Over the last century, most New England fishermen and merchant sailors have gone to sea with a copy of the Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book on board. It boasts clean lines and uncluttered grids that can easily be read on a rolling vessel, and there’s a hole drilled into the top corner so it can be securely fastened with a nail or hook when the wind is howling.
The iconic yellow nautical book has been in print since 1875 and is still considered essential, even in the GPS age. It requires no batteries and is all about traditional essence: paper diagrams, astronomical data, standard markings, position fixing. Always a family-run, down-home operation, the Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book now is produced by the sixth generation of the Eldridge White family. After apprenticing with her parents, Jenny White Kuliesis, 38, took the reins last year. The Globe spoke with White Kuliesis at her home office in Arlington, where she was surrounded by proofs and pages in various stages of production.
“I grew up with Eldridge Tide and Pilot; it was like a sibling, always in my life — sometimes competing for my parents’ attention, and a fond and proud possession. My mother, who passed away just over a year ago, always seemed to be working on the publication. This year’s edition was the first I did solo. It was a steep learning curve, despite an entire lifetime of growing up with the book.
“My mother left me a big reference book we called ‘The Dummy’ — it looked like a big mess of papers, but when I began to use it, I saw the amazing foresight in it. Every page of the book has a hundred things that need to be edited, proofread, and double checked. We pull information from hundreds of sources. Tide and current data make the bulk of the first half of the book — this is raw data from [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] translated into a readable format. The second half of [the] book has miscellaneous articles, from a grudging appreciation of bluefish, fishing smarter, and even federal pollution regulations. We have a program now that helps translate NOAA info into our framework, but it used to be hand-entered and calculated. And initially, in the 1800s, Eldridge’s founder, cartographer Captain George W. Eldridge, based the tide tables on his own observations.
“I have one of the original copies of the book in a cabinet in my office, away from sunlight and my 2-year-old daughter. It is teal blue and not the yellow that my family so frequently refers to as ‘Eldridge yellow.’ This goldenrod, mustard-y color is sort of awful, but we love it. People say it makes the book easier to find. Also, it’s critical that we use the book and not just produce it, so we go on whatever sea adventures we can enjoy. I have saltwater in my veins.”Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.