Review: Cruising the Coral Coast

Cruising the Coral Coast by Alan LucasAnybody who has had the pleasure of cruising the east coast of Australia would be aware of Alan Lucas and his untiring efforts to produce informed, accurate cruising guides. First written in 1964, and now in its ninth edition, Lucas’ first Queensland guide embraced what was then known as the Coral Coast: the region between Gladstone and Torres Strait.

Since 1973 however the book has been expanded to include the entire east Queensland coast. Lucas carries out all survey work from his own vessel with partner Patricia. Initially surveying the eighth edition on their 9m ketch Renee Tighe in 1997, plans to build a new vessel postponed the much-anticipated revised current ninth edition. It was worth the wait.

Falling just shy of 400 pages Cruising the Coral Coast is almost bigger than Texas. Fully updated with more than 50 new detailed charts, 30-odd Landmark photos plus an overview of the Coral Sea, this is an impressive guide. Unmatched by anything else on the market, Coral Coast is the ‘bible’ for anyone venturing into Queensland waters.

For those heading beyond the usual coastal cruising route that terminates at Lizard Island, there are comprehensive notes on Torres Strait, the Gulf of Carpentaria, Gove to Darwin as well as the Coral Sea crossing between PNG and Darwin.

Cruising the Coral Coast comprehensively covers the main cruising routes in detail with text, maps and photos. But Lucas also includes interesting facts, historical information and a few thoughts of his own along the way. Known fondly amongst the cruising fraternity as ‘uncle Alan’ for his wealth of knowledge and sensible conservative advice, he has a dedicated following. Deservedly so, as he has seemingly spent a lifetime exploring the waters he discusses. Naturally, safe navigation relies on the Skippers calculations and observations, though cruisers who consider Lucas’ advice when approaching an anchorage are unlikely to find themselves in trouble.

Terrific detail is included in individual large-scale anchorage maps, as well as many overview maps which delineate the coastline up into eight logical Coastal Notes sections. Though the dark green colours of the maps initially take some getting used to, one can only assume this colour was chosen to provide good contrast between sea and land. As with any sensible cruising guide layout, it is chronicled in a logical route, in this case from south to north. It is natural some passage makers will travel in the reverse direction, making it slightly confusing working from the back of the book to the front. But it’s a minute inconvenience that is unavoidable, and more than compensated for in tough binding and an easy to read layout.

Lucas’ attention to detail is to be admired. The guide is well indexed ensuring an easy process to find desired information readily. It’s worth buying the Coral Coast for the General Information chapter alone which covers currents, tides and weather along with the Gt Barrier Reef and its potential hazards.

Consideration is often given to alternative anchorages, such as when the predominant SE trades change to a northerly aspect. Some of his terminology causes much mirth when read from the luxury of a calm anchorage. In describing one ‘last resort’ anchorage as abominable, Lucas is usually on the money: mariners can expect a rough night at anchor.

What I like most about Cruising the Coral Coast are the simply drawn yet detailed maps. Topography, high water marks, exposed reef, navigational marks and depths are all there. Almost as follow me symbol, dotted lines show recommended routes through hazards towards recommended anchorages.  I’d trust Lucas’ maps over a GPS any day. He’s been there, likely in his dinghy countless times, taking notes, drawing diagrams, assessing hazards and reporting back in this guide. Bound for Queensland? Don’t leave home without it.

Verdict: Highly recommended

Purchase from: Boat Books or any good marine book store