Did you realize that you can make your chart easier to see, with less clutter? And that you can do this with simple office tools to save eye strain, make sailing navigation safer, and chart work easier? Use these easy steps for safer sailing navigation anywhere in the world.
Use “bright and bold” highlights to make vital chart symbols stand out.
Know exact locations of perfect anchorage spots before you arrive there.
Identify reliable depths compared to unreliable depths on your chart or plotter.
Tools You Will Need:
*Direction measuring instrument (parallel rules, Weems plotter).
*Yellow, orange, and blue highlighters.
*Colored blue, green, magenta pencils.
*Fine felt-tip pen.
*Scotch magic tape (permanent or removable.
Scan, Mark, and Protect Your Costly Charts
Master navigators always use a step by step process to plot their sailing routes, scan all along the sailing route for danger, and mark the most important spots like shoals, wrecks, emergency “pull-off-the-road” anchorages, and major aids to navigation that affect your sailing safety.
Follow these seven simple steps in the order shown anytime you plot a course for day sailing, cruising, or distance voyaging. It will keep you safe and you will have the confidence that you can see “at a glance” what lies ahead.
1. Use parallel rules or Weems plotter. Plot each course along your sailing route with light pressure with your pencil. Use light lines in this step. That way, if you need to erase, you can do this without effort or marring the chart.
2. Scan along each sailing course line to make sure the course does not cross over dangerous shoals or shallow depths. If it does, erase that leg and change it to a safer course or break it into two courses to avoid the hazard.
3. Use bright colored highlighters or colored pencils to make dangerous wrecks or important aids to navigation (buoys, lights, or landmarks) near the course.
4. Look for deep water pockets off the course line where you could anchor for rest or in an emergency. Make shoal depth contours stand out by tracing over them with a dark blue colored pencil (or similar marker).
5. Stay in water with a depth at least twice your draft. Coastal charts often show water depth contour lines in six foot increments that begin at 30 feet. That means the next depth contour would be 24 feet, then 18 feet, 12 feet, and 6 feet. Mark the outermost depth contour that’s equal to at least 2X your maximum draft.
If your draft is 5 feet, you should mark the 12 foot (or higher) contour curve. Set your depth sounder, GPS, or chart plotter alarm to trigger at that depth. This gives you time to turn the boat toward deeper water.
6. Check each course again for dangers. Recheck each plotted course to make sure the direction marked agrees with the direction indicated by your plotting tool. When satisfied, go to the final step.
7. Run a length of tape over the top of each of the light penciled course lines. Run your fingers over it several times to make sure it adheres to the chart surface. Lay a straight edge on top of the tape and darken in each course line with the felt tip marker. This makes your courses stand out in any light or weather condition.
Use your pencil to write the course in degrees magnet on top and the length of the course leg on the bottom of the line. When you label, write onto the tape. This protects the paper chart and the tape surface can be written on and erased as needed.
- Captain John’s Sailing Navigation Tip:
How do you remove the tape when you’re done with the cruise? Use one of these two fast methods. Scotch makes a ‘removable magic tape’ brand. It isn’t as sticky but works well on a dry surface. Or, heat the edge of a blunt kitchen knife with a lighter. Run the knife along the tape and peel as you go. Keep the knife edge warm for best results.
Beware of Spotty Soundings!
Chart plotters fall far short of nautical charts when it comes to detailed soundings. Their small screen real estate forces the manufacturers to sacrifice detail in order to keep the screen uncluttered. This reason alone should be enough to convince any prudent skipper to carry navigational charts.
Scan your chart for signs of inconsistent or scattered soundings. Large gaps between soundings warn that this area hasn’t been surveyed well enough for safe sailing navigation. Keep clear of areas with spotty, inconsistent soundings to avoid grounding or hitting an underwater, uncharted obstruction.
Spoil areas (also called a fish haven or spoil bank) are where debris like garbage, old cars and trucks, and construction site material are dumped. Theses depths change all the time, so they will never be shown. Stay clear to stay safe!
Now you know the fast, easy way to get your chart set up for safe sailing navigation to save you time and effort once you go sailing.