Sailing Navigation Secrets - Seven Nautical GPS Alarm Tips You Need to Know

If you're anything like me, easy and fast sailing navigation tricks are the way to go. Set your nautical GPS alarm function to warn you when you approach dangers or cross over significant boundaries. Put these seven alarm tips into play today to keep your small cruising or racing sailboat safer than ever before.

Always use the nautical chart along with your GPS. This provides a cross-reference between these two navigation systems. Highlight your navigational chart and set your GPS alarm to trigger when one or more of these events happen along your sailing route:

1. Approach a waypoint

Most GPS receivers beep when you get within half a nautical mile or so of a pre-determined waypoint. Pull up the "proximity" menu. This allows you to select any waypoint, increase the distance of the alarm, and toggle the alarm. Your proximity alarm has a distinct series of beeps to distinguish it from other alarms.

2. Get close to a turn

Do you have a critical turn up ahead? Will it require heading up, falling off, tacking, or jibing? Set the alarm to trigger well ahead of time. This gives you time to get ready for new sail trim or to take over from the auto-pilot.

3. Prepare to make landfall

Few things are as important as sighting an island peak or blinking light after days at sea. But few things cause more apprehension. You need time to orient yourself, double check that you are where you want to be.

Move the distance of your alarm so that it sounds when you are at least one hour away. This allows you time to scan the horizon with binoculars, get the anchor ground tackle ready, and make preparations for chart navigation in coastal waters.

4. Sail into soundings

When will you cross the 100 fathom curve? For centuries, this has marked the nautical boundary between offshore waters and coastal waters. Even if your depth sounder won't sound that deep, check the navigation chart and set a waypoint at the spot to trigger an alarm.

5. Cross over a contour curve

Squiggly lines or enclosed cirlces on the chart show a number somewhere in the break of the line or circle. Check the navigational chart to see whether this denotes fathoms, feet, or meters. Program the alarm to sound when you cross specific contour curves as a backup to your electronic navigation.

6. Pass close to a danger

Determine the closest safe distance to pass rocks, reefs, mud flats, or sand bars. Use your nautical chart to determine the latitude and longitude of the danger's center. Program this as a waypoint.

Use your nautical chart to draw an enclosed circle around the danger. Increase the radius by 50%. Set the radius for that waypoint in your GPS proximity function (see the article: Sailing Navigation Secrets - Use These Magic Nautical GPS "Circles-of-Safety" ).

7. Warn of a dragging anchor

Draw a swing and drag circle around your anchored position. Set your alarm to trigger when the boat touches the edge of the circle. Make sure that you allow enough room for your small cruising boat to swing with wind and current changes.

Use these seven tips to make your sailing navigation easier and more efficient. Combine the tradition of chart navigation with the high tech of the nautical GPS for a powerhouse system of safety that's hard to beat!

Captain John Jamieson shows small boat cruising skippers how to reach their sailing dreams today! Get his popular free report "Small Boat Cruising Guide - How to Estimate Provisions Needed for Your Cruise" at

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