When considering buying either of these excellent books, both written by the doyen of Mediterranean sailing, Rod Heikell, it is important to understand both what they are not – they are not Pilots, or Cruising Companions with detailed sailing instructions for individual ports or havens – and the rather different purposes for which they are intended. Imray’s Handbook is a reference compendium. With the exception of tides and tidal streams, it has about all you need to know to pass the shore-based exam and the first aid and radio requirements for the RYA Yachtmster Offshore ticket.
The detailed sections on yachts and equipment provides virtually all the information a yacht owner is ever likely to need to keep and maintain his boat in the Med, with sections on engine and sail maintenance, winter lay-up and so on which I found genuinely informative, plus really helpful conversion tables and a seven-language nautical dictionary. I would add a rolling hitch to the essential knots page.
The individual country entries vary from two lines (Bosnia-Herzegovina) to Italy and Turkey with 7 pages each. Looking at the Croatian entry, (sea level rises excepted: a two metre rise in Zadar this November flooded the Marina pontoons) the general information, winds, currents, general summary of facilities are all accurate, though I could not find details of ports of entry/immigration regulations which have their complications. The Handbook also has quite detailed distance tables and landfall waypoints, so for passage planning it could be a helpful addition to more detailed pilots. For the seasoned skipper roaming Mediterranean waters it would be invaluable as a ‘one-stop’ ready source of detailed information.
Both books have sections on Mediterranean history, geography, flora and fauna, with Adlard Coles being a concise summary of those in the Handbook which has extensive illustrations and maps. Both have sections on the quirks of Mediterranean cruising, including anchoring and berthing, which is where it becomes clear that Adlard Coles’ target audience is the newcomer to Mediterranean waters, whether skipper or crew, to whom the information is perfectly tailored and excellently illustrated, with one technique – ‘the caique moor’ I had never heard of and which made me blanche! It’s worth reading. Adlard Coles is also focussed on the prospective boat owner or charterer new to Mediterranean waters, with clear, precise details on everything from ‘buying second-hand’ to ’Guns and the non-combatant’. Its sections on navigation, weather and passage planning are concise and highly focussed. For the newcomer – perhaps on the 2013 North Dalmatia Rally – it would be a very useful pre-trip read.