West Country Cruising Companion

Nigel Wollen reviews Mark Fishwick's West Country Cruising Companion


Fernhurst Books 2021 (£42.50)

It is now 32 years since Mark Fishwick compiled his first West Country Cruising (now titled West Country Cruising Companion), and the publication of a Ninth Edition by Fernhurst Books is a testament to its continuing popularity.

There have been some significant changes since the last edition, both ashore and afloat. The new edition was ready for publication in May 2020, but the delay caused by the Covid pandemic has allowed time to update the content, even if some of the hospitality destinations remain tantalisingly beyond reach.

Covering the whole of the coast from Portland Bill to Padstow, including the Isles of Scilly, it is written in an engaging and readable style, and manages to combine comprehensive pilotage information with extensive details of local facilities and points of interest, including walks, beaches, pubs and restaurants as well as some fascinating history. It has greatly enhanced my knowledge of my home waters!

The main Introduction contains a wealth of general information and advice on passage planning, buoyage, tides and charts, including a timely warning about reliance on waypoints, and the ominous but prescient advice that the section on Customs formalities will require review after 31st December 2020! It includes details of all the National Coastwatch stations and some useful tips for mooring and rafting techniques and etiquette.

The main body of the book is broken down into six chapters, each covering a different section of the coast. These contain an introductory summary of the harbours and anchorages for the relevant section, as well as useful advice on planning and tactics, and how to tackle the main hurdles along the way (e.g. Portland Bill, Lands End and many others). This is followed by detailed pilotage and other details for each of the main harbours and rivers, including a Port Guide for each location which lists all the main facilities in a clear and accessible format.

It is very well illustrated with no fewer than 57 clear charts showing the approaches to the main destinations, as well as detailed coverage of the harbours and rivers, including the upper reaches of the latter. The charts provide approach waypoints (which are useful provided the warning in the Introduction is heeded) as well as clear symbols for Visitors moorings and anchorages and many other points of interest.

Aerial photography has greatly enhanced the modern pilot book, and this one is no exception. It is very well illustrated with 340 high quality photographs, with aerial shots just where they are most needed and plenty of others to provide local flavour. If only the unending sunshine they depict could be guaranteed!

Annual supplements will be available from Fernhurst free of charge, and it goes without saying that readers are encouraged to submit new information.

This is a true Cruising Companion, and is strongly recommended to anyone who is planning a cruise “down west”.

Nigel Wollen