Yachting Monthly's literary reviewer Julia Jones examines the latest edition of the pilot book Mediterranean Spain, which covers from the Strait of Gibraltar to the French border

Mediterranean Spain
2nd edition
Steve Pickard
Royal Cruising Club Pilotage Foundation/Imray £45

Mediterranean Spain covers the cruising area along the Spanish mainland from the Strait of Gibraltar to the border with France.

This latest edition, which was published in May 2021, must have been a particularly tough assignment to research.

There’s evident uncertainly about the impact of Brexit within its introduction, nevertheless as so much uncertainty remains a year after the UK’s official departure, it’s difficult to imagine any potential cruiser not taking personal responsibility to obtain the latest guidance before setting out.

Perhaps one aspect which has become clearer over this past year is that no single source of information is likely to be sufficient – if it ever was.

So, what should a potential purchaser be looking for in a pilot guide and can this edition of Mediterranean Spain provide it?

The 2020 lockdowns and travel bans will have made most recent on-the-spot information extraordinarily difficult to obtain, even when an author is based in the area.

On the other hand, lockdowns will also have had an impact on the rate of change when many development projects will have been put on hold, and many yachts will have remained static in their berths.

The use of a large number of new aerial photos, covering the coastline and harbour approaches, is an obviously constructive response and it is, of course, fortunate that Pickard is a long-term expert in the area.

His experience provides the overall ‘area wisdom’ which one expects from a pilot guide.

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Much meticulous research has been expended checking the anchorage qualities of a multitude of individual calas.

This gives the pilot guide reader the opportunity to familiarise themself with the characteristics of a coastline and offers the essential basis for pre-planning.

There are plenty of caveats about depths and potential silting to encourage caution when finally on the water.

In fact, there were moments when I wondered whether the author’s personal passion for this coast hadn’t been unduly suppressed.

Occasionally I began to wonder why I would want to visit this area anyway.

The guide is divided into six chapters covering the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca, Costa del Azahar, Costa Dorada and Costa Brava.

It’s an extensive area with complex and widely varied arrangements for the management of ports and marinas.

Again, there is ample factual information to provide the foundation for pre-cruise planning and to facilitate a change of plan if weather conditions demand it or if facilities are not as expected.

A pilot guide is not the same thing as a cruising companion yet when I listened to Steve Pickard being interviewed on an associated podcast I was warmed by his evident love of the area – its history, climate and cuisine.

He mentioned the ‘coffee table’ aspect of these beautifully presented books.

I think he could have allowed himself just a little more textual froth and sprinkle to brighten the reading experience.

Visit the Yachting Monthly Book Club for more of the best sailing books released this year.

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