Skipper’s Tips #9 – Passage Making

Plotter picture

 

As you might imagine, I have made a few passages in my time on the water and in some ways I’m ashamed to say that I put an increasing reliance on electronic navigation.  Conventional wisdom has always been to use tried and trusted, traditional methods of navigation, i.e. paper charts. However, conventional wisdom is having to adapt to the march of technology and therefore, change is becoming inevitable.  We are all gradually being encouraged to take advantage of these advancements in navigation and in fairness, they do make life easier and importantly also improve safety levels, especially when passage making in unfamiliar or busy waters.  That said, if we are to get the best from our equipment, we must still be able to navigate ‘longhand’.  Planning your route on paper charts, showing the whole crew where you are going and keeping your position marked on the chart as the journey progresses, is by far the safest way to go.

Personally, I like to plan my passages one or two days in advance; this has two distinct advantages.  Firstly, of course, you will have the most up-to-date and accurate weather information.  Secondly, by planning your journey at home, in the comfort of your living room, you will be more relaxed and less likely to make silly errors.

So, lets think of some bullet points to remember:

  • Plan your routes on paper charts before putting the waypoints into your electronic plotter
  • Check arrival time constraints and work backwards to establish departure time
  • Weather forecasts are most accurate within 24 hours of departure
  • You might consider the following weather sites Windguru and The Met Office  as possible sources of weather information
  • Allow for the fact that weather constraints may affect your speed and therefore your arrival time.
  • Make sure you have planned ‘bolt holes’ that are protected from the weather
  • Check your boat is fully operational and capable of making the journey
  • Think about your crew; your decision to ‘go for it’ should be based on whether the weakest member of your crew will cope with the journey
  • Check that you run with wind and tide going the same way; ‘wind over tide, lunch over the side’ (motor yachts) and with the tide (sailing yachts)
  • Use the tidal chartlets in your Almanac to help with time, distance and tide direction planning for an overview of the whole passage

When planning a long distance cruise, you will get a better overall picture of your route by planning the passage on a paper chart; there is less likelihood that you will miss something this way.  Once you have your route planned you can transfer the waypoints to your chart plotter and check the resulting route once again for errors.  This system of double-checking will help prevent mishaps and silly errors.

If you don’t consider your crew and the prevailing weather, you could end up short-handed, slowing down because of worsening weather, with the prospect of arriving in the dark.  There is no good reason to set off into bad weather and put people’s lives at risk.  If you have to get home, leave the boat in the marina and take the ferry.

Your boat must be fit to make the journey.  Check all your safety equipment; when was your life-raft last serviced?  Fill the boat with fuel and water.  Make sure you have enough food on board for at least two extra days. 

 

In the SOLAS (Safety of Lives at Sea) regulations, Regulation 34 states that it is mandatory for all ships to create a plan before going to see.  This is not something you can ignore. How detailed your plan is, is up to you as the skipper and is often determined by the size of vessel, the number of passengers and the length of the intended trip.

I strongly advise that you read and inwardly digest this information (click on the link below) and also have a look at the accompanying links, so that you are fully conversant with your obligations as a skipper.

SOLAS Regulation 34

P.S. Your Almanac has a section devoted to safety and things like the Distress Signals are listed there…

Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.