Planning an extended cruise - Flying Fish reviews World Cruising Routes and Destinations

This review was published in Flying Fish 2022/1, The Journal of the Ocean Cruising Club.

There are plenty of ways to plan a successful voyage, especially with the incredible amount of information available online and the ability to communicate instantly with other cruisers all over the world. As a relative newcomer to cruising I try to assemble as much information as possible before starting a passage – from books, from talking to people who have made a similar trip and from the internet. I’ve found that the best place to start usually is with a book, working my way to the internet and then finally diluting everything I’ve heard with an experienced account from a friend or OCC member.

Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes, first published in 1987 and now in its 9th edition, looks at over 1000 routes across all the oceans of the world. World Cruising Destinations, first published in 2010 and now in its 3rd edition, gives an overviewof more than 180 countries with invaluable details on each one including formalities, climate and some historical background. Neither book can be considered small. Routes is a 616-page beast and Destinations isn’t far behind at 448, and both with good reason. Other books I have used over the last couple of years try to cram too much information into a smaller number of pages, which means I need to fill in the blanks myself – fine when you have a good internet connection and time to sift through websites, otherwise more difficult.

They work very well together as a set, especially when planning extended cruising. We spent last season making our way from Ireland to the south coast of Portugal and I spent a lot of time online and with a pilot book trying to plan the trip. While it worked out well in the end, as I plan our next stage – to the Caribbean and beyond – I’ve found myself using these two books a lot as I sit at my desk waiting to get back to the boat.

I can only give an opinion on the accuracy of the locations and routes that we have sailed personally – so far Ireland, the UK, Northern Spain and Portugal. The author nails it when he describes Ireland as ‘One of the finest cruising grounds in the world’ and I definitely agree that the weather is the only downside. His description of the west and south coasts and of formalities are also correct. Moving further south to Spain, there are warnings for Costa da Morte (which includes Cape Finisterre) which should not be ignored, and it’s in areas like this that both books really add value, highlighting where to be particularly careful and what local effects should be anticipated. Something to be very careful of on the Atlantic coast of Iberia is swell and the effect it has on harbour entrances. This is where Routes becomes indispensable, as Jimmy Cornell gives detailed guidance as to which ports to go for and, more importantly, which not to go for. Route AN15 from northern Europe to Portugal is a good example, as large or even moderate swells can make some port entrances impassable, dangerous or very difficult, and it is important to heed his warnings.

One of the few problems we faced in both Spain and Portugal was completing formalities. Books always make it seems so straightforward, but in reality it can be quite painful. I have a UK passport and Brexit has forced holders of it into non-EU formalities such as 90-day Schengen visas and entry/exit stamps. The reality is lots of walking to various police stations where the police will have no idea what you mean or want, until you eventually find the right office. World Cruising Destinations includes a ‘formalities’ section for each country covered, but there isn’t much about the post-Brexit situation while Covid has created further changes, if mostly just temporary.

Looking forward to our next season, this is where I can review World Cruising Routes and Destinations from the perspective of the armchair sailor or the skipper planning a voyage across unfamiliar waters. Both books are easy to navigate, with well laid-out pages and well-presented information. For example, in Destinations each Caribbean island has a brief history, a list of cruising guides and websites where you can find more local information, a bit on the climate and the essential formalities. Routes is equally easy to work through, broken out into the oceans of the world, and then into various cruising routes. Most start from the larger ports and popular wintering places and then give helpful details as to what to expect on each passage fromthere. With the obvious changes we are seeing in our climate, one can only hope that aspect stays accurate until the next revision.

At £110 the pair they are not cheap and, while in my opinion Routes would definitely be worth buying and carrying aboard an active cruising boat, Destinations would probably be more of a luxury which I’m not sure would justify a place in the limited space on my bookshelf. It would be nice to sit and dream while reading it, and it’s a very nice book overall, but I’m not sure I’d consider it an essential. Routes will definitely be a big help to us as we cruise further afield and I’d probably recommend it to anyone still at the planning stage.

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