sailing Directions

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Or pilot books, are, as has been observed, as old as sailing. They provide a written description of the navigational information that master and pilot require and pre-date the chart by many centuries. They are an original written source of worldwide information, relating almost entirely to coastal navigation, to supplement the information presented on the chart. The earliest Mediterranean pilot to survive, entitled Lo compasso da navigare, dates from about 1250. The first printed French pilot book was Pierre Garcie's Routier, published in 1483, which accounts for the later English term rutter.

During the reign of Charles II (1660–85) English mariners became acutely aware of the inadequacy of the chartmaking of their coastline and in 1681 Samuel Pepys appointed Captain Greenvile Collins (d. 1694) ‘to make a survey of the sea coast of the Kingdom’. Collins took ten years over the work and prepared 120 plans of harbours and stretches of open coast, 48 of which were engraved and issued in his Great Britain's Coasting Pilot (1693). Sailing Directions as such were first published by the British Hydrographic Department in 1828, and updated versions continue in print to this day. Each volume covers a particular area of coast, such as the Channel Pilot (southern England and northern France), China Sea Pilot, Mediterranean Pilot, etc. The series is completed by the volume Ocean Passages for the World, the only non-coastal pilot.

Mike Richey

Subjects: Maritime History.

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