Author advises cruisers when, where to drop anchor

By Dorothy Rice Bennett

Special to The Log

     Cruisers plying the waters between Southern California and Panama have a new guide to anchorages by J.A. Rogers, called Cove Hopping South to Panama.

     Rogers, with 20 years of cruising to his credit, has set up shop in Puerto Rico, publishing books, newsletters, and guides for fellow sailors.

     Cove Hopping South to Panama is refreshingly readable. Instead of attempting to cover everything, Rogers has focused his attention on anchorages. He provides a thumbnail sketch of the history and current situation in each anchorage and provides details on currents, winds, seasonal variations, sand conditions for anchoring, moorings or docks where available, services to be found locally, tips on dealing with the residents of the area and any paperwork or local politics involved.

     The spiral-bound guidebook opens with Santa Cruz Island off Santa Barbara, and includes Scorpion Anchorage and Smugglers' Cove. Rogers writes that Santa Cruz, the largest and highest of California's offshore island, "has somehow managed to escape from the designs of most developers of the years and remains much in the same state it was when Europeans first set eyes on it."

     Including a simplified, but clear, chart -- with reference to the appropriate NOAA navigational chart -- Rogers details the anchoring needs in kelp beds, outlines the locations for skin and SCUBA diving, and explains the permissions required for exploring the island. In a brief narrative, Rogers covers the really important details a cruiser would need to know.

     From Santa Cruz, Rogers moves on to Catalina, detailing several anchorages, and then highlights San Diego's Shelter Island before heading to Mexican waters.

     The author details some 19 anchorages in Mexico and then covers another nine in Costa Rica, before touching 10 anchorages on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides of the Panama Canal as well as the canal transit itself.

     Cove Hopping South to Panama has many positives. Well written and filled with colorful, interesting detail, its charts are simplified and easy to grasp and are augmented with fold-out details from specific navigational charts where appropriate. The volume's spiral binding makes it a handy reference tool which will lie open when the cruiser needs it to do so.

     There are a few handicaps, which all guidebooks share: information, such as names and phone numbers, become obsolete almost before the book can go to press. This seems a small bone to pick, however, because Rogers shows a real concern for updating. In addition to his books for cruisers, the author publishes a newsletter, which provides current data on weather conditions, liveaboard tips, and communications in cruising areas.

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