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Old 22-10-2012, 15:55   #1
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Coastal sailing

After ten years, we are moving our Catalina 350 from a lake in NC to Charleston. Big undertaking for sure. I know we need to upgrade electronics, presently have auto pilot but no GPS, etc., etc. any suggestions Everything else is Raymarine. Just beginning the process. Thanks for any help.
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Old 23-10-2012, 14:46   #2
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Re: Coastal sailing

For coastal sailing in the SE US, in general:

a) an accurate depth sounder...(check it's accuracy when in a calm anchorage, and calibrate accordingly)

b) good paper charts...(buy some new charts, or update your old ones)

c) accurate compass...(have it adjusted profesionally there in SC)

d) a good pair of binoculars....(Practical Sailor has good reviews)

e) a DSC-VHF, with masthead antenna...


f) after those are acomplished, you'll probably want a good GPS....
(can't beat a handheld Garmin, cheap and ubiquitous!! and you can power it from your vessel's 12vdc, and use it in the cabin, in the cockpit, in the dinghy, or at home/in the car, etc...)


g) while I understand your questions regarding "what electronics to add"....I'd actually recommend waiting until after you've done a coastal cruise or two in the SC area, using the items outlined above....
Then you should have a better grasp on exactly what YOU desire, for YOUR application / use.....

And then you may decide that you really don't need much more than you got now....
Or, you may find that your plans/application/desire is driving you to look at adding radar/chartplotter, etc...and even a Class B AIS transponder????

{Take note that if you learn to DR, and use paper charts and a compass, you'll be ready for whatever comes up!!! And, if your desires are to sail/cruise further south and east (Florida, Bahamas, etc.), also understand that a depth sounder, good eyes. accurate charts, etc. are all infinitely more useful than almost any other "marine electronics"....}

I do hope this helps, and you realize I'm not ducking the questions, but rather trying to relate some real-world suggestions from my 45 years of experience of both sailing offshore and cruising Fla/Bahamas....

Fair winds....

s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 23-10-2012, 14:59   #3
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Re: Coastal sailing

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, keevers.

What John said.
Gord May
"If you didn't have the time or money to do it right in the first place, when will you get the time/$ to fix it?"

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Old 23-10-2012, 15:10   #4
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Re: Coastal sailing


John has good advice. Roger on the current charts. Add the Coast Pilot, and any available cruising guides. Keep up with the Notice to Mariners, and the USCG Marine Safety broadcast on VHF.

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Old 23-10-2012, 15:11   #5
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Re: Coastal sailing

I'd suggest cruising guides.

Here on the East coast of Canada, I find the Cruising Club of America's guides ( Pilot Press - Cruising Guides to Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. ) useful. In addition to the government publications fill in the area not covered in the cruising guides.

You public library may also have something for you.
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Old 23-10-2012, 17:45   #6
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Re: Coastal sailing

Take a look at activecaptain & opencpn sites.marc
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Old 23-10-2012, 18:04   #7
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Re: Coastal sailing

Welcome to CF Keevers.

Paper charts are good advice, but having them on a notebook or tablet is sure handy!
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Old 23-10-2012, 19:30   #8
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Re: Coastal sailing

Hi Keevers, that will be a fun change from Norman or wherever you are now. Charleston is a great town.

So, a few suggestions:

1) Currents will be a new factor, much more than the lake. Maybe you have a handle on it all, but if not, spend some time figuring it out for docking, going out the inlet, or through Wappoo cut if heading south. The current can run over 4 knots in the cut there, and can be scary if going down current and a tug/barge come through.

2) Get a Maptech chart book for backup and cruise planning. Hard to beat a decent chartplotter at the helm. iPads are cool, but my chartplotter has taken a beating from the elements, and iPads are not marine devices. Having good nav data at the helm is essential. Being new to coastal sailing, a good chartplotter will take some of the stress out of it. I have a 5" Garmin, but you can spend as much as you want on a chartplotter, or multifunction display. Being able to overlay AIS data could be very helpful for you, as could XM weather. The Garmin GPSMAP 720 looks like a sweet spot, but others can chime in on a decent NMEA 2000 MFD. Sure you can do without it, but it can really dumb down getting around in a busy port town.

3) Consider a class, like USPS Piloting or advanced Piloting. There's probably other good classes on navigation, but these made it possible for me to stay out of trouble.

Hope you enjoy sailing out of Charleston. You have a lot of good destinations that are reachable within a few days, but the harbor will keep you busy for a little while.
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Old 24-10-2012, 04:55   #9
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Re: Coastal sailing

Integration is slightly more important to me than the individual components, and I also pay attention to headroom for future growth (and integration).

Throughout years of computing, I've found that if all the networked components come from the same company, they have less chance of pointing the finger at "the other guys" when something doesn't work.

A certain amount of redundancy can be comforting (two VHFs, two GPS sources, two depth sounders, etc.) if budget and real estate allows.

I notice it's not uncommon on sailboats to install electronics below decks at a nav station... which in turn often seems to mean the helsman can't immediately hear the radio and can't immediately see electronic charts. Useless. (With all due respect.)

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Old 24-10-2012, 05:01   #10
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Re: Coastal sailing

A handheld VHF, in addition to your stationary one (which will be down below), is great if you end up in fog or just a very crowded harbor. The handheld one you clip to you foulies and still hear everything going on
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
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Old 24-10-2012, 05:14   #11
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Re: Coastal sailing

Originally Posted by ranger42c View Post
I notice it's not uncommon on sailboats to install electronics below decks at a nav station... which in turn often seems to mean the helsman can't immediately hear the radio and can't immediately see electronic charts. Useless. (With all due respect.) -Chris
Completely agree. We sail in the rather busy waters of the Solent (UK). Anyone here who tries to plot a course on a chart and stick to it is either a visitor or taking an exam. Back in the real world all navigation is actually pilotage and takes place at the helm so we have a nice little Garmin GPS plotter in place of the more traditional compass.

I would recommend Keevers spend some time looking at Raymarine or Garmin and seeing what local chandlers have to offer with a seasonal discount at this time of year. Worth making sure you can add AIS later as well, some of the small Raymarine plotters can't display it.

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Old 24-10-2012, 06:41   #12
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Re: Coastal sailing

Learn about tide and currents.. It's the one biggest change from lake sailing..

Cape Dory 25D Seraph
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Old 24-10-2012, 08:38   #13
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Re: Coastal sailing

Consider all advice about information "at the helm" and then re-consider it. I know, I know, blasphemy! But many, many skippers I know who do longer distance cruises (compared to daysails or day-lake-sails) (a "day" cruise for us is usually anywhere from 5 to 8 hours MOVING) regard being behind the wheel a real burden. The reality is that you simply don't and/or don't want to be a "slave-behind-the-wheel" once you start taking longer trips on your boat. A good autopilot takes the pain of hand steering away, and once you do that, you are in front of the wheel anyway, right?

What I've found is that it actually is much more comfortable being ahead of the wheel, because the center of motion of the boat is there, and is, on longer trips, much more comfortable than bobbing up and down behind the wheel at the "end" of the boat.

So, recognize you'll most likely be doing longer sails than when you were back at the lake, and consider whatever set-ups you have or plan to have so that functionality will not require you to be behind the wheel to operate the systems.

Pretty much the only time I am actually behind the wheel is leaving and returning to a dock.
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Old 24-10-2012, 09:33   #14
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Re: Coastal sailing


+1 on cruising guides for info on marinas, anchorages, inlets, etc. We've picked up several over the years, but primarily use Waterway Guides and Claiborne Young's for more history/sightseeng info. Also check out both of their web sites.

+1 on redundancy. 2 GPS's, 2 VHF's, 2 anchors. We keep paper charts handy as a backup to the chartplotter.

Brush up on rules of the road and coastal navigation (in Chapmans if you have a copy). Charleston has numerous intersecting channels (including the ICW) with lots of aids to navigation which can be confusing and lots of boat traffic from runabouts to container ships.

Give us a shout if you make it down to Beaufort.

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