Sailing Navigation Secrets – Mark Your Nautical Chart With Magic Art!

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:

*Pencil

*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.

Example:

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.

  1. 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.

Discover a Sailing Vacation in the Pacific Northwest: Find Best Sailing Charters

Do you have any experience in sailing? Why not charter a sailing yacht and explore the magnificent San Juan Islands next summer? That could be a wonderful adventure for you and your family!

There are many different ways of doing a sailing vacation. You can charter a yacht and sail it all by yourself or you can hire a skipper. If you don’t feel comfortable enough with your sailing skills, the skipper will take care of the day-to-day running of your yacht, leaving you free to do anything you like. The skipper will help you become accustomed with a new yacht or area, and he will give you sailing tips and answer any questions as you sail. Another option is to join a flotilla. Many flotilla itineraries include special events like shore parties and fun regattas, and give you the chance to mix with other sailors.

The sheltered waterways, bays and fjords that extend from south of Seattle through British Columbia and into spectacular Southeast Alaska, are some of the world’s most spectacular cruising grounds. Puget Sound connecting the Pacific Ocean via the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Pacific Northwest offers nearly 300 islands and some 2000 miles of shoreline. The San Juan Islands are the most popular charter area in the Puget Sound and also in the Pacific Northwest. This cluster of inhabited islands and barren rocks is located some 60 nautical miles north of Seattle. With more than 200 rocky islands and a dozen state parks left undisturbed, this is a good chartering area for beginners; the waters are reasonably protected even in storms off the Pacific.

The historic seaport town of Anacortes is a pleasant one and a half hour drive north of Seattle. Surrounded by water and dotted with several marinas, Anacortes has rightly earned its title as “Gateway to the San Juan Islands.” All the beauty and intrigue of the San Juan’s and Gulf Islands are within cruising destination of the town.The weather is generally mild all year long. The summers are mostly sunny with temperatures ranging from the low 70’s to the low 80’s (19-25 C).

Much of the cruising area of the Pacific Northwest is in the “rain shadow” of high mountains that block many of the weather systems that come in off the Pacific Ocean. The result is that rainfall can be as little as 20 inches annually in some areas. From May to October the winds are mostly moderate (6 – 18 knots). This varies by locality and time of day with the fresher breezes occurring in the afternoons in the more open areas and the lighter and more variable winds occurring among the islands.

Tips For Buying a Laser Sailing Dinghy

Buying a Laser

The points below are listed to assist someone who has little to no knowledge of Lasers, to help them in assessing the condition of the boat they are inspecting. Purchasing a Laser can be a large commitment, so understanding what to look for is invaluable so that you get the best value for money.

Budget

When you know how much money you are able to spend, there are a number of things that you have to consider when looking at various boats so that you don’t exceed your budget. If you simply buy a boat, even if it is advertised as ready to sail, you may have to fork out more for extras that you may not have been initially aware of. These may include –

  1. Clothing – including wetsuit and/or rash vest, life jacket, hat, sunglasses, boots, gloves, etc
  2. Trailer – these can be hard and expensive to source. Ideally, if you need to transport your Laser, you want to purchase one that comes with a trailer. Trailers can also be bought new (expensive) or 2nd hand (rare)
  3. Launching Dolly – makes it much easier to launch. This allows you to launch your Laser single-handedly
  4. Boat Cover – to protect your boat from dust, dirt, rain, etc
  5. Membership Fees – to sail and race out of a club, you will most probably need to become a member of that club. Contact your local club for details

Where to Look

The most common places to look for Lasers include –

  1. eBay
  2. Trading Post/newspaper classifieds
  3. Various Laser forums
  4. Laser dealers/shops
  5. Notice boards at sailing clubs

Inspecting a Laser – What to Check

  • Boat Number:. 200,000+ Lasers have been built worldwide to date. Lasers that have been built by a licensed Laser boat builder will have a unique International Laser Class Sailboat Sail number associated with the boat. For Lasers up to sail number 148199, the sail number is a number molded into the deck and should be located either on the transom (rear of the boat) or on the deck under the bow eye. Lasers with a sail number greater than 148200 should have a foil type sticker located at the back of the cockpit. Check the boat number to gauge how old the boat is.
  • Hull and Deck: Generally speaking, even for the best cared-for boats, they will over time collect scratches of varying degrees. However, most will be only cosmetic, affecting only the gel coat. As long as the underlying fiberglass layer located one or two millimeters below the gel coat is not exposed or damaged, hull integrity should not be compromised. Deck stiffness can be likened to the odometer in a car. The more give there is in the deck, the more use it has had. Check both sides of the cockpit (where you sit – the majority of your weight will be located here when sailing) as well as the cockpit floor. A boat with little use will have very little give in the deck when you press down firmly (only a millimeter or so). However, a boat that has had a lot of use will flex quite considerably (a centimeter or more). By testing the deck stiffness you can gauge the integrity of the hull. Boats lose stiffness with age, use, and leaks. One reason for soft spots in the deck to develop with use is when the fiberglass, foam and outer gel coat layers come apart or delaminate. A boat that has had a lot of use (especially aggressive or heavy weather sailing) may over time develop small cracks, which allow water to seep into the hull. These small cracks result in more flex or soft spots in the deck and hull, and water penetration adds to the overall weight. Depending on your needs and requirements of the hull, boats of differing condition will suit different people. For example, if you intend to only sail every so often simply for recreation, an older, softer (and cheaper) boat may suit your needs. However if you intend to race and be competitive, a newer, stiffer, lighter boat may be more suitable. Stiffer boats are generally more expensive and hold their value more than boats that are softer. One way to check to see whether water is entering the hull is to take out the drain plug in the transom (rear) and lift the bow of the boat. If water pours out this may indicate hull integrity issues. However, if no water comes out, there may still be leaks (it may have just been drained well and dried out by the owner).
  • Sail: The sail should be checked for signs of wear and tear. A new sail will have a crisp, stiff feel to the material, and have few creases. As the sail ages and stretches through general use, the material loses its stiffness and shape. A sail that has lost its shape it harder to tune, which can make it a handful in heavier breezes, as it can’t be flattened and downpowered as much as desired. If you are planning to race, then you will need an approved sail. This can be determined by checking that the sail has a red button near the foot of the sail (bottom corner of the sail, nearest to the mast). There are 3 different sail sizes, and depending on your experience, weight, strength, etc, you have to decide which rig you are after. They are the Laser 4.7, Radial and full rig. Make sure the sail comes with its 3 battens, which slide into pockets in the leech of the sail. The battens help give the sail shape and to stop it flapping. A good sail is important if you want to be competitive.
  • Foils (Centreboard & Rudder): The centerboard and rudder should be checked for straightness, and should not contain dents or gouges in the edges or surfaces. Foils that are warped or have damaged leading or trailing edges can slow the boat down. However small gouges or chips can be sanded out with fine sandpaper, while larger imperfections may need more complex gelcoat repairs. Many sailors store their foils in soft padded carry bags to prevent damage during storage and transportation. The centerboard and rudder should not be left in a hot car, as they may warp with heat. Foils that are warped may be able to be straightened with heat.
  • Spars (Mast and Boom): The mast is made up of 2 sections – the top and bottom sections. The mast and boom are made from aluminum and can be relatively easily bent. Bending of both the mast and boom is normal in everyday sailing, however, they should not be permanently bent. Both mast sections and the boom should be checked for straightness. This can be done by looking along the line of the spar, or by rolling it on a flat surface. Spars should also be checked for corrosion damage, especially where fittings are attached. Inspect all the rivets on the mast sections and boom for corrosion. Transporting you spars can be accomplished in a few different ways. Some simply tie down the spars to roof racks, and where possible carry the shorter sections inside their car. Other methods include using a couple of custom made foam or timber blocks or cradles, which have 3 recesses in each, that the spars neatly slot into. These cradles then sit on the deck and are tied down whilst traveling. Timber cradles should be padded on the bottom, so as to not scratch the deck.
  • Fittings: All fittings should be carefully checked to see that they are fully operational. Fittings include cleats, pulleys, eyelets, toe-rail, bailer, rudder attachment, etc. Anything that is faulty or is showing signs of wear and tear may need to be replaced and should be factored into the purchase price.
  • Ropes: All ropes should be checked for fraying or deterioration. There are 6 ropes on a laser (mainsheet, outhaul, vang, cunningham (downhaul), traveler, clew tie-down). They are cut to a specific length so that unnecessary rope is not in your way and getting unnecessarily tangled and knotted. Some of the ropes come with fittings permanently connected to the ropes. These include eyelets for the outhaul and cunningham, blocks, and cleat for the vang. Make sure they are all there.
  • Trailer: Trailers come in a variety of styles. Generally, trailers that are designed specifically to carry Lasers either support the boat directly or support a dolly which the Laser sits on (a dolly is a lightweight trolley which the boat sits on that can be easily maneuvred and enables the boat to be launched by a single person). Either way, it is critical that the location of the supports on which the Laser sits are in the correct location. Generally, these supports are located up under the outside edge at the bow, and also on both sides at the widest part of the hull. You want the trailer and dolly to be relatively rust free. Slight surface rust may not be an issue, but you may want to avoid trailers & dollies that contain more severe rust that may weaken the structure as a whole. You may also want a trailer that is registered for the road. Check the tires, electrics, and general structural integrity of the trailer. Other methods for transporting Lasers include on box trailers and on roof racks. These methods are generally less convenient, as they require at least 2 people to launch the boat, and, since they are not specifically designed for Lasers, do not travel as well on the road (they can bounce around and move on their supports).

When everything is laid out in front of you (eg. in the seller’s dark and cramped garage), especially when you are not familiar with Lasers, it may be hard to tell if all the equipment is there. Therefore you may want to rig the boat on its trailer when you are inspecting it, to make sure that –

  1. everything is included
  2. everything fits and works
  3. the sail and the mast/boom are a match (you don’t want a radial sail and a full rig mast)
  4. you know how to put it all together

This may not be required if you are a little more familiar, but initially you may find it beneficial, and a helpful seller with nothing to hide should be obliging.

Sailing Rope Tips – How to Heave a Line With Pinpoint Accuracy!

How many times have you needed to heave a line a long distance to a dock or to another boat? How far could you heave a line to a person in the water? Make this sailing rope skill one of your top priorities on your small cruising boat. Follow these five easy steps for super accuracy…

1. Make the coil

Use small diameter nylon or dacron line. If you are going to pass a heavy dock line, attach the smaller line to the eye of the docking line. Coil 100 feet of small line clockwise. Make sure it’s free of knots so that it goes out in a smooth, easy motion.

2. Break the coil

Hold the coil in your non-dominant hand. Pick up one third to one half of the coil with your dominant hand. Keep the bitter end of the dominant-hand coil on the outside of the coil to insure that it pays out without knots.

3. Turn and sight

Turn so that your non-dominant shoulder faces the objective. Sight over your shoulder and focus your concentration on a point just above and upwind of the dock, boat, or person.

4. Swing the line

Hold your non-dominant hand with the palm up and open. This will allow the heaving line to feed out of that hand. Swing the coil in the dominant hand down by your side in a forward-aft motion. This will put velocity into the line as you throw it.

5. Heave the line

Throw the line underhand to a close target where you need pin-point accuracy. When heaving to a boat, use a side arm or overhead throw to gain height and increase the distance of the toss.

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Follow these steps to heave any line with pin-point accuracy. Boost your sailing rope skills to the next level with practice, preparation, and proper technique.