This very straightforward guide incorporates reduced-scale NOAA charts, brief navigation descriptions and aerial photographs to provide clear instructions on how to enter or leave several dozen Maine harbors. It’s readable and straightforward, with the spiral binding that cruising sailors always yearn for as they struggle with their books and charts at the tiller, wheel or sloping chart table.

That’s what it is; as the author, James L. Bildner, states at the start, it’s NOT intended to replace the other guides a well-prepared Maine sailor should have aboard: Taft-Rindlaub for its detail about many aspects of the Maine coast, and of course one of the many editions of Duncan and Ware’s Cruising Guide to the New England Coast for its historical sweep, geographic breadth and literary quality. You won’t get the story of the Harvard president’s sporty (“long spars for a parson”) boat crossing Petit Manan Bar; you will get full instructions for how to safely enter the Cows Yard, Mistake Island harbor or Mud Hole. The selection of harbors is limited, presumably reflecting the author’s personal taste.

The aerial photos are what make this book so good. Somehow Bildner and his collaborators, Roger Brul and Abby Crocker, managed to find a sufficient number of clear days to photograph all of the harbors covered here. Many of the images were taken under conditions that even allow the reader to see the underwater obstructions – something more common in Caribbean cruising guides than their counterparts here in Maine.

Another step forward is the integration of photos with charts. The chart of the Royal River (leading to Yarmouth), for example, has a prominent red “#1” at its center; it refers to an aerial photo on the opposite page, giving the viewer’s perspective as one looks up the river from Casco Bay to Yarmouth. Having searched around for the Royal River’s small entrance buoys more than once while worrying about the shallows lurking on either side, I can attest to the value of the paired chart and image. You’ll find this sort of integration in the better guides to the Intracoastal Waterway, but it’s seldom seen in Maine guidebooks.

I wish Bildner had covered more of the coast. He hasn’t gone particularly far up the Kennebec, Damariscotta or Penobscot Rivers, for example, and Petit Manan with its bar, a challenging fixture of earlier books, isn’t mentioned, perhaps because it’s a place to get past rather than a harbor to enter. And speaking of hazards, the short write-up, chart and elegant photo of Seguin Island, at the mouth of the Kennebec, speaks of “some protection and courtesy moorings” in Seguin’s little cove, but doesn’t mention the treacherous swell there.

Overall, however, this book is a major – and welcome – addition to the growing shelf of cruising information for mariners along the Maine coast.

David D. Platt is editor of Working Waterfront