A Visual Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast|
James L. Bildner
International Marine/McGraw-Hill, 240pp, spiral bound, $39.95
Fanning this fabulous book, it’s hard to appreciate its practicality. Every other page presents a dazzling aerial photograph of a harbor along Maine’s curvaceous coast, giving you the impression that you’ve picked up an art book. Only when you haul your attention away from these images and concentrate on the text and accompanying navigation charts do you fully realize what a gem of a cruising guide you hold in your hands.
A Visual Cruising Guide to the Coast of Maine is unique among guides because aerial photos offer a wholly different viewpoint of the passage you may be attempting on your boat. Author, Jim Bildner is a pilot, a photographer and veteran cruiser of the Maine coast. “I’d already had the pure pleasure of flying up and down the Maine coast of ours for several years. During that time, I realized that flying a few hundred above ‘mast height’ provided a unique vantage point to see approaches and harbors with a perspective not available at deck height,” he says in his introduction.
The book is arranged with a text and chart segment on one page and the aerial photo on the adjoining page. Comparing the two images lying flat in front of you (thanks to the spiral binding) is a mere shift of your eyeballs. The chart is marked to indicate the position of the helicopter and the direction of the shot when the picture was taken. The photo is marked with place names, landmarks and nav aids in relation to the recommended approach to a given harbor (represented by a directional arrow). Sparse text contains pilotage notes—bare bones instruction and the most unique characteristics of the harbor under discussion.
The guide divides the Maine coast into eight regions from west to east: Isles of Shoals to Richmond Island, Casco Bay, Seguin to Port Clyde, Tenants Harbor to Searsport, Matinicus to Castine Harbor, Duck Harbor to Frenchboro, Southwest to Winter Harbors, and Mud Hole to Bucks Harbor. Obviously unable to cover every single nook and cranny, Bildner explains his choice of individual harbors this way, “…we highlight those ports and passages that called the loudest for aerial pictorial treatment. We sought out the hidden entrances, the ledge-strewn approaches, the cluttered or winding channels, the confusing shorelines and the crowded anchorages for which a picture is worth a thousand words.”
As you can imagine, putting the guide together was a delicious and complex pleasure. Bildner and his pilot spent nearly 100 hours in a helicopter capturing the state’s intricate shoreline. His land-side assistant then transcribed the pilotage notes recorded aloft “often muffled by the drone of the rotating blades” and meticulously organized and matched them with the appropriate charts and photos. The guide is thoroughly indexed by place names and the spiral binding is the only way a book like this should be held together.
If there were one criticism it would not be about content or presentation, rather the production end of things. The paper, although glossy, is light weight and therefore highly vulnerable to moisture. I will store my copy in a waterproof bag and hope that subsequent editions will be more sturdy.
As Bildner says, the guide is “intended to augment—not replace—the excellent Maine cruising guides written by Taft, Duncan and others.” Perhaps inadvertantly, this wonderful book is the lovely missing link, connecting the verbal cruising guides and the government’s numerical charts. Bildner winds up his introductory comments with a companiable, “see you out there.” I would add, “And don’t leave your home
port without this Guide.”
Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast
by Taft, Taft and Rindlaub
Cruising Guide to the New England Coast - 12th ed.
by Robt C. & Roger S. Duncan, W. Wallace & Paul W. Fenn