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Old 11-02-2014, 11:10   #16
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50 mi to 20 mi out is usually as good as going around em as they usually are not that far off shore unless they be blue water capable rocks.
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Old 11-02-2014, 11:10   #17
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

It's not actually that difficult, is it?

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Old 11-02-2014, 13:50   #18
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
I wouldn't avoid tricky spots at the expense of missing great places. Plus, if you go overboard on the conservatism, you will not develop your skills.
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Some good piloting tips too. I am admittedly very conservative, our boat is our home and we have a kid aboard who cannot look after himself in the water.

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Nor do I bother with taking three-point fixes while going into harbors. I have to say that I think this is actually a bad practice, because it is laborious and takes up far too much of your attention.
That is a darn good point. I use the rough fixes to make sure I am where I think I am right before I plow through an entrance. If needed I will circle around and survey the entrance a few times. They do take attention, and I admitted cannot make them while we are actually passing through most entrances.

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A hallowed traditional method of navigation was to simply follow a depth contour line by steering to the depth sounder -- it's a great technique which is worth knowing, just in case -- crude, but effective!
Yessir. Our depth sounder is an invaluable navigational aid.

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Of course, keeping a safe distance off, being aware of lee shores, etc., etc. -- are also fundamental practices. But I don't think there is any point in going totally overboard with that, adopting an arbitrary rule to stay at least a mile from any hazard, etc., etc. In good weather and known waters, a cable or less can be plenty of room from a hazard. In bad weather, or unknown waters, or where you have doubts about the charts, you might need more.
The last nine months we have mostly been in unfamiliar waters. The distances are based on how much time I feel the watch needs to react to danger. It is just too easy to make a mistake with the course plotting or the tiller pilot and not notice the mistake until it is too late, especially at night.

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As to landfalls -- a landfall on an unknown shore is of course one of the big challenges of offshore sailing. I do try to avoid making them at night.
It is so much easier to make a mistake at night. We occasionally get caught out late and make decision whether it is worthwhile going in or hanging out just offshore until dawn. We have not regretted waiting until morning but we have regretted going in at night.

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For this, as in other pilotage situations, you need to memorize, to some extent, the layout of the harbor, because it is impossible to steer and read a chart at the same time.... I really think that study ahead of time is important -- even if you have a great chart plotter, right at the helm.
Absolutely. Sometimes I am smiling politely as another skipper describes his trip. Sometimes skippers just plug in a course into the chart plotter to an unknown destination and don't read the charts at all and end up in the wrong place. Saw it happen a week ago. Very funny but also a little scary. I love my Garmin chart plotter but have always loved charts so I love to study them carefully before we make our next move.
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Old 11-02-2014, 14:02   #19
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

There is a common theme here. Don't rely on one source of information. Use multiple sources of information, analyze what is most accurate and what is less accurate. Weigh the more accurate information more heavily. This is the art of navigation, assaying and weighting the better information from the less accurate information. The weighting is a very qualitative thing, and therefore an art.

The science of navigation is of course the quantifying of information that can be quantified.
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Old 11-02-2014, 14:26   #20
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pirate Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

Heave to till dawn.. study paper charts and scribble contours to follow on back of left hand in sequence.. eyeball position on CP to see if info ties up.. have depth sounder set to 5metres.. then change back to 3 when in 'safe' water..
Works well in fog as well..
If anything seems off.. 180 and re-calculate and evaluate marks..
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Old 11-02-2014, 14:51   #21
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

I agree with Dockhead. I use electronics extensively. Plotter, radar overlays, fwd scanning sonar, depth finder, AND the mark 1 eyeball. Sometimes, using older techniques, heading for the rocks is useful - it gives you an exact fix with no possibility of error. Provided they are the right rocks!! And you stop/turn before you hit them.....

And yes, I've been aground, either when when I knew it was likely/possible, and in suitable conditions, or in an area "knew" and was to casual about cutting a corner (not using the electronics - that was a lesson!)
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Old 11-02-2014, 15:15   #22
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

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3. Avoid anything tricky even if it means we miss our on great spots. Good spots are good enough.
Could not disagree more. Of course, one captain's tricky is another captain's run of the mill, but I shudder to think of all the amazing places I would have missed if I'd always played it safe.
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Old 11-02-2014, 15:39   #23
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

Paper charts for the big picture

Safety bearings around dangerous spots

DR on chart plus GPS

What did someone say about thsi just last week? Ahh: "Trust but Verify"
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Old 11-02-2014, 15:41   #24
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

STOP !!!! If confused, uncertain, lost or having a debate with others on board as too what the proper course of action is required.(of course the captain has the last word,but I like my crew to know my reasons for any controversial decisions and conversely I am not overly shy when crewing to suggest what I think may be viable alternatives to the tasks at hand.
It is rare for the less experienced sailor to consider stopping while the uncertainties are sorted out.
What is "stopping" ?----heaving-to,anchoring,doing lazy circles,turning off the motor and drifting, laying a-hull etc.. I am not claiming that stopping is a panacea but should be in any sailors bag of tricks. When on a new boat for the first time I like to drift for a few minutes before any sail goes up, just to see how my craft will respond to the current conditions. Maybe I have had more than my share of evil engines , fouled props and jammed halyards, but i always have a good idea what my options are and avoid the anxiety as to what happens next when Murphy is a stowaway.

.............luv you all.....................mike...................... ..................................
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Old 11-02-2014, 15:56   #25
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

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STOP !!!!

.....
Excellent addition. Seldom mentioned. Thanks.

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Old 11-02-2014, 15:59   #26
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

Agreed, mrohr .... so many people treat a sailing vessel as though it were an auto with auto transmission, stuck in "Drive" ....

and if stopping is not an option or an unpalatable option, do as boatman suggests and retrace your steps while you sort it out.

If you've just sailed in on a particular heading, then the reciprocal heading (corrected if necessary for water movement) will be safe in terms of bottom dangers. If necessary, rinse and repeat to stay close to your destination.
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Old 11-02-2014, 16:25   #27
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pirate Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

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Originally Posted by Andrew Troup View Post
Agreed, mrohr .... so many people treat a sailing vessel as though it were an auto with auto transmission, stuck in "Drive" ....

and if stopping is not an option or an unpalatable option, do as boatman suggests and retrace your steps while you sort it out.

If you've just sailed in on a particular heading, then the reciprocal heading (corrected if necessary for water movement) will be safe in terms of bottom dangers. If necessary, rinse and repeat to stay close to your destination.
Here in Portugal a lot of the ports are on rivers so bars shift.. for me the sounder is vital.. and left or right could prove terminal.. so a 180 is my choice to give me time to check out the set and rise and fall of the swell/waves.. they tell a story as to where the bars moved to..
Remember going into Faro once.. followed the line but did not like what I was reading so reversed course and came in 5* off the old route to the entrance.. another boat 20 mins behind came hammering in under motor on my original heading and nose dived as she bottomed out.. then hung a right and bounced into the channel.. I lost blind faith in things years ago..
I also use outa date charts..
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Old 11-02-2014, 16:41   #28
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

Having just completed a one way, one month coast hugging cruise in unfamiliar waters - including a number of entries into unsurveyed barred or rocky creek entrances - I almost feel qualified to answer this question. Here's some stuff I learnt.
  • Use cruising guides - as guides - for the area if possible.
  • Paper charts are fine, but it's awkward carrying detailed charts of the entire area being cruised. ECS units just make much more sense. We had two on our trip and also counted something like 8 GPS capable devices on board by the time we included our phones and stuff. Having said that, at one point my ECS unit in the cockpit was rendered useless at a critical moment as a result of direct sunlight and salt spray on the screen making it unreadable.
  • Now I used to be the "plot on a paper chart and transfer to the non mapping GPS" kind of navigator, but chartplotters just make the whole process so much easier. I do think that waypoint clearance is a little more difficult on an ECS because some units make editing waypoints a little difficult and it is harder to view the entire route as easily as on a paper chart.
  • Rule of thumb around our way is to allow at least 500 metres clearance to the hard stuff. I'll cut corners in certain situations, but I keep on eye on the depth contours to gauge accuracy to the chart plotter data.
  • Study the chart along the planned route, making mental notes of areas with potential hazards. Be especially vigalent when traversing these areas.
  • Google Earth is pretty darn accurate and makes a great tool for getting a "feel" for a tricky entrance to an anchorage. I only use it for visuals, not route planning however.
  • Plan to arrive at an anchorage with good daylight left. It's usually no problem leaving an anchorage in the dark as you can follow the chartplotter bread crumbs.
  • Take into account the weather and tidal movements when plotting a course. I had us crossing a 4 metre LAT contour on a route that turned out to be filled with braking waves as a result of wind and tide conditions (which we went around). On that particular day we found it best to keep in 8 metres + to keep out of rough water.
  • When in doubt, always fall back to eyeball Mk I. Wave shapes, current and colour will help reveal hazards or safe water. From the charting perspective, we stayed in one creek where the chartplotters showed us being anchored a couple of hundred metres on shore.

I'm pleased to say that we managed to not run aground at anytime on the whole trip and only had two hairy experiences (not directly involving skipper incompetence that is, lol) - the breaking waves mentioned above and another time a loss of situational awareness when entering a creek that required us to hold off and re-establish our position. Both times we were in pretty yucky weather which contributed to the issue, but both were valuable learning experiences with no harm done.
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Old 11-02-2014, 17:10   #29
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

Three point fixes can be predetermined BEFORE one enters, it's similar if not in fact the same as danger bearings.

And clearing bearings are simply one bearing with known distance off or two (or the three!) bearings anyway.

Indeed, one can setup waypoints from any three point fix, assuming one trusts the datum and charts and GPS, but it's not different than anything else in navigation: don't depend on any ONE source.

This, of course, is balanced by the other axiom: too many inputs creates lack of confidence.
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Old 16-02-2014, 15:35   #30
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

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Originally Posted by Reefmagnet View Post
Having just completed a one way, one month coast hugging cruise in unfamiliar waters - including a number of entries into unsurveyed barred or rocky creek entrances - I almost feel qualified to answer this question. Here's some stuff I learnt.
[LIST][*]Use cruising guides - as guides - for the area if possible.[*]Paper charts are fine, but it's awkward carrying detailed charts of the entire area being cruised. ECS units just make much more sense. We had two on our trip and also counted something like 8 GPS capable devices on board by the time we included our phones and stuff. Having said that, at one point my ECS unit in the cockpit was rendered useless at a critical moment as a result of direct sunlight and salt spray on the screen making it unreadable.[*]Now I used to be the "plot on a paper chart and transfer to the non mapping GPS" kind of navigator, but chartplotters just make the whole process so much easier. I do think that waypoint clearance is a little more difficult on an ECS because some units make editing waypoints a little difficult and it is harder to view the entire route as easily as on a paper chart.[*]Rule of thumb around our way is to allow at least 500 metres clearance to the hard stuff. I'll cut corners in certain situations, but I keep on eye on the depth contours to gauge accuracy to the chart plotter data.[*]Study the chart along the planned route, making mental notes of areas with potential hazards. Be especially vigalent when traversing these areas.[*]Google Earth is pretty darn accurate and makes a great tool for getting a "feel" for a tricky entrance to an anchorage. I only use it for visuals, not route planning however.[*]Plan to arrive at an anchorage with good daylight left. It's usually no problem leaving an anchorage in the dark as you can follow the chartplotter bread crumbs.[*]Take into account the weather and tidal movements when plotting a course. I had us crossing a 4 metre LAT contour on a route that turned out to be filled with braking waves as a result of wind and tide conditions (which we went around). On that particular day we found it best to keep in 8 metres + to keep out of rough water.[*]When in doubt, always fall back to eyeball ....
Nice list. Thanks! I've got to start using Google Earth, so many great comments about it.



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