Sailing Navigation Tips For Your First Charter

Sailing navigation doesn't have to be stressful or difficult. Check out our top tips.

Sailing Navigation Tips For Your First Charter

So, you’ve been sailing for a while, you’ve got your Day Skipper and you’re ready to go it alone with your family and friends, fantastic! Chartering a boat for the first time can be both exciting and daunting. The thrill of skippering your own yacht, in waters you’ve never sailed before and being responsible for your boat and crew, without the safety blanket of an instructor, can add some pressure. You’ll be glad to know there really is no need to worry, the key is preparation, know your stuff, and you’ll be fine. With plenty of planning, you’ll be on your way to a fantastically relaxing sailing holiday.

Here are our top sailing navigation preparation tips for your charter holiday.

Skills Assessment

Assess your skills and those of your crew. This is no time to be shy or arrogant if you’re good or bad at something you need to own it, be honest and assess first and foremost whether chartering a boat on your own is something you can handle.

So you’ve scratched your head, thought about it and the answer is yes, you’re ready! The next consideration is deciding which boat suits the skills of you and your crew best. My advice would be to send us an inquiry and have a chat; we will be adept at getting you the right match with our professional advice. You will be an expert at sailing navigation in on time at all.

What You Need To Know Before You Go

Basic sailing navigation knowledge you’ll need includes:

  • Using a chart plotter
  • Reading paper and electronic charts
  • How to get a hand compass bearing
  • Dead reckoning and blind navigation
  • VHF handling and emergency codes of conduct
  • Collision regulations
  • Understanding marker buoys, depth, tide, exclusions zones and hazards
  • Plotting a course and knowing the difference between true and magnetic

Research And Prepare Your Itinerary In Advance

Once you’ve decided where you want to go sailing create an itinerary of the places you’d like to go day-by-day, review nautical charts for the areas where you’ll be sailing. Plot a route for each section of your itinerary and note down distances, sailing times, navigational hazards and other considerations.

It’s a good idea to create a passage plan for this first few sections of your itinerary before you arrive, ensuring there’s no last-minute planning once you’re there. If tides are a factor, ensure you have all your tide tables to hand.

Once you’ve got your itinerary use your Almanac and read up on local marinas to familiarise yourself with each port of entry. Create pilotage plans and read local cruising guides, noting down questions for your charter manager at your briefing.

Tip: It’s a good idea to go easy on yourself and your crew for the first day whilst you get used to the boat, so try to plan an easy day sail for your departure day.

On Arrival, Get To Know Your Boat

Okay so you’ve done all this preparation and your holiday is finally here! The key now is to take the time to get to know your boat. When you meet your charter manager listen carefully during hand-over, have questions prepared and ensure you know where everything is, especially safety equipment. This is important even for experienced sailors, as no boat is the same.

Local Knowledge

Your charter company will hold a chart briefing before you leave, ensure you go to this. Chart briefings give you vital local information about the area, key VHF channels, hazards that may not be on charts and local weather forecast information. Attend this meeting armed with questions from your prior planning so you can get all the information you need before you leave.

Navigation Equipment On-board

Charter yachts are generally well equipped with the latest sailing navigation technology. You should expect to find:

  • VHF
  • Log book
  • Almanac
  • Chart plotter and GPS
  • Paper charts, parallel rulers, pencils, dividers
  • Handheld compasses and binoculars

Tip: Sailing navigation aids, such as radar, are less likely to be found on charter yachts and items like binoculars and handheld compasses can be worn-out. It’s worth bringing spares of anything that could be old and overused.

Useful Navigation Apps

Every sailor should know how to navigate properly; once you do there are ways to make the process quicker and easier. Advances in technology now mean there are apps and websites dedicated to providing you with vital information at the touch of a button, making sailing navigation much easier than it used to be.

Apps, such as savvy navvy, now provide an all-in-one sailing navigation solution, combining real-time weather and chart data for a comprehensive passage plan suited to your boat specifications. Handy boat accessories like this give you peace of mind and help keep you safe out on the water.


“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”

Benjamin Franklin

Sailing Navigation Tips For Your First Charter

Happy sailing, Written By Hannah Cotterell Community Manager, savvy navvy

What sailing navigation aids do you use on a yacht charter? What tips or recommendations would you give to others?

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