What Are the U.S. Coast Pilots?

The United States Coast Pilot series consists of 10 volumes of nautical books detailing vital information required for navigating waterways. The books cover The Great Lakes, intracoastal waterways, and coastal waters of the United States. They are written as aids for ship captains, navigators, and mariners.

The U.S. Coast Pilots contain valuable information that is difficult to include on a nautical chart. They are intended as supplemental material to use in addition to nautical charts, since these charts have limitations when it comes to showing various symbols and abbreviations to designate critical information regarding waterways, winds, and port facilities. U.S. Coast Pilot nautical books are instrumental in both the planning stage of an efficient voyage and for transiting an area safely.

This 10-volume set is distributed by the Office of Coast Survey, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service. Each book includes the local navigation regulations and operational considerations of the area in question. The contents are broken down into chapters to follow the main geographical regions and their highlights. Following this information is the Appendix with additional safety information and regulations.

Information for the series is compiled from various harbor authorities, survey vessels, maritime officials, and field inspections. You can rely on the US Coast Pilots to provide the latest information as they are updated regularly.

What Is the History of U.S. Coast Pilots?

The U.S. Coast Pilot series is one of the longest published book series in the United States. It was first published over 200 years ago under the name American Coast Pilot by author Edmund March Blunt in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1796. His efforts were the first set of nautical directions about the American coastlines published in the country it described. Before Blunt began his series, charts and piloting books detailing the coast of North America and its waters were published in English, with the earliest in 1671.

Other publications began to arise to provide critical information to sailors. One of the first was from The U.S. Coast Survey’s Directory for the Pacific Coast of the United States in 1858. This was the first time The Coast Survey came out with an official publication instead of delivering its information through newspaper articles. Next, was Notes on the Coast of the United States in 1861. This was a secret document used during the Civil War by the Union Blockade Board. It included additional details about the significance of strategic locations, instead of strictly navigational information. These volumes were handwritten to prevent them from falling into the hands of Confederate sympathizers who may have had access to them if produced at a printing press.

Meanwhile, Blunt’s publication continued to print updated editions. His son, Edmund E. Blunt, began working for the United States Coast Survey in 1833. A relationship between the family and Blunt’s new employer began, with The United States Coast Survey supplying hydrographic survey information to the family to use in their American Coast Pilot Publications. The Blunt family also sold charts created by the Survey.  

In 1867, the copyright for Blunt’s American Coast Pilot was purchased by the United States government under the United States Coast Survey. At this time, American Coast Pilot was on its 21st edition. The name changed several times until 1888 when United States Coast Pilot was used for volumes about the East Coast and Gulf Coast. It took an additional 30 years before the publication name included volumes about the West Coast and Alaska. The Coast Survey became the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1878. Over time, it merged with government agencies until it became officially known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1970. Today, the books are published by NOAA’s Nation Ocean Service through The Office of Coast Survey.

The U.S. Coast Pilot navigational book series has become the primary resource for navigators in the United States. The crucial sailing directions and facts about U.S. coastal waters have been instrumental in keeping mariners safe on the water for hundreds of years.

What Do the Coast Pilot Contents Include?

Each book in the U.S. Coast Pilots series covers a different coastal area. Each has standard information regarding safety and government regulations as well as region-specific data. Some of the main topics covered in the nautical books include:

  • Pilotage
  • Currents
  • Information on tides and water levels
  • Traffic patterns 
  • Weather conditions
  • Federal regulations
  • Bridge and cable clearances
  • Area dangers
  • Descriptions of channels and wharfs
  • Ice conditions
  • Features of the waterway
  • Routes
  • Small-craft facilities
  • Towage

The information contained in these volumes is not limited to the topics above. Any pertinent details gathered from multiple sources are included, and every volume is updated on a regular basis using the weekly Notice to Mariners.

Over time, the volumes began to include more details and helpful information. Today, they contain the U.S. Coast Guard International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea, and the Inland Navigation Rules, which are also referred to as the “Rules of the Road.” The inclusion of this material promotes further navigational safety by providing crucial information for avoiding collisions. Another relatively new addition is the USCG regulations included in the Appendix of each volume. The tables that once made up this section were moved to the relevant chapter on each geographic area. Readers can also find The Tips for Boating Clean and Green in the first chapter of each book.

The United States Coast Pilot volumes undergo continuous updates, with new versions available all the time. These changes came about through collaborative efforts to improve the content to include every modernization and update, with the goal to provide the best source of information for knowledge and safety. They are available for purchase or download in PDF form. Check out the latest editions to get access to the most current navigational information.

About Coast Pilot 1

U.S. Coast Pilot 1 covers the Atlantic Coast from Eastport, Maine to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The major ports discussed include Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Boston, Massachusetts.

About Coast Pilot 2

U.S. Coast Pilot 2 follows the Atlantic Coast from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

About Coast Pilot 3

U.S. Coast Pilot 3 details the Atlantic Coast from Sandy Hook, New Jersey to Cape Henry, Virginia, and includes the Philadelphia area and the Chesapeake Bay.

About Coast Pilot 4

U.S. Coast Pilot 4 covers the Atlantic Coast starting at Cape Henry, Virginia to Key West, Florida.

About Coast Pilot 5

U.S. Coast Pilot 5 contains nautical information on the Gulf of Mexico from Key West, Florida to the Rio Grande, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

About Coast Pilot 6

U.S. Coast Pilot 6 includes the Great Lakes of Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior, along with their connecting waterways and the St. Lawrence River.

About Coast Pilot 7

U.S. Coast Pilot 7 covers the coast of California.

About Coast Pilot 8

U.S. Coast Pilot 8 contains nautical information for Alaska, spanning from the Dixon Entrance to Cape Spencer.

About Coast Pilot 9

U.S. Coast Pilot 9 includes the Pacific and Arctic coasts of Alaska from Cape Spencer to the Beaufort Sea.

About Coast Pilot 10

The U.S. Coast Pilot series originally consisted of nine volumes, until the information contained in Volume 9 became too much and it was split into two separate books. Now, U.S. Coast Pilot 10 begins at the Pacific Coast along Oregon and Washington, up to the Canadian border. It also includes the coastlines of the Hawaiian Islands and other island territories of the United States in the South Pacific.

Where to Purchase the USCG Coast Pilot Series

This USCG Coast Pilot series of books providing sailing directions is crucial for navigators, mariners, captains, and anyone else who wants to have access to the latest resources to stay informed and stay safe on their journey. The information the books hold can’t be displayed on standard nautical charts and is otherwise difficult to find from other sources as a whole. Using the U.S. Coast Pilot books saves you time from scouring various resources to compile the same depth of knowledge these books contain in one convenient place. They hold a wealth of vital information, including Federal regulations that apply to navigation.

American Nautical Services has been dedicated to providing the information required for safe navigation since it began back in 1977. We specialize in e-Navigation software, feature expert marine surveying services, and have a wide range of popular nautical publications including the essential U.S. Coast Pilots. Our bilingual staff is friendly and eager to help serve you. Contact us with any questions and experience our personalized customer service or shop online at American Nautical Services to order the latest edition of U.S. Coast Pilots today.