Please select your home edition
Edition
InSunSport - International - GR

How to Steer Your Cruising Sailboat with Pinpoint Accuracy!

by Captain John Jamieson on 15 Jul 2011
Tricks to make steering less tiring but more accurate .. .
Have you ever noticed how new sailing crew sometimes struggle to 'keep the course' after only two to three minutes at the wheel or tiller? Here John Jamieson (Captain John) shares the following sailing tips, guaranteed to make cruising, especially short-handed cruising, easier, more fun and less tiring:

Imagine driving your car down the highway with your eyes glued to the speedometer...


Apart from being dangerous, that would be a lot of work and cause eye strain and fatigue! Instead of driving like this, you use a natural, built-in 'judgment-meter' to know when to accelerate or decelerate. Once in a while, a quick glance at the speedometer gives you all the input you need to fine tune your progress along your land-course.

Apply this same principal when steering a sailing course. Instead of staring at a steering compass, you can use a simple technique called Pick-a-Point (P.A.P.) steering. This keeps your small cruising boat on a more accurate course, makes watches fun, and creates less eye strain and fatigue.

Follow one of these three methods based on whether you sail in inland waters, along the coast or across an ocean, or during nighttime sailing.

Inland P.A.P. Steering:

1. Steady up onto your compass course with the steering compass.

2. Glance ahead, pick a distant object, and steer on it. Superimpose the object against some fixed part of your small cruising boat (mast, stay, shroud, pulpit, stanchion).

3. Check your steering compass every 30-45 seconds. A quick glance should be enough. Repeat steps 1 and 2 to fine tune your heading.

Coastal or Ocean P.A.P. Steering:

1. Steady up onto your compass course with the steering compass. In seas, average your course above and below the sailing course (see related article link below). This causes less fatigue.

2. Pick a distant irregular land point if steering toward shore. This might be a hump, gap, or peak in a tree line,
group of hills, cliffs, or mountain range.

Line up a fixed object with a cloud at sea. Shift to a new cloud or group of clouds often. If clouds are absent, maintain a constant angle with wind-blown whitecaps, use shroud telltales, or feel the wind on your face. All of these methods help when you are out of sight of land.

3. Check your steering compass every 30-45 seconds. If you average your course, remember that you must keep an eye on your watch for accuracy.

Nighttime P.A.P. Steering:

1. Steady up on your compass course, or use the course averaging method described in the related article link below.

2. Pick a star high up off of the horizon. Select a celestial body near the top of its arc. These stars move slower than those closer to your horizon. The exceptions are stars near the equator; they rise and set in a vertical motion. Place the star along your boat's mast, stay or shroud.

3. Check your compass every 30 to 45 seconds. Take care not to get lulled into following a star across the ocean! Keep away from planets (they look like steady lights without the 'twinkle' that stars have). Planets move much too fast across the sky for steering accuracy.

..............................

As a sailing skipper, always be on the lookout for new ways to make your sailing crew's life easier. Add pick-a-point steering to your sailboat cruising chest of knowledge to save energy and reduce eye-strain fatigue.

Captain John teaches sailing skippers the specific sailing skills they need for safer cruising at www.skippertips.com. Members receive instant access to 400+ sailing articles, sailing video tutorials, live discussion forums, sailing topic ebooks, and much more.
upffront 660x82Bakewell-White Yacht DesignZhik Isotak Ocean 660x82

Related Articles

Rio 2016 - America's Cup champ says Paralympic racing is closest ever
Twice America’s Cup champion, Rick Dodson is extremely impressed with the standard of racing in the three man Sonar Twice America’s Cup champion, Rick Dodson is extremely impressed with the standard of racing in the three man Sonar keelboat class at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. The regatta is being held in Guanabara Bay on three of the courses used for the Olympic Sailing Regatta in August.
Posted on 13 Sep
Debriefing the Rio 2016 Olympics with Team USA’s Helena Scutt
I talked with Team USA’s Helena Scutt to hear about her Olympic experience, and to learn more about her post-Rio plans. The 49erFX was introduced to Olympic circles when it replaced the Women’s Match Racing event following the 2012 Games. Not surprisingly, it drew high-performance sailors for the Rio 2016 Olympics, including Team USA’s Paris Henken and Helena Scutt. While Henken and Scutt were Olympic first-timers, they put on a strong show. I caught up with Scutt to hear more about her Olympic experience.
Posted on 8 Sep
A Q&A with Peter Bresnan ONE Palma’s founder and director
Sail-World interviewed ONE Palma’s founder Peter Bresnan to learn about the company’s partnership with McConaghy Boats For the past eight years, ONE Palma (formerly OneSails Spain) has been building a strong name, first as a sailmaker and later with refit work. Recently, ONE Palma and McConaghy Boats-legendary boatbuilders who have crafted some of the planet’s fastest sailboats-entered a business partnership. I caught up with Peter Bresnan, ONE Palma’s founder and director, to learn more about this new direction.
Posted on 2 Sep
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ train late on the Waitemata Harbour
Emirates Team NZ were out for a training session that ran into the early Thursday evening. Emirates Team NZ were out for a training session that ran into the early Thursday evening. The team were sailing their recently launched AC45 Surrogate test boat which features an articulated rudder gantry - taking the AC45 close to the geometry of the AC50 to be used in the 2017 America's Cup.
Posted on 1 Sep
Dateline Rio - Sailing Olympics review - as good as it gets?
The Rio Sailing Olympics was widely judged to have been the best of recent times. The Rio Sailing Olympics was widely judged to have been the best of recent times. The weather was better than Weymouth and Qingdao, the courses more varied, but from a working media perspective, it was the people running the Rio regatta who really made the difference.
Posted on 26 Aug
Rio 2016 - Plain speaking by triple-medalist on Olympic sailing moves
Triple Olympic medalist, Santiago Lange has been on the sharp end of changes made to Olympic classes and formats Santiago Lange, a six-time Olympian and Bronze medallist in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, won his third medal – Gold sailing in the Nacra 17 class. With that length of experience at an Olympic level, having sailed the Laser, Tornado and now Nacra 17 classes his comments on the future shape of the Olympic regatta was one of the highlights of the Medallists Media Conferences.
Posted on 25 Aug
An Q&A with Steve and Heidi Benjamin about the NYYC’s 2016 Queen’s Cup
Sail-World caught up with Steve and Heidi Benjamin to learn more about Heidi’s historic win in the NYYC’s Queen’s Cup. When it comes to U.S. Grand Prix sailing, it’s hard not to encounter the names of Steve and Heidi Benjamin. The two highly polished sailors have been successfully campaigning their series of yachts, named SPOOKIE, for years, starting first with a Carkeek 40 and progressing to their TP52. I caught up with Steve and Heidi to learn more about Heidi’s historic win in the NYYC’s Queen’s Cup
Posted on 19 Aug
Rio 2016 - Images of the penultimate race in the Finns - Scott wins
Sail-World's Richard Gladwell was on the water for the final race of the Qualifying Series of the Mens Finn Sail-World's Richard Gladwell was on the water for the final race of the Qualifying Series of the Mens Finn, in what potentially could have been Giles Scott's (GBR) Gold medal winning race. In the end, the current world champion won in style.
Posted on 15 Aug
Rio 2016 - Images from the Mens RS:X Medal Race
Sail-World's NZ Editor, Richard Gladwell, was on the water at the Medal Race for the RS:X class Sail-World's NZ Editor, Richard Gladwell, was on the water at the Medal Race for the RS:X class won before the race by Dorian van Rijsselberghe (NED) without needing points from the Medal Race. Nick Dempsey (GBR) was second on a similar basis.
Posted on 15 Aug
Rio 2016 - Sailors talk of Life at the Extreme on the Atlantic Ocean
Certainly the Volvo Ocean Race catchcry of Life at the Extreme is not a phrase associated with the Sailing Olympics. The 470 crews were suffering the mixed emotions of survival of an extreme test by nature, the cold, and for some elation at their placings, after Thursday's battle for survival. In conditions that looked more out of the Volvo Ocean Race, than an Olympic sailing regatta, crews battled 20kt plus winds and Atlantic Ocean rollers that towered up to four metres.
Posted on 13 Aug