For those planning or dreaming about sailing further afield, this new edition of Ocean Passages and Landfalls is a valuable tool, says Julia Jones

Ocean Passages and Landfalls (3rd edition)
Rod Heikell & Andy O’Grady
Imray £37.50

There’s a touch of genius in the choice of cover photo for this third edition of Ocean Passages and Landfalls – green is not the usual colour selected for a cruising guide; yet green speaks of the land, of achievement when destination is reached at the end of a long passage.

Sailors may feel they have been yearning for green.

This is however a ‘blue planet’ book. Its scope is awe-inspiring as it takes an overview of the globe as the yachtsman’s potential cruising ground.

Its key pages offer a macro-view of the currents and weather systems of the major oceans, with suggestions how they may be best linked together.

Firstly, this is intended for the potential circumnavigator with cruising highways of the world superimposed on quarterly charts of the main wind systems.

As I read travellers’ accounts, I often learn how they inadvertently discovered that they’d boxed themselves in on the ‘wrong’ side of an ocean with a hurricane season or cyclones in prospect, or simply days of upwind struggle.

Studying this book should help avoid such dead-end passages.

It’s book is divided into seven main sections: North Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic Ocean, South Pacific Ocean, North Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Southern Ocean.

This structure also offers plenty of mix’n’match alternatives within the major oceans for those who perhaps only intended to take a year away but then find they could extend to two, or three – or they simply don’t want to stop, ever.

When a cruise reaches that next stage of planning or experiencing (or simply dreaming about) then more detailed guides will be needed.

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These are usually listed though there are occasional gaps. In the South Atlantic section, for instance, the reader is advised that:

‘The West coast of Africa is highly praised by those brave enough to visit,’ but no cross reference to Steve Jones’s RCCPF volume covering Senegal, The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau.

Similarly, keeping such a large scale volume up to date into its third edition is a marathon task, yet when ‘most recent’ information is marked as 2004 (Palmynra in the Line Islands) and uncertainty admitted, there should probably be someone back at the office who at least takes a peek at Wikipedia.

It’s equally true to say that no potential blue planet yachtsman should expect spoon feeding.

A volume on this scale must be a collaborative effort, especially when, as Rod Heikell states, a new edition has been put together ‘in strange times’.

The authors and publishers welcome feedback and one might feel it’s more important now that ever not to sit and quibble from the yacht club veranda but come alongside with relevant, supportive information. Ways of doing this are set to extend.

Other main contributors are acknowledged in the early pages and the authors’ individual book choices too (the ‘gems’ which adorn each section) give a sense of the cruising community as a whole, including those who have taken the watery route to Valhalla.

Nevertheless, this is an intensely personal achievement by Heikell and O’Grady and is a better book for it.

It is of course possible to glean all the macro information from scientific geophysical sources, but the personality and experience of the authors adds an indispensable ingredient.

I assume that the cover photo depicts Andy O’Grady’s Balena off the coast of Norway.

This brings me to a feature of the book which I particularly enjoyed.

As the focus moves from the entire globe to the individual oceans, cruising areas within those oceans and specific landfalls within those cruising areas, sometimes one or other author lets himself go in advocating for the beauties of an area that they believe might be overlooked.

In O’Grady’s case it’s Scandinavia, elsewhere there are eloquent special pleadings for the South Island of New Zealand, encouragement for Malaysia and reassurance concerning Sri Lanka.

This us of the individual voice is not self-indulgent but an intrinsic part of the process that lifts ocean passage planning beyond a scientific exercise into an absorbingly human activity – even for those of us who will probably never leave home waters.

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