Plan to Arrive Early
If you slow down and are not going to arrive early enough,
it’s time to start the engine. Don’t wait until it’s too late to
make up for lost progress. Your priority should be to
approach an anchorage safely in daylight rather than sailing
into the late afternoon or evening hours with the last breath
of wind. This is especially important when anchoring in an
unfamiliar area or having to secure a mooring buoy where
only a few moorings are available. At the chart briefing learn
about locations where arriving early is important.
Maintain Situational (and Positional) Awareness
This means not only knowing what is going on at the
moment, but being aware of what is about to happen.
Is leeway or adverse current taking your boat toward a
Is the bearing to another boat in the distance holding steady
indicating the likelihood of a collision course?
Is reduced speed going to cause you to arrive at your
destination too late to enter the anchorage safely?
Is there a squall rapidly approaching your position?
Is that entire fleet of racing sailboats heading your way?
Are there fish trap buoys in your path?Be aware of what’s
going on around you right now and what the situation is
going to be in the next 5 to 10 minutes or even more. Keep
your mind ahead of the boat in both time and space so no
adverse circumstances can sneak up on you and take you
by surprise. Remember the old adage: “An excellent sailor
is one who uses his expert judgment to avoid situations that
require him to use his expert skill”.
Never Trust Just One Source of Navigational
This is doubly important when dealing with information from
electronic devices, even very good ones like GPS. These
devices can be very easy to use but it’s also very easy to
occasionally punch a wrong button. Cross check
navigational data by observing if the information makes
sense and by using other sources of information such as
depth soundings, hand bearings and dead reckoning
Hold Off Entering Tricky Areas During Squall Activity
Fog can be a problem in non-tropical areas and squalls
often reduce visibility in the tropics. Both conditions require
more careful navigation than at other times. Even though
squalls can reduce visibility to almost nothing, at least they
don’t last long. Adjust sail appropriately and put off passage
in any narrow or tricky channels while the squall is still
blowing. If you’re in the harbor, let the squall blow over
before getting underway. If underway, stand off in open
water rather than trying to navigate any narrow channels
during the squall. You normally don’t have to wait long
before it becomes warm and clear again.
Consider Buddy-Boating or Flotilla Chartering
Being part of a group can add to your enjoyment and you
can learn from other sailors. If you’re not part of a yacht club
or other privately organized group, there are still ways to get
mutual support and enjoy the company of other charterers.
Some sailing club/schools offer group flotillas that you can
join as individuals, couples or even whole boat loads of
cruisers. Many cruises organized by sailing schools offer
sailing instruction and even certification during the trip.
Flotilla members can get to know each other before the trip,
and group organizers go along to make the cruise as
enjoyable as possible.
Major charter companies like The Moorings and Sunsail
offer flotilla group chartering opportunities where you join
the flotilla with your own charter boat. The flotilla is led by captains from the charter company who stay with the fleet and take care of any problems that might arise.
Chartering is a great way to experience the best cruising
locations around the world. It’s a lot easier getting to these
locations by chartering rather than sailing all the way from
home. It’s also cheaper and safer. It’s the only way if you
don’t have many months of free time. Just follow good
practices seamanship and navigation and you and your
shipmates will have a great time and will want to go back
again and again.