets Guide to Venezula and the ABC islands opened the area up to the cruising yachtsmen.
Marina were in the works, the infrastructure to support yachting slowly developed.
Crime was not a problem. There were a few well known areas were it was , areas that yachts either avoided or took extra precautions.
The sailing was good, the people friendly Iolaire’s yearly cruises into venezulan waters every year from about l967 to l995 were among the most enjoyable of the cruises I have done in her in the 50 years of ownership.
In the early 80’s Doyle followed in Iolaire tracks cruised Venezula and did his own guide which for my self and Imary was an unmitigated disaster, Not because he wrote a rival guide but because he stated in his guide where there was an oversized photo copy machine and for peanuts would happily copy Imray Iolaire charts.
I have absolutely no objection if a yachtsman needs one or two Imray Iolaire charts that are not available,and a neighboring yacht has the correct ones , I have no objection to him photostating one or two individual charts.
However I do get upset when I see a sailor come out of a photo copy establishment with a full ROOL of photostated Imray Iolaire charts, hop in a fancy RIB of a type that I never could afford and roar off to a fancy yacht that I could not afford.
The word was out. Photo stated charts were cheap. About eight companies from St. Martin thru the islands to Venezula went into the business of photostating Imray Iolaire charts which is of course completely illegal as the have a copy wright.
This cost us a lot of money in lost sales , and myself a tremendous amount of time sailing up and down the islands going to the companies pointing out that it was totally illegal to Photostat Imray Iolaire charts.
Some companies co operated immediately , others only after threats of law suits, getting the local chamber of commerce and in some case the marine trade association to push against the photocopiers.
I finally pretty much succeeded, but it was a long time consuming frustrating unnecessary fight all because Doyle found and put in print a place where charts could be photocopied
Rocks did not move but in the period l980 and l990 harbors were built yachting facilities expanded dramatically so in l990 a completely new Venezulan and ABC island guide came out.
During this period yachtsmen had relatively little security problems in Venezula. In Contrast from the time I arrived in the Caribbean until about 2006/7 the security problem with regards yachts was so bad that it was impossible to insure yachts in
This was because since back in the 40’s there has been a civil war between the conservatives and the liberals, plus since the early 90’s it has been a three way war between the liberal, conservatives, and the drug lords.
Drugs were smuggled out via boats departing from the relatively few harbors on the north coast of Columbia . The Coast Guard either ignored the drug runner or were in cahoots with them.
Prior to the arrival of Chavez on the scene, though drugs were available in Venezula(they are available EVERYWHERE in the world) you had to look for them.
Little drug smuggling was done out of Venezula.
The Venezulan Columbian border is long and very porous, difficult to police in the best of times as is illustrated by a story of the price of beef in Venezula in the early 70’s when the Bolivar was good as gold a solid 3.40 to the US $.
Suddenly beef became scare and expensive. This at first was very puzzling as Venezula had its own thriving cattle industry and did not need to import cattle.
But it seems some agricultural officers knew that some beef was being smuggled in from Columbia. They decided to stop it an persuaded the army to try to police the border. In the process they discovered that yes the Columbians were smuggling cattle into Venezula, but not in 40’ container,rather they were having cattle drives like the old west, they were driving in herds of 3/400 head at a time.
Agricultural department backed down, beef came in from Columbia, ;price ofbeef went down, and it demonstrated how porus the is the Venezulan Columbian border.
Since Chavez has gotten in power, law and order has gone down hill, he is very anti American so the Venezulan Coast Guard not too good at the best of times is now useless.
In contrast the Col;umbian governemt has made its peace (or is trying to) and doing its best to stop smugglingof drugs out of Columbia.
The Columbian Coast Guard is now working hand in glove with the US Coast Guard in stopping drug shipment out of Columbia. Thus via fast launches, and helicopters keep track of everything that floats to the point that yachts sailing coastwise say they are checked every day by the Columbian Coast Guard.
With the very porous Venezulan Columbian border, with the fact the Chavez seems on friendly terms with the drug smugglers, they have changed their routes. Drugs now go from Columbia across the border to venezula and on to Europe via boat.
Every big drug bust in Europe since about 2004 has come via Venezula.
With this situation I see no reason at age 77 go to venezula to investigate the revision of the guide especially in the light of the below story.
In I sat down and spent a couple of days going over notes sent to me by friends that were or had recently been cruising in Venezula, my guide and the relavent Imray Iolaire charts. I ended up with three hours of tape recording, which I sent off to my secretary in Ireland to transcribe.
The day there was a coup(ultimately unsuccessful) against Chavez I received a message from my secretary that the tapes has arrived as we say in the west indies “all mash up” totally useless.
I decided that god did not want me to up date the Venezulan guide.
TRANSATLANTIC CROSSING GUIDE.
As previously mentioned miss named as it also covered getting to and from the east coast of the states and Panama to the eastern Caribbean, and was also a guide to all the Atlantic islands.
I decided to do a minor re write to bring it up to date, but once I began to get my teeth into it I realized it would have to be a completely new book, completely re written, a project that has taken me a full four and a half years.
GOOD GUIDES ARE TIMELESS
That this is true is illustrated by the fact that until I wrote my first guide the guide I used was an l867 Sailing Directions to the West Indies and Caribbean by Norie and Wilson . The Wilson conserned is the great, great grandfather of the present Willie Wilson of Imray Norie Laurie and Wilson with whom I have developed the Imary Iolaire charts.
Shortly after I purchased Iolaire in February l957 I realized the only guides available were the pilot books written for the modern commercial freighters. However the late Capt Mc Fadden USN ret informed me that if I could find an old l9th century pilot book it would be much more useful than the modern government pilots written for commercial power vessels.
My father when in London in the spring of l956 asked Foyles if they could find him a l9th century pilot covering the eastern Caribbean.
A few days later he received a call from Foyles saying they found one, cost delivered to his hotel would be 7s 6p. How times have changed!!!!!
This Norie and Wilson guide lead me up and down the Caribbean as I gathered information for my own guides.
Rocks don’t move, weather conditions are very similar, “when sailing in the lee of the high islands of the eastern Caribbean stay within two pistol shots distance from shore (50 yards , a bit of an exaggeration) or 7 leagues (21 miles) off”
Still true today as at various times I have tried to sail by high islands fifteen miles off, ran out of wind and spent long periods rolling in the swell with little or no wind.
My first hard covered guide Cruising Guide to the Lesser Antilles, l966 is regarded by the old timers as the guide that opened the Caribbean to the cruising yachtsman and made bare boat chartering possible.
It went out of print. A new revised and expanded version came out in l974, Published by Sail magazine.
After two printings WW Norton took over, again it was re written , expanded into two volumes, later into three volumes, and finally in l980 when Streets Guide to Venezula and the ABC islands came out the series was four books.
As years went buy the guides would come up for re print. Each time they were up dated and re written as necessary, but come the middle 90’s sales had fallen off to the point that Norton decided they did not want to continue reprinting and my rewriting and updating the guides, not profitable for Norton.
It looked like they would die, become a bit of history.
However electronic publishing, print on demand had arrived.
iUniverse .com made a deal with the Authors Guild ,of which I was a member, whereby any Authors Guild member whose book or books had gone out of print could have them reprinted at no cost if they could obtain the rights.
Not only that but they would allow the author to insert a prologue and epilogue. Thus the Guides went back in print updated to 200l.
As previously stated rock don’t move , and if they do, IE by hurricanes, earthquakes ,or the building of new harbors , the changes will show up on the Imray Iolaire charts.
Thus if you have Streets guide on board , and the up to date Imray Iolaire charts you are completely up to Speed.
Regarding the marine infrastructure on the various islands; keeping guides up to date on that situation is useless as every island that has a decent marine infrastructure produces is own yearly revised FREE marine directory.
Also every year ALL AT SEA produce a FREE marine directory that lists every marine oriented business in the eastern caribbean.
Thus smart guide authors no longer try to keep that section of their guides up to date.
Unless they have actually done business with them or know them personally over a long period of time listing marine tradesmen is playing with fire.
In the Caribbean you can find some of the finest marine tradesman in the world, others that a good, others poor and some that are nothing but disasters looking for some place to happen.
For and iterant guide author it is impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff!!!!
All too often the tradesman that offers his services and says he is available immediately is available because no one else wants him!!!!
The prudent mariner when he arrives on an island makes no arrangements to haul or have work done on his boat until he has spent four days on the island, at “happy hour” listening and asking questions .Then and only then does the prudent mariner makes his decisions.
Unlike many other guides Streets Guides have no advertising as once someone buy advertising in a guide the advertiser is likely to start pushing the author or publisher into saying something nice about his yard , services, or products.
Looking at the adds be forewarned , all is not necessarily as is represented. Yards in the Caribbean advertise themselves as service yards. NUTS there is not a full service yard in the entire Caribbean. Yards haul ,launch, chock, wash sometimes paint, with yard employees, but all other services are franchised out. If you have problems with an independent contractor, in the vast majority of cases you are on your own, the yard will not interfere. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between .
Streets guides have little information of bars and restaurants as all too often the fantastic restaurant one year is a disaster the next as the cook has left.
Another reason for not covering bars and restaurants is that I dislike using second hand information. I can not afford the restaurants , and my liver would not stand the strain of visiting all the bars.
Doyle must rely on a lot of second hand information. I say this as if he ate in all the restaurants he would be fat like a pig, if he drank in all the bars he would be an alcoholic dying of cirosis of the liver. Since he is of normal size and is not an alcoholic he obviously uses a lot of second hand info.
Streets guides are the only ones that cover all the anchorages in the eastern Caribbean.
About l976 I stated in print that if anyone could find a safe anchorage for boats drawing 7’ that was not mentioned in my guide I would buy the drinks.
I have never had to pay off but almost had to once, an interesting and amuzing story.
Hans Hoff skippering Fandango got hold of me one evening in the “Ads” Admirals Inn English Harbor Antigua. He explained to me an anchorage he had found that I did not know about , an anchorage he frequently used on Fandango a 98’ Rhodes motor sailor.
At that point the chart of Anguilla that we were all using was based on a British Admiralty survey done about l870. It showed a solid area of reef almost ½ mile off shore. Hans had discovered it was a barrier reef with deep water inside of it, providing a tolerable anchorage inside the reef as the outer reef broke the swell.
We had a few drinks on this but when I went to pay the bill Hans said ”I make a lot more money skippering Fandango than you do selling insurance , writing guides and articles, if you will admit in print the fact that I have found an anchorage you do not know about, I’ll not only pay for the drinks but I’ll buy us both dinner”. Needless to say the deal was made We had an excellent meal courtesy of Hans, and imprint I have retold the story.
Despite what is said to the contrary the Eastern Caribbean is not overcrowded. It is if you insist in going to the popular anchorages described in the guides that are basically written for the bare boater, but if you are willing to get off the beaten track there are plenty of anchorages.
From Cruising World obtain a re print of my article “Fifty Years of Cruising the Virgin Islands and they have not been ruined”, August 06
Using Streets Guide to Puerto Rico Spanish US and BVI visit the south coast of Puerto Rico and the Spanish virgins, overcrowded Saturday and Sunday but the rest of the week you will seldom have boats moored near you.
In the US Virgin Islands , come April when the groundswell season is pretty much over go to the north coast of St Thomas and visit Magens Bay and the bays to the west
Take a glorious sail over to St. Croix, Buck Island ,then go inside the reef on the north side of St. Croix ,work your way eastwards of St. Croix Yacht Club and you will find wonderful calm but wind swept anchorages , no other boats.
Do not try this unless you are good at eyeball navigation, and have the very detailed Imray Iolaire chart a 234 on board.
The British Virgin Islands, there are too many quiet anchorages to list her, just buy Simon and Nancy Scott’s guide, compare with Streets guide ,circle in red in Streets guide all the anchorages not mentioned in Scott’s guide. There are definitely more than a dozen, perhaps two dozen.
Anguilla to Dominica , north and east coasts of Antigua, Parham Sound is never crowded, you can always find a quiet corner.
Belfast and Guana bays are both beautiful ,but harbors that I have never visited on the engineless Iolaire.
For both harbors the enterance and exit channels are to the east, nothing between you and Africa, not an exit to be tried by a boat with no engine.
I dislike intensely using second hand information and sailing directions but in this case I have complete confidence in the sailing directions as they were given to me by the late Des Nicholson who would take Freelance a 98’ , l900 long keeled gaff schooner in and out of these two harbors as has Ken Mc Kenzie with the famous 72’ ketch Ticonderoga.
Martinique to Trinadad there are plenty of chances to get off the beaten track. The east coast of Martinique is the favourite cruising ground of the Street family. It is generally avoided as it is on the windward side of Martinique, thus is said to be too dangerous.
The first time we cruised and explored(Iolaire was the first foreign yacht to visit the east coast of Martinique) the crew was myself, late wife Marilyn, daughter Dory, l8 months old, a schippery dog by the name of Merde(more on that later) and a very small semi working engine.
The second time crew was myself, west Indian mate Selwin Nimblet, daughter Dory, now aged ten but a useful crew, the schippery Merde, and the semi working engine.
Since that time we have visited a number of times with a full crew and no engine.
The only good coverage of this area is Streets Guide Martinique to Trinadad and guide
This later guide has been written by Philipe Lachneze a “beke” onewhose family arrived on the island in the l640’s and a French engineer who has spent the last twenty years sailing the waters of Martinique. Have both books on board.
This later book covers every nook and crany that a yacht could possibly use. This book is particularly useful for shoal draft boats as it cover coves which we could not visit on the Iolaire that draws 7’6”
Until recently the east coast of Cannouan was wonderful ,no one ever went there, but now that the Mooring has established a base in Cannouan your may find other boats but I doubt if it will be crowded
In years gone by the Tobago Cays was the high point of everyones cruise in the Grenadines but now it is so crowded with boats the charm has been lost, rather go anchor on the east coast of Mayreau, perfect shelter behind the reef, good diving, privacy and you can look across to the overcrowded anchorages of the Tobago Cays.
The east and south coasts of Carriacou are seldom visited, as is the east coast of Grenada. Again the only guide that covers these areas well is Streets Guide Martinique to Trinadad. .
.Venezula and ABC islands. This guide is out of print , and has not been reprinted . The reasons why are given in the section HISTORY OF GUIDE COVERING THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN but as previously said rocks don’t move, so with this guide (search the second hand market) and the up to date Imray Iolaire charts you will be up to speed.
For the ABC islands be sure to obtain a copy of the guide GOTTOGOCRUISING, a new guide written in 2005 that covers the area in detail. It is important that you have this guide on board and consult it BEFORE you arrive in the islands as because of the increase of both drug and people smuggling the regulations in the ABC islands are now rather strict.
The Caribbean is not as crowded as people think. My wife Trich and I cruised the U.S. and British Virgin Islands in February and March 2002 —the height of the sailing season— and we were still able to find quiet anchorages. As Dick Johnson, (former editor of Yachting World) said, "buy the other guides, circle in red all the anchorages that Street describes and the other guide do not, and you will find quiet anchorages."
Street's Guides are available at most good marine bookstores and in the States they can be ordered directly from: Armchair Sailor, Thames St., Newport, RI08240 Fax: 401 847 1219 Email: email@example.com and in Europe from: Imray Laurie Norie & Wilson Wych House, The Broadway, St. Ives, Cambridgeshire PE27 5BT England. Telephone: (01480) 462114 Fax: (01480) 496109 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org For books out of print check Amazon.com/Internet.
The continual complaint being made about the Eastern Caribbean is that the anchorages are too crowded and that there are no quiet anchorages. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the winter of 2005 Trich and I cruised the British Virgin Islands in the height of the season and yet at least three quarters of the time we were able to find quiet anchorages where we were if not completely alone, then certainly in peace and quiet and able to enjoy the Caribbean at our own pace.
IIn summation Good guides are timeless, Streets guides, plus the up to date Imray Iolaire charts, the locally produced yearly update marine guide for the island concerned and ALL AT SEA's free yearly porduced marine trades almanac you are much more up to speed that the guides loaded with advertizements and pictures that are only updated every four or five years.
The prologue explains what has happened to various islands, and why. Also, there is an Epilogue with a bit of crystal ball gazing as to what may happen in the future.
Also, for those who might be interested in, or want to remember what life was like in the Caribbean back in the 1960s and 70s, The Cruising Guide to the Eastern Antilles, originally published in 1966 can be enjoyed as a bit of nostalgia.
Street's Cruising Guide to the Eastern Caribbean: Puerto Rico, Spanish, U.S. & British Virgin Islands
It is not only the best but it is also the cheapest as it is the only guide to cover the whole area of Puerto Rico, Spanish,U.S. and the British Virgin Islands in ONE volume. All other guides take two and so work out more expensive than Streets Guide.
As Dick Johnson, Editor, Yachting World said: "To find a quiet anchorage buy the other guides and circle in red all the anchorages Street describes that are not described in the other guides."
The shoe is on the other foot Streets Guide, Martinique to Trinidad is cheaper than Doyle. Streets Guide covers Trinidad, Tobago and Barbados in one volume, Doyle takes two.
This story was reported by Bill Robinson, long time editor of Yachting back in the early 1960s.
In the early 1960s when cruising to the Bahamas, visiting yachts always hired a local pilot as the charts were famous for their in accuracies and the only guide available Harry Ethridge's was in it's infancy, and did nto cover in detail many areas. The Bahamian sloops were all shoal draft, finding a pilot that conprehended the draft of a modern yacht was difficult. Thus an owner of a boat drawing 7-ft. Hired a local Bahamian Pilot. Knowing the Bahamian sloops were much shoaler than his boat that drew 7-ft. He took out the boat hook, stood it on end, put a piece of tape on the boat hook at 7-ft. and pointed out to the Pilot that that was the draft. The Pilot said, "Yeah Boss, Dat fine. No problem."
Then cruised for a month, in and out of all the nooks and crannies in the Bahamas, and never once touched the bottom. The owner was extremely pleased with his Pilot. A day or so before the end of the cruise they were coming in to a harbour, where the water looked rather shoal, proceeding very slowly under power. The Skipper called to the Pilot, who was up forward, "Pilot, how's the water". The Pilot reported back "Ten". The Skipper put the engine ahead and they promptly ran aground!
Much confusion, recrimination and anchors went out. Finally they managed to back her off and anchored safely. The owner chastised the Pilot. "Pilot, you have been sailing with us almost a month and have done a magnificent job. You have never run us aground, and you know the boat draws 7-ft. When I asked you how much water you said 'ten'! We only draw seven and still we ran aground. How could we run aground in ten feet of water?" The Pilot looked at him and said, "No Skip. I didn't say ten feet. I said 'tin'('thin'), the water getting t'in (thin)Skipper, means there ain't enough water."
There is a sequel to this story where Iolaire got parked where the water was getting "t'in". Iolaire has seldom been aground in the while exploring the eastern caribbean but has frequently been PARKED. The difference is when aground it is completely unexspected and the boat is in a dangerous posistion, you are PARKED when in sheltered water exploring you come to a stop as the water getting "t'in".
In 1983 when Iolaire was exploring for the first time the Spanish Virgins and the south coast of Puerto Rico we were beating to windward along the south coast of Vieques. We were short tacking along the shore eye ball navigation. As we reached the eastern end of Puerto Real I decided we wanted to anchor off Esperanza in the anchorage east of Cayo Real.
The chart showed 10' of water between Vieques and Cayo Real.
As we approached the gap my excellent crew the late Alston Blackett who knew the above story of the Bahamian pilot said "skip de water getting t'in". To which I said " the chart shows 10', the water is just crysalt clear. Even if the chart is a couple of feet off we are heeled over we will clear the shoal water". To which Alston replied " I don't care what de chart say de water getting t'in". "Relax Alston, the chart can not be that far off" I replied as we slid to a stop on the sand!!!!!!! So dinghy over and we ran a long anchor line to the dock in Esperanza, secured a four part block and tackle to the anchor line, ran the fall of the tackle to the big 18 to 1 nevins midship winch and cranked away.
With a mechanical advantage of 4 to 1 on the tackle, and 18 to 1 on the winch, when you deduct friction loss we were still developing about 60 to 1 mechanical advantage. 100 lbs pressure on the handle, the line pull on the anchorline was probably 5 to 6 thousand pounds, but she still did not move. At this point a fiendly sport fishing captain came out with his high powered whaler, and offered to help. We gave him our spinnaker halyard with another 50' of line attached to it. He took a strain, then slowly opened the throttle until the strain was such that our middle life line was in the water.
We lifted off, and with the tension on the anchor line being like a gigantic rubber band we were "sling shotted " into the anchorage. We immediately dropped the line to the dock, quickly dropped the main, rolled up the headsails weather cocked on the missen, then backed the missen, picked up some sternway, dropped the anchor and all was all set. We retrieved the anchor line later but first invited the skipper of the whaler on board for a beer or two. Introductions were made, the skipper name was Charlie Connelly. He did not want any money for his help, a few beers followed. It turned out he had lived and fished the south coast of Vieques for many years. He said he would be happy the next day to give us a grand tour along the south coast of Vieques. I organized a charter at a very reasonable fee. He gave us a complete tour, in and out of every nook and cranny from Esperanza eastwards to the very easternmost part of Vieques including the area inside the bombing range that did not show on the NOAA chart.
That area was only covered by a restricted use DMA chart not available to the public. However the island was full of ex military and that evening drinking beer in a bar with some of Charlie's friends it turn out one of them was an ex submariner who had served a submarine in the same squadron as the Sea Leopard, the sub I served on during the Korean war.
It turned out he had a copy of the restricted DMA chart which we managed to copy.
This was used to develope Imray Iolaire A 131 which until the Navy closed down the bombing range a few years ago and NOAA added the area to their chart, the Imray Iolaire A 131 was the only chart that showed the eastern end of Vieques.
Dispite three time during the years informing NOAA personally in their office in DC the NOAA chart still shows 10' between Cayo Real and Vieques yet if sailing there remember what the late Alston Blackett said"never mind what de chart say de water getting t'in"!
I showed last month's story to my old friend Dick Griffin, Harbour Pilot of St. Thomas and he said, "Oh hell Don. Things like that happen all the time. I dropped a 10-ton anchor on Volkswagen bus!" "How the hell did that happen?" I asked,
"Well, I was taking a Japanese freighter into the old sub-piers in the sub base, and I called - 'All back one third.' There was a lot of shouting in Japanese and I looked to see if we were getting any stern wash. There was none, so I called 'All back two thirds'. "At this point a Japanese covered in engine grease comes running up from the engine room with some bits and pieces in his hand and starts shouting at the skipper in Japanese. Obviously I was not going to get any stern wash. I told the captain to let go the starboard anchor. There was a little splash as the starboard anchor ran out and I realised, that wasn't going to stop us. So I told them to let go the port anchor. They were very slow in letting go the port anchor. They did let it go until we hit the dock. The anchor came smack down on top of a Volkswagen bus, compressing it to a height of about 18 inches. Luckily no one was in it.
But I wonder what the insurance company said when the owner reported his Volkswagen bus had been totally demolished by a ships anchor being dropped on top of it."