Cruising Guides for a Year-Long Caribbean Sabbatical

Looking ahead to our sabbatical, we are stocking up on cruising guides to help us plan our trip. Of course, we will be using these while on the trip as well. Since guidebooks can be hit or miss, I have been combing through the internet looking for recommendations and beginning to sample a few. I would love to hear suggestions that people have for the Caribbean – those guidebooks most like our beloved Taft guide to Maine and Shellenberger for the Chesapeake – in the comments below.

Since I have already looked at the paper charts we are acquiring for the Caribbean in an earlier post, I am just going to focus on cruising guides here. And I should say that, of course, we use Active Captain in addition to the guidebooks to get a different perspective and, often, the most up-to-date information.

I will also repeat what I said about our current plans from that earlier post on Caribbean charts. We are not committed to any location or goal as we head south, though both of us would really like to get beyond the Bahamas. The vague and incomplete plan at the moment is to make an offshore trip from Norfolk or Beaufort to the Virgins or St. Martin sometime in the fall. Where we would go from there is really anyone’s guess, but we talk about spending some of the late spring and early summer in the Bahamas on the way north. So, we are focused on the Lesser Antilles and the Bahamas, but are looking at guidebooks for the entire basin.

Passages South and the chart from Florida to San Juan

The NGA 27005 chart and Van Sant’s Passages South are a good combination.

The first cruising guide that we bought specifically for the trip is Bruce Van Sant’s Passages South . Although Van Sant is mainly focused on helping folks navigate from Florida, through the Bahamas, and on to the Virgins against the trades using short hops, his book is quite useful as a more general guidebook. For instance, he includes information on over 200 anchorages in the Bahamas and Caribbean, including many chartlets and local information. He also has a great deal of general information on weather, customs, and the like. If you are not familiar with Van Sant, he is quite opinionated, but it is good to keep in mind that his opinions have been honed by 80,000 miles and more than a decade cruising in the region. I’ve been making my way through the guide, but am really looking forward to following along with Van Sant on the NGA Chart 27005 – Key West to San Juan that just arrived in the mail.

A number of people have recommended the Doyle books to us, saying they are the go-to cruising guides to the Caribbean. We are going to start off by buying Doyle’s Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands and see how we like it. Assuming we do, we will probably also purchase the guides to the Northern Leeward and Southern Leeward Islands as well as the Sailor’s Guide to the Windward Islands for the trip. Beyond that, we are looking for recommendations on island specific guides or any other resource that you have found valuable. We would also love to hear from folks who have personal experience with land-based travel guides to the region. We both enjoy getting that perspective on the places that we are going.

Cruising guides to the Bahamas

Are we covered for the Bahamas? We will see with the Cruising Guide to Abaco, the Pavlidis Exuma Guide, and the Waterway Guide to the Bahamas.

Between picking up The Cruising Guide to Abaco, which we found quite useful, when we chartered out of Marsh Harbour and the Pavlidis Exuma Guide as we thought about sailing the Bahamas last year, we feel like we are pretty well outfitted for a good deal of the Bahamas. However, we are on the lookout for other guides. And, on the recommendation of Totem, we will be purchasing The Waterway Guide to the Bahamas.

In addition to the above cruising guides, we also finally broke down and purchased the 7th edition to Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes in the last week. We had found the 3rd edition at a used bookstore a while back and found it indispensable to our usual winter armchair cruising, pulling it out to learn more about the next passage that Delos was going to make or to dream about an Atlantic loop. The new edition includes a tremendous amount of new material and routes, but we could get by without the new edition – or really any addition – on the Caribbean sojourn we are making. However the book is packed with useful information and will almost certainly prove useful for both dreaming and planning over the sabbatical.

We are really looking forward to sailing to the Caribbean, exploring the natural environment throughout the region, and immersing ourselves in foreign cultures. Studying the charts and the guidebooks has already whetted our appetite, and we are starting to count down the days to departure while frantically trying to get the boat, our finances, and everything else in order for the trip. Over the next eight months we will be detailing more of our preparations.

Let us know if you have any recommendations!

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One Response to Cruising Guides for a Year-Long Caribbean Sabbatical

  1. Fordyce Eldred says:

    Great info! Thanks

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