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Old 18-09-2010, 10:06   #1
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Best Software / Maps for Bahamas & Best Book ?

Hi there,
We are planning our Bahamas trip and would like to use a laptop for planning our course. (We'll buy a USB-GPS antenna and hook it up to the laptop)

Which (free) software can you recommend for the Bahamas?

Which (free) maps/charts can you recommend for the Bahamas?

Any other tip and comment is more than welcome - so far we have never used any software and we have no clue about it..

While we are under sails, we will use our old Garmin GPSMAP 76. Does anybody know a web page where we can download maps/charts for free/little money for this old device?

Also, we would like to get a new book - we do have the "Bahamas Cruising Guide" (Mathew Wilson) but it's 10 years old... Which book can you recommend?

Thanks for any answer - so far we have only cruised the Keys and navigation wasn't a big deal....we really appreciate any tip.
(I have read a lot of other threads - which was very helpful and made me decide to use a laptop for planning the course.)

from Germany
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Old 18-09-2010, 10:43   #2
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unlike the usa, where there is good free software as well as all of the u.s. government charts (FREE!!!), there is no such equivalent for the bahamas.

i'm afraid you're going to have to spend some money. so before you do, let me recommend the BEST hardcopy charts available for the bahamas - the EXPLORER charts. don't leave home without them. there are three, which basically cover the northern, central, and southern bahamas. they're about fifty or sixty dollars each. they're so good that at least one company that sells digitized charts uses them.

i've cruised the bahamas with only the explorer charts, a couple of cheap handheld gps units, and my compass and depth sounder. that is, in my opinion, the minimum that a cruiser should have in today's cruising environment.

they have a website at where you can peruse or even order the charts, although i can tell you they are so good and so greatly regarded that practically every sailing store has them in stock, including west marine.

in addition to charts they also contain quite a bit of information about each destination, so you may be able to forego buying a cruising guide, or just check the used book stores for a recent copy.

i'm not too crazy about wilson's cruising guide. but any guide is probably better than none. just make sure you use the gps coordinates in the explorer charts and not anyone elses.

or you might get lucky like i did and find a perfectly good explorer chart and a yachtsmans guide in a dumpster at nassau yacht haven....
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Old 18-09-2010, 14:42   #3
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The best charts of the Bahamas, paper or electronic, are The Explorer series. Your Garmin 76 won't accept them and Garmin's charts of the area are.... a bit less than spot on. You might be able to find a year or two old set of Explorer Charts on the web.

As for books I'd suggest the Yachtsman's Guide to the Bahamas. A couple years old would be fine but even in the Bahamas, 10 years is a long time.

90% of the waters in the Bahamas are 4 meters or less and it's a good idea to be in the cockpit, reading the water colors.
Capt. Douglas Abbott
USCG/MCA IV/M.I./C.I. 500-ton Oceans
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