Firstly, GPS positions are far more accurate than many of the world's charts as these were originally produced by celestial observations and chronometers. For example, Flinder's surveys, completed in the early part of the nineteenth century are still the basis for many of the charts for northern Australia. When we strayed away from major shipping routes during our circumnavigation it was not unusual to find charted islands a mile or more out of their true position. In French Polynesia and even Mexico we found errors of small magnitude, and you can be assured these are commonplace almost everywhere in the world. So although a GPS is far superior to its antecedents, it cannot be relied on to make a night-time entry into a strange harbor or through a narrow passage between reefs. (Far more useful in these situations is radar.)
Secondly, electronics can fail. Battery power may be lost, or the boat could be struck by lightning as Bagheera was off the coast of South Africa. The electromagnetic pulse associated with a lightning strike is likely to fry all electronics, even those not connected to the boat's power, so that even your back-up GPS may be dead. Incidentally, if there is a lightning strike in the vicinity of your vessel, check out your equipment afterward. Although it may not be a direct hit, it might still affect your electronics.
It is also unsafe if only one person on board can navigate. Something may happen to this person, so all the crew should participate in the day-to-day navigation and have the ability to guide the vessle to port safely.
Of course there are other dangers that come under the heading of navigation. The things that mariners can't see, like containers floating barely awash, whales meandering by, or similar hazards to a passage-making sailboat are a concern to all sailors. Regarding ships, the answer is simply good watch-keeping. Always give these larger vessels a wide berth, regardless of who you think has the right of way. In addition, alert them to your presence by communicating on VHF Channel 16. And be particularly cautious of fishing vessels as they often move erratically and occasionally at great speed.
Containers, logs, oil drums and the like, including whales, will not be seen at night and often not by day, but damaging collisions are rare. In our six-year circumnavigation we had a couple of bumps with large turtles, occasional brushes with logs and we did hook a few fishing nets, but none of those incidents were threatening. None of our many cruising friends have sustained major damage through collisions, except one single-hander who woke up to find that he had sailed into the side of a freighter in the South Atlantic! These days, however, modern radar units with contact alarms are a wonderful bonus, particularly for single-handed or short-handed cruisers.
|"Planning the early stages of your route so that you can stop every night in a calm anchorage where goods and services are available and where there are interesting places to visit can help smooth out the adjustment to life on board."|
The initial route you choose can contribute hugely to the success or failure of your trip, and it is important to consider the experience and expectations of everyone concerned. For a compatible life afloat it is preferable to ease into the cruising mode gradually, particularly for those who have less experience or who have young children on board. Planning the early stages of your route so that you can stop every night in a calm anchorage where goods and services are available and where there are interesting places to visit will greatly help in the adjustment to life on board. Even with three years of cruising experience, after we stopped and spent a year leading regular lives ashore, it took us some time to re-adjust to life afloat as we resumed cruising and headed up Australia's east coast from Sydney to Darwin. How much the children had grown in one year was a particular shock, and the corresponding reduction in space on the boat required adjustments that were not only theoretical, but practical as well.
For the first-time cruiser, there are some regions that are particularly appealing from the stand point of routing. The Caribbean (including Central and the North coast of South America) and the Mediterranean are ideal in this regard as distances are short and navigation is generally not complicated. The Caribbean provides year-round tropical bliss, although one does have to monitor the weather carefully during the hurricane season. The tragedies of the hurricanes in 1995 are a vivid reminder that you can never be complacent. The Mediterranean has a variety of seasons, and wonderful ancient cultures. Although very different, both areas provide many varied experiences for the less experienced cruiser.
Of course the route you choose will be dictated by your boat's location. If the boat is in the Pacific Northwest, for example, complications set in right away. Whether you head down the coast to San Francisco or across to Hawaii, the trip can be cold, rough, long, and by no means ideal for anyone who is uncertain about cruising in the first place. If your plan is ultimately to visit the South Pacific, then any crew reluctant to do the first long leg should consider flying in later to join the boat. If you need replacement crew there never seems to be a shortage of people keen to garner the experience of an offshore passage, as is evidenced by the advertisements in the newsletters of offshore clubs and associations .
One word about weather, which is an important factor whether you're planning the long-term route or day-to-day trips. Several people have commented that as we were out for six years when we circumnavigated, we must have had no deadlines and could stay as long as we wanted wherever we wanted. In fact this is far from the reality. When cruising offshore one is constantly coordinating one's route with the world's seasonal weather patterns. Experienced sailors are cautious; they do not put themselves or their boats at risk by being in an area during the stormy season. They are familiar with meteorological terminology, weather symbols and charts, sources of forecasts and warnings and frequently listen to weather forecasts on the radio several times a day as this is fundamental to comfortable, crisis-free sailing.
In temperate and Arctic climes the seasons are distinguished by large variations and changes in frontal activity. In the tropics there are generally only two seasons: wet and dry. In some areas the wet season is also the time for hurricanes, cyclones, or typhoons, all terms for the high winds that develop out of tropical storms. In the Indian Ocean and South East Asian waters there is also a seasonal reversal in wind direction, the monsoon.
If you do encounter an unavoidable storm, having a well-prepared vessel and managing it properly will help you get through. Hopefully you won't find yourself in the hurricane belt during that season (it is hard to get insurance coverage if you are). However, if you do get caught, you'll normally have at least a 48-hour warning of a hurricane, which generally offers enough time to get out of its direct path or head for a hurricane hole. Having a HF radio is essential for obtaining weather forecasts if you wish to cruise in places during the dangerous season. (But don't rely on only one source as you could be lulled into a false sense of security by local radio forecasts backed by governments intent on playing down the threat because of the potentially negative impact to tourism.) Sometimes a hurricane anchorage will be less than ideal and the boat may be in jeopardy. Depending on the circumstances a decision will have to be made to move ashore ahead of a hurricane. Never take the risk of staying on board in these situations; remember your lives are far more important than the boat.
In reality most cruisers are on the move during the good weather seasons, maintaining sufficient flexibility for weather, travel, and social events, then they hole-up in the off-season, often in one location. This is the time when boat repairs are completed, seasonal work is possibly obtained, or trips are made back home. Cruising children may also attend local schools and cruisers can reconnect with the world ashore. It is also the time when new cruising itineraries evolve. Unlike the indecision experienced when they first left home, these plans seem to blossom effortlessly within the nurturing community of fellow cruisers.
|The Following User Says Thank You to Liza Copeland For This Useful Post:||
j d (07-31-2014)
|Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)|