Here are seven tips from Skipper Tips about how to plot your next cruise in advance to make it safer and easier. One tip: Plot waypoints around hazards along the way. Read on:
1. Get Ready to Navigate Now!
Make your piloting preparations in advance to save time and effort underway. Complete 90% of navigation plotting in the comfort of your home or apartment. Plot your base sailing courses onto each chart you will use. Highlight dangers, emergency anchorages, and prominent aids to navigation (i.e. lighted aids or those with sound signals).
Plot waypoints at the start and finish of each leg. Add proximity waypoints (illustration above) to mark dangers close to your base track line. Surround each danger with a “circle of safety.” Set the alarm in your GPS to trigger if you sail too close to one of your proximity waypoint dangers.
Study navigation publications such as coast pilots or piloting reference guides to learn all you can about the recommended route, facilities along the way, and anchorage advice. Make notes in the log about hours of operation, fuel availability (and hours available), and whether the facility can perform emergency haul-outs in case you have a shaft or propeller problem.
2. Follow the Real-Time Forecast
Listen to the marine forecast, but realize these are not “real-time overhead right now” predictions. What you observe overhead and around you can be much more accurate. Local winds may shift. Most weather forms to the west. What do you see? Raise your vantage point and scan the intended sailing area. Prepare boat and crew accordingly.
3. Shorten Sailing Legs for Safety.
Plot the shortest legs possible between visible points. Waypoints are fine, but landmarks, buoys, or lights are better. Shorter legs help you to confirm the GPS or chart plotter.
4. Aim for Noisy Navigation Marks.
Lay courses from buoy to buoy if you have a choice. This becomes much more important in areas where haze, fog, or rain squalls prevail. Look for aids that have the word BELL, GONG, WHISTLE, or HORN (in all caps) next to the abbreviation. These are your best friends in low visibility. Read more: