Book of the Week: The Atlantic Crossing Guide, sixth edition

The Atlantic Crossing Guide - which is the best way to go, when is the best time and a hundred other questions answered
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Crossing the Atlantic - it is rumoured to be rough, unpredictable, and there are few places to stop along the way, certainly none around the half-way mark. So choosing the best route, the right time and learning a hundred other tricks can make the difference between a hard slog, or worse, and a fantastic adventure. Enter the Atlantic Cruising Guide, sixth Edition.

The Atlantic Crossing Guide, 6th Edition, by Jane Russell
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Now in its sixth edition, by Jane Russell, for the RCC Pilotage Foundation, it is here reviewed by the Ocean Cruising Club:

First published in 1983, its aim is to be the standard reference for anyone planning an Atlantic passage. This edition is a beautiful book packed with sound advice built, as the author readily acknowledges, on the five, fine previous editions.

I am most familiar with the fourth edition, having used it during a North Atlantic Circuit in 2005/06. It was one of the last books I bought before we left. I’d bought books on preparing the boat, maintenance, seamanship and the specific places I planned to go – why buy a book that covered all these subjects but in rather less detail? As it turned out, it was one of the ones I was most glad to have aboard. The quality of the hard-won experience of the present and previous authors becomes more and more obvious the further you go.

Our trip was fairly tightly planned. We were sure we only wanted to spend a year onboard and our preference was to get back to the UK in time for the children to meet up with their friends again before the summer holidays. Nevertheless our plans for after the Caribbean were very broad-brush, and it was then that The Atlantic Crossing Guide became our main reference. As well as helping us into and out of Bermuda and the Azores, it was reassuring to know that, if we had to divert at any stage, the Guide would lead us to at least one port of refuge.

The new edition is brighter and shinier, with colour photographs spread throughout and – a big improvement on the fourth edition – colour chartlets. The chapter on boats and gear takes account of most of the latest innovations. There are more references to the needs of children aboard. The pilotage advice generally appears up-to-date, despite one or two lapses, and the areas with which I am familiar are well-covered.

However it’s a little strange to find pages devoted to Gibraltar, La Linea and Ceuta (all very close together), but no mention of either Lagos nor Vilamoura, despite their large marinas and excellent boatyards/repair facilities. In fact the only mainland Portuguese harbour covered is Cascais, at the entrance to Lisbon. The Cape Verdes, which I believe will become an increasingly common feature of tradewind crossings, are dealt with enthusiastically and in more detail than I’ve seen elsewhere. We’re led as far west as Panama and as far south as Senegal, while higher latitude passages are
also addressed, though not in great detail. Web links and guides to further reading are particularly strong in this edition.

There are a lot of pages dealing with the East Coast of the US and the Intracoastal Waterway. They don’t quite have the poetic touch of Eric Hiscock, but they are enticing and appear thorough. If they encourage more Americans and Canadians to head east for a while that would be no bad thing.

The thought that (almost) no one would ever go to all the places mentioned before their particular edition goes out-of-date is true but not the point. As well as providing some reserve for the unplanned diversion, the Guide is a great stimulus to the imagination. As we toiled back from Bermuda I would regularly turn its pages planning our next (maybe) voyage.

Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes is, I guess, the ultimate in bedside dream-fodder. But The Atlantic Crossing Guide, at least for those who prefer to take it one ocean at a time, has the added advantage of telling you not only how to get somewhere but what you’ll find when you do. A fine tradition continues.

About the Ocean Cruising Club:
The Ocean Cruising Club is an international club for cruisers, and the distinctive blue and yellow burgee with a stylized Flying Fish is a welcome and respected sight in any anchorage. Founded in 1954 by the late Humphrey Barton, the Club known affectionately as the OCC exists to promote long-distance cruising in all its forms. It has no premises, regarding the oceans of the world as its clubhouse. However, it enjoys visitors' rights with a number of major clubs world-wide.

Membership is about what the applicant has done, rather than who he or she is. The sole qualification for membership is the completion of a continuous ocean passage of at least 1000 nautical miles, measured along the rhumb line, in a vessel under 70 feet, and is open to anyone aboard, either skipper or certified as competent by the skipper. For more information go to their http://www.oceancruisingclub.org/!website.