The do’s and don’ts of marine navigation on a yacht
Last updated: 18/10/2016
The word navigate is derived from the Latin roots navis, meaning “ship” and agere meaning “to move” or “to direct”.
Navigation systems on board superyachts can be both a blessing and a curse. Without them, the vessel is undoubtedly in ‘deep water’ when it comes to getting from A to B. On the other hand, failure to respond, technology issues, or misreading can prove a nightmare for any captain or crew member. With help from FarSounder, Actisense and Fugawi (Northport Systems), read on to find the latest tips and advice on yacht navigation.
Charts, dividers, parallel rulers, pencils, handheld compasses and binoculars are of course the necessities and will be found on almost every vessel globally. In recent years the introduction of advanced technology has brought captains and crews GPS systems with built in chart plotters.
Cheryl Zimmerman from Far Sounder commented, “Navigation sonars are the latest tool for helping captains navigate unknown waters when searching for the most exclusive destinations. When evaluating navigation sonar options, it's important to consider the sonar's update rate, coverage zone, water depth performance and maximum detection range. For effective yacht navigation, look for a sonar with no moving parts that can capture a huge field of view with a long range every second or two."
The backup plan
All captains need multiple methods of navigation reference; if your main expensive system quits unexpectedly or you need more portability than a traditional chart plotter, a great backup is mobile apps on your smartphone or tablet. You can get inexpensive yet powerful chart navigation apps and separately downloaded charts of waters anywhere in the world.
Robin Martel from Fugawi (Northport Systems) said, “For iPad / iPhone’s, get the app iNavX. For Android, get the app PathAway. For PC users and below the deck, get Fugawi Marine 5 Navigation software. All of these can be downloaded and saved for offline use with a wide assortment of international nautical charts through the X-Traverse.com web service.”
Connectivity and diagnosis
NMEA 2000 sensors and instruments continue to grow in popularity and variety and provides robust, reliable and fast networking of data coming from depth sounders, flux gate compasses, weather stations and much more. Retro-fitting old boats with NMEA 0183 are easily done with 0183 to 2000 adapters from vendors such as Actisense. Many new boats come with NMEA 2000 and are well suited for presenting that data on a laptop computer with appropriate software such as Fugawi Marine 5. Read this ultimate guide to NMEA yacht installations.
Multiple charts for new harbours and passages
When visiting a new area, or a destination that you have not been to for some time, consider using more than one chart, if available. No chart is perfect and the seas change faster than the weather. Some chart providers such as Navionics offer crowd sourcing for more up to date data, but user-generated content can be prone to human error as with everything else. X-Traverse.com offers a wide range of marine charts. If for example you are cruising to the Bahamas and the Caribbean, you can choose from NOAA, Navionics, WaveyLine and NV Charts and these will work on Fugawi Marine 5 PC Navigation software, iNavX iPhone and iPad App and PathAway Android App.
Know your weather
Weather can be highly unpredictable and past records are no guarantee of future repetition. Even on short cruises, weather can quickly turn a safe trip into a hazardous journey. Access to an accurate weather forecast is not only essential, but is also part of a larger trend of more information readily available on multiple and often mobile device apps.
Pre-load your charts
Not everyone is organised, as Robin Martel went on to say, “We see too many boaters scrambling at the last minute to get their charts to download or setting off on a cruise and realising they are missing a chart or two. With X-Traverse.com downloading a chart for your iPhone, iPad, Android and PC devices takes only a few minutes and you can choose from a plethora of chart options.”