Long gone are the days when a sailor cruising alongside an unfamiliar coast had nothing but their compass and the principles of dead reckoning to go by. The age of GPS and electronic chartplotters is here, and with NOAA’s recent announcement that it would be discontinuing paper charts, it is clear that navigation has undergone a titanic shift.
Far from making the fundamental principles of navigation obsolete, however, these changes reinforce just how important they are. GPS and other revolutionary electronic aids have greatly enhanced the sailor’s ability to get their position and travel safely, but they are of no use unless that sailor understands how to navigate. Here’s an example: On a recent ASA flotilla in Croatia, stormy weather had caused the marinas to fill up with boats looking to escape the rain, meaning that the ASA boats had to find somewhere else to anchor. By consulting the charts and cruising guide, they identified a protected bay a few miles off.
Using a combination of GPS data and pencil-on-paper chartplotting, they figured out the best route and the obstacles they would need to avoid. They also considered the direction and force of the wind in order to avoid a lee shore. Armed with this information, and keeping a sharp lookout, they navigated safely into the idyllic bay, where they found mooring balls and spent a peaceful night far from the overcrowded marina.
The lesson? Understanding coastal navigation counts. So where can you learn these skills? So glad you asked! The answer is at your local ASA affiliated sailing school. ASA 105 is the Coastal Navigation standard. In this course you learn the theory of navigation, including:
- Reading charts
- Using the instruments on board
- Understanding tide and current tables
- Converting courses and bearings for true, magnetic, and compass directions
- Dead reckoning
- Plotting a course
Not only are these essential skills for any serious mariner, they also come with a genuine sense of achievement. For hundreds of years the world’s great explorers, admirals, pirates, and singlehanders have practiced them. So can you. The feeling of fulfillment that comes from plotting a course and sailing it is second-to-none.
ASA 105 is taught at sailing schools around the country, and is often paired with ASA 106 (Advanced Coastal Cruising), which allows you to put the theory into practice. For more details on what you will learn, click here.
To sign up, find your local ASA school and ask when their next Coastal Navigation course is. Click here to find sailing schools in your area.