Archive for the ‘Navigation’ Category

Portsmouth – St Malo  – 4th – 10th June 2016

Alderney race

With a total of 6 crew (including our first student from South Korea) we set out at the very reasonable hour of 10.00 heading for our first stop which was to be Jersey approximately 123nm. Our skipper for this leg of the trip was Joe and his navigational focus had been to hit Hurst Narrows (the narrowest section of water between the Isle of Wight and the main land) and the  Alderney Race with tides sweeping us down to Jersey at the right time. Happily this was achieved in both cases.

Unfortunately the wind was very light with a force 1/2 for the whole journey, fortunately we had filled up with diesel before we left !! The channel crossing was fairly uneventful, with 6 crew Joe had decided to run a two hour rolling watch. Happy Days, 4 hours off watch!!
Having read the Shell Channel Pilot and looked at the charts there IMG_0013are a number of different routes into the marina at St Hellier. Joe had planned the pilotage using the channel pilot; choosing a passage which was pretty well marked and kept us off the rocks on the approach thankfully, there is some great buoyage to guide you in.



We arrived at St Hellier at 0750 DST we had plenty of tide over the bar into the marina so straight in with no hanging around. The crew headed out for showers before grabbing a few more hours sleep before we started to explore Jersey.

Joe and I headed out and managed to find the most industrial part of the city, not very pretty !!  We turned round and headed the other way. We met up with the rest of the crew to find somewhere to grab some lunch. St Hellier appears to be a pretty modern town with a lot of large food chains , we were looking for something more local so we asked one of the residents and ended up catching a bus to the other end of the bay to a place called St Aubin which was very pretty and we had a great lunch in a local pub.


The following morning we headed out bound for St Malo, Jim had done the passage plan and we had all looked over the route which was 40nm South of Jersey.

The main hazard on this section of the passage was The Minquiers (a large area of drying land scattered with rocks). Luckily there were two main cardinal marks to guide us safely round. The weather was perfect…blue skies, perfect sunshine… yet for the second time so far this trip no wind!! However this did allow us to enjoy a leisurely passage down with plenty of sunbathing, and an unsuccessful attempt at fishing. As there were no fish to be had, we enjoyed Lou’s home made breads for lunch! Tasty!

We arrived at the safe water mark outside St Malo at 1700 DST, from here we had to pay close attention to our course due to the rather tricky pilotage and numerous channels available. The channel is well marked with some very interesting buoys!IMG_0038(1)

The final part of the pilotage took us through one of the largest locks I’ve ever seen! Requiring us to set up lines and secure these to lines that were thrown down from the top of the wall by the lock keeper. Bonjour France!

Having successfully navigated the lock we made our way to the visitors berths in the newly built marina, just outside the beautiful walled old town of St Malo.

The intention was to spend 2 days enjoying France before heading back via Guernsey. However shortly after we arrived the well known Channel Island Fog descended on us trapping us in St Malo for longer than planned – there are worse places to be trapped !!!


The crew spent their time exploring the area, a trip to Mont Saint Michel and a good amount of French Cuisine! We finally managed to leave St Malo on the Thursday evening making passage back to Portsmouth. By this point we had lost 2 crew due to the potential for a later than planned arrival back into Portsmouth. Leaving 4 onboard. then, with another crew becoming ill, we were left with 3 of us to sail back to Jersey. 1 hour on 2 hours off it had to be! On our departure we shared the lock with a bulk carrier, a slightly unnerving experience… maybe that large lock isn’t that big!! We stopped in Jersey for 4 hours to allow for the tide to change to get us back through the Alderney Race. The wind arrived for the return leg meaning good sailing and a quick passage back through the Needles channel and on into Portsmouth.


Portsmouth – Brest via the Isles of Scilly 25th – 31st July

After all the crew had joined the boat on Sunday afternoon we slipped Gosport at 5pm to head down to Yarmouth for the night. This would gain us a few extra hours in bed as Skipper Joe had calculated we had to be heading through the Needles at 4am to Monday morning to make best use of the tide. So at 3am 2 of the crew and Skipper got up and we slipped 30 minutes later.

Sails went up and we soon settled into the watch pattern. 2 hours on, 3 hours off. We made our way across Poole bay and rounded Portland Bill Monday afternoon. The next stage of the passage was the 40nm across Lyme Bay to Brixham. With little traffic around and light winds we all managed to get good rest on our off watches and made steady progress. As night fell we completed our Lyme Bay crossing and rounded Start Point. Plymouth and the famous Eddystone Lighthouse soon came into view and early Tuesday afternoon we made our approach into Falmouth. A big port with a good number of hazards but with a careful pilotage plan we were alongside the marina in time for dinner. 176 nm and 34 hours at sea we were all ready for an early night!


The next leg would take us from Falmouth to the Isles of Scilly,  a distance of 60 nm. Having looked at the tides another early start was necessary! So again 3 of the crew rose at 0200 and we slipped Falmouth shortly after. Fair winds meant we made good progress and we were soon rounding The Lizard Point. We put in a tack here and made a course back inshore towards Penzance. Once relatively close inshore we tacked once again and made a course to take us round Wolf Rock. From here we turned the engine on crossed the bottom of the Traffic Separation Scheme at 090° as the rules dictate.

As we approached the Scilly Isles we ran through the pilotage plan to get us safely round the Island of St Mary’s to spend the night on a mooring buoy.


Once secured on our buoy we blew up the dinghy and Jane kindly offered to row us all ashore. With the sun shining on the beautiful island we made our way to the local pub and enjoyed a well-earned drink! Dinner was had in The Atlantic Pub and then we rowed back to Cartel for the night.




The following morning, having seen what St Marys had to offer, we decided to take a short motor over to the island of Tresko. Although only a couple of miles, a more complicated pilotage plan was required and with the help of a good look out we made it safely into The New Grimsby Sound (between Tresko and Bryher).

Another mooring buoy picked up it was again time to row ashore once more! After a short row and a small walk we made it into the town centre (a shop and one pub!). A good meal was had in The New Inn and we returned to the boat for a good night’s sleep.

Friday morning the crew arose and had the morning to enjoy the sunshine and the views before we slipped at 1300 local as Skipper Paul had calculated. We motored our way back through The Sound and out past St Mary’s to commence our final passage. Light winds were all to be had so we motor sailed for the first few hours until night fall when luckily the wind increased. Settled back into our watch system and with the occasional pod of dolphins swimming with us, we made good progress. The route took us South East from the Scillies down through the picturesque Chanel du Four.


22 hours later (as Paul had predicted!) we arrived in the beautiful town of Camaret-sur-Mer, a popular destination for those just having (or about to) cross the Bay of Biscay. A small French Harbour town full of character with an historic fort guarding the harbour. Once alongside the marina the crew had a well needed shower, and we set off on foot once again in search of a French restaurant serving oysters and fish for dinner.

On our final day (Sunday) we departed Camaret-sur-Mer and headed North round the bay into Brest, a distance of about 8nm. We refueled and moored up in the large marina in Brest leaving enough time for a final French meal before the crew flew back home Sunday evening.

In total:7 days on board, 397 nm 

Brest – Portsmouth 1st – 7th August

All change at Brest, we welcomed on the new crew for the final leg back up to Portsmouth via the Channel Islands on Sunday 31st July. Needing to get some extra supplies on board before we headed out on Monday morning, why is everything in France shut on a Sunday and why are there no corner shops ? An early morning trip to the local Carrefour enabled us to slip at 0900, we needed to catch the tide up the Chenal du Four to help us clear our 40 mile passage to L’Aber-Wrach and arrive at the entrance in daylight in the hope that the rather rocky entrance channel would be easier to navigate. It seemed to take hours to clear the Rade de Brest beating against tide but we finally made it into the Chenal du Four with the tide heading north. The weather was fine on departure but seriously deteriorated during the passage to the point of putting 3 reefs in the main and having a very much reduced head sail we made the entrance channel at 1705. By this point visability had deteriorated and we were all pretty wet, my main hope was to navigate the channel into L’Aber-Wrach successfully and get a spot in the marina so we could avail ourselves of shore-power. We had seen numerous yachts heading the same way as us during the day so I was not hopeful until we saw a large square rigger coming out as we were going in, hopefully they had left a large space in the marina !!!IMG_0107(1)

My assumption correct we managed to get on the outer pontoon and plug ourselves into shore power, dehumidifier on !!! We had been checking the weather and were aware that there was a low pressure frontal system coming through. Our plan for the next leg was to go up to Roscoff via the Chenal de L’Ile de Batz, negotiating this channel in a gale 8 is really not an option particularly when you read Mr Cunliffe’s section on this channel which starts “Now the fun begins !” So we elected to spend the following day in L’Aber-Wrach as the system should have cleared by the following day and I gave the passage planning and pilotage tasks to Andy who has recently qualified with us and done a number of other channel trips.

IMG_0467We spent the day walking round L’Aber-wrach which appeared to be on the whole completely deserted, I have to say though this is one of the most impressive roundabouts I have ever seen. However I’m not sure how the IRPCS can be followed here ??

Having discovered very few people but plenty of cars we stopped off for some light refreshment before heading back to the boat to look at the planning and check the weather again as all sailors are obsessed with the weather !!!


We slipped on Wednesday 3rd August heading to Roscoff via the Chenal de L’Ile de Batz – what a difference a day makes, the passage was done in glorious sunshine much to the relief of the crew.

The start of the channel approaching from the West is well marked by a very large Cardinal Mark. Andy had done a detailed pilotage plan and we buoy spotted our way through this beautiful channel in bright sunshine.

Cardinal Tower - N


IMG_0476Coming to the end of our 35 mile passage we spotted Roscoff Marina and headed in, some confusion on mooring as we were given a berth with no space but this was soon sorted by very helpful marina staff and we decided to try and find some moule to round off our last night in France and very good it was. Roscoff is a very modern marina with new restaurant buildings and facilities, we did not have time to have a proper look around but could see a casino up on the hill for future reference !!



IMG_0512The following morning we were heading out again. Geraldine had the job of getting us safely to Guernsey our longest passage to date on this trip 75nm. As a result of the distance we elected to slip early at 0400 The passage went to plan but the wind was not that great and quite a bit of the passage was done with the help of the engine and we had some company along the way.


We made the crossing in 14 hours and were approaching Guernsey accompanied by a beautiful sunset hoping to be moored up in time to be able to get some dinner !! A very helpful berthing master came out to meet us as we entered the harbour and gave us a berth rafted up against one other boat which was great and we could walk ashore and head towards the nearest restaurant !! We spent the next day wandering around Guernsey, Geraldine treated us all to some local oysters which were delicious, thank you very much !! IMG_0480

With a plan to night sail back across the channel to Weymouth that evening, passage responsibility for this one was given to Nikki with the objective of using all the tide sweeping us north through the Alderney Race and onwards to the South Coast which was done admirably. The crossing was fantastic such a clear night we could see the milky way and perfect wind enabled us to sail all the way.


We arrived the following morning to a beautifully sunny Weymouth, I called the harbour master for a berth and was given a boat to raft up alongside on A1, on arriving at A1 there was no boat there so following another call we were alongside the pontoon, happy days !!! We all went for full english breakfast, got to be done after a night channel crossing, followed by a nice refreshing shower and a bit of a rest. We spent a lovely afternoon exploring Weymouth then had dinner on board and ended up playing the name game, I haven’t laughed so much for a long time – good work crew although not sure how Jim Barden is a famous person ??? Apologies for the grainy picture

Name game

The following morning we set off for our final leg back to Portsmouth, we needed to ensure we had tide through the needles channel so we set out a couple of hours prior to the easterly going tide but with wind behind made good progress and were at the Fairway marker by midday with plenty of easterly going tide to run with. Passing through Hurst Narrows we were reminded that we were entering the Solent during Cowes week and the fun began !!! Trying to stay out of the way of all the races despite being on a starboard tack we thought it only reasonable that we should try not to get in the way and mess up someones race!

Cowes Week


Have you ever thought about a holiday with a difference ? How about a holiday where you can visit a different place every day but you only have to unpack once and still have all your gear with you. Where you can wake up, take a few steps from where you have been sleeping and dive into crystal clear waters with no one else around.
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Your mode of transport harnesses the wind and is therefore a very environmentally friendly way to spend 7 – 14 days travelling to different places of stunning beauty and it’s up to you where you go, when you go and how long you stay.

Your destination are up to you, the distance you travel each day is up to you, you may like somewhere so much you stay for a couple of days and in many parts of Europe that staying will cost you nothing. I could continue and add hundreds of photos from numerous locations but that might get a bit tedious. What I can say however is that undertaking one theory and two practical courses (with a bit of sailing in between) will enable you to start exploring the world from a totally new perspective. If you fancy that read on or give us a call on 07917 573 772 / 07913 940 277 / 01424 461185

First off you would need to get some sailing experience under your belt, the Competent Crew Course is a great way of doing this and learning how to do things correctly from the start f your sailing career, this is a 5 day course and can be done over 5 consecutive days or be split over two weekends on of which will incorporate a Monday or Friday, you will cover the following;

  • Preparation for sea
  • Knowledge of sea terms and parts of a boat, her rigging and sails
  • Sail handling
  • Ropework and knots
  • Fire precautions, personal safety equipment
  • Man Overboard and emergency equipment
  • Helmsmanship
  • Keeping Lookout
  • Use of dinghies
  • General Duties
  • Manner and Customs
  • Night Sailing


 After completing this course your next step is to do the Day Skipper Theory, this course can be done as an evening class one night a week for seven weeks followed by a final weekend where revision and the exams are undertaken. This is a great way to met like minded people trying to achieve the same goals as you. Alternatively, if attending an evening class is not convenient for you to attend evening classes you can complete this course on-line in your own time, we are always available via email or telephone to help you with the course, you can go at your own speed and take the exam in the comfort of your own home. The Day Skipper Theory Course covers the following;

  • the basics of seamanship
  • the essentials of coastal navigation and pilotage
  • chartwork
  • electronic charts
  • position fixing
  • plotting a course to steer
  • weather forecasting and meteorology
  • tides
  • collision regulations
  • construction, parts and equipment of a cruising boat
  • emergency and safety procedures including distress calls, use of flares, safety harnesses, lifejackets and liferafts


Now the final push to give you that ticket to freedom, the Day Skipper Practical course, this is a five day course and can be done again over five consecutive days or over a split weekend. Here I have to say I have quite a strong opinion that says do the five consecutive, this I believe is far better value for money and much better from a continuity point of view. Either way I would also say do this qualification in the UK and even go so far as to say do it in the Solent, this is such a busy shipping area, popular cruising area and for some reason requires 3 ferry routes, 2 fast cat routes and a hover craft to carry the thousands of people who travel to and from the Isle of Wight on a daily basis. So you will see all manner of craft including huge cruise and cargo ships as well as numerous sailing and power driven vessels. Not only this, you have just spent 7 weeks, one evening a week in a classroom getting to grips with tides, both heights and streams, you have just learned all your International Regulations for the Prevention of Collision at Sea (IRPCS), all you lights, buoys and shapes, you may as well experience it and experience it you will in the lovely protected waters of the Solent !!

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Why leave it any longer come on, do something different today that could affect the rest of your life !!!

Fog Blog – Navigating in Restricted Visibilty

Posted: 26 October 2012 by Jim Barden in Navigation

Of all the different types of weather we may encounter at sea,  fog must be one of the most daunting and one which carries the most risk ; especially in crowded European waters which can be alive with commercial shipping, and where the risk of collision is high.

The best advice, offered by Des Sleightholme,for when fog is forecast might be :  ‘Stay home. Keep Hens’

However  if we’re already underway when the fog creeps in,  then some strategy to get safe and keep safe must employed.  As confidence with the various techiniques grows you should be able to navigate blind, if the ground permits, to most destinations.

Get prepared early.  If visibility is noticeably  deteriorating, get ready for it.  Get a reliable fix on the chart by conventional means – visible bearings, GPS etc.  If necessary work up an EP from you last known position (this shouldn’t be any more than an hour old on your chart).  If you happen to be near a recognisable mark get to it and ask the helm to hold station while you figure what to do next.

We are going to consider later the navigational aspects of dealing with fog,  but here are some basic precautions you should consider in immediately :

  • Fog Horn Ready – sound appropriate signal ( one long – under power, or one long and two short – sailing : every two minutes.
  • Lights On – make the vessel more visible with the appropriate lights for your category
  • All Crew in Lifejacket and on-deck – the collision you fear could happen very suddenly resulting potentially in all hands in the water.  On deck they also provide extra eyes and ears.
  • Radar Reflector Up – if it’s not already, hoist your reflector high.  If you can’t find it, string your pots and pans together on a halyard !
  • Monitor VHF – and contact relevant Port Traffic Control in necessary
  • Liferaft / Tender Ready
  • Engines on or ready
  • Navigate away from potential danger of collision.

If fog, shallow is safe, away from commercial shipping and also the most likely place to find a reliable contour of depth to follow (or a safe place to anchor)

With reference to your position and any shipping channels indicated on the chart ,measure up a course to steer to the nearest strong contour of depth and away from shipping channels.  This should be one which is has a fairly consistant direction, if possible close and parallel to the shore. ( the odd mark on it or near it along the way wouldn’t go amiss. )

Calculate the height of tide.  Add this to the value of the contour (and subtract draught if your echo sounder reads depth below keel) —  this is the displayed  echo-sounder depth we’re looking for. For example if we decide to follow the 5m contour, and calculate the height of tide to be 2.3m – we are actually looking for a depth of 7.3m to follow.  With a draught of 1.8m and an echo sounder reading below the keel, this would be 5.5m displayed.

If there is no strong contour to follow nearby then just head shallow and anchor.

Otherwise measure the rough direction of the contour you intend to follow, this will be the heading we turn onto when the required displayed depth is reached.  No adjustment to the heading is usually required for tidal stream here as in general the tides follow the contours. (but make note of exceptions to this where the contour might veer away from the tidal stream)

This information should be passed to the helm and crew as a clear and concise set of instructions :

“Head 030°(M) , maintain speed of 4kts. Depth should fall.  When we get to 5.5m dispayed (10 mins or so)  turn starboard onto a mean course of  095(M)  ± 20°  and  maintain depth between 5 and 6m.  Feed me depth readings at every 0.5m of change and let me know when you get to 5.5m”

When the boat hits the desired depth and turns to follow the contour make a note of the time / or start your stopwatch and mark this on the chart of this where you think you have joined the contour.

Now every six minutes  ( 1/10 hr) you can plot your estimated position along this line.  This should be fairly straight forward as you will cover one tenth of your boat speed in knots (± any estimated tidal stream) every six minutes.   Our arrival to or near to any marks on or near to the contour can now be predicted and the crew told when , where and what to keep a look out for.  On sighting and identifying each mark we can fix our postion again and make a note of time.  This also allows us to recalculate our actual ground speed rather using an estimate of tide along with a possibly inaccurate log/speedo.

Changes or trends in the contour’s direction should also be noted and this information passed onto the crew before it happens  eg :

“ in the next few minutes the contour will start curving to the north onto a rough heading of 005°(M) ±10°.  Alter course as nessessary to follow it and maintain depth 5.0 -6.0 “

Sometimes it might be useful to sketch the shape of the contour and mark it up with rough courses for the helm to look at in the cockpit.  Also don’t forget that every half hour (or at least every hour) the tidal height may have changed significantly , so the indicated depth you wish to maintain will need to be recalculated.

It may be necessary or desirable to move between contours to avoid hazards or find marks to help you fix position. Do this early.

When crossing a channel and potential traffic , check local VTS on the VHF for any ships in the area and whether its safe to cross and then cross at heading at right angle to the shallow contour of depth on the other side, then turning onto a new heading.

Have a look at this chart and consider how you might find the refuge of  Stokes Bay to sit out the fog at anchor. Imagine we’re just approaching the exit of North Channel heading east when the Fog starts to fall. An east cardinal mark can be seen 200m ahead …..

We’ll give a possible solution next week and a consider how we might then continue on to Portmouth harbour.  Or come on one of our training courses and where we complete simulated fog exercises on the water