Archive for the ‘Navigation and Passage Planning’ Category

“We’d be better prepared”

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

I’ve just been reading an article about a couple who sailed from San Francisco to Oahu, Hawaii. The 2080 nm voyage really challenged them, for a number of reasons.

The first being that the skipper, Ray Schmahl, 58 was an experienced coastal and bay sailor but had never sailed in the open sea. His boat, You Never Know, a Baba 35 is, however, a good cruising boat – a double-ender with a full keel. 

As they left the Californian coast they saw one sailboat, then spent the next 25 days alone on the sea apart from a few freighters, thankfully in the distance. To ensure their safety, Ray or his partner, Catherine Zimney, 57 took turns on watch. But this led to them both becoming exhausted, only ever having four hours maximum for sleeping, plus change-over time, meals, etc.

For the first week there was no sunshine and they were relying on solar power to keep their batteries topped up. For my money, I’d want to have several ways and would install a wind generator. At the same time, it would be impractical to use the boat’s engine as you’d be unlikely to have sufficient fuel to do so.

As you’d expect during a voyage of this length, they also experienced a significant storm and were also becalmed for two days.

If you like, you can read the full story of their voyage.

A fortnight or so after their safe arrival in Oahu, Ray said: “I would do it again. We’d be better prepared and know more about how things work.” 

Skipper & Crew CD cover

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We have developed comprehensive checklists to  help you prepare for a voyage. You will find them in Skipper and Crew, Knots and The Language of the Sea.

Passage Planning Preparation Prevents Problems – Tip of the Week #5

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Subscriber, Sean Hants emailed us recently about his first offshore voyage. His story contains some sound advice.

I contacted you some time ago regarding travel in Bass Strait. Well, we did our trip over finally even though we’ve been a couple of times with another yachtie.

Bass Strait, feast or famine it seems. It is a daunting prospect first time out on your own considering the fear mongers who say… don’t do it, your boat’s too small, the swells are too big, the storms etc., etc.

We had a great trip in our Swanson 28 and it did nothing but inspire us both to plan to do more and go further.

Preparation is the important part, we think, even though our boat is small and our electronics fairly basic, weather check/forecasts prior and a basic passage plan with a few contingencies helped make it relatively safe and a real adventure.

One gizmo I did get which was helpful was an AIS receiver which links to our little GME chartplotter and gives a heads up about approaching ships. I thought this was quite valuable during our night crossing over to Grassy as it removes some of the stress of watching out for those big buggers that always seem to pop up and be on you in no time.

Our unit gave a 10 nm range which allowed us about 30-45 minutes to plot their range and bearing accurately and avoid if necessary, or get in contact. Most ships seemed to be travelling in the 10-15 knot speed range.

As for the seas and the weather, we found the BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) predictions very accurate and that helped us plan our timing of departures and arrivals.

King Island lived up to its reputation, lots of tidal flow, particularly down near Bold Head just before Grassy, sea mists, lightning at night, beautiful sunrises, strong winds and rather largish swells.

We came back via Apollo Bay which was an interesting entry, with the swell running in past the small breakwater entrance. It’s a wonderful protected little harbour and we found a spot on the floating wharf with some friendly Cape Barron geese. I reckon it could be a risky entry there on a big south swell.

The run back down to Port Phillip was quite idyllic, a light south breeze, two metre swell and dolphins, dolphins and more dolphins and a beautiful coastal landscape. Couldn’t believe how many there were that came and ran with us for up to half an hour.

Got back down near Point Lonsdale and tanker, cargo ship central. We ran about three to four miles offshore (keep a lookout for cray pots) for much of our return leg and that seemed to keep us about one to two miles inside of the exiting and arriving freighters. The AIS unit gave us good forewarning well before we saw any of these ships.

Our next foray we think we might go left and down the Prom and over to Flinders. We’ve gone to Hastings before and Westernport is a lovely bay, moor off Cowes etc. The feeling of getting away from the land and out in the swell is a touch addictive but also makes me a bit apprehensive as well as excited.

Key points:

  1. He and his wife had gone as crew on another yacht before making the voyage. This gave him some local knowledge of the area and experience of the conditions to expect, before he had to face them on his own.
  2. He knew that his boat, a Swanson 28, was a good seaworthy boat.
  3. He did the pre-trip planning, including for contingencies. I like to think of it as being prepared for where you want to go and where you may end up.
  4. He installed an AIS receiver which gave him a 10 nm range, i.e. an alarm sounded when any vessel carrying an AIS came within 10 nm of his yacht.
  5. He was aware of and allowed for the big tidal range in the Bass Strait islands.
  6. Like a performer, he is excited but nervous about his next voyage. Complacency can lead to disaster.

We wish Sean and his wife Maggie many years of safe and happy voyaging.


1. Cruising doesn’t have to be slow

From time to time I’ve mentioned Mike Clements, with whom I sailed on Rager I. He used to own a timber business and over the years he set aside the best wood to build his dream boat that became Rager II.

Mike sold the boat to Gary Shanks in Adelaide. Some readers may remember that she sank on the return from the Port Lincoln race. Refloated a week later, she was rebuilt and continued as a racing yacht.

Subscriber, Mike O’Reilly of Adelaide, competed in the 2008 Sydney-Hobart aboard Rager II, and emailed us about her sale to a cruising couple and transformation “from a wave piercing surfboard to international cruiser”, with a new name, Courageous.

The new owners chose not to depower their yacht. As a result Courageous made the passage from Noumea to Southport (787 nm) in 3.5 days. And they were short-handed.

Note: We used Distance Calculator to work out the distance of the voyage.

2. Video corner – Chris Stanmore Major (CSM)

Ann remembers reading in Erroll Bruce’s Deep Sea Sailing that sometimes the most difficult thing you will have to do on your watch is get into your wet weather gear before going on deck.

CSM has put together a good video about the difficulties of life at sea or, as he puts it, Life at 45 degrees.

3. Earth Hour – Saturday 26 March 2011

At 8.30 pm this Saturday we will turn our lights out for Earth Hour. It will be our fifth year, i.e. since Earth Hour’s beginning here in Sydney in 2007.

When we sit down to our candlelight dinner and a bottle of good red wine we won’t miss the television at all. The evening will remind us of the years before electricity and all the labour-saving devices that clutter our lives.

It’s good to see interest growing – 131 countries and territories have signed up this year. That’s three more than 2010.

Will you join us? Sign up at Earth Hour.

In their own words:  ERIC HISCOCK & SUSAN HISCOCK

“I realise now that I have married the perfect crew.”
Eric Hiscock

“Crews fall out; we don’t.”
Susan Hiscock

Eric Hiscock (1908-1986) met his future wife Susan Sclater (1913-1995) while sailing on the Solent in the 1930s. They married in 1941 and became a sailing partnership that lasted until Eric’s death aboard Wanderer V in New Zealand waters.

Eric joined the Royal Navy in 1939 and served for two years before being invalided out due to being ‘half blind’. That did not stop him from sailing the world in a series of yachts named Wanderer.

In 1955 he was awarded the Cruising Yacht Club of America’s 1955 Blue Water Medal with the citation:

“Circumnavigation by Canal and Cape of Good Hope by owner and wife, July 24, 1952-July 13, 1955 in 30-foot Giles-designed cutter.”

Eric wrote a series of books about his and Susan’s cruising experiences, starting with Around the World in Wanderer III.

Both he and Susan were awarded the MBE for “services to yachting” in 1985.

A while after Eric’s death, Susan returned to the Isle of Wight and bought herself a West Wight scow, the same design as the first yacht she’d owned at 17. And at 79 she won her first race!

Susan’s obituary describes more of their lives.

© 2011 Bevanda Pty Ltd

Going aground

Monday, July 5th, 2010

When I read that a yacht ran aground on shallow reefs because of lower than usual tides, I was perplexed. But perhaps that’s because I haven’t been sailing around Bermuda recently.

Meteorologists with the Bermuda Weather Service have reported that tides have been lower than expected due to the effect of cold eddies circling the island. Tides have been recorded to be 0.7 ft to one foot lower than average.

A prudent skipper would not be caught out. He would know what his yacht draws and allow a much greater amount of water between it and the sea bottom.

Fortunately for the skipper involved, nearby motor boats were able to rescue the yacht from the reef and only minor damage occurred.

Full Report on the Flinders Islet Yacht Race, 9 October 2009

Friday, February 26th, 2010

The 86-page Internal Report prepared for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) has been released publicly. Its authors, Rear Admiral Chris Oxenbould AO RAN (Rtd), Past Commodore David Kellett AM and Past Commodore John Brooks reviewed reports from and interviewed surviving crew from PWC Shockwave, skippers and crew from yachts involved in the search and rescue (SAR) as well as CYCA staff and race management volunteers.

Interviews were also held with the hydrographer of Australia, members of the Marine Area Command of the NSW Police and staff from Australian Maritime Safety Authority who were involved in the SAR. Information on the reliability of GPS systems was provided by a representative of Garmin Australia.

In addition to investigating the PWC Shockwave incident, the Inquiry Committee interviewed and reported on the recovery of the man overboard from Patrice VI and communications difficulties experienced by crew of that yacht.

There is lots of information in the report that is relevant to all who sail offshore anywhere in the world, whether cruising or racing.

I recommend you download and read the findings of the Flinders Islet Yacht Race Inquiry, in particular the recommendations on pages 55-59. Your life may depend on it.

20% off The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

During December 2009 you can purchase The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship for only AU$156 – a 20% discount off its advertised price. This multimedia Manual contains the five titles listed below, plus you receive a free bonus 75-minute DVD, The Joys of Sailing.

If you’d prefer, you can buy single CDs for AU$40.50 – 10% off the advertised price. These would make ideal Christmas gifts for your family or friends who share your love of sailing:
* Boat Handling 1 and 2 (not sold separately)
* Navigation and Passage Planning
* Safety and Emergencies
* Skipper and Crew, Knots and The Language of the Sea
* Weathercraft

Order The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship now to ensure you receive in time for Christmas.

Take advantage of this special offer today before prices go back up!

The ABC of Scend = D

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

First, for those people who don’t know what scend is, here is a definition:

Scend is the distance from sea level to the bottom of the trough of a wave. The trough can be taken as being equal to the height of the wave above sea level, or more simply as half the height of the wave. This means that, with a 3m sea running over a bar, the depth available to you may be 1.5m less than you would have in a flat sea.

So how does a navigator deal with it? You need to think of the charted level of the sea, the average height of the waves and swells combined. To this you add your calculation of the relevant state of tide and estimate the scend with the above definition in mind. Call that ‘A’.

‘B’ is the depth of the keel and the amount of scend. Subtract ‘B’ from ‘A’ to get ‘C’. If ‘C’ is negative there isn’t enough water. Even if it is positive there has to be a reasonable safety margin.

Then, depending how frightened you are, add a second safety margin. Call that ‘D’.

Offshore wind farms – another sailing hazard?

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

If, like me, you’ve sailed through areas where oil rigs are located, you will know that they are easy to see, both during the day and at night. In fact, overnight they are lit up like well-decorated Christmas trees. Navigating to avoid them is, therefore, not difficult except perhaps when there’s fog.

But, after reading about a new wind farm development, I’ve been wondering what it would be like sailing through or near one, if that’s permitted.

The world’s largest offshore wind farm will be built in the UK off the Kent and Essex coasts. Located 12 miles offshore, it will be out of sight of land.

There will be 341 wind turbines generating 1,000 megawatts of electricity – enough to power all 750,000 homes in Kent and East Sussex and save 1.9million tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum.

Read the full article on this wind farm.

Know your nautical buoyage – IALA Regions A and B

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Some years ago, approaching the finish of the Melbourne-Osaka double-handed yacht race, one boat came to grief. The crew, probably excited about completing the 5,500 mile race, forgot that Japan is located in IALA Region B. So, instead of steering their yacht through safe water, they ran it aground. Ouch! And after all that effort.

To save you from suffering a similar fate, we’ve developed Buoyage – IALA Regions A and B. As well as listing the countries under their region, there’s a section where you can learn or revise the cardinal, lateral and all the other buoys – their shapes, colours and the lights they display at night.

When you’re ready, you can take an interactive quiz to check your recognition of all the buoys.

Buoyage – IALA Regions A and B is just one of five quizzes we’ve developed in the Nautical Knowledge. The other subjects are:

  • Rules of the Road
  • Navigation Lights
  • Signal Flags
  • Fog and other Sound Signals

The Nautical Knowledge is available as a download for only AU$9.95.