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Online Cruising Course
The Cruise Itself
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V. The cruise involves its planning, piloting to get there without going aground, and the destination itself.

A. Planning a Cruise.

Make realistic projections about travel time over water and excursions in dinghy.

Plan an appealing itinerary:

Islands, bays or cays with attractions

Anchorages with scenic and natural features

Plan meals either at restaurants or on boat

Keep it simple on boat, eg pre-cook some food

Crystalize living patterns to the essential & delightful items & routines, & take & do those

If you can navigate, you can go anywhere in the BVI.

B. Piloting, or Not Going Aground.

Piloting is the art of getting there without going aground. To do so, you must learn to read a chart.

1. Reading a Chart. A chart has a lot of general information like a map. In addition, there is specialized information. Most importantly, the system of naviagational aids must be deciphered and understood.

Boayage System. The system of actual daymarkers and buoys on the water are represented on the chart by a system of symbols and letters. They tell you the location of shallow water (shoals) or deep water.

A buoy floats while chained to the bottom. A daymarker is fixed, usually on a piling.

The buoyage systems are the same for both the BVI and the U.S as well as the rest of the Caribbean and North and South America: the color red is used to mark the starboard (right side) side of the channel when approaching from seaward.

Thus the phrase: red, right, return.

Nuns are buoys with a red color and a pyramidal or conical shape, equivalent to red, triangular daymarkers. These have even numbers going up from the channel entrance.

Cans are buoys with a green color and a rectangular shape, equivalent to green, square daymarkers. These have odd numbers going up from the channel entrance.

Lighted flashing is indicated by the time interval in seconds and the color of the flash.

Look at your chart’s definitions for the correct symbols indicating the above. Generally, cans will be indicated by the letters "C" and "G" and nuns by the letters "N" and "R" on the chart. Sometimes each has a chart color that is different than red or green for better visibility on the chart.

Lighted buoys that come on at intervals will be indiated by the letters "Fl" with "G" or "R" added, along with the interval of the flash. Sometimes strobes are distinguished by a different symbol.

Interpreting depths read on chart. Don’t rely on a number close to your boat’s depth, since the chart has a scientific definition like mean, low water. Also these can be out of date due to shifting shoals.

Importance of local knowledge. Local knowledge is additional information that is not on a chart. When in certain situations, local knowledge can be vital.

It is importance to monitor your depth meter. You need to know the actual draft of your boat as it relates to the the depth meter reading. Will your boat go aground when the depth meter reads 5 feet?

2. Using a compass. If you know where you are and how to determine direction from a compass, you can go to a new location safely, i.e. without going aground.

There is true north and magnetic north as well as a deviation due to the effect of the boat itself on the compass.

In practice, it is often best to go from the magnetic reading on the chart to compass, which of course is a magnetic reading, and vice-versa, and ignore any deviation.

Using a compass rose and a parallel ruler. A chart has a compass rose with the true and magnetic headings nested in a circle.

Plotting a course. A line on a chart is called a course. This is the direction or true angle noted above the course line in degrees clockwise from north

Thus C120M or C120C means Course 120° magnetic (M) or compass (C), depending on where read, i.e. the source of the data.

The length of the course line is the measure of the actual distance you need to travel.

The speed in knots you intend to travel is noted below the course line preceded by S for speed.

A position is noted by a dot and half circle with the time noted nearby in military time

A course can be laid by pointing the boat to a mark or buoy and noting the compass heading on the chart. Plotting two such courses gives a "fix" at the "x" or intersection of the lines.

So knowing where you are and drawing a course line to that destination allows you to take a reading by transposing that course line to the compass rose and taking the magnetic heading. Then steer the boat on that heading.

To plot a course you need intellect, to keep it discipline. That means it is difficult to keep the boat on a constant heading for any lenght of time.

3. Use of depth meter

Importance of boat`s draft re boat going aground

Relating draft of boat to reading depth on chart

Knowing how depth meter is calibrated, ie to botton of keel, to waterline, or to otherwise

4. Maintaining windward margin of safety to shallow water. The margin of safety is almost always in the windward direction, since the wind is difficult to advance against rather than to go with. The same thing is true where there is significient current.

5. Getting off after going aground.

Analysis: composition of reef or shoal, direction of "deep" water, boat position & eye of wind.

If being driven hard aground, quickly drop sails & motor off by backing.

If tacking into mud or sand shoal, use sails and wind to get off, including backwinding sails.

Heel boat over by shifting crew weight.

The possibility of kedging.

Assess situation: damage to boat and likelihood of sinking, amount of pounding to keel by wave action, alternative sandy shores.

Stuff any accessible leak with any available material.

Turn on bilge pump and monitor bilge.

Call charter base immediately.

Move to shallower water if sinking.

C. The Destination: An Integral Part of a Cruise.

Pick a nice anchorage within the general destination area.

Anchoring or mooring is often preferable to limiting and expensive marina slips.

A good practice is the cruise slowly throught the destination area checking out the various anchorage choices.

Choose your next water neighborhood from among a variety of surroundings for your boat based on its closeness to ashore attractions, moorings available if desired, holding quality of the anchorage, protection from ground seas and in the event of a hard blow, etc.

The sailor’s particular taste for scenic anchorages is known as "gunkholing."