The Royal Cruising Club - Book Reviews

The Royal Cruising Club Pilotage Foundation publishes pilotage information through books and a range of media acessible through its own website

Reviews of the most recent RCCPF Publications and other books written by RCC members are listed below.

The Atlantic Crossing Guide 7th Edition

For many a sailor, crossing the Atlantic Ocean is their holy grail, the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest for a climber. Both are immense challenges and preparation is key.

You need the right equipment, information on routes, knowledge of what to expect and a positive approach. This is where the RCC Pilotage Foundation Atlantic Crossing Guide shines, ticking all the above boxes and more; it covers preparation, where and when to go, details on what to expect as you proceed, what you will find on arrival and, importantly, how to keep a happy ship.

Jane Russell has been involved in the RCC Pilotage Foundation for over eleven years and since 2012 has served as Executive Director and now Editor-in-Chief. She gives input to many publications, but this is her favourite stomping ground and she is back with the Foundation’s 7th edition of this seminal publication. Jane draws from her own rich cruising experience and, crucially, also channels the knowledge of many other experienced sailors.
The book is split conveniently into two parts. The first covers ‘Preparations’, all the things you need to think about before commencing a successful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

The second part ‘Passage Planning’ details the routes and treasured landfalls we all look forward to.

What I particularly like about Part 1 is that it gets you to think, and in doing that it makes for better preparation. Jane has a way of encouraging you whilst asking questions that challenge you. Much is discussed about self-sufficiency, thinking through the ‘what if?’ worst case scenarios.

Another of the book’s strengths is in trying to keep things simple. This is particularly so in the chapter on navigation and communications. For some this area is becoming increasingly baffling as technology develops at a rapid pace. The book does an excellent job in stripping it back, making it clear, highlighting the tools you can use, the pros and cons of each, all of which will help you decide what will suit you personally. At the same time, it harks back to traditional techniques, encouraging you to practise using tools like Dead Reckoning and Estimated Position for when technology lets you down.

One particularly wonderful chapter is ‘A Happy Ship’. Jane tackles head on topics like recognising fear, gaining confidence and challenging the role of those so-called ‘blue’ and ‘pink’ jobs. She writes about flight or fight responses in times of stress and how we need to listen to each, working with strengths and weaknesses amongst the crew. She encourages us to make sure all on board “understand the basics of how to sail the boat, navigate and operate all the essential systems” to “be thoroughly prepared for a shared adventure”.

Moving on, Part 2 focuses on Passage Planning. This section starts with a handy overview table advising on best timings for different crossings. It then dives into more detailed passage planning for different regions of the vast Atlantic Ocean, covering weather, timings, routes, and tides before focusing on individual ports, harbours and anchorages. The book has a logical flow following departures from Europe, trips between the Caribbean islands, passages across to Panama, up to Florida, along the Atlantic coast of the USA, and the increasingly popular intracoastal waterway. Finally, it focuses on North Atlantic passages crossing from west to east including trips up to Greenland and Iceland for the more adventurous!

There is detail on approaches, berthing, anchorages, radio, formalities and hazards as well as further recommended reading and websites to allow you to dig deeper if you wish. Beautiful pictures not only inspire but help you to familiarise yourself with destinations. Excellent up-to-date Navionics charts are provided throughout.

In summary the 7th edition of RCC Pilotage Foundation Atlantic Crossing Guide is quite simply an excellent read, covering much, begging you to be properly prepared to take on the adventure of a lifetime. It goes without saying, no boat crossing the Atlantic should be without it. Your copy is bound to become as well thumbed as mine - there’s always something to look up and make you think.

Tom Partridge RCC, January 2018
The Atlantic Crossing Guide (7th Edition)
ISBN 978-1-4729-4766-6
Published by Bloomsbury at £50 (discounted price available on Bloomsbury website)

The Baltic Sea and Approaches (Fourth Edition)

The RCC Pilotage Foundation has recently brought out a fourth edition, published by Imray, of their extensive guide to The Baltic Sea and its Approaches.

This latest edition, which covers nine countries fringing the Baltic Sea, has been greatly expanded and updated to include an additional 63 pages of invaluable information including new photographs accompanied by chartlets of approaches to the principal harbours. For anyone planning a first trip to the Baltic or as a reference book for the seasoned visitor, this is an essential resource.

The coverage of this book is not only extensive in area, but also in the variety of waters to be found here. This includes inland waterways, lakes and canals, the sheltered waters in Denmark, and archipelagos in Sweden and Finland, as well the open water passages. The variety of berthing facilities, anchorages and rock moorings, also means that a wider range of equipment has to be carried to suit. Of particular interest to first-time visitors is a comprehensive introduction with advice on routes to the Baltic, customs formalities, crew change-over destinations, health precautions, berthing systems, sewage regulations, sauna etiquette and general helpful advice on preparation and what to expect.

This book does not pretend to be a comprehensive detailed harbour guide for the countries covered – individual anchorage and harbour books exist for this purpose; rather it provides a wonderful overview of this very extensive cruising ground in one volume, and the outstanding presentation makes it a pleasure to own and read in its own right.

Nigel Wollen and his team of contributors have together made this book a valuable mine of expertise and information that should be carried by the many yachts visiting this area; it reflects the high quality expected of, and provided by, RCC Pilotage Foundation publications.

Jamie Heron RCC, October 2017
The Baltic Sea and Approaches (4th Edition)
ISBN 978 184623 689 1
Published by Imray at £45, before discount to members

Mediterranean Spain

‘Gibraltar and the five Mediterranean costas of Spain form the subject matter of this pilot.’

What a deceptively matter-of-fact introduction on page 2 to this new combined edition, covering, for the first time, the whole of the coastline of Mediterranean Spain.

Imagine, if you will, an early briefing meeting with Steve Pickard:

…We understand you’re familiar with these two well-established, separately authored pilots. Combine them. Do it seamlessly. Honour the wealth of detailed information already represented, but rationalise the overlap and re-work the sections and numbering for maximum ease and efficiency. Visit everywhere. Update and enhance your socks off, but keep a tight grip on the overall integrity. Improve it if you can...

In this new edition, Steve Pickard has skilfully combined, streamlined and improved the previous pilots, to produce one substantial volume, packed with all the information you’ll need to port hop or meander along the Med Spain coastline. From broad overviews and planning guides right down to descriptions of nook and cranny anchorages, it’s all there. The Introduction is concise and covers practicalities, preparation and weather. Steve has added his own up-to-the-minute images and observations throughout the book to reflect inevitable changes in recent years. I particularly like the inclusion of many more close-quarter port and harbour shots, which are enormously helpful to the navigator when approaching an unfamiliar entrance. Even the Appendix has been augmented with, amongst other things, the addition of a coastal waypoint list - a great aid to passage planning.

Finding your way around a publication, if it’s structured well, should be a smooth experience; you should hardly notice you’re doing it. Mediterranean Spain has nailed it. From the colour-coded sections on the title page to the tiniest anchorage in a cala along the Costa Brava coast, everything reveals itself in an easy and straightforward manner. All credit to Steve Pickard and the Pilotage Foundation for the adjustments they have made, including re-numbering the 139 ports. The overall design is worth a mention too. Imray has made subtle changes to typefaces, the use of colour and bordering, which have all contributed to give this new edition a contemporary, fresher and more spacious look.

When we last sailed across the Med, my family and I made full use of the ‘two part pilotage’ then available along this coastline. On our next voyage, we’ll be delighted to introduce this bumper new edition to our shelves, confident that we will find all we need within its 400 pages.

Ros Hogbin, Royal Cruising Club, July 2017
Mediterranean Spain
Published by Imray at £45 before discount to members
ISBN: 978-1846236501

Cape Horn and Antarctic Waters

Paul Heiney's lavishly illustrated book warrants a well-deserved place in the chart table and has plenty of general interest for those seeking inspiration for their next cruise.

Book Review

RCC Pilotage Foundation

Cape Horn and Antarctic Waters

Cape Horn and Antarctic Waters is another stunning and beautifully produced publication from the RCC Pilotage Foundation. Similar in scope and style and to the Foundation’s widely acclaimed Arctic and Northern Waters, it covers the spectacular cruising grounds around Cape Horn, including Chile, the Beagle Channel, the Falkland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula, together with invaluable chapters on preparing for cruising in the area, and approach routes from both the Atlantic and Pacific.

In writing the guide, broadcaster and author Paul Heiney has drawn not only on his own considerable experience, but also brought together contributions from a wide variety of renowned sailors such as Sally and Jerome Poncét, early pioneers of sailing in the Antarctic Peninsula, and Ewen Southby-Tailyour whose surveys of the Falkland Islands played a pivotal role in the 1982 war.

Paul Heiney wryly notes in the opening paragraph of the book that “[this is] ... a cruising guide in which danger lurks on almost every page”. Faced with an introduction like this, one might be tempted to think that this is a book solely for the diehard Southern Ocean cruiser. Whilst it will be an fantastic resource for anyone cruising, or planning to cruise in the area, it would be a mistake to conclude that its appeal ends there.

The guide is lavishly illustrated with a stunning array of photographs, some of which are double page spreads, together with a beautifully illustrated section on wildlife on the Southern Ocean. Add to this a wealth of interesting historical asides scattered throughout the text, and some fascinating snippets like the Falkland Island Diddlebee berry has a taste like Campari, and you have a guide which that would make a perfect companion for anyone travelling in the region, whether it be by yacht, cruise ship, or independent travel.

In short, Paul Heiney and the Pilotage Foundation have done something that many attempt, but very few succeed, namely producing a guide which contains sufficiently detailed pilotage information to warrant a well-deserved place in the chart table, whilst having enough of general interest that you could easily browse through the book whilst sitting by the fireside at home seeking inspiration for your next cruise or travels.

Clive Woodman
S/Y Cosmic Dancer
Cape Horn and Antarctic Waters
Published by Imray at £60, before discount to members
ISBN: 978-1846238369

CHILE Cruising Guide - Revised Third Edition

This is a beautifully produced and extremely well structured guide to this very long and diverse cruising ground. Reviewed by Katharine Ingram

Andrew O’Grady not only has considerable experience of cruising in Chile himself, but throughout the book there are contributions from many others who have also sailed extensively in the area, giving the book a feel of real exploration and adventure.
The introduction to the book is full of all the practical information that would help prepare for a cruise in this part of the world, carefully highlighting all the elements that are unique about sailing in Chile. This is, and needs to be, all-encompassing from dealing with paperwork and the authorities, to anchoring securely for the fierce Rachas winds in the south, and everything in between.
After an extremely comprehensive introduction, each chapter covers a different section of Chile. The chapters start with a chart marking all of the ports and anchorages mentioned in the chapter. This makes it very easy to navigate and plan the cruise on a day to day basis. The pilotage information includes hundreds of detailed chartlets, which are combined with photographs and clear instructions as to how to approach and enter and recommendations for places to anchor. Throughout, the book is densely packed with pilotage information, details of facilities and advice on where and how to anchor, all taken from the personal experience of people who have cruised there.
The photographs of the cruising ground not only provide visual back up to the numerous chartlets, clearly marking the position they were taken from, and indicating all useful features on the landscape, but they also serve to make the book visually attractive and enticing.
A more comprehensive, all-encompassing cruising guide to this part of the world would be hard to imagine. It is an absolutely essential companion to anyone planning a voyage to this lovely and challenging part of the world, either imminently or for some time in the future.

Katharine Ingram
Royal Cruising Club, May 2017
(Katharine and Peter Ingram sailed their 38’ sloop, Kokiri back from New Zealand to the UK around the Pacific Rim taking three years to do so. Over the years they have contributed to various pilot books. They are now cruising closer to home with their two children.)

ISBN 978-1846238581
Published by Imray at £35, before discount to members, and available to order through the link below.

Cruising Guide to the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands Guide is very much a guide for tourists rather than a pilot book, but as such it has the information for a touring yachtsman to enjoy these islands.

Canary Islands Guide review

“The unique and only Guide for the Canary Islands published by Imray. Here we will start a community to help all sailors that visit these beautiful Islands.”

The above quote from the Canary Islands Guide web page is somewhat disingenuous in that Imray also publish The Atlantic Islands which includes a similar number of pages of information on the Canary Islands. True, the former is a guide and the latter a pilot, but it would be a pity if one took the web quote at its word and looked no further for relevant information.
That said the Canary Islands Guide contains much of the information given in the pilot accompanied by large clear photographs. As a guide to the Canary Islands it gives over much of the space to information for tourists, which is both interesting and instructive, but which has probably been helpful in selling the many pages of advertising.
Authors of these volumes have differing styles and tastes and for this reason I would choose to take both volumes when cruising these islands. The guide undoubtedly has the information for a touring yachtsman to enjoy these islands but for pure navigation and pilotage....take the pilot.

Reviewed by Alan Spriggs

Puerto de Mogan

Inland Waterways of the Netherlands (2nd Edition)

For such a small country The Netherlands has an amazing 6,000km of navigable waterways and there is something there for everyone.

Whether it is a transit route to the Baltic in bad weather, a short break from the East coast of England or as a base for your craft The Netherlands has it all. And if you are a first time visitor to the country and its cruising potential this book is a good place to start before you even set off, and even if you have been before as most places there are endless developments.

The introduction to Inland Waterways is very thorough and will bring you through the essentials to have on board, the logistics of getting there for crew changes and the like, plus a flavour of the towns and villages you are likely to visit. There are suggested routes and circuits you might take including the famous “Staande Mast” routes (literally Mast-up route).

As someone who lived and sailed in the Netherlands for many years if I were to take a boat there today I would certainly have this book on board.

Reviewed by Hilary Keatinge

The Arctic and Northern Waters Pilot

The revised edition of the Arctic and Northern Waters Pilot is a compelling volume that takes the reader into waters that few will travel, for those who go there it is essential reading.

The editor, Andrew Wilkes, has compiled the pilot that spans the northern high latitudes ranging across Faroe, Iceland and Greenland and then to the North West and North East passages with fresh information about anchorages and routes, many of these photographed by his wife Máire to give instant recognition to remote places.
Some of the harbours and anchorages are familiar to me after several sailing seasons around these waters but the quality and clarity of the information adds significantly to qualify this as a vital part of the library for any skipper heading in that direction.
Of particular interest is the chapter on ice navigation. We learn that the proximity of land and shallow water affect the ice life-cycle, it forms and melts quicker in shallow water where the contours of the seabed affect the current. Wind creates rapid changes in ice conditions, the bigger floes are more susceptible to currents generated by ocean, tide or run-off. Satellite monitoring shows the continuing reduction of sea ice cover due to climate change. This does not necessarily mean that passage making will be easier, local factors such as wind are important. For instance, sea ice concentrations remained dense off East Greenland during the 2015 season because the northerly gales needed to break it up failed to occur. In contrast, the way was clear across the Denmark Straight by early 2016 and we motored in thick fog from Isafjordur in Iceland across to Scoresbysund before meeting big ice.
The Egg Code gives basic data on the development or age of the ice and its floe size along with the anticipated direction of travel so it is possible for the navigator to shape a course to avoid hazard. A useful hint in the Pilot is to avoid hitting ice if possible, but if collision is inevitable it is better to strike new ice which is compared to hitting solid wood whereas old multi-year ice is as unyielding as solid iron.
Icebergs that collapse without warning, katabatic winds that come screaming off the mountains, fog as a constant menace, poor charts and little prospect of help if things go wrong not to mention potentially fatal encounters with polar bears all add to emphasise the addictive nature of these waters along with their attendant risks make this volume a core part of passage planning.
In the preface to the ANW, Andrew reminds us of the huge contribution to Arctic sailing made over many years by Willie Ker. Credits also go to Paddy Barry and Jarlath Cunane for their North West and then North East passages as well as many other brave souls who have ventured in these waters.
The book is part of the RCC Pilotage Foundation which deserves great credit for this and other publications in the series.
Brian Black – Irish Cruising Club
Jan 31st 2017

The Pacific Crossing Guide 3rd Edition

This RCC Pilotage Foundation book is a beautifully produced and extremely well structured guide to the vast cruising area that is the Pacific Ocean

Kitty Van Hagen not only draws on her own considerable experience of cruising in the Pacific, but also on the experiences of other Pacific cruisers including many Royal Cruising Club members. As a result the reader benefits from a very comprehensive, well researched, knowledgeable and enthusiastic read.

It is packed full of all the practical information you need to prepare for and execute a cruise across the world’s biggest ocean. It is difficult to imagine anything that is not covered for: Communications, navigation, health, equipment, weather, passage planning, types of yacht, safety are just some of the topic covered. Each topic has useful tips and warnings as to how to avoid and prepare for pitfalls that may take you by surprise. At every turn Kitty has included personal accounts from experienced Pacific cruisers, and how they have solved the difficulties encountered by them and others.

Each section is also accompanied by pointers for further reading, web links, websites and other guides and books. All of these have been found useful to sailors crossing the Pacific and, as well as covering all the useful types of information you would expect, they also include fascinating accounts, blogs and experiences of other cruising vessels.

The book covers a huge cruising area yet manages to be the perfect balance between cruising information and route planning on the one hand, and detail on a few strategic and specific approaches, harbours and anchorages on the other. All of the countries you are likely to visit are touched on with interesting facts and advice, pilotage information on key ports, and further reading recommendations.
However, on top of all the wealth of information, the book is populated with stunning photographs, collected from all corners of the Pacific. These not only provide useful pilotage information, but also emphasise the contrasts and experiences on offer for anyone wishing to venture there, as well as making this a beautiful book!
Anybody, planning an imminent voyage to any part of the Pacific will benefit hugely from having a copy of this book with them but, equally, it is a must have for anyone planning and dreaming of an adventure in the future!
Katharine & Peter Ingram

The RCC Pilotage Foundation is a charity sponsored by the Royal Cruising Club. Close collaboration among its experienced sailing authors make it the authoritative provider of the famous pilotage books and passage planning guides for cruising areas worldwide. Its books and downloads about ocean passages, ports and anchorages can be found for purchase or download on their website

Solent Cruising Companion

The 3rd Edition of this very useable cruising companion is brought right up to date (2016) by Derek Aslett. Published by Fernhurst Books and available through Imray and many local chandleries.

The book is simply set out with text illustrated by many photographs that give not just the detail but also the flavour of the area. There is something for everyone, either the crew who think they know everything about the area, or the visitor sailing in for the first time. There is approach information well illustrated with chartlets and a good range of contact details from coastguard to dental helplines. There is a good selection of information on transport, supermarkets, pubs and restaurants. All round a useful addition to the bookshelf of any Solent bound cruising craft.

Hilary Keatinge

Norway Pilot - 3rd Edition

The newly published third edition of the RCC Pilotage Foundation Norway pilot book by Judy Lomax is reviewed below by Madeleine Strobel


Norway 3rd Edition
Covering mainland coast, fjords and islands, including Svalbad and Jan Mayen

In this recently published, fully revised and thoroughly supplemented 3rd edition of the RCC Pilotage Foundation Norway pilot book, Judy Lomax describes one of the most complex coastlines in northern Europe. She embarked on this epic task in 2007 after many years spent sailing together with her late husband David and her family along the whole length of this fascinating coast, from the Swedish border in the south all the way to Jan Mayen (71ºN), Bjørnøya (74ºN) and Svalbard, Kvitøy(80ºN).
The Norway pilot, 3rd edition will be an essential companion to all those who wish to embark on a Norwegian voyage. The book has 321 pages, with many new photographs, revised and comprehensive area plans, new harbours, anchorages and routes. The most remarkable feature of this sailing companion is the logical and clear description of many possible alternative ways across the myriad of islands, skerries and fjords that form the Norwegian coast.
Having used the 2nd edition myself and comparing it to the 3rd, I found that some interesting changes had been made to extend the coverage and to clarify some of the most tricky passages, notably in South Norway East of Lindesnes, in the fjord region north of Bergen, between Statt and Kristiansund, in Trondheimsleia, Hitra and Frøya.
But most of all, the description of the northern regions of Norway between the Lofoten, Vesterålen, Ofoten and Tromsø has been significantly expanded as has the farthest North: Bjørnøya, Svalbard and Jan Mayen. For the farthest North you can find up to date cruising information on around 90 places, mostly but not exclusively anchorages. A comprehensive introduction to the area includes information on permits and regulations, ice reports and glaciers, weather forecasts, polar bears and everything you need to know before you embark on this Arctic challenge.
Only someone like Judy Lomax with her remarkable attention to detail is capable of updating and revising such a complex pilot book. I am certain that everyone who uses it will find it as informative as it is enjoyable.

Published by Imray at £47.50
Available through

The RCC Pilotage Foundation is a charity sponsored by the Royal Cruising Club. Close collaboration among its experienced sailing authors make it the authoritative provider of the famous pilotage books and passage planning guides for cruising areas worldwide. Its books and downloads about ocean passages, ports and anchorages can be found for purchase or download on their website

Atlantic Islands Pilot

A Sixth Edition of the RCCPF Atlantic Islands Pilot has just been published by Imray. It is reviewed by Alan Spriggs (RCC) below.

It is remarkable quite how many changes have taken place in the last five years that effect Atlantic sailors. But it is not for this reason alone that this revised edition is both timely and welcome.
The new chapter on Bermuda, probably the Atlantic island with most navigational challenges, will be a boon to transatlantic sailors many of whom have given these beautiful islands a wide berth in the past. The information is clear and where costs are involved they are happily not accompanied with such weasel words as swingeing.
The established chapters have all been fully updated with more diagrams and are even more richly illustrated with photographs. The information takes into account modern electronic aids without ignoring the traditional navigational skills.
I have visited, by sail, all of the island groups in this volume and most of the islands within them, always with the Atlantic Islands guide on my chart table. To do otherwise I would regard as foolhardy. However, this is not simply a reference book for pilotage but a fascinating and absorbing read for those fire lit winter evenings.
Alan Spriggs
S/Y Pennypincher
Puerto de Mogan

Heavy Weather Sailing

This is the 7th edition of this well-known and popular book. There is much that is new in this edition, all beautifully explored and explained.

The first edition of Adlard Coles’ Heavy Weather Sailing came out in 1967. Most of us, if we were around then, were sailing more primitive boats than we are now, and knowledge and experience were in short supply. The book exerted a profound influence, even on those of us who had yet to venture offshore, let alone experience ocean sailing.
The book underwent several reprints, and all the time offshore racing and passage-making were becoming less esoteric. More experiences of extreme conditions were logged, and more conclusions drawn.
In consequence, Adlard produced two further editions, each wiser and more informative than its predecessor. By the time a need for a fourth edition became apparent, Peter, son of Adlard’s friend, sailing rival, and co-publisher Erroll Bruce, took it over. And now Peter Bruce has produced the 7th edition. It is hugely more informative and better suited to our times and our boats than the first edition, obviously, but also than the 6th. Yacht design and construction continue to change, and new equipment is developed. But a storm at sea is still a fearsome thing, and anyone encountering one will want to be armed with as much information about how to deal with it as possible.
The book is split into two sections, Expert Advice and Storm Experiences. Each is as enlightening as it is comprehensive. But only the second section makes you feel seasick. Contributors to both parts are drawn from the ranks of those who know what they’re talking about, and though some of the topics – meteorology, seasickness, waves, and preparations for heavy weather – are of universal interest, there is also specialist advice for powerboats, RIBs and multihulls.
If this latest edition of Heavy Weather Sailing was the first, the book would be hailed as ground-breaking, extraordinary, and essential reading. Well, most of us have read previous editions and may be excused for thinking we don’t need to read more of the same. This would be a mistake. There is much that is new here, and so beautifully explored and explained that the prudent mariner (a description which surely fits all RCC members) will no more ignore it than neglect the latest weather forecast.