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Old 11-02-2014, 01:15   #1
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How do you stay off the rocks?

I love my Garmin but never trust it or my navigational skills. What habits have you developed to keep your boat off the rocks?

Here are a few of mine:
1. Plot courses as far as practical from anything dangerous (eg: land). Usually at least one mile off danger during the day and at least ten miles off at night.
2. Plan for ideal landfalls early the day in perfect conditions and with good timing. Does not always work out...
3. Avoid anything tricky even if it means we miss our on great spots. Good spots are good enough.
4. Take back of the envelope fixes on the way into harbors. Binoculars with a built in compass are my buddy.

What are your habits?
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Old 11-02-2014, 01:31   #2
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

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Originally Posted by shanedennis View Post
How do you stay off the rocks?


Number one. Should be predicted winds and tides, especially if you want to go into a bar.

number 2, A Daylight Clock, never plan to go into a bar after dark.

# 3, Drink shaken not stirred, Ask for NEAT.

Lloyd



Quote:
Originally Posted by shanedennis View Post
I love my Garmin but never trust it or my navigational skills. What habits have you developed to keep your boat off the rocks?

Here are a few of mine:
1. Plot courses as far as practical from anything dangerous (eg: land). Usually at least one mile off danger during the day and at least ten miles off at night.
2. Plan for ideal landfalls early the day in perfect conditions and with good timing. Does not always work out...
3. Avoid anything tricky even if it means we miss our on great spots. Good spots are good enough.
4. Take back of the envelope fixes on the way into harbors. Binoculars with a built in compass are my buddy.

What are your habits?
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Old 11-02-2014, 01:52   #3
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

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Originally Posted by FlyingCloud1937 View Post
Number one. Should be predicted winds and tides, especially if you wont to go into a bar.
Amen.

Not too long ago I took a local across a bar he uses frequently. "Wow", he said, "I've never seen it this calm before." He proceeded to relate stories of wild rides and standing waves... I don't think he had understood why it was so calm... good timing.

That brings me too another habit:
5. I seek to local knowledge, but always compare it to other sources. I have found well meaning information from locals can be dangerous.
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Old 11-02-2014, 01:59   #4
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

I get it.

You have to discern from well meaning Locals, and, well meaning LOCOS.

Local Knowledge only has truth, if you understand local dialect.

Lloyd

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Originally Posted by shanedennis View Post
Amen.

Not too long ago I took a local across a bar he uses frequently. "Wow", he said, "I've never seen it this calm before." He proceeded to relate stories of wild rides and standing waves... I don't think he had understood why it was so calm... good timing.

That brings me too another habit:
5. I seek to local knowledge, but always compare it to other sources. I have found well meaning information from locals can be dangerous.
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Old 11-02-2014, 02:07   #5
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

Post a bow lookout whenever entering a harbor through narrow shoals

I generally have problems navigating out of bars - not into them
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Old 11-02-2014, 02:25   #6
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

Be patient. It is never wise to rush in to something that is dangerous.

Recently I was part of a survey to check depths and sandbanks near the marina. At one point I was on the helm in an area that did not match the charts - the sandbanks had moved. So I proceeded very slowly with one eye on the depth gauge and the other eye looking at the sea state for tide runs or changes in the surface texture.

I find that there are frequently clues in the sea texture and shallow areas can be seen from quite a distance off, particularly if a strong tide is running.
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Old 11-02-2014, 02:28   #7
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

Anxiety and a gnawing sense of inadequacy. Whenever I get over those, I tend to end up on the rocks again.

Just reading Joseph Conrad's The Mirror of the Sea. He points out that good sailing ship masters exhibited this constant sense of anxiety while at sea.
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Old 11-02-2014, 03:03   #8
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

Even local knowledge can be a liability on fast-changing river bars. Last week's channel position may be completely out of date.

An acquaintance of mine came the closest of his entire circumnavigation to losing his family's mobile headquarters on a bar entrance a few miles north of where I'm typing this, despite having a person with impeccable credentials on board: the local policeman (who was also a diver and fisherman and all round good bloke).

Luckily J-P had a lifting keel on a shallow-draft "Trismus" alu hull, and was a hugely resourceful guy. (As I recall, he carried a full set of calligraphy kit with which he could issue himself visas and renew his own passport; he filled and certified his own gas bottles and repaired his own teeth)

The locals felt very responsible, and a couple of Caterpillar/Hitachi diggers got stuck and a towboat capsized in the surf trying to pull him off.

He begged them to refrain, because a single mammoth wave had washed the boat far up the beach above the normal reach of the ocean, so he was in no immediate danger until the next king tide/storm surge.

He eventually got off under his own (ingenious, considerable and almost unaided) efforts and high-tailed to the nearest 'proper' harbour.

I was with him when he 'got back on the horse' and successfully took the boat in over the self-same river bar. An inflatable with a long sounding pole, colour coded with depth markings, led us in.

My inclination since them on such entrances has been to anchor off and go in on a paddle board with a sounding pole, zigzagging over a wide swathe (there may be more than one channel), and have someone on the yacht plot the depths, using binoculars, hand bearing compass and a sextant* to fix my position (they don't have to plot it in real time, just gather the data. And it doesn't have to be superbly accurate, just up to date; some of the distances can be guesstimated)

*... resting the tip of the sounding pole on the board prior to taking each reading, giving a datum for a distance off by vertical angle ...
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Old 11-02-2014, 03:11   #9
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

This seems like a tall tell.

only because the datum is one week.

yet the speaker sounds of an extended period.

Andrew, is this a real story?

Lloyd

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Originally Posted by Andrew Troup View Post
Even local knowledge can be a liability on fast-changing river bars. Last week's channel position may be completely out of date.

An acquaintance of mine came the closest of his entire circumnavigation to losing his family's mobile headquarters on a bar entrance a few miles north of where I'm typing this, despite having a person with impeccable credentials on board: the local policeman (who was also a diver and fisherman and all round good bloke).

Luckily J-P had a lifting keel on a shallow-draft "Trismus" alu hull, and was a hugely resourceful guy. (As I recall, he carried a full set of calligraphy kit with which he could issue himself visas and renew his own passport; he filled and certified his own gas bottles and repaired his own teeth)

The locals felt very responsible, and a couple of Caterpillar/Hitachi diggers got stuck and a towboat capsized in the surf trying to pull him off.

He begged them to refrain, because a single mammoth wave had washed the boat far up the beach above the normal reach of the ocean, so he was in no immediate danger until the next king tide/storm surge.

He eventually got off under his own (ingenious, considerable and almost unaided) efforts and high-tailed to the nearest 'proper' harbour.

I was with him when he 'got back on the horse' and successfully took the boat in over the self-same river bar. An inflatable with a long sounding pole, colour coded with depth markings, led us in.

My inclination since them on such entrances has been to anchor off and go in on a paddle board with a sounding pole, zigzagging over a wide swathe (there may be more than one channel), and have someone on the yacht plot the depths, using binoculars, hand bearing compass and a sextant* to fix my position (they don't have to plot it in real time, just gather the data. And it doesn't have to be superbly accurate, just up to date; some of the distances can be guesstimated)

*... resting the tip of the sounding pole on the board prior to taking each reading, giving a datum for a distance off by vertical angle ...
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Old 11-02-2014, 03:16   #10
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

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Originally Posted by FlyingCloud1937 View Post
This seems like a tall tell.

only because the datum is one week.

yet the speaker sounds of an extended period.

Andrew, is this a real story?

Lloyd
Could you try explaining that with different words? I don't catch your drift.
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Old 11-02-2014, 03:23   #11
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

Quote:
Originally Posted by shanedennis View Post
I love my Garmin but never trust it or my navigational skills. What habits have you developed to keep your boat off the rocks?

Here are a few of mine:
1. Plot courses as far as practical from anything dangerous (eg: land). Usually at least one mile off danger during the day and at least ten miles off at night.
2. Plan for ideal landfalls early the day in perfect conditions and with good timing. Does not always work out...
3. Avoid anything tricky even if it means we miss our on great spots. Good spots are good enough.
4. Take back of the envelope fixes on the way into harbors. Binoculars with a built in compass are my buddy.

What are your habits?
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. Nor would I passage plan in order to have landfalls only in perfect conditions. In a lot of places, you would never go out if that were the criterion.

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. Now I said it's bad practice to do it -- I did not say that it's bad to know how to do it. It's an important skill which I think is still relevant -- and could save your bacon in case you have some electronic failure and lose electronic position data.

This is a bit of an aside -- but if we were to be using non-electronic means of pilotage in a tricky, unknown harbor, we would not be taking frequent three-point fixes anyway. It's too laborious and slow for safe pilotage. We would have prepared, in advance, clearing bearings from various landmarks, along your route into the harbor. A clearing bearing only requires one quick sight with the HBC and no reference to the chart. A far more effective technique, although of course you do need a three-point fix at least once in a while to know your position.

But in my opinion it is bad practice to be doing any of these if you have electronic navigation, which is vastly more efficient -- one glance at a chart plotter gives you all the information it would take some minutes to work out with traditional means, and with much more precision. Since it only takes one glance, it means you have that much more time to look around you and be oriented and steer the boat -- which is much safer. Increasing your work load for no good reason is not going to enhance safety.

Since electronic charts are not infallible (there is another thread about this going on right now), it is good practice to have some way of double-checking what the plotter is telling you. Incredibly valuable for this is radar -- if you can overlay your radar picture on your plotter screen, you have instant verification of the accuracy of your chart and of your position data. The other essential tool is your depth sounder, which we might also consider a "traditional means of navigation", I guess. You should of course keep an eye on your depth sounder and make sure that what it says corresponds to what's on your chart. If it starts to deviate, that should set off loud alarm bells in your head, and you should immediately figure out why. 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!

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.


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, which is something which continues to be frightening to me despite accumulating experience. But you can't always avoid it, so it's good to have some practice piloting at night. I actually love night sailing and I intentionally plan some arrivals at night, just to keep my skills up. I once lost my chart plotter entering Poole Harbor in the middle of the night -- it was terrifying, although I have been in and out of Poole a million times. It's really hard to read the lights in a complicated harbor like Poole, especially when there's a lot of light pollution from a city. But I think it's an essential skill, worth practicing. Besides that, successfully negotiating a complicated harbor at night is really satisfying -- it always feels like an accomplishment.


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. So the other basic habit I have for safe pilotage is to be sure I know the harbor I'm coming into, and its main hazards, channels, safe areas, etc. In case of a new harbor, or one I haven't been into in a while, I like to spend a half hour or more studying the paper chart, until I feel familiar with the harbor and feel like I have memorized the main landmarks, channels, and so forth, and be oriented when I get there. It's incredibly easy to get confused by buoyage or lights, which can run you straight onto the rocks if you get disoriented. I really think that study ahead of time is important -- even if you have a great chart plotter, right at the helm.
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Old 11-02-2014, 09:55   #12
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

5. Have a boat that points well enough to sail off a lee shore
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Old 11-02-2014, 10:43   #13
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how do i while sailing a looong rocky lee shore stay off rocks.....

i keep my eyes open.
works every time. farther to open ocean at night and pay attention
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Old 11-02-2014, 11:04   #14
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

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how do i while sailing a looong rocky lee shore stay off rocks.....

i keep my eyes open.
works every time. farther to open ocean at night and pay attention


I usually just go around them.
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Old 11-02-2014, 11:04   #15
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Re: How do you stay off the rocks?

Paper charts for the BIG PICTURE, Ipad or chartplotter to keep on course and last but most important... be on the lookout and use your eyes. BUT... your eyes can deceive you sometimes, we almost ran our boat onto the beach one time thinking the shore was much farther away that it really was. Keeping an eye on the depth sounder is what saved us. Those big, distant rocks next to the beach.... were actually small rocks and much closer! Lighting can play tricks on you.
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