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If you've been studying sailing, you might think you are ready for a charted trip. There are a myriad of sailing charters from which to choose, including many types of boats and many destinations. But, don't set out to charter a boat using only GPS navigation technology. You must also learn the art and science of charting your own course. GPS navigation systems do help sail boaters but they cannot tell you about certain water hazards; only charts can do that.
Only a few tools are needed to chart on a paper chart. Use pencils so you do not make permanent marks, especially since you are new to charting. Practice charting for a long time before you attempt to do it yourself on a private boat you have rented. You will need a plotter, dividers and drawing compasses. Most people find two-handed dividers easier to use. If you find an academic course on plotting it might be best to take it so your skills will be topnotch before you charter a boat. A parallel ruler will allow you to measure the distance between two points. To measure distance on a chart, you need to compare the distance between two points with the latitude scale on the side of the chart.
Reading symbols at night is tough so make sure you have a light. You may also want to use a magnifying glass during the day. Tidal information will likely be covered on your chart but you can also use a tidal atlas for the sailing area you plan to chart. This is why a GPS system is not enough; it cannot give you tidal information. Additionally, electronic instruments do make charting a course on a chartered boat easier but never rely solely on them as they all fail at some point.
Finally, carry a lead line tied to a piece of lead as a backup to determine depth. You can mark the line with colors to devise a depth system that suits you and the sailboat you have chartered.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|