Cruising the predominantly uninhabited, often-inhospitable Northern Territory coast is not for faint-hearted sailors. Indeed, the Top End can be a dangerous place for mariners, particularly the unwary, the unprepared, or simply the foolish. Throw in an enormous tidal range, the intimidating wildlife with an unpredictable monsoon season and self-preservation becomes a necessity, not a luxury. Which makes the updated and reprinted edition of John Knights guide an extremely welcome addition to any cruising vessels library. Frustratingly though for a cruising guide, the indexing system can make casual browsing confusing, while the maps could benefit from more detail.
First published in 1986, but out of print for many years, the only way previously to obtain the wealth of information contained therein was to harass your local librarian to source a well-thumbed copy from some obscure branch. Though in recent times the publication was considered archaic in these days of GPS navigation, it has always been an important reference tool simply because the coastal geography of the Top End has changed so little in the ensuing years. Indeed, the Northern Territory suffers from detailed hydrographic surveys with some charts yet to be completely updated to reflect modern navigation. According to Knight, new metric charts of Port Essington still rely on depths measured in 1848. The southern Gulf of Carpentaria chart shows the master chart maker Matthew Finder’s soundings, noted as he tacked westward on HMS Investigator in the early 1800’s.
Consider that there has never been a publication to rival the detail contained in this guide, and John Knight could be considered the guru to the Northern Territory cruising fraternity. Knights’ expertise is in the detail with comprehensive information on channel marks and beacon locations. The guide is meticulously researched, and contains fascinating accounts of early coastal exploration. But perhaps the most valuable pages are those that discuss climate and tidal streams unique to the region, particularly the Tidal Atlas. This is an invaluable tool for understanding, and navigating through, the complex tidal systems created by the Territory’s position on the northeast fringe of the Indian Ocean Basin.
Disappointingly for a guide book that can expect to absorb some rough treatment in a sea going vessel, the book lets itself down by it’s inadequate binding, which hopefully will be resolved by the publisher.
For sailors accustomed to the facilities offered in and around the populated southern regions, cruising to far-flung regions can be daunting. But for the courageous, conservative sailors who accept the challenge, the rewards are many. With a copy of this guide in your onboard library, the challenges will appear far less daunting.
Verdict: Highly Recommended