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How to avoid expensive mistakes when you buy a new or second-hand yacht. 

Available on Amazon here


Icom IC-M35We review the Icom IC-M35 handheld.  Read the full review here.

GMDSS A User's Handbook

By Denise Bréhaut

GMDSS A user's handbook








The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) provides a fast and efficient way of calling for assistance at sea, whatever the size of craft or its geographical position. Since it was first published, this book has helped explain the system for anyone using GMDSS and has been excellent pre-course reading for students.



SafaSail HatThe SafaSail Hard Hat looks just like a sailing cap, but will help protect you if you get a bang to the head.  See our review here

Introduction to Passage Planning

chartIt's one thing to be able to use transits, work your way back to safety in the fog, or understand the importance of depth contours for pilotage: but none of this is safe unless you have a passage plan to start with.

In fact, putting a passage plan together before starting your voyage is not only common sense and good sailing, it's a legal requirement under the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS regulations. Regulation 34 applies to all vessels that put to sea, and states that:

1. Prior to proceeding to sea, the master shall ensure that the intended voyage has been planned using the appropriate nautical charts and nautical publications for the area concerned, taking into account the guidelines and recommendations developed by the Organization.

2. The voyage plan shall identify a route which:

    * takes into account any relevant ships' routeing systems
    * ensures sufficient sea room for the safe passage of the ship throughout the voyage
    * anticipates all known navigational hazards and adverse weather conditions
    * takes into account the marine environmental protection measures that apply, and avoids, as far as possible, actions and activities which could cause damage to the environment

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) sets out the following advice for small vessels and pleasure craft:

The degree of voyage planning will depend upon the size of vessel, its crew and the length of the voyage. The MCA expects all mariners to make a careful assessment of any proposed voyage taking into account all dangers to navigation, weather forecasts, tidal predictions and other relevant factors including the competence of the crew.

So what does that mean in practice for the newly qualified Day Skipper, taking his yacht out to sea for the first few passages? What needs to go into a properly prepared passage plan?

As the guidance from the MCA says, it needn't be a 50-page document. What is needed is mostly a combination of common sense, good seamanship, and an outlook that seeks to know and understand the risks inherent in the voyage and to assesses them in a professional manner.

Before we start on the passage plan, it's sensible to look at the concept of risk. Keeping yachting safe isn't so much about the elimination of risk, because sailing, like all human activity, is risky. The only way to eliminate it completely is to stay tied up alongside in the marina. And, frankly, that can sometimes be just as risky as going to sea!

Whilst I wouldn't want to sail with a skipper who hasn't made a proper assessment of the likely risks of the voyage he or she is planning, I would soon become bored by a skipper who never anchored because he had read about a yacht that had foundered because her anchor dragged, or who never sailed in wind over tide conditions because he had read about tidal races.

Over the next few weeks, we'll look at routing, weather, tides, limitations of the vessel and the crew, navigational dangers, contingency plans, and information sources ashore. A proper use of these come together into a good, effective, and safe passage plan that a skipper can use to sail his or her yacht safely in all conditions.
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