A good cruising guide can be absolutely invaluable. We always find that the detail of a cruising guide can make the difference if we’re brave enough to go into a new unexplored anchorage, or just sail on by. Since we’ve never been to the Bahamas, we’re trying to decipher the maze of 56 entries for cruising guide bahamas on Amazon. Before we talk about picking our Bahamas guide, here’s our top two all time favorite cruising guides and why.
By FAR, the best cruising guide we’ve used by far is Eric Bauhaus’ “The Panama Cruising Guide” 4th Ed. — here’s an excerpt from the book description:
“includes 288 full-color pages with aerial and satellite photography of all popular anchorages, as well as color chartlets with a latitude and longitude grid. Tried and tested GPS waypoints, aerial photos, piloting instructions, mileage charts and illustrative photography showing the spectacular beauty of this cruising ground will let you sail with the sense of a déjà vú.Other features of this easy to use book include: land transportation, local etiquette, fishing, provisioning, Kuna language dictionary, etc… In short, everything the cruising sailor needs to feel safe and totally informed.
What makes this cruising guide our favorite? The high tech approach he uses with google earth shots of the anchorages and approaches overlaid with lat/long — accurate lat/long, I might add. Some cruising guides don’t have particularly accurate lat/long waypoints, in fact the first cruising guide we used out of the country, was Freya Rauscher’s “Cruising Guide to Belize and Mexico’s Caribbean Coast, Including the Rio Dulce, Guatemala” — the 1996 edition had some issues with waypoints not being accurate, but it was still a great cruising guide, all the bearings and other information was accurate and once we knew not to take the waypoints as gospel, it became our 2nd favorite cruising guide of all time!
So now that we have the Explorer charts, it’s time to figure out what cruising guide for the Exumas/Bahamas. After sifting through the 56 entries on Amazon (several are older versions of an updated guide), talking to cruisers who’ve spent time in the Bahamas and research online, we’ve decided upon the Steve Pavlidis’ “The Exuma Guide: A Cruising Guide to the Exuma Cays: Approaches, Routes, Anchorages, Dive Sights, Flora, Fauna, History, and the Lore of the Exuma Cays”. We’ve seen Pavlidis’ cruising guides before and quite honestly, felt they didn’t measure up to the Panama Bauhaus guides or even the Freya Rauscher Belize guides, but everyone seems to think that for the Bahamas, Pavlidis’ guides are the best. So we’ll see. We’ll update this post when we receive the guide and let you know what we think. UPDATE: The Exuma Cruising Guide arrived and so far we’re very pleased. Pavlidis is now using google earth photos overlaid with cruising info such as approaches to anchorages marked. Also, one thing we did not like about the Panama Guide was we could never find a smaller scale (i.e. covering a broader area) so that we could understand islands relationships to each other – they were there, we just found them difficult to locate. The Exuma Guide has a chapter at the front of the cruising chapters showing three different segments of the Exumas and how they all fit together – a simple thing, but so handy when planning before you’ve been there and know the lay of the islands. Nothing replaces actually using the guide while cruising the area, but so far we’re happy with the Exuma cruising guide. And the Explorer Charts have lots of information that normal charts wouldn’t have such as more anchorage information – and the very helpful “Need To Know Info” sections across from each cruising area chart.
We already own Steve Dodge’s “Cruising Guide to Abaco”, although there is a 2010 edition, since we’re not planning to spend much time in Abaco this winter, we’ll stick with the older version and the Explorer Charts. We also own Matthew Wilson’s Bahamas Cruising Guide — quite honestly, we were very disappointed with this one when we bought it back in 1998. But I see there are several newer versions, so maybe they are better than the 1998 edition.