Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Captain John: Ready For Any Conditions

How to mark your nautical chart for safer sailing navigation...

Guest blog by Captain John
Captain John Jamieson, a regular contributor to the Daily Boater, is author of Seamanship Secrets and publisher of the popular boating education website

Do you find it difficult to read your navigation chart at night or in rainy sailing weather?  Wouldn’t it make things easier to highlight dangers, anchorages or lighted buoys along your sailing routes?

This article explains how...

NOAA nautical charts or British admiralty charts contain a hefty supply of nautical chart symbols. Make coastal navigation easy with custom marks—or annotations—so that the most important ones stand out.

Annotation Tools Needed
  • long straight edge
  • ¾” transparent tape
  • fine tip permanent felt tip marker
  • yellow, orange and dark blue highlighters

Tape and Bolden Sailing Routes
Pencil your sailing tracklines onto each navigational chart. Tape over each line with the transparent tape. Use the straight edge and felt tip marker to copy each trackline onto the tape. Write in the magnetic course on top of the line.

Circle Buoys or Lighthouses
Tape over significant lighted buoys, light structures or lighthouses. Then, circle each structure. To add clarity, add another strip of tape and write down the main features of  the structure.

For example:
“Buoy 16 – Quick flashing red”
“Light 21 – Flashing 4 second green”
“Cape Lookout Lighthouse – Flashing white every 15 seconds

Accent Emergency Anchorages
Look for deep water pockets along each side of the trackline. Highlight the abbreviated sea bottom type within each pocket. Here are common bottom types in US waters. (Note: sea bottom abbreviations are always italicized on a nautical chart)

Cl = clay
Co = coral
Grs = grass
Hd = hard bottom
K = kelp
M = mud
Rk or Rky = rocky
S = sand
Sh = shells
So = soft bottom

Highlight Dangerous Shoals
Highlight all shoals within 2 miles on each side of the sailing trackline. Use the dark blue highlighter or combine dark blue and yellow for a deep green shade.

Use these techniques to customize your navigation charts for easier, safer coastal navigation. Keep things simple so that your sailboat crew can see at-a-glance what lies ahead on the sailing route.

Share Your Navigation With Your Crew

John Rousmaniere, well known racing and cruising sailor,  and  author of "Fastnet Force 10" says this: The navigator's job is a specialized one but not sacred. He or she should never feel above explaining it to shipmate."

Take his sound advice to heart. Pass along your customized markings with your sailing partner or crew. If you become incapacitated for any reason, they will know just how to keep your small sailboat in safe water.

Follow these five easy sailing tips for safer sailing navigation. Keep your small sailboat and her sailing crew safe and sound - wherever in the world you choose to cruise!


More from Captain John...

Captain John Jamieson shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need beyond sailing school.  Sign up for his highly popular “Captain John’s Sailing Tips” - a FREE newsletter - at

You can also become a member of for instant access to 425+ articles, sailing video tutorials, 125+ newsletters, and free sailing topic eBooks authored by Captain John!

Photo © Nautical Sites Media via


No comments:

Post a Comment