Chapter 4: Charts, Pilot Books and other sources of information

One major difference between US charts and European charts is that the European ones have a copyright on them. So photocopying is illegal. Swapping charts however is common practice and helps to keep the costs down. There are naturally certain harbors that are particularly suitable for swapping - in Gibraltar and to a certain extent, Vilamoura, westbound boats meet eastbound boats and a set of Caribbean charts can be swapped for a set of the Med. Wherever else you meet boats leaving the area you are heading for, take the opportunity to swap, it is not only a matter of costs but you can spend the evening swapping experiences too and if you update charts and pilot books as you go along with new data that you encounter, then that benefits the new owner too. New harbors are being built and old ones are getting new breakwaters, partly due to financing by the EU regional structural fund, and these changes may not be in the latest edition of a pilot book.

Particularly when using older charts it is imperative to have an up-to-date light list. For this reason I would recommend buying the a nautical almanac every year. The Reedís Nautical Almanac has unfortunately disappeared from the market. It not only had all the light characteristics in it, but also language glossaries and the tables for celestial navigation and all the useful information an almanac should contain. There are now two to choose from -the Imray Norie or the Macmillan.

When buying new charts it is best to go for the local editions. Each country issues charts for the entire Med. but the most up-to-date are likely to be the local charts. Some countries are issuing charts especially for yachties. France and Italy each have a waterproof series. Spain has embarked on a series for yachts which have detailed harbor plans on the reverse. In 1993 only the Costa del Sol and Majorca were in print with more to follow shortly. As yet we have not encountered chart kits, such as you will be familiar with for the States and the Bahamas. In the summer of 1993, French, Italian, Spanish and German charts were all priced around $20 each (French $17, Italian $21). Local charts are often considerably more reasonable than Admiralty charts. In 1988 in Greece we paid $10 for Greek charts and $30 for Admiralty charts of the same area, presumably because the Greek alphabet puts off buyers. Croatia has brought out very handy charts covering the whole of the Croatian and Slovenian coast in two sets at a scale of 1:100 000. Each set costs less than $50 (2000) and comes in a transparent waterproof envelope. Buy charts when you have the opportunity, as some chandleries are hopelessly understocked and what might have been recommended to you as a good chandlery could have come down in the world since. The chandlery at the marina in Vilamoura, who could do a roaring trade in charts from Mediterranean to Caribbean, had a puny selection of local charts in the summer of 1993. This could always change for the better of course.

English language pilot books are published by British publishing houses. Jugoslavia used to publish its pilot book in several languages. It has now been reprinted by the Croatian authorities and is highly recommendable (about $37). The biggest publishing house in the business is Imray, Laurie, Norie and Wilson Ltd who have some very reputable books in their lists, such as the RCC Pilotage Foundation books for the Atlantic Islands and the Atlantic Coasts of Spain and Portugal which are excellent. They also publish Rod Heikellís books for Italy, Greece and Turkey which have expanded over the years. The appendix includes a list of pilot books that I would recommend.

Many of you will already be familiar with the Seven Seas organization and its magazine which is full of letters written by members about the places they have visited. A lot of useful information can be gleaned from such letters. However, as with first-hand accounts from other yachties you meet along the way, you will soon find that other peopleís experience may not be the same as your own. This subjective assessment must be taken into account when evaluating the information or you may be put off places that are worth visiting or have high expectations disappointed.

In order to make the most of the countries you visit it is important to know as much as possible about them. Some pilot books include a certain amount of information on local culture or history (such as Rod Heikellís books), but comprehensive tourist guides to each country are a valuable asset, as are field guides for birds, flowers and marine life. In addition a lot of information can be had from the local tourist office. They often keep the best information under the counter, but are willing to hand out often beautiful and elaborate brochures to interested visitors. In the absence of a tourist office, a look at the local postcard stand will give you an idea of what is considered locally to be an attraction.

One book that I found particularly interesting for the Mediterranean was the book that accompanied the BBC TV-series by David Attenborough: The First Eden. This book helps to understand the intertwining cultures of the Mediterranean countries through the centuries, and explains the geology, flora and fauna.