Boaters in first world countries enjoy many amenities that are unavailable elsewhere. One of the most important differences is the lack of official publications describing the waters. While Latin American countries do make their own, high-quality charts, these charts are unavailable to the cruising yachtsman. I, and others I know, have tried to no avail to obtain copies of these charts that are on the walls of government agencies. The cruising yacht is left to work with old US Defense Mapping Agency or British Admirality charts, neither of which were ever accurate. Neither agency has updated their charts in decades either, so the charts are only marginally suitable. This doesn’t stop chart suppliers in English speaking countries from charging top-dollar for fresh printings of this inaccurate data. Electronic charts are based solely on these inaccurate sources, so are of no further assistance.
Boaters will be accustomed to the invaluable descriptions provided by the US Coast Pilots or the Canadian Sailing Directions. In the rest of the world, the US government provides Sailing Directions. This publication is intentionally not to the standard of the guides for domestic waters. Fortunately, Sailing Directions is still being updated, so it is accurate if a bit low on detail at times.
The end result is that the navigator is far more dependent on his cruising guides in Latin American than she is in her home waters. Unfortunately the most popular cruising guides are also riddled with inaccuracies and out of date information, even in their recent editions.
To the rescue comes a new generation of cruising guides, made with GPS, computers, and satellite imagery. We wholeheartedly recommend Sarana‘s two volume guide book Explore Central America! These guides are filled with precise GPS locations plotted on satellite photographs, and depict all of the anchorages in Central America, even the ones that the authors recommend bypassing. We found and greatly enjoyed several anchorages that were listed in this guide but not in the other guides we have for the region. We also easily saved the purchase price of this guide in Diesel fuel alone by making passages with waypoints this guide provided where other guides indicated no passage was possible.
Similarly valuable are the descriptions of facilities available for the cruising yacht. This guide lists all of the facilities, the good and the bad, the inexpensive and the outrageously overpriced. Add shopping information for dozens of coastal towns and advice on handling government bureaucracy. No cruising yacht should be without this helpful guide.
Boats transiting Central America will also want to pay close attention to the free resources at the bottom of Sarana‘s web page.