TrawlerFest University Presents Comprehensive 'Bahamas & Beyond' Seminar

For the past 20 years, Monty and Sara Lewis, they have been supplying fellow cruisers with essential intelligence about the Bahamas gathered aboard their 1978 Mainship 34 Saranade.
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For the past 20 years, Monty and Sara Lewis, they have been supplying fellow cruisers with essential intelligence about the Bahamas gathered aboard their 1978 Mainship 34 Saranade.

For the past 20 years, Monty and Sara Lewis have been supplying fellow cruisers with essential intelligence about the Bahamas gathered aboard their 1978 Mainship 34 Saranade. That’s why we asked the Lewises to partner with us in Baltimore to present the all-day TrawlerFest University seminar Bahamas & Beyond.

Co-presenting will be Catherine Hebson, Mark Mitchell and myself. The seminar will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 24, at the Harborview Marine Center.

Anyone who has ever been to the Bahamas knows how popular the archipelago is with Chesapeake Bay cruisers. That’s why we’ve chosen TrawlerFest-Baltimore to offer the best expertise available to brief you and answer questions.

Hebson, an analyst by training, will discuss down-island security and resources to keep cruisers informed about crime trends. Mitchell, a hard-charging delivery skipper, and I will give our advice for going beyond the Bahamas to the Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles. I will also give a quick talk about the potential for a Bahamas-Cuba Loop, once the travel ban has been lifted.

The afternoon will end with all of us on a panel answering audience questions. At some point we will retire to the Tipsy Seagull, TrawlerFest’s own tavern, to swap stories and enjoy cold Kaliks and Bahamian cocktails such as the Goombay Smash.

EXPLORER CHARTS (Click here to learn more about the Lewises and Explorer Charts)

The Lewises publish three tabloid-size books with Bahamas charts and essential guide information for sailors and trawler people. Along the way, the books became so successful (with nearly 100,000 sold to date) that Jeppessen incorporated the Lewis soundings data into its C-Map electronic charts and has licensed that data for PC charting software by MaxSea and Nobeltec. Garmin, too, bought in to Explorer data for its electronic charts. In fact, among the big players only Navionics does not use Explorer material and, for a time, was conducting its own surveys so it too could offer electronic charts based on something other than decades-old information.

Monty Lewis, a retired Maryland State Police sergeant, says he and Sara began their chart work in 1994 with the Exuma Cays. Until then cruisers were making the annual trek to George Town on Great Exuma with charts that had not been updated in decades, even centuries.

The Lewises will begin the seminar with a talk about preparing yourselves and your boat for the Bahamas, then segue to a presentation about Bahamian destinations and cruising strategies.


Hebson cruised the Caribbean with her late husband and has plans to return once her son fulfills his military service. She is the director of Free Cruising Guides, which publishes the annual Caribbean Security Index, an online resource for cruisers.

To get its ratings, Hebson’s system combines crime reports with analysis of underlying cultural, political and economic factors. Her methods resemble the analytical practices of government intelligence agencies. Each locale is rated for security at marinas and security at anchor on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the safest.


Mitchell lives aboard a Grand Banks 50 with his wife Thelma, and daughter Cheyenne. Over the past 30 years, he has logged more than 50,000 hours and 500,000 miles.

Cruising grounds and destinations include: US East Coast, Maine to Key West; Florida’s west coast; Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans and Galveston, Texas; Mississippi and Tenn Tom Waterways; Great Lakes; Erie and Oswego canals; New England and Chesapeake Bay extensively; Intracoastal Waterway, more than 300 trips; Bahamas countless times; Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean repeatedly, as well as Hispaniola.


As for myself, my past is checkered. I’ve lived aboard in the Bahamas for a cumulative total of about a year, and in the Dominican Republic for two. I’ve sailed the North Atlantic from Nova Scotia to the Virgin Islands and have more than 15,000 nautical miles in trawlers, most of that offshore.

Along the way to my current position as PassageMaker’s editor-in-chief, I worked as a catamaran captain, diesel mechanic, delivery skipper and freelance writer.

I managed to win a few writing awards and became a Cuba aficionado, traveling there several times to get a sense of its post-Embargo cruising potential. (In a word: enormous.) I’ve even managed to get myself certified as a basic electronics installer. I had worked as a reporter and editor for New England newspapers for 20 years before setting a course to the islands on my 30-foot sailboat.