New guide to tropical voyaging

Tropical Cruising Handbook

By Mark Smaalders and Kim des Rochers

Voyaging in the world’s tropical climes is what fuels the dreams of would-be cruisers everywhere: the sun, balmy tradewinds, clear blue water, unlimited snorkeling and diving. Who can resist?

Yet the tropics are also harbingers of some of the nastiest of nature’s habits: hurricanes, poisonous snakes and disease. How does one navigate the mass of information and begin a safe and enjoyable adventure? Smaalders and des Rochers, longtime contributors to these pages from their far-flung destinations, voyage the world on their 35-foot wooden sloop Nomad. Their book includes a discussion on selecting a boat — they admit in the process that their boat is less than perfect for the tropics — seamanship skills necessary in the tropics, financing such a voyage, relevant marine science considerations like fishing and dangerous wildlife, and a lucid chapter on the politics of traveling remote regions by sailboat. Tread lightly, they caution, for the tropics are not simply ours for the taking.

What strikes me most about Tropical Cruising Handbook is not so much the vast and hard-earned knowledge that informs every page, impressive as it is, but the smart, straightforward writing. This book clearly demonstrates that sensible, safe voyaging in the tropics is an achievable goal.

International Marine/McGraw Hill, Camden, Maine; 320 pages; $34.95.

By Ocean Navigator