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I Grew … We Grew Together

Sue Williams, author of Ready to Come About writes:

coming alongsideChristmas Eve my husband, David, had a grand mal seizure while doing last minute shopping in the mall. The event was so violent that he sustained two compression fractures of his thoracic spine, and cuts on his head took fourteen stitches to close. “Stress and sleep deprivation,” were what the neurologist determined to be the cause.

When he returned to work, with the scars still raw, he was fired. “Restructuring,” the CEO chose to call it.

After David recovered I said, “Dear, you wanted to cross an ocean. This is your chance. You have the boat. You’re back in good health. And you’ve now got the time. You can look for a new job when you get back.” Then I suddenly added, “And I’ll go too,” surprising us both.

exhausted from sailingBy Day Eight on our passage to Caiscais, Portugal: we had snagged a rogue fishing net that pulled the engine off its mounts; David had to dive into the choppy Atlantic for almost an hour to cut the net loose; we were taking on water through the stuffing box; we had entered a Nortada along the western coast of Europe causing our weather cloths to tear, our radar reflector and courtesy flag halyards to break free, and monstrous seas to develop; and Inia was losing a nautical mile, or a minute of latitude, in the strong south setting current every time we checked.  

David, as skipper, felt responsible for the safety of his vessel, Inia, and the welfare of his crew, non-sailor me.

“Stress and Sleep Deprivation.” Was another seizure in the making? I seriously feared so!

happy sailorsThis was just one of the many challenges we faced in our 11,000 nautical mile, year-long circumnavigation of the North Atlantic. As they say, adversity introduces one to oneself. We also learned that the rougher the passage, the more joyful the landfall.

My memoir, Ready to Come About (Dundurn Press 2019), is the story of my improbable adventure on the high seas and my profound journey within, through which I grew to believe there is no gift more previous than the liberty to chart one’s own course, and that risk is a good thing … sometimes, at least.




by Williams, Sue
With no affinity for the sea and not a single adventure-seeking bone in her body, Sue Williams headed off into the North Atlantic in the wake of a perfect storm of personal events. Two things were clear to her: her sons were adults and needed freedom to figure things out for themselves, and it was now or never for her husband to realize his dream to cross an ocean under sail.

304 Pages • softcover • 2019
yawl inia

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Collision Regulations, and The Canadian Modifications

The Collision Regulations are an important document for anybody who uses the water- they are the international rules of the road. They are critical knowledge for anybody who works on a ship’s bridge, and required knowledge for most Transport Canada Tickets. In this blog, we’ll talk about what books we recommend for studying the Collision Regulations- and for dealing with the Canadian Modifications.

The Canadian Modifications were created by the federal government when the international regulations were incorporated into law. They are changes to the code- in some places, they are simplifications, and in others, they add complexity. As an example of the latter, the international code has three simple signals for ships to communicate their steering intentions to each other when passing, or overtaking.
1 Blast: That ships will alter course to starboard, to pass each other on the port side- or that an overtaking ship will overtake to starboard.
2 Blasts: That ships will alter course to port (and with a similar change for overtaking
3 Blasts: This means that a ship has put its engines astern.

This is a *very* simple system- and can be used by  mariners of any nation.

However, in the Canadian modifications, ships can also call each other on the Bridge-to-Bridge channel to discuss their plans. This is not in the international regulations, and was inserted by the Canadian government. This applies especially in the Great Lakes region. This can create confusion- especially with the growth of non-native English speaker as ships’ crew on the Great Lakes.

It is important to know the Canadian modifications- because they modify the light and sound signals required for various sized vessels in different weather conditions. Further, there are many modifications that apply specifically to the Great Lakes. The Collision Regulations can be downloaded from here, and softcover copies can be ordered from us.

Necessary as the official Canadian Modifications are for studying, the printed legislation is not the most conducive way to learn or to study collision regulations. Here are some of our recommendations

The Colregs Guide

Colregs Guide

This is part of the excellent DOKMAR series (Which also includes books on Ship Stability, Ships’ Electrical Systems and Ship Knowledge). This book doesn’t so much have written explanation of all the rules, but uses illustrations images. So this book is very good for actually picturing situations described in the official document.






Macneil’s Seamanship  Examiner- Colregs


This is part of the excellent Macneil’s pocketbook series. This book is not so much for *teaching* collision regulation as it is for quizzing/testing afterwards. It includes both written questions and questions based on visual aids and situations. This book is broken down into ‘tests’ (not based on practice tests, but sets of questions’.






The Seaman’s Guide to the Rule of The Road


The Seaman’s Guide to the Rule of the Road is a similar kind of document (in terms of a mix of written and visual things), but is definitely a book for *teaching* the rules of the road as well as testing. In addition to the textbook aspect, the last section of the book also includes the text of the interational regulations. This is also up to date, including the amendments that came into force in 2016.


For testing, we recommend the Rules of the Road flipcards (although the Lights & Shapes, Sound Signals and other flip card sets and education tools  are also extremely useful). as well as Gregs Szczurek’s United Rules (which includes US rules for Inland Waters, Western Rivers and the Great Lakes (however, they do not include the Canadian Modifications), and Colregs Study Guide (Which have just the international rules).










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I did it! by Linda Kenyon

I never really expected to find myself on a 43-foot sailboat in the middle of the North Atlantic, but sometimes these things just happen. I was living in a tiny condo in Waterloo when I met Chris and decided to quit my job, sell everything I owned, and sail away with him.

The first time Chris took me out, I’d never been on a sailboat before, was baffled by all the ropes, as I called them, not knowing a sheet from a halyard. Chris had me take the wheel as we motored out of the harbour and went forward to remove the sail cover. I watched him working on the foredeck.

“Ready to raise sail?” he asked.

“What do I do?”

“Just keep the boat pointing into the wind.”

I could do that. In no time, he had the mainsail up. It fluttered weakly in the gentle breeze. So this is sailing? He came back and took the helm, and as we rounded the lighthouse and left the shelter of the harbour, the sail suddenly filled with wind and we picked up speed. He handed me a rope—“Make sure that feeds out and doesn’t get caught on anything, especially your foot” — and reached over and unfurled what I now know is the genoa, sheeting it in with one hand as he steered.

Then he switched the engine off and the only sound you could hear was water rushing along the hull and the occasional cry of a gull. We were galloping through the sparkling blue water, wind in our hair. Free, I thought. I’m free.

“You like it?” he asked.

“I love it.”

Two years later I found myself at anchor in a sandy bay on the southeastern tip of Antigua, making lunch while Chris gave the bottom a final scrub before setting out to sail to the Azores, a passage of roughly 2,300 miles.

Sure I was apprehensive—who wouldn’t be? Okay, maybe slightly terrified is more like it. But after the first few days of easy sailing, I began to relax, to savour the feeling of being stretched out in the cockpit, water chuckling along the side of the hull, a gentle breeze wafting over me. The morning sun was shining right through the broad yellow and green stripes of the spinnaker, bathing the cockpit in soft, warm light.

Of course the easy sailing didn’t last. We’d been out about a week when the weather began to deteriorate—and so did my courage. Then it got worse. Just two days before making landfall in the Azores we were clobbered by not one but two big gales. On the morning of the third day, the wind died, and as it started to get light, the island of Flores emerged from the gloom. I felt a surge of pride. I did it! I sailed all the way across the North Atlantic. Not too bad for an accidental sailor.

I’ve just written a book about my first ocean crossing. Sea Over Bow, it’s called, and it’s for anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like to sail across an ocean. It’s an adventure story, but it’s also about finding the courage to begin again.

Linda in the rigging spinnaker portrait landfall in the azores

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Guest Post: Ron Holland and All the Oceans


Thank you to Ron Holland for this blog post about his new book All The Oceans: Designing by the Seat of My Pants.

AllTheOcenasThe decision to write All The Oceans was influenced by my involvement with the University of Auckland Engineering Department creating a Masters of Yacht Engineering program. The most frequently asked question from students was “How did you do it?” All The Oceans is my response.

I did not pursue what is now considered the conventional way to become a yacht designer. The combination of a fascination with voyages of exploration under sail, a natural talent for drawing and a three-year apprenticeship in a wood boat fabrication shop laid the foundation for me to strike out on my own. Without hesitation, I grasped every opportunity that came my way.

All The Oceans: Designing by the seat of my pants describes how I did it.

Ron embarked on a nautical journey five decades ago, from his native New Zealand, to numerous stops along the way before settling in Canada. He began his boat design career in San Francisco before spending 40 years in Ireland, where in 1973, he established Ron Holland Design. There he met a Canadian who wanted to return home, and Ron decided that it was time for a change.

Ron with Clan VIII in background in KitsAs he writes in All The Oceans: “My new office overlooked Coal Harbour, the downtown marina near Vancouver’s main commercial port: through the windows I had a clear view of boats moored at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club marina, and beyond, of the snow-capped peaks of Cypress Mountain. It’s a dramatic but calming location, and I was looking forward to another phase of my life.”

It was, however, a stressful life, and in 2012 he suffered a stroke. Yet it too opened up new possibilities.

“Thinking it through further, I would do other things with my life, fulfilling long-buried desires. I would read more. I would teach. I would take piano lessons, as I had in my teens with my mother’s encouragement. I would do more drumming, which would also have the bonus of restoring some of the dexterity in my left hand. In short, I would start a new life in Vancouver-and I did,” he recounts in the book.

IMG_20180814_084859 Clan VIII, a 46 metre design collaboration with Perini Navi and Ron Holland Design off Stanley Park.Ron wrote All The Oceans to inspire others. This latest chapter — settling in Vancouver, BC (where he eventually moved his office to Granville Island from Coal Harbour) was indeed a new start. After writing his memoir, promoting the book would lead him to revisit old haunts all over the world, reconnect with old friends and regale audiences on how he established an award winning international design company also including colourful nautical tales culled from a life of adventure.

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We’re Hiring!

The Nautical Mind Bookstore

The Nautical Mind Bookstore is looking for a new crew member to work a couple of days a week, including weekends, starting in October extending ideally for several years, depending on circumstances.

The job involves helping customers in the store, on the phone, and online find the right books, charts, and cruising guides for their needs, and getting said items to them.  Detailed knowledge of boats, books, the implacable heart of the sea, and navigation would be a great boon, as would a facility and comfort with computers, and an ability to learn and problem solve, specifically with respect to fiendish logistical problems. An interest in writing blog posts and/or engaging in social media would be nice but isn’t mandatory, as would comfort around scrappy little sea dogs.

The Nautical Mind is a positive and inclusive workspace where the traits, skills, and contributions of all are acknowledged and respected.  It’s a unique local niche bookstore focussed on a deeply fascinating subject matter.

If you’re interested, please send your resume and a cover letter to


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Now that you’ve bought a boat..


first of all- Congratulations!

Now that you’ve bought a boat however, there are some things that you’ll need, and some books that we very highly recommend.


When you own a boat and are cruising/sailing in Canada, there are some things that are required. This blog will focus on the requirements and suggestions for those cruising in Canadian waters (especially the Great Lakes) but these recommendations can also be extrapolated for other countries.

1. Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card- This is your driving license for Ontario (And equivalents for other provinces).
The exam is provided by a corporation but is required, and information can be found here. We do sell the BOATsmart! Pleasure Craft Operator Card Study Guide, which is the official study guide for that license. The PCOC is required for driving/skippering any kind of craft. If you have purchased a boat with an engine and plan to cruise around Toronto, you may also require a Toronto Harbour license.

2. Charts and Documents – in Canada, if you’re in a boat bigger than a dinghy (so not a Hobie, or CL14 or something like that- but it does include most yachts and cruising boats), you are required to have the following:
A) Charts- including the Largest scale (most detailed) charts for where you are sailing/cruising. Here are some links to blogs about charts.
B) Chart 1- which is the legend for Canadian (and most) charts.
C) List of Lights and Navigation Aids- these are a series of PDFs which can be downloaded
D) Tide Tables (not needed for the Great Lakes)- They can be downloaded or we do sell printed version (Arctic and Hudson’s Bay, for example)
E) Sailing Directions- These are effectively the Government’s version of cruising guides- they provide all the information needed to safely sail/transit in Canadian waters. There are many volumes for different areas. This is the link to the Lake Ontario one as an example.


In addition to what boaters are required to have on board, there are a number of things that we highly recommend.

A. Cruising Guides – Cruising Guides such as the Waterway Guides, Skipper Bob or Ports provide details that are no in either the Sailing Directions or in Charts, and so are highly recommended, especially for planning what to do around marinas and anchorages. (NB: Ports has ceased production, so there is a somewhat limited stock of Lake Ontario, Lake Huron/Georgian Bay/North Channel and Trent-Severn)

B. Electronics Books – We very much recommend Nigel Calder’s Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual, however there are a number of other excellent books as well.

C. Engine Books – we particularly recommend Dennison Berwick’s Marine Diesel Basics– but likewise, there are a number of other excellent books including Nigel Calder’s Diesel Engines.

D. Captain’s Quick Guides – this series of reference guides cover a wide series of topics that are necessary information. They are clearly written, and the series as a whole is well organized.

E. Logbooks- Logbooks are important because they provide documentation for your boat’s activities (and indeed may be required by insurance companies or for legal reasons if something goes wrong). You should have more than one logbook- for example, you should have a maintenance logbook (to track maintenance and upkeep and known issues), an engineering logbook (to track engine hours, fuel and oil use and other details) as well as a logbook for navigation and a narrative logbook.

Buying a boat is an investment- and the books and documents outlined we’ve discussed here are an excellent start to maintaining your investment, and getting the most out of it.

Coming Soon: ships2shores

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CHS Electronic Charts and How to Use Them

This is a short post to lay out some clear answers about CHS (Canadian Hydrographic Service) electronic charts.

CHS Digital Charts for the Pacific Coast
Pacific Coast Digital Chartsets

CHS does sell electronic charts- which are available in BSBv3 (unencrypted) Raster and S57 Vector formats. They are available for the Great Lakes, Pacific Coast, Atlantic Coast, and Arctic. These charts are not available on CD, but must be downloaded. Users purchase access to these charts from a chart agents (like our store), and once we process your order, we will provide you with a transaction code and how-to guide so that you can access your charts and download them onto a computer or other device. Most important, however, is that you don’t need to use the windows executable that comes with the downloaded charts in order to read them- as long as the plotting software you have can read BSB3 or S57 charts.

Great Lakes Digital Charts
The Great Lakes digital chart sets
CHS Digital Charts for the Atlantic Coast
Atlantic Coast Digital Chartsets

You will need Chart plotting or navigation software to then load and use the charts- we suggest OpenCPN. Other options include INavX, which is available for both iOS and Android, and so can be used on iPads and other hand-held devices.

In Canadian waters, even if you carry electronic charts, you are still required to carry paper charts.

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Choosing Your Charts

Rich_Lake _Ontario_Ed_07_Cover 01.indd

Now that Spring has Sprung, it’s time for our annual CHARTS! post.

In the past, a number of blogs have been written about charts: what we carry, what we can order, and laws regarding charts. We’re proud to be a chart agent, providing Canadian Hydrographic Services charts, as well as charts from NOAA, Imray, Maptech, Richardson’s, NV Charts, and a number other organizations and companies. There continues to be some confusion over charts, specifically the legality of chartbooks and what is required.

The Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations, Article 5(1) (c) (i) states that boats are required to carry “…the largest scale chart according to the reference catalogue… ”

Since this is something that confuses many people:
Small Scale = Large Area
Large Scale = Small Area

To put it another way, if you’re boating around Toronto Harbour, you’ll be required to carry chart 2085- Toronto Harbour. Chart 2077 (Lake Ontario West End) or 2000 (Lake Ontario general) would not be considered to have sufficient information.

The Canada Shipping Act requires most vessels to carry paper charts specifically, even if navigation will be done by GPS or on a computer. If you’re are going to be navigating, you should be carrying charts.

There have also recently been more questions about the legality of chartbooks, such as Richardson’s, Mapquest, and NV-Charts. These are not technically charts, but instead are very high quality photographs of charts. From discussions with representatives of various law enforcement agencies it is clear that there is no universal policy towards chart books. Anecdotal evidence suggests that also, reaction will vary from officer to officer. While the odds suggest that any individual person or boat may not be stopped by the Police or Coast Guard, and even if they were a chartbook such as Maptech or Richardson’s would usually be considered sufficient, they do not technically satisfy the legal requirement to carry charts in Canada.

The reality is that chartbooks such as Richardson’s are much easier to use on a chart table than a full paper chart, and that chartbooks are much more cost efficient than purchasing a full set of paper charts. We also understand that cost is a major factor for choosing to purchase chartbooks only, and not paper charts. What we would suggest is that our clients purchase a chartbook such as Richardson’s for their day-to-day navigation requirements, but also purchase the CHS charts they need to cover their usual cruising areas. To do so is more expensive, but it will cost far less than the fines for not carrying paper charts.

Charts are just part of what is required to be carried on board. It is always necessary to update charts or chartbooks with the Notices to Mariners. In addition, boats are required to have Chart One, Sailing Directions,Tide & Current Tables, the List of Lights, and Buoys and Fog Signals.

If you’ve talked to us about charts- you know that we place a strong emphasis on paper charts, whether they be CHS, NOAA, Imray, Explorer or anything else. Digital Charts cannot be denied, however. In Canada, it is still required to carry paper charts, even if you have digital charts. If you would like to purchase digital Canadian Hydrographic Service charts, we can absolutely provide them to you.

Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts

There are a bevy of options when buying charts. Keep on reading for some information on the differences between the charts we carry, and things to consider when making a decision about which charts to purchase. In this blog, I’ll discuss the various types of charts that we carry and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each. I’ll start by considering specific regions. However, what needs to be stated up front is that despite everything mentioned below, the first priority is that you feel comfortable reading your charts, and can understand them.

The Great Lakes

In the Great Lakes, there are two broad categories of charts: First, the Canadian Hydrographic Service and NOAA (US) charts, and second the Richardson’s Chartbooks.

The Official Charts
Published by the CHS and NOAA, these are “proper” charts.


  • These are the official charts, and strictly satisfy the requirements (under Canadian law) for carrying charts
  • Individually, CHS charts are relatively inexpensive as most cost approximately $22.60 ($20 with taxes).
  • These are absolutely readily available in large numbers (with a few days advanced notice
  • These are up to date- most CHS or NOS charts don’t remain in our chart table for more than a few months


  • When buying multiple *different* charts, this can get fairly expensive- a complete set of the Canadian and US Charts for Lake Ontario would cost approximately $1000.
  • These are huge, when unfolded- 85cm by 120cm- and can be unwieldy to deal with. (This is for *standard* charts- strip charts and Chart 2201 (Georgian Bay General) are different dimensions. NOS charts, however, come in a number of different dimensions (but all relatively similar) this makes working with charts on small chart tables very difficult.

Richardson’s Chartbooks

Rich_Lake _Ontario_Ed_07_Cover 01.inddThis is a series of chartbooks, with one each for Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and the Hudson River and New York Canal System. These chartbooks combing charts into a single package.


  • These are very high quality photographs of the US and Canadian charts. You can lay them on top of each other for comparison purposes
  • In terms of form factor, these are much easier to use in a canoe, kayak, or small yacht/cruiser where table space is at a premium
  • They reduce some of the double-coverage that can happen in charts (At the same scale), so there is less actual paper involved
  • They make it quite clear how to progress from one chart to the next
  • a Richardson’s Chartbook is substantially cheaper than buying the equivalent amount of information in “Proper” charts- for Lake Ontario, a saving of something on the order of 85%
  • It is possible to purchase a vinyl cover for them to keep them dry when using them


  • It can be tedious to bring Chartbooks up to date according to Notices to Mariners
  • They can be somewhat visually busy and confusing.
  • The Richardson’s Hudson River/ New York Canal Systems is designed for a voyage from New York City to Owsego/Buffalo/Montreal, so it can be confusing if you’re travelling the other way.
  • They are marked *NOT FOR NAVIGATION*, which means that if something goes wrong, they can’t be sued. This can be disconcerting to some.

Other Great Lakes/North American Charts

For the other common cruising areas within North America, you can purchase NOAA charts (which are same as above), Waterproof Charts, or Maptech Chartbooks.

Waterproof Charts



  •  These charts cover much of the US East Coast, as well as parts of the Caribbean Sea
  • They are actually water-resistant, which makes them really good for using in the cockpit
  • The paper is a lighter weight than standard charts, and so are easier to use and store.
  • They very much focus on the areas that matter to cruisers- and so for example will have much less open ocean than a comparable NOAA chart. For example, the image to the left is of Cape May to Sandy Hook
  • The visual design is very clear- for example the way to transition between panels on the Hudson Rive chart is more clear than the comparable Richardson’s chartbook.
  • These charts often are on the front and on the back, and can have both large and small scale charts on the same sheet.


  • If you purchase these charts, it is especially important to make sure that you update them to the most recent Notices to Mariners- although because of the surface of the paper it makes it more difficult to update than NOAA charts.
  • These charts are ~$40 CAD including taxes, and so if you’ll be transiting large areas it may be more cost efficient to go with a chart book
  • These charts really do often stick close to shore along the ICW, so if you plan on going further offshore you’ll need to purchase other charts

Maptech Charts



  • These charts are made by the same company as Richardson’s, so they the produce of a similar process create from taking NOAA data.
  • These chartbooks are divided into useful areas, such as New York to Nantucket, Chesapeake, Norfolk to Florida (Atlantic ICW), Florida East Coast, and FLorida West Coast
  • They’re very good for cruisers who want to explore an area as they provide passage charts, inshore charts and harbour charts
  • The whole series can also provide continuity as cruisers continue to travel the US East Coast
  • There are also chartbooks for the US West Coast
  • They come in a heavy duty plastic cover for protection, which can also be used to keep them dry in the cockpit.


  • There is an element of sticker shock- these chartbooks can cost approximately $190 CAD, which seems like a lot although it is considerable savings compared to purchasing individual charts
  • These chartbooks are relatively heavy- approximately twice the size of a Richardson’s they require more storage space

The Caribbean

There are a number of charts options for the Caribbean as well. For example, the Waterproof Chart series mentioned above continues down past Florida to the Mona Passage, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, and has a good general chart. We have several options that mainly deal with the Caribbean.


A Lesser Antilles–Puerto Rico to Martinique


  •  Imray is a hugely important company for cruisers- their cruising guides and pilots are the gold standard, and often refer to their charts.
  • Imray charts are single page- sometimes back and front, for example A233, which combines charts A231 and A232 to cover all of the Virgin Islands
  • These charts (like the Waterproof charts) are relatively light, and so can be stored easily- they fold down to a A4 size. Likewise, they each come with a heavy plastic cover to protect them
  • Imray covers much of the world- for example the Mediterranean as well, and so can provide consistency for longer voyages and trips.


  • These charts are ~$40 each, and so to cover a large area will be relatively expensive
  • Imray charts are based on older data- in some cases dating back to the early 20th century- and so are less up to date than other chart series.

NV Charts

NV-Charts Region 9.1: Bahamas–NorthwestPROS

  • These are similar to Richardson’s/Maptech in terms of the benefits of a chartbook
  • This series covers all of the Caribbean from the Windwards and Grenada, the Leewards, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas (in 3 volumes) and Cuba (4 editions) and so can provide continuity.
  • They do come with electronic charts- which either are on a CD or can be downloaded.
  • Recently NV Charts has switched many of its editions to ‘Atlas’ format, which stores as effectively half the size of a Maptech chartbook or similar to a Richardson’s chartbook.
  • These chartbooks contain planning charts, harbour charts and coastal charts
  • they provide GPS waypoints and are designed to be used with electronic navigation as well


  • Again, like with Maptech, there is the sticker shock. These chartbooks are more expensive than getting a small number of Imray charts

Explorer Chartbooks

Explorer Chartbook: Near Bahamas

The Explorer Chartbooks are the gold standard for Bahamas charts. They are the most up-to-date, and most accurate. They are divided into the Near Bahamas, Far Bahamas and Exumas. These are a very different style to the NV Charts or Imray charts- but they are created by experienced cruisers for cruisers. They are printed on tear and water resistant paper. In addition to charts, they also contain tide tables, and an up-to-date list of marinas and services.


As always, we at the Nautical Mind are happy to help you all of your chart needs and requirements.