Tips for Digital Navigation while Sailing

Yacht Wheel

Credit: Flickr / Rob Faulkner / CC BY 2.0

Sailing nowadays can be fun and easy with electronic navigation. Today’s boaters use graphically rich touch screen interface, cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity, GPS receiver, sensors and onboard storage, and more.

So, the next time you head off on a sailing vacation, you don’t need to fret about the navigation process. Here are some tips that will help you enjoy the digital navigation process.

Most sailors are quite familiar with chart plotters – a device that integrates GPS satellite navigation with charts of the water and coastline. The device allows you to track your speed and direction and can store hundreds of custom routes (each with their waypoints and route information). Chart plotters are quite simple and you need to set a waypoint in the water and then navigate towards it.

1. Install GPS and check the settings
The first step is to make sure that the GPS unit is installed properly on your boat. Now, you will need to familiarize yourself with the GPS device. Check out if the device shows true or magnetic and if it accounts for variation. Most importantly, remember to change the settings and set them up as you want them.

2. Zoom in on vector charts
When navigating on either shallow or tricky waters, and using vector charts, remember to zoom to different levels to the apt layer. Stay alert to evade unseen hazards.

3. Placing Waypoints and avoiding hazards
Stay alert at all times to avoid driving into hazards like buoys, especially when you are on your autopilot for a particular route. At times, with GPS charting it is easy placing waypoints, which will ensure the accuracy of the destination.

4. Familiarize yourself with distances
Quite often, you may want to use the GPS as the anchor alarm. So, remember to gauge when you wish the alarm to sound, and depending on your anchorage you may wish to place the setting of the alarm accordingly.

5. Use common sense when GPS is off
GPS can turn off in many environs like hilly areas or when you are piloting through a narrow channel. At such times, remember to always use your navigational instincts and common sense.

Chart Plotting

Credit: Flickr / Darla دارلا Hueske / CC BY-ND 2.0

6. Stay updated
It is best to keep your digital charts up to date. And, have a real-world view of hazards, which move regularly. Keep your charts up to mark whether paper or digital.
Familiarize yourself with the navigational tools and your electronics. The more you know the tools and also hone your navigational skills – it will be easy to sail through anything.


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