In business for 13 years, Bluewater Books & Charts is the largest nautical bookstore and chart dealer in North America, shipping 50 to 100 packages a day to ports around the globe. A sampling of its wares includes the paperback Voyaging on a Small Income, the coffee-table tome The Superyachts, waterproof logbooks, navigation software, Florida Keys guidebooks, and charts of the Caspian Sea. Just as informative is the store's staff, which consists of a retired naval commander, a circumnavigator, and a passel of pier residents. Whatever your destination, chances are a Bluewater employee has been there -- or at least can pass along an anecdote from his or her loyal network of seafaring customers. Though mail orders account for more than a third of its sales, the shop is still a hub -- or, as owner Milt Baker describes it, "a happening." Baker cites a typical Bluewater encounter: In walked a man who was about to set sail for Venezuela. A woman browsing among the books announced that she lived in Caracas and took her boat to nearby islands almost every weekend. She told the man about her favorite passages, and he left the store with the kind of information even the most comprehensive of cruising guides can't provide.
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