Friday, January 11, 2008

Coast Pilot - Finding your way

I am going to spend the next couple of posts on resources to find your way. Of course there have always been guidebooks. For example, for East Coast US and Midwest sailors there are the Waterway Guides published in four sections by Dozier. You can get a feel for the guides at their website at Like many publishers they also have created a very nice web site with lots of useful current information. For example, their "navigation updates" tab is a nicely reformatted resource from the Local Notice to Mariners for the regions they cover. The US Government publishes the Coast Pilot. Its 9 volumes cover not only the coasts of the United States but Coast Pilot 6 covers the Great Lakes. All nine volumes are available for free download at The Coast Pilot series does not have the glitz or the recreational focus of the commercially published cruising guides as they were more attuned to commercial and military shipping. However in recent years they have become much more user friendly incorporating some of the nice features of the commercially published guides like aerial photography of the harbors. The Coast Pilots cross reference to the official NOAA charts. They are also a great source of depth and clearance information. Milwaukee is the confluence of three rivers all of which are navigable. The Coast Pilot has a chart of the bridge clearances - a convenient way to know how far up river one can go. The general layout of the Coast Pilot is sequential as you would cruise. If one were to pick a point, e.g. Milwaukee Harbor, the information going North would have you turning the pages forward in the Coast Pilot, going South you would turn the pages back. The Coast Pilots are supported by "critical corrections." These are also available from the above web site. At this time the corrections are pen and ink - a problem since the Coast Pilots are .pdf files. Looking for information about areas not in the United States? They are called Sailing Directions. We will get to them in my next post.

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