Practical Navigation Tips for Bareboaters Pt. 3

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

hazardous area?

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

whenever possible.

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.