Emergency Coastal Navigation – Don’t Get Lost!

by Ian Kuhl on June 5, 2016

in Chandlery, Featured, Marine Safety


Typical Hand Bearing Compass

Typical Hand Bearing Compass

Emergency Coastal Navigation

With the coming of GPS (Global Positioning Satellites) navigation plotters and fancy ways to get home by pressing a button, simple piloting skills are unfortunately becoming lost.

The old skills in navigation are now not common to many boating people under the age of fifty. Should the ‘magic box’ fail to show the way back home in a situation of poor visibility, it is still the responsibility of the skipper to know how to navigate the way back to family and home.

By having a paper chart and compass on board and knowing how to use them it is possible to find your way home even on a black wet night.

Keeping a keen look out on your way out and correctly identifying land marks and their compass bearing is a good way to keep track of your position. If you cannot take a sight across your compass you can use a hand-bearing compass to take a bearing.

Take a note of your compass course out and you can reverse it on the way back by taking off 180 degrees.

If you have ever been in a situation where your GPS goes down, you soon learn to put a mark on the chart when ever possible. This gives you a starting point for DR (dead reckoning) to estimate your way back to a known landmark or lighthouse bearing.

Depth sounders also give a good guide to your position, especially if you have one bearing point. Two landmarks can give you a “fix” if you take the bearing from each and lay them on the chart.

Magnetic charts have a variation of approximately 12 degrees east in East Coast Australia, so deduct this from your compass bearing to give yourself a “true” position line.

Many smart phones have the ability to have a compass app loaded in them: a handy option.

Navionics also has their Navionics Boating apps with the same charts as your plotter – and GPS positioning. You are able to download charts to use without an internet connection these days, making your mobile phone and/or iPad an invaluable asset on any boat.

Simple battery powered hand held GPS units are also an essential back up for boats going offshore. Back up batteries, compass, charts, hand held VHF radios and torches all should be part of your boat’s kit to make sure you get safely home.

So practice turning off the box and keep your navigation skills honed.

It is fun to practice these skills, and this will give you and your family more confidence in boating.

If you are looking to go offshore, we urge you to come and have a chat to us. We find many people simply do not understand the dangers and the amount of preparation that a trip like this requires…

Better safe than sorry, right? 

Phone: (03) 6266 3768
Email: info@franklinmarine.com.au

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