Sailing navigation begins with the process of interpreting what you see and how that will affect your sailing boat and her crew now and in the future. You will keep sailing safer when you make most of your navigation preparations dockside before you cast off that first line.
Cruising beneath a beautiful sky
Grab a set of colored pencils or highlighters and mark or highlight your chart in the following seven ways for safer, easier navigation:
1. Mark Shoals and Set the Alarm.
Use a dark blue pencil to mark any shoal within one to two miles of your sailing tracks. Set your depth sounder alarm to trigger when you sail within a mile or so of any of these shoals. This will give you more time to change course toward deeper water for sailing safety.
2. Look for Ranges (Transits) for 'Bulls-eye' navigation.
Use ranges (also called 'transits')--two objects that line up with one another--to keep in the center of a channel. Look on your nautical chart and see if you can find two charted objects that line up with the channel. Ranges (transits) make sailing easier and safer no matter where you sail!
3. Scan for Wrecks that could cause you harm.
Use your magenta or crimson colored pencil to mark wrecks that you will pass close to as you sail along your sailing track. Realize that wrecks can shift position after storms or in strong currents. So, that charted position may or may not be accurate on an older uncorrected chart. Keep a safe distance away to avoid damage to hull, keel, rudder, propeller or propeller shaft.
4. Circle emergency anchorages to stand out.
Use green colored pencil to draw an anchor symbol surrounded by a circle, marking emergency anchorages. If you lose engine power in a narrow channel or you need to 'pull off the road' when sailing along the coast, an emergency anchorage that's already marked and highlighted provides a super fast sailing solution day or night.
5. Darken latitude and longitude scales to ease eye-strain.
Do you find the Latitude and Longitude scales difficult to read in low light conditions? Use a fine tip laundry marking pen (waterproof) to darken the scales on the right, left, top, and bottom of your nautical chart. Now those scales will stand out to make plotting and orientation easier on the eyes.
6. Make a customized distance scale for faster plotting.
Make your own distance scales for each of the most common chart scales you use aboard (for example 1:80,000; 1:60,000; 1:40,000). Cut out a slim, rectangular shaped piece of heavy poster-board about nine to twelve inches long by one inch wide. Draw a vertical or horizontal line and mark off miles and tenths. Use your laundry marker to make it stand out. Label the top with the applicable chart scale (i.e. 1:80,000). Tape over the scale to protect it. Now you have a portable, easy to use chart scale to make plotting faster.
7. Form a 'Box of Protection' around your sailing courses.
Imagine that your sailing track lies inside a four sided rectangular shaped structure. Each side lies about two to three miles away from any point of the sailing track. Now, scan out to that distance from each side of this virtual 'box of safety'. Do you see any rocks, wrecks, obstructions? How about notes that warn you of breakers or rip currents? Highlight any features that will help keep your small sailboat and sailing crew safe and sound.
Use these seven sailing tips for safer sailing navigation on the waters of the world. Pass them along to your sailing crew or partner--wherever in the world you choose to cruise!
John Jamieson (Captain John) with 25+ years of experience shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need for safer sailing worldwide. Visit his website at www.skippertips.com. Sign up for the Free, highly popular weekly 'Captain John's Sailing Tip-of-the-Week'. Discover how you can gain instant access to hundreds of sailing articles, videos, and e-Books!